Winter Walkdowns

Shortened snippets of daytime sunshine, the early arrival and late departure of night’s darkness and a more-than-modest chill in the air foretell the winter season. Be not dismayed, my fellow guitar players. This is a time of year when I usually spend more time indoors, drinking more coffee and playing my guitar. If that scenario sounds familiar, let me recommend that you brew a cup of your favorite beverage, tune up your guitar, find a chair next to the fireplace (not too close) and together let’s explore the “winter walkdowns.“

Walkdowns describe the bass movement in the song, creating interest and emotion. A “one chord“ with the root in the bass makes the listener feel “at home,“ but a “one chord“ with the third or the fifth in the bass is a totally different animal, usually evoking a majestic, anthem-like quality. These tools prove their worth and usefulness in writing and arranging songs.

Almost every song ever written has either a walk-down or a walk-up. Think of how the bass walks down in choruses like “Jesus, Lover of My Soul“, “There Is None Like You“, “As The Deer“ or “Mr. Bojangles“. No matter what the style, sacred, secular, classical or contemporary, all employ this timeless musical device.

So stoke the fire, have another sip of hot beverage and off we go to learn the walkdowns in the five “guitar keys”, equipping you to play nearly 90% of all music ever written (or most of the music you ever hope to play). Of course, by using a capo, you become able to play in all 12 keys with ease. That is one of the cool things about the guitar – if you learn the “shapes“ of certain chords, those shapes can be moved up and down the neck forming different chords in different keys. Can’t do that on a piano! :-)

Look at the examples shown. In the key of C, look at the F/G chord. That “shape“ is a “moveable shape”. If you move that shape up to frets, it becomes a G/A, which sets you up for the key of D. It’s in great shape to use when you’re modulating from one key to another. Another moveable shape that will serve you well is the A/C# in the key of D. Move it up and down the neck and figure out what chord you’re playing. Bb/D, C/E, etc. Good head, try them. Ouch!! It’s tough at first. The guitar is a very physical instrument. Take heart; repetition and practice make the hand muscles grow stronger. Trust me!

The examples shown start with C, the easiest key, and progressed to E, the hardest key. If you strive to be a better guitar player, I truly believe this is time well spent; especially with the warm fire and hot beverage! Learning these walkdowns will prepare you to play hundreds of songs and enable you to enjoy your instrument more fully. “Play skillfully...“ Psalms 33:3

Shortened snippets of daytime sunshine, the early arrival and late departure of night’s darkness and a more-than-modest chill in the air foretell the winter season. Be not dismayed, my fellow guitar players.