The Dorian Walking Bass For Beginners (YT086)

Paolo Bass Lab PLUS Membership, blog, Walking Bass

In today’s bass guitar lesson, I want to show how to use the Dorian Mode or Dorian Scale. With this, we can create interesting walking bass lines that don’t sound like you are just playing scales.

If you’re in the early or beginner phases of playing walking bass and go to a jazz jam session there is one tune that you are highly likely to encounter. This is a modal jazz tune called ‘So What’ by Miles Davis. This is the most famous and widely play tune of this style.

The most obvious characteristic of modal jazz is that tunes tend to be focused around just one or two chords or scales. This style have a very ‘sparse’ or ‘bare’ sound and the musicians tend to play quite simply. It was pioneered in the 1950s and is almost the antidote to the fast and complicated Bebop Jazz that was happening a decade before. 

Students often see this as being easier because there are not so many notes and chord changes to deal with, but in reality I think it can be just as hard. This is because we need more ideas, concepts and understanding to keep our bass lines interesting. 

In this lesson I’m going to share 5 ‘real world’ walking bass lines based on the Dorian Mode to get you going.

Understanding The Dorian Mode

First of all let’s look at what the Dorian Mode is and how it’s used.

The A section or first 16 bars of the tune ‘So What’ is based on a Dm7 chord and / or the scale of D Dorian.

The Dorian mode is the second mode of a C major Scale. Notice how the notes the same as C major scale but just starting on a D.

Here are the notes of the scale:

                                                                                                D     E     F     G     A     B     C     D

The important notes to appreciate are the flat 3rd ( which makes it minor) and the flat 7th.

This is the most common fingerboard shape for Dorian Scale you will find on the fingerboard.

5 Real World Dorian Walking Bass Lines

Once, you are a completely comfortable with the scale... here are 5 x 2 bar walking bass lines based on the Dorian scale for you to try out.

I recommend trying the following:

  • Looping each example one by one

  • Playing each example twice then moving on to the next one with no break

  • Playing each example once, then moving on to the next example with no break.

When you start stringing these example lines together you create interesting and varied bass lines. Over time you’ll start to then improvise your own once you have internalised the sound of these lines.

Example 1

Example 3

Example 4

Example 5

Once you are comfortable with these bass lines make sure you check The Essential Walking Bass Course inside the Bass Lab PLUS where I will show you how to add chromatic notes to create more variation.

You can can get the full Essential Walking Bass Course 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.


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