Cowboy chords and walking bass lines

Lesson #219 • Feb 22, 2019

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Editor’s notes

While practicing Colter Wall’s song “Thinkin’ on a Woman” I found myself taking a detour into this little rhythm figure, which features some cowboy chord walk ups & walk downs between A, E, and D. Combined with some alternating bass notes and some slap strumming, you have yourself one fun little exercise. I’ll teach you how to play it in two ways: one easier, and one a bit more difficult. Either way, quite the fun warm up exercise to mess around with. And for homework, I do very much recommend listening to Colter Wall – he’s a young country artist from Saskatchewan who can write, and sing, one heck of a song.

Easier exercise riff

What makes this one “easy” is that your walkups happen on the quarter notes only. Also, there’s no up-strumming involved. If you get a handle on this one, I suggest trying out the “intermediate” version, which is based on the same chords & melody, but adds a bit more doubled up strumming in a few places (for both the first note of each walkup/walkdown, as well as within the main strums of each chord).

E –––––––––|––––––0–––––––0–––––––0–––––––––––|–––––0–––––––0–––––––0–––––––––––|–
B –––––––––|––––––2–––––––2–––––––2–––––––––––|–––––0–––––––0–––––––0–––––––––––|–
G –––––––––|––––––2–––––––2–––––––2–––––––––––|–––––1–––––––1–––––––1–––––––––––|–
D –––––––––|––––––2–––––––2–––––––2–––––––––––|–––––2–––––––2–––––––2–––––––––––|–
A –––––––––|––0–––0–––––––0–––0–––0–––––––––––|–2–––2–––––––2–––2–––2–––3–––2–––|–
E –0–––2–––|––––––––––0–––––––––––––––0–––2–––|–––––0–––0–––0–––––––0–––––––––––|–
              A                                 E                                
   3 + 4 +    1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +   1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +  

          –|––––––0–––––––0–––––––0–––––––––––|–––––2–––––––2–––––––2–––––––––––|–
          –|––––––2–––––––2–––––––2–––––––––––|–––––3–––––––3–––––––3–––––––––––|–
          –|––––––2–––––––2–––––––2–––––––––––|–––––2–––––––2–––––––2–––––––––––|–
          –|––––––2–––––––2–––––––2–––––––––––|–0–––0–––––––0–––0–––0–––––––––––|–
          –|––0–––0–––––––0–––0–––0–––2–––4–––|–––––––––0–––––––––––––––3–––2–––|–
          –|––––––––––0–––––––––––––––––––––––|–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––|–
              A                                 D
              1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +   1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +

          –|––––––0–––––––0–––––––0–––––––––––|–––––0–––––––0–––––––0–––––––––––|-
          –|––––––2–––––––2–––––––2–––––––––––|–––––0–––––––0–––––––0–––––––––––|-
          –|––––––2–––––––2–––––––2–––––––––––|–––––1–––––––1–––––––1–––––––––––|-
          –|––––––2–––2–––2–––––––2–––––––––––|–––––2–––––––2–––––––2–––––––––––|-
          –|––0–––0–––––––0–––0–––0–––––––––––|–––––2–––2–––2–––––––2–––––––––––|-
          –|––––––––––––––––––––––––––3–––2–––|–0–––0–––––––0–––0–––0–––2–––4–––|-
              A                                 E                                
              1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +   1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +  

          –|––––––0–––––––––––––––2–––––––––––|–––––0–––––––––––0–––––––––––––––||
          –|––––––2–––––––––––––––3–––––––––––|–––––2–––––––––––0–––––––––––––––||
          –|––––––2–––––––––––––––2–––––––––––|–––––2–––––––––––1–––––––––––––––||
          –|––––––2–––––––––––0–––0–––––––––––|–––––2–––––––––––2–––––––––––––––||
          –|––0–––0–––2–––4–––––––––––3–––2–––|–0–––0–––––––––––2–––––––––––––––||
          –|––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––|–––––––––3–––2–––0–––––––––––––––||
              A               D                 A               E
              1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +   1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +

Same exercise, a bit harder

What makes this variation tougher is a few things. First, you’re doubling up the first note of each walkup/walkdown. Second, you’re adding an up-strum after each full chord strum. I also like to use a bit of palm mute while strumming, in addition to playing the A-major chord with my barred index finger (mute the high E string while doing this). I very much need to get warmed up before I can settle into this one, but I do enjoy it once the blood is fully flowing through my hands. Enjoy!

E –––––––––|–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––|–––––0–0–––––0–0–––––0–0–––––––––|–
B –––––––––|–––––2–2–––––2–2–––––2–2–––––––––|–––––0–0–––––0–0–––––0–0–––––––––|–
G –––––––––|–––––2–2–––––2–2–––––2–2–––––––––|–––––1–1–––––1–1–––––1–1–––––––––|–
D –––––––––|–––––2–2–––––2–2–––––2–2–––––––––|–––––2–2–––––2–2–––––2–2–––––––––|–
A –––––––––|–0–––––––––––––––0–––––––––––––––|–2–––––––––––––––2–––––––3–3–2–––|–
E –0–0–2–––|–––––––––0–––––––––––––––0–0–2–––|–––––––––0–––––––––––––––––––––––|–
             A                                 E                                 
   3 + 4 +   1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +   1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +   

          –|–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––|–––––2–2–––––2–2–––––2–2–––––––––|–
          –|–––––2–2–––––2–2–––––2–2–––––––––|–––––3–3–––––3–3–––––3–3–––––––––|–
          –|–––––2–2–––––2–2–––––2–2–––––––––|–––––2–2–––––2–2–––––2–2–––––––––|–
          –|–––––2–2–––––2–2–––––2–2–––––––––|–0–––––––––––––––0–––––––––––––––|–
          –|–0–––––––––––––––0–––––––2–2–4–––|–––––––––0–––––––––––––––3–3–2–––|–
          –|–––––––––0–––––––––––––––––––––––|–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––|–
             A                                 D
             1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +   1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +

          –|–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––|–––––0–0–––––0–0–––––0–0–––––––––|–
          –|–––––2–2–––––2–2–––––2–2–––––––––|–––––0–0–––––0–0–––––0–0–––––––––|–
          –|–––––2–2–––––2–2–––––2–2–––––––––|–––––1–1–––––1–1–––––1–1–––––––––|–
          –|–––––2–2–2–––2–2–––––2–2–––––––––|–––––2–2–––––2–2–––––2–2–––––––––|–
          –|–0–––––––––––––––0–––––––––––––––|–––––––––2–––––––––––––––––––––––|–
          –|–––––––––––––––––––––––––3–3–2–––|–0–––––––––––––––0–––––––2–2–4–––|–
             A                                 E                                 
             1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +   1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +   

          –|–––––––––––––––––––––2–––––––––––|–––––––––––––––––0–––––––––––––––||
          –|–––––2–––––––––––––––3–––––––––––|–––––2–––––––––––0–––––––––––––––||
          –|–––––2–––––––––––––––2–––––––––––|–––––2–––––––––––1–––––––––––––––||
          –|–––––2–––––––––––0–––––––––––––––|–––––2–––––––––––2–––––––––––––––||
          –|–0–––––––2–2–4–––––––––––3–3–2–––|–0–––––––––––––––2–––––––––––––––||
          –|–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––|–––––––––3–3–2–––0–––––––––––––––||
             A               D                 A               E
             1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +   1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +

Playing A-major with a single finger

Check out this video I made on this helpful technique, that can be used with this warmup exercise:

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