Creating Bass Lines with Leading Tones


in Bass, Learning Music

I've previously talked about creating bass lines and how I used this to help me study in the realm of blues and jazz music.

What I didn't tell you was how basic these music lines were that I had laid down on my notation software. It was so basic that it was the root position of the dominate chord.

Basic root structure

You know, the 1 – 3 – 5 – b7 moving from the chords C7 to F7 to C7 and so on. That's all well and good, but it sure was boring after the first couple of times. I really needed some direction on making the lines better.

I saved an email that I exchanged with my jazz teacher when I told him about my little creative approach to bass lines. Here's what he wrote back on how to be creative with the bass line.

The teachers advice

“It's great to hear that you are creating your own bass lines.  That process will serve you well, not only because you get a bass player to “jam” with, but because it will address the same skills needed for soloing.”

Some general guidelines to keep in mind:

It's all about voice leading-

Try to approach the first note of the new chord (usually the root for now) from the root of  the previous chord   (Ex.- C7 to F7 would have the bass line C to F…brilliant!)  or use the tritone substitution (Gb to F).

editors note—  Tritones are the middle point of any 12 note chromatic scale. The half way point between C and C is F# or Gb (the same note) The tritone substitution gives you a beautiful half step into the next chord or a leading tone —-

When the chords are moving up a P4th (or down a P5th) like C7 to F7, also try using the leading tone of the chord you're moving to (C7 to F7 would have the bass line E to F).

You can also walk up the scale C-D-E-F, using repeated notes to get the scale to time out to the new chord change (C-C-D-E to F).   You can obviously also walk down the scale (C-Bb-A-G to F or C-Bb-A-Gb to F),

Another way is to begin the new chord on its 3rd, then moving to its root (C-Bb to A-F).

editors note — notice the suggestion of moving a half step into the the next chord, Gb to F, E to F, it took me a while to initially get this idea. It is, however, a great way to get some hip factor in your arrangements.

Give It a Try

So there you have it 4 simple and direct ways to create bass lines. Now that's fun. I'm going to suggest you take this idea right now and play with it on what ever instrument you are playing now.

If you don't have a bass section, then do it in what ever octaves you have available. Remember his first comment – “same skills needed for soloing” – hmmmmm, what an idea for improvisation and harmonizing chords under a solo line….

Let us know how you made out. Using notation software to finalize and edit those lines here are the current crop.


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