Jazz Concepts: Back to the Roots

by John Goldsby — Bass Magazine — Issue 9

How large is the number called a Googol? You could Google it, but I’ll just tell you: A Googol is 10100, or one followed by a hundred zeros. That’s about how many quarter-notes I’ve played in my life, or at least it feels that way. As I’ve walked my way through my career, I’m still outlining chord changes and providing a foundation for the music, often by playing the root of every chord on the downbeat of every bar. Walking bass lines remain an essential component of my musical life. 

Let’s look at a couple of methods to create beautifully constructed, practical, and musical-sounding bass lines without getting hung up on music theory. I’ll describe the basics of bass line construction, and then we’re off to the races … the walking races. 

Walking bass lines are constructed with … read more

Jazz Concepts

How to Build a Walking Bass Line

Zusatzmaterial — Bergisches Jazz Workshop — Bass Master Class

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Sligo Jazz — “Didn’t Wake Up This Morning” … Get the Blues … Play the Blues … (workshop notes and links)

Here are the notes for my presentation on The Blues:

“Didn’t Wake Up This Morning” … Get the Blues … Play the Blues

Lecture at Sligo Jazz Workshop, July 25, 2019

Notes & Links

1. Intro — “Woke Up This Morning” was recorded on the album Down Home Bluesby blues musician Lightnin’ Hopkins recorded in 1964 and released on the Bluesville label.

2. Bessie Smith 1894 – 1937 “Reckless Blues” (with Louis Armstrong)

3. Robert Johnson 1911 – 1938 “Me and the Devil Blues”

4. Helen Humes with Count Basie & Lester Young (on clarinet) “Blues with Helen”

5. Characteristics of the Blues

  • The Blues tell a story, often in three 4-bar phrases (12 bar form).
  • Certain notes in a key are emphasized to create the Blues sound: b3, b5, b7
  • The harmony of a Blues progression begins on a I7 chord, moves to the IV chord in bar 5, and back to the I7 chord in bar 7. There is often a “turnaround” at the end of the 12-bar form.

6. Styles of Blues

  • New Orleans, Delta Blues, Chicago Blues, Kansas City Blues, Texas Blues, Country Blues, Blues-Rock, Gospel, Jazz
  • The Blues sound can be realized in several ways: blue notes, Blues scale, vocal melisma, outlining Blues chord changes
  • Not all music that sounds “bluesy” is the Blues.

7. Plain ‘ol Blues Harmony — “Hound Dog” Big Mama Thorton, 1952. During the vocal choruses, they play a 13-bar blues (extra bar at the end of the form).

8. Basic Jazz Blues harmony adds more chords.

9. Jimmy Rushing 1901 – 1972 “I Left My Baby” (minor Blues)

10. Billie Holiday 1915 – 1959 “Fine and Mellow”

11. Gospel — Sister Rosetta Tharpe “My Little Sparrow”

Sister Rosetta Tharpe uses “Vestapol” tuning to the key of Db major. The guitar is tuned: Db, Ab, Db, F, Ab, Db. This is not a Blues form, but uses elements of the blues sound.

12. Chicago Blues — Muddy Waters “I Got My Mojo Workin’”

13. Charlie Parker “Now’s The Time”

14. Ornette Coleman 1930 – 2015  — free jazz with a Blues melody —“Blues Connotation”

15. John Coltrane 1926 – 1967 — modal Blues — “Mr. Knight”

16. McCoy Tyner “Blues on the Corner” — Blues with modern harmonies

17. Kenny Dorham / Joe Henderson “Mamacita” — Jazz Boogaloo

Triads over “All the Things You Are”

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Inside the Changes of ‘Confirmation’ — a Bebop Etude

Check out John’s latest article from the pages of BassMagazine.

Bass Player Magazine adieu …

As some of you might have noticed, Bass Player Magazine is going through some changes. The great US bass magazine — going on 30 years of publication — has been purchased by the Future publishing group, the owners of Bass Guitar Magazine in the UK.

I’ve stepped down from my position as writer and contributing editor at BP to make room for some new writers and shared content coming from BG magazine. With that, my online content has been removed from the BP site, and will reappear on the interwebs in another incarnation in the near future. Stay tuned for regular updates and articles here.

After 27 years of writing for Bass Player Magazine, it’s a hard but inevitable decision. I wish the teams at BP and BG all the best for the “future” (yes, that’s a pun).

I’d especially like to thank all of the writers, editors and staff at BP who have worked over the years to support the bass community with an incredible amount of information and inspiration.

How To Practice — Presentation Materials

Here are the supporting materials for my “60 Things To Practice Workshop.” Download and enjoy!

Click here to download the zip file:


Please check out my new online video lessons from Truefire . . .  

a great way to jump start your practice routine!