Volume 4, November 2012
Walk That Dog: The Emergence of Walking Bass Lines In Jazz

by Regan Brough

Section 4 — Summary

All of these techniques competed for prominence in defining the role of the bass, and often, each was utilized within a single take. As jazz continued to evolve during this period, the bass styles evolved similarly. Many conflicting personal accounts testify that one bassist was solely responsible for the development of a specific technique, or approach (like walking bass lines); these claims will be subsequently noted and analyzed. A study of mid to late 1920s recordings reveals a pattern and hierarchy of intensity for bass accompaniment which bassists used to complement or steer the mood of a given piece. These various accompaniment styles greatly generated the musical shape of the piece and are listed here in order of increasing intensity:

  1. In two without the string snap (can be accomplished with or without the bow)
  2. Walking in four without the snap with or without the bow for a few bars
  3. Adding the snap, (plucked only) alternating between playing in two or four
  4. Walking in four with the snap and/or slap-bass technique.

During this period, the snap was largely responsible for the "hot" sound, and when players such as John Lindsay, Steve Brown and Bill Johnson wanted to increase the intensity, it was almost always added. This distinction is critical, because the approach to pizzicato would eventually change in the next decade as previously mentioned.