Skip to 0 minutes and 8 secondsAn important ingredient of solo piano is being able to play a bass line. We’ll have a look at some simple examples, but if you really want to get into this then clearly you need to listen to what bass players are doing and develop your own ideas. But here are some pointers. Let’s talk about - to be specific - a C blues. So our first bar is C7, our second bar is F7. What are some of the ingredients that we can use? First of all roots and fifths.

Skip to 0 minutes and 48 secondsSecondly we can climb up and down the appropriate scales. In the case of a blues C7 and F7

Skip to 0 minutes and 58 secondsor down We can use the tones from the chords C7 not necessarily in that order, in any order that seems appropriate

Skip to 1 minute and 21 secondsAn important thing is when we are coming to a bar with a chord in it, to get to that bar chromatically, either by using a note above or a note below. Suppose, for example, we’re going to F7, we can get to F7 via F sharp - a semitone above - or E - a semitone below.

Skip to 1 minute and 50 secondsWe can also repeat notes.

Skip to 1 minute and 56 secondsSometimes you hear bass players do quite a bit of this.

Skip to 2 minutes and 7 secondsIf we feel up to it, we can put in some more advanced stuff that bass players use like triplets or grace notes

Skip to 2 minutes and 17 secondsor whatever.

Skip to 2 minutes and 27 secondsI’ve written out a sample bass line for you for a standard modern jazz C blues. Let me play it for you first of all.

Skip to 3 minutes and 0 secondsNow let’s analyse it. First bar C7, we’re just on C triad - notes of C triad. First half of the second bar, F7, we’re on the bottom 2 notes of F7. Now we’re using chromaticism because I’m in in the third bar I’m going to get to G. So I’m getting there in stages - surrounding the G - and then I’m going to walk up to C, but I’m going to get from G to C - I’ve got to have 4 notes before I get there, hence I’ve included a G sharp.

Skip to 3 minutes and 43 secondsThen I’m on the notes of the chord C7 and now in the fourth bar the last nore is a semitone transition to F. I’m in bar 5 now - repeated note - still just on the bottom notes of F7. Repeated notes - same thing again - I’m going to get to G in bar 7. So I’m going to get to it by sort of surrounding it chromatically and then I’m just using the notes of C7 in bar 7, but that B flat is useful because it gets me chromatically down to A - A7 in bar 8 - fifth, root - semitone below this time going to D.

Skip to 4 minutes and 36 secondsThen I’m going to walk all the way up to C but I need to put in some accidentals to have enough notes.

Skip to 4 minutes and 48 secondsLast 2 bars - a turnaround in C - and I’m going to use this chromatic movement from above to A to D and to G - and then from below to C. Some analysis of a sample bass line. If you’re playing this in a duo format, say with another horn player like a sax player, for example, then it’s typical to play bass lines and put chords in in the right hand. These are the same chords that we know about already, but this time they’re played by the right hand, not the left hand. For example, for a C blues the first chord is C7, use a thirteenth shape - we get that - or with some thickening - that.

Skip to 5 minutes and 41 secondsThen F7, with some thickening. Then other chords are A7, D minor7, G7 and C7.

Skip to 6 minutes and 1 secondLet’s have a go. 1,2,3,4.

Skip to 6 minutes and 28 secondsThat’s the sort of sound one might put behind a horn player. The other thing is we need to be able to improvise on this in the right hand. Like this.

Skip to 7 minutes and 9 secondsOf course, when you’re doing this fully fledged, so to speak, then you have to make up both lines. How do you do that? To a certain extent you can use partly pre-determined lines in the left hand, or sections in the left hand, but basically you have to keep transferring your attention to the left - to make sure it’s playing the right notes to get you where you need to get to - and then to the right - to make sure that you’re improvising.

Bass Lines and a sample bass line for C blues

We look at some approaches for developing a simple bass line and then consider one for a C blues.

You can download the chart for a “Sample Bass Line for C Blues” in PDF format at the bottom of this step.

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This video is from the free online course:

Learn Jazz Piano: III. Solo Piano and Advanced Topics

Goldsmiths, University of London