Blues Guitar Institute

30 Day Challenge: Walking Bass Exercises, Week 2

Week 2 of my 30 day guitar challenge to improve my walking bass technique, proved to be incredibly difficult. Not because of some super difficult part that I was trying to learn, but instead the difficulty was simply sticking to the plan.

Most of us have many commitments that don’t involve a guitar and I’m no different. This week, the ole J-O-B really stole a lot of my guitar time. But, to stay true to the challenge I focused on walking bass lines every chance I could. Some breakthroughs happened, but mostly this week was about grinding out some walking bass exercises.

Here’s the blow-by-blow:

Walking Bass Exercises

Day One

I was really struck by the quote from Steve Vai I ran across.  He recommends making an exercise out of anything that you can’t do. I discovered this last week and really tried to search out exercises meant to build dexterity and encourage independent finger movement. I came up empty so I designed a little walking bass exercise myself.

Walking Bass Exercise 1

I designed this exercise to really stretch out my fingers and get them playing different lines simultaneously. To play this exercise I made sure to use strict left hand fingering where my first finger is dedicated to the first fret, second finger to the second fret and so on.

After 10 minutes of this, my fingers were begging to quit!  This one did not come easy.

Day Two

In order to reinforce the walking bass lines, I began warming up with Sawlon’s Old McDonald arrangement that I learned last week.  Funny how seven days ago this was a challenge for me and now I can play it freely and with confidence.  I’m really hoping to be able to put together my own arrangements by the end of this challenge.

After my warm up, I dove straight into walking bass exercises.  The exercise from yesterday came a little easier, but I am still completely struggling with this exercise.

Day Three

Ok, enough is enough. I’ve struggled with the walking bass exercise and I feel like I’ve gotten nowhere!  So, time to get real. The biggest problem in the exercise (even at a slow tempo) for me is definitely the middle two beats of each bar.  Here I am essentially switching the position of my two middle fingers and it’s incredibly difficult for me to execute this.

Weakness found. Time to destroy it by creating a sub-exercise.

Walking Bass Exercise 2

Day Four

With practice time being spoken for by the 9-to-5 (which is really way more than 9-to-5), progress was slow today. Still, having these exercises in my back pocket really helps.  When I sit down to play even if for only 5 minutes, like today, I can jump right into these exercises. I know more practice time would help move me along on my quest, but sometimes you have to deal with what you have.

Day Five and Six

On both of these days, I cycled through the two walking bass exercises pretty heavily and threw in some Old McDonald just for fun.

Day Seven

In keeping with my observation from Week 1, I decided to let today be a ‘free’ day. I reflected a little on the lessons I learned so far, but my guitar time was simply unstructured fun. I think we need that, I know I do.

I find that when I take my guitar and practice time too seriously, I start to loose touch with why I started playing guitar in the first place. I can tell when this starts happening when the family makes comments like, “When are you going to play a complete song?” or “I miss it when you used to play songs for us.”

I do love the ‘free’ day.


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