How To Play ‘So What’ On The Bass Guitar (by Miles Davis) – YT127

Paolo Bass Guitar Technique, Bass Lab PLUS Membership, blog

In this week's bass guitar lesson I’m going to show you how to play ‘So What’ on the Bass Guitar by Miles Davis.

If you’re getting into the world of jazz or simply fascinated by Walking Bass the chances this tune is going to crop up sooner or later.  

So What is a tune which is found at Jazz Jam Sessions across the globe. It’s often regarded as being ‘simple’ hence why many musicians discover it when they are in the early phases of learning improvised music.

So What is based on a concept called Modal Jazz. Modal Jazz was pioneered in the late 1950s as an antidote to the complex world of be-bop jazz which came about in the 1940s.

The beauty of Modal jazz is in its simplicity… but this is what can also make it deceptively hard. 

The first thing I recommend  is getting to know the So What melody just by listening to it… the melody is often played by the bass. In reality it can be played by any instrument. I recommend understanding how to create Walking Bass Lines across the sequence before learning the melody.

Once you’re comfortable with creating bass lines to this song… then learn the melody on the bass.

Backing Tracks For This Bass Guitar Lesson

First of all ...If you want to get the backing track used in this lesson it’s available as part of the Jazz Jam Backing Track Album Volume 1.

You can get the album here - Get The JAzz Jam Backing Track Album

Understanding ‘So What’ Walking Bass

So What only has two chords. Dm7 & Ebm7. The chords last for extended periods of time which means it’s very easy to get lost. There is one ‘big chord’ change, to the Ebm7, in every 32 bar sequence which needs to be right.

In this lesson I’m going to show you a device to make sure you change accurately every time.

Many players also find the restriction of just playing using one mode or scale very restrictive. 

The device is creating constructing two bar walking bass lines or ‘cells’. 

Each section is 8 bars long which means you can fit in 4 cells. Thinking in terms of ‘cells’ makes it much easier to know where you are in the sequence.

Watch the video lesson to see this concept in action!

Here’s what this concept looks like written out:

Creating More Dorian Walking Bass Lines:

So What is based on the Dorian mode. If you’d like to discover more about how the dorian mode works make sure you check out the lesson Dorian Bass for Beginners

Here are 5 two bar walking bass cells for you to try over the So What chord sequence. Once you are comfortable with each bass line try mixing them up and changing between them regularly - this will give the effect of an improvised walking bass line!

Example 1

Example 2

Example 3

Example 4

Example 5

Lesson Wrap Up

Once you are comfortable with these bass lines make sure you check out The Essential Walking Bass Course inside the Bass Lab PLUS where I will show you more 2 bar walking bass cells and how to add chromatic notes to create more variation. It will also show you how to create Walking Bass Lines right from the ground upwards...

You can get the full Essential Walking Bass Course inside the Bass Lab PLUS by clicking here

The course covers everything you need to know to play strong walking bass lines over blues sequences, 2-5-1 chord sequence, modal tunes… all the way through to full jazz standards.

The Bass Lab PLUS is a complete program for the beginner to intermediate bass player - Join FREE Today with a 14 day trial.

All Bass Lab PLUS courses are easy to understand and simplify complex ideas so bass players in the early phases of learning can make rapid progress and achieve results that impress their friends and family fast.

Good luck and get stuck in!


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