How to Create a Walking Bass Line on a Scale

by Steven J. Miller
Upright bass players commonly play walking bass lines.

Upright bass players commonly play walking bass lines. Images

Jazz and blues musicians often use walking bass lines based on a scale to create movement and a sense of a foundation for a melody. The bass line serves as the lowest note in the composition and helps to keep the rest of the performers playing in time and on track with the music. Bass lines are played by the lowest pitched instruments in the ensemble. Typically, the bass guitar or the upright bass players pluck the strings of their instruments to create a plucked effect called pizzicato.

Items you will need

  • Staff paper
Step 1

Learn about the relationship of half-steps and whole-steps in a major scale. The intervals between the pitches consist of the following steps: whole-whole-half-whole-whole-whole-half. For instance, a C-major scale has the notes, C through B without any sharps or flats.

Step 2

Create a rhythm for your walking bass line. A walking bass line has a rhythm that repeats itself every two bars. A common rhythm consists of two eighth-notes followed by seven quarter-notes, which totals eight beats.

Step 3

Write your rhythm on a piece of staff paper above the staff. Place a line every four beats in the music. The most common rhythms used in a walking bass line are eighth notes and quarter notes. Each quarter note is worth one beat; eighth notes are worth half a beat. A quarter has a black notehead with a stem coming off the side. The eighth note looks like a quarter note with a flag coming off the top of the stem.

Step 4

Fill in the notes of the major scale in order using the rhythm you wrote above the staff on the staff paper. Remember that in the bass clef, the names of the lines bottom to top are G-B-D-F-A; the spaces are A-C-E-G.

Step 5

Erase the rhythm you wrote above the staff. Give the music to a bassist or upright bass player to perform.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you want to get more creative, try changing the notes of the scale around to come up with new bass lines.


  • "The Elements of Music"; Kevin Ure; 2010

About the Author

Steven Miller graduated with a master's degree in 2010. He writes for several companies including Lowe's and IBM. He also works with local schools to create community gardens and learn environmentally responsible gardening. An avid gardener for 15 years, his experience includes organic gardening, ornamental plants and do-it-yourself home projects.

Photo Credits

  • Images