Bluegrass Guitar Lesson: Walking Bass Runs

Truly excellent bluegrass guitar players can exercise choice when playing the role of both the melodic lead and supporting rhythmic instrument. What do we mean by choice? In this case, we’re referring to a player’s ability to apply a variety of different techniques to craft a dynamic performance and retain the interest of the listener. Concerning rhythm guitar playing specifically, it is particularly important to be able to utilize an array of embellishment methods to accomplish this goal, such as walking bass lines, alternating bass techniques, strumming variations, and more.

In this online guitar lesson, Grammy Award-winning guitarist, ten-time IBMA “Guitar Player of the Year,” and ArtistWorks bluegrass guitar instructor, Bryan Sutton, teaches how to integrate walking bass lines into your rhythm guitar playing. He explains the role of the walking bass line within the bluegrass rhythm guitar style and illustrates how walking bass runs can be utilized in any key and in just about any musical context to provide a predictable harmonic foundation for the ensemble and listeners.

LEARN MORE: Want to learn how to play bluegrass guitar from a master musician like Bryan Sutton? Try some free online guitar lessons now!

“The idea of a walking bass is a vital part of bluegrass rhythm,” Bryan explains. “It’s been a part of bluegrass rhythm guitar playing since the early days. Walking bass lines help us add interest to the music and lead the band and listener from one chord to the next. It creates predictability and trustworthiness in our rhythm.”

While walking bass lines may sound complex and may feel intimidating to implement in your playing, the fundamental concept behind executing them is much simpler than you’d expect. In essence, all walking bass lines are derived from the key center in which you’re playing a tune. For example, if you’re performing a song in the key of G Major, your walking bass runs will feature notes from the G Major scale. Keep this in mind as you attempt to craft your walking bass lines, and explore various walking bass options in new tunes.

“When we play different songs, we’re going to notice different ways to use our walking bass techniques,” Bryan explains. “But, at their core, they’re all derived similarly. They are scale notes that help us navigate from one chord to the next.”

To learn more about crafting walking bass lines and methods to expand your rhythm guitar vocabulary, dive into this online guitar lesson from Bryan Sutton:

Walking Bass Runs with Bryan Sutton:

This lesson is part of a series of lessons called the “Rhythm Guitar Toolbox” that Bryan recently added to his comprehensive bluegrass acoustic guitar course here at ArtistWorks. If you enjoyed this lesson, sign up for Bryan’s course, keep your momentum going, and take your flatpicking to the next level. Click here to join today.


Have you always wanted to learn how to play acoustic guitar? Through our comprehensive guitar lessons online and Video Exchange Learning platform here at ArtistWorks, you can learn from internationally renowned players, like Bryan Sutton, and get personal feedback on your playing.

Bryan’s course starts with the basics and teaches everything from beginner guitar to advanced flatpicking techniques, classic bluegrass tunes, and beyond. So, whether you’re a beginner, intermediate, or advanced player, all levels are welcome and all students will grow and improve their skills as flatpick guitar players and musicians.

Try out some free sample music lessons here and see what makes ArtistWorks courses some of the best online music lessons around!



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