Playing the Guitar: Common Progressions
Part II: Bass Runs

If you play folk guitar, you probably know that when you go from G to C, you can gussy it up by doing a bass run from G to C - simply play the G chord's bass, then play the notes a and b on the 5th string before hitting the C chord. Similarly, you can go down the way you came up. Going between A and D it's the same thing Just walk up a-b-c# on the 5th string before hitting the D chord. But what you hear on Paul Simon's "Homeward Bound" is a little fancier, and uses an interval called the 10th, which is a 3rd raised up an octave.

First let's create some shorthand notation. While it may be cumbersome, it may be easier for beginners than tablature:

String notation

a, b, c (ie. lower case). = single note
A, B, C (upper case) = whole chord

fingers are called thumb, index, middle, ring and pinky.

So ring s5/f3 means ring finger at the third fret on the fifth string, and (ring s6/f3, open s2) describes the position of two fingers. Just take it slowly.

Instead of just playing the bass notes on these runs, the bass and the note a 10th above it are plucked at the same time.

To walk up from G to C, start with a G chord and pluck the low g and the high b together (ring s6/f3, open s2); then Am (open 5, index s2/f1), then a kind of Bm (middle s5/f2, pinky s2/f3), then C (ring s5/f3, s1/o).

Another common walkdown is from D. The straight walk down goes like this: Play a D chord, then add your pinky on s5/f4, then lift that and move your index finger to s5/f2, then lift that for open s5, then play a G chord, then play D chord with F# in the bass D/F# - you do this either by adding your thumb to s6/f2 or by playing a D chord without the top note this way: index s6/f2, ring s3/f2, pinky s2/f3. Again, you can reverse this and walk your way up, pausing at any chords you like along the way.


Next Article > explore alternate tunings


Hugh Blumenfeld, Editor


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