Create cool chromatic walks on bass guitar

A cool way of adding dimension to your bass playing is by using chromatic walks. That means instead of playing a walk based on a scale you create a run by moving up or down the fretboard one fret at a time. It's a great way to add extra substance to your playing and create a lot of movement for chord changes.

Chromatic notes can be used in virtually any style of music although the approach might differ between the different music genres. Our video on using chromatic notes on a bass guitar takes you through 5 different patterns using chromatic notes with commentary outlining some of the pattern highlights. Take a look at the video. Plus, the tablature for all patterns is included with this post so if there's a technique you liked and want to learn go for it.

This first pattern is a fairly standard approach. For both chords you play root notes and then walk from the fourth to the fifth notes. Something like this is popular in a wide variety of music genres and works well.

chromatic bass walk pattern 1

This next pattern suits rap and other urban grooves. It's the kind of bass line where the bass player and drummer can just sit on a pattern and provide a great bed for vocalists or other instruments, but still get listeners swaying. You could also use it as a chorus or verse only.

chromatic bass walks pattern 2

Next up is a more advanced approach. The open notes in bar one are not necessary but they definitely take the pattern up a level in style and energy. Although those open notes are an A (2nd note of G Major scale and not very harmonic) they are quite plus the chromatic notes dominate the phrase so all-in-all it works quite well. The second bar is open to a little interpretation. The bass player needn't worry so much, the whole bass line is fine. But the chords to be used for bar two could be a little debatable. D Major works quite fine for the whole second bar although the second half of bar two alludes to a shift to B Major (which according to music theory is not compatible with G Major). But, if it works, it works, right! 

chromatic bass walk pattern 3

There's a few cool things to keep an eye out in the next pattern. It's a blues inspired pattern. First up, notice the timing - 3/4. Honestly, we composed in that timing on accident. But later thought, actually that's a good idea. Showing chromatic stuff works in various timings is a good idea. 3/4 Timing for blues music is uncommon but it does happen. The walks in this example are descending for the first three bars and ascending for the last bar. That ascending walk helps bring the song back to resolution and keeps the cycle of chords going. The walks for the first three bars occur an octave higher than the body of the bars. This really creates an interesting effect and highlights the walks, plus adds extra dimension to your bass playing.

chromatic walks in a blues bassline

Our last bassline is played on a 5-string bass. As most bass players play a 4 string you might need to transpose the notes on the low B string to another string. That's fine. You can apply your own creativity when doing that. Take them up an octave, walk into a fifth, descend instead of ascend - there's a couple of ideas. This pattern is fairly alternative and might suit progressive rock or metal. The pattern is quite interesting in that the bar starts with B Major, shifts to C# minor and then back to B Major. Even as we write this we're thinking wonder how an F# chord would go over that last bit. A chromatic walk introduces the pattern which could be a good way to start an entire song. Simple three note walk and, bam, the band drops in.

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