This is a follow up to my earlier question about step-wise walking bass. But this is for a full scale for two bars per chord.

Part of the question is about when and where to add extra half steps if there are not four "scale" steps between roots and fifths. I put "scale" in quotes, because you can think of the lines as proper scales or as passing motion between chord tones.

Are the examples below the basic way to do this? I wrote each progression twice to get both ascending and descending lines for each chord.

Exercise in major

Exercise in minor


I don't understand the comments that basically say what I'm trying to do is wrong headed.

The example I'm originally wanting to emulating is the beginning of a walking bass method from Per Danielsson...

Per Danielsson excerpt

But, I'm looking at other walking bass methods, like these portions from Rufus Reid...

Rufus Reid excerpt 1 of 4

Rufus Reid excerpt 2 of 4

Rufus Reid excerpt 3 of 4

Rufus Reid excerpt 4 of 4

All I'm doing it putting two bar, step-wise line like these into a tritone substitution context. I'm doing that for two reasons: the root changes are by half step, and it will bring in some altered chords/scales. Both of those two things are not given a lot of coverage in the bass methods I have looked at. The same goes for wanting examples in minor and both ascending and descending patterns for all chords. I don't have examples of all so I want to create a basic reference document that combines all.

If the Reid etude #2 can put a straight descending line down a dominant seventh chord in a jazz blues context, I don't see what the problem is to do the same in a tritone substitution context, major and minor, ascending and descending. It's just to get a reference doc for long, straight lines. Everything else about arpeggiating chord tones, playing scale fragments and passing tones, etc. to vary the contour of a walking bass line are easy to find in lots of methods.

  • 1
    All due respect, are you using ears or 'rules' to work this out?
    – Tim
    Aug 5, 2021 at 8:51
  • In addition to Aaron's comment, the (diminished) 5th loses its importance as a "strong note" when the chord is altered, so there's definitely no need to play the G on the first beat of a Db7alt chord. Also, the Bb in bar 3 of the first line sounds out of place. It's not a scale tone but it's on a strong beat.
    – Matt L.
    Aug 5, 2021 at 10:57
  • I think you're misunderstanding the point of the question. This isn't a complete approach to walking bass. I'm only asking about how to play consecutive steps for two bars. Like in this example: scribd.com/document/96245454/Walking-Bass-Lines Aug 5, 2021 at 12:44
  • @Tim, I'm using ears, bass transcriptions, and several different walking bass methods. Aug 5, 2021 at 19:27
  • @Aaron, adding a half step isn't an arbitrary restriction. It's what I see in examples like the Danielsson doc, and in the answer for music.stackexchange.com/a/116093/23919. Aug 5, 2021 at 20:01

1 Answer 1



I think the proposed solution is fine. Here is how I would do it, with some comments on where I make different choices.

Main differences in our approaches

The biggest difference is that I think there are two different exercises here: one emphasizing the use of stepwise motion, and the other emphasizing the placement of roots and fifths on the downbeats.

To the degree I would critique the OP version, that would be the main one: I think trying to apply both emphases in the same exercise leads to some aesthetic distortion of standard-in-my-experience practice. The differences in my versions are mainly fallout from this difference in approach.

I also deal with the question of adding half-steps from a slightly different perspective, thinking of them as "out of scale" notes, to differentiate them from half-steps that occur as part of the scale itself.

Practicing stepwise motion

In my Stepwise Exercise, the main difference is that I allow scales to step beyond the root of the following scale; thus, ascending and descending scales sometimes approach the next scale from above or below, respectively. In the OP, ascending and descending scales consistently ascend or descend respectively to the next root.

A consequence of my approach is that while it's consistently stepwise, it mostly remains "in the (local) scale", and although fifths are on downbeats for ascending scales, they aren't for descending ones. Note also that the descending scale against the C6 starts on the ninth.* This is another concession to remaining stepwise over the Db7alt chord.

*This is because I really like the whole-tone scale. The ossia uses the altered scale, which makes starting on the root of the C6 more feasible.

Stepwise bass line through major and minor II-bII-I progression

Practicing placement of roots and fifths

In the Roots and Fifths exercise, there are more "out of scale" notes to accommodate the shorter distance between fifth and root, and there are also some thirds and one change of direction within an otherwise ascending scale.

Walking bass with roots and fifths on downbeats

  • 1
    What is your reasoning for using a whole tone scale on the Db7alt chords and not the altered dominant scale, essentially an ascending D melodic minor? Altered includes a b9 and #9, the whole tone has only a natural 9. Aug 7, 2021 at 14:56
  • @JohnBelzaguy It wasn't a reasoned decision in the way you're asking. I just like the sound of the whole-tone scale.
    – Aaron
    Aug 7, 2021 at 15:12
  • @JohnBelzaguy FYI: I've altered the exercise with an altered scale alternative.
    – Aaron
    Aug 8, 2021 at 13:52
  • @JohnBelzaguy, the alt issue has been nagging me. I've been of the understanding when an alt7 is given people might use any combination of altered fifths and/or ninths. But if you were to be "strict" about it, alt7 should mean 'altered scale` with both sharp and flat ninths, and a whole tone tetrachord at the top. Label without alt, like 7b5 or 7#5 might then mean a major ninth and then a whole tone scale would seem to fit. All together it can become confusing which of those tones should be considered chord tones. Aug 8, 2021 at 20:04
  • Looks good Aaron. Michael I get your point, alt7 can be a gray area. My learning and interpretation is alt7 means all altered tones, b9, #9, #11/b5 and b13 but it’s at the players discretion. It is not the chord symbol to write if you want something specific. For example, when I improvise over altered chords I usually use the mode of the 7th degree of the melodic minor (ascending) scale. When I voice them I usually only use 3, b13, b7 and #9 (or the 2nd inversion of that) for a L.H. chord. This is not written in stone. The bottom line is it is a very dissonant sound so there’s a lot of leeway. Aug 8, 2021 at 20:51

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