Walk-ups, Walk-downs, and the fretboard

Lesson #354 • Mar 7, 2021

Video lesson

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Editor’s notes

Hey there friends! Another video on walk-ups & walk-downs today, where I’ll show you how you can use the fretboard as a visual aid when understanding what notes you’re playing. I covered a very similar topic back in lesson #342, and after many requests, I’m explaining things a bit more – this time with a brand new PDF for you to reference. I’ll be looking at a common walk-up & walk-down sequence, as it appears in five common musical keys (A, C, D, G, and E). For each key I’ll show you the sample tab, as well as two different maps of the fretboard. My hope is this further helps you understand how walk ups & walk downs work, when to use them, and where the notes are coming from.

Let me also remind you, my free web tool FretMonster is available for you to use to visualize the fretboard. It lets you select your desired key, and your desired scale (when in doubt, use the “major” scale) – and it shows you all the matching notes on the guitar fretboard. There’s other cool things you can do – such as change the way the notes are labeled, as I reference in my video and PDF.

My other lesson on this topic

Back in lesson 342 I initially covered this topic, from a slightly different angle. Here’s that video, if you want to compare my answers:

Lessons that use walk-ups & walk downs

Here’s a list of songs I’ve made lessons for that utilize what I show in this video. These make for great additional practice if you want to open up FretMonster, set it to the key of any song below, and make out what scale degrees are being used in the walk-ups and walk-downs.

PDFs for each lesson are available via the links below!

  • Walk the Line by Johnny Cash - this one is absolute treasure if you’re looking to see how these walk-ups & walk-downs can be put to use. Cash uses three different keys in this song (changing the key with each verse), but always uses the same formula within each key. Watch the video & get the PDF »

  • Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground by Willie Nelson - this one’s great because Willie embraces chromatic walk-ups & walk-downs… which basically means, he’s adding sharp (or flat?) notes between the “main” walkdown notes, traveling a half-step at a time within each connecting phrase. Watch the video & get the PDF »

  • Honky Tonk Heroes by Waylon Jennings - the intro to this song is quite great, and has a subtle but important use of walk-ups & walk-downs leading up to each chord. Similar to the Willie Nelson song above, some of these runs are chromatic. Watch the video & get the PDF »

  • Summertime by Billy Strings & Marcus King - a great example here of how just a few walk-up & walk-down phrases are all you need to add a ton of character to a longer progression. In my lesson, I teach you how Billy plays it, but also a simpler way that still taps into the walk-up and walk-down spirit. Watch the video & get the PDF »

  • Kodachrome by Paul Simon - while this one isn’t terribly heavy on the walk-ups and walk-downs, but there’s a few distinctive runs used during the intro riff (also heard in the verse) which further embrace chromaticism, which really spices things up. And such a great song! Watch the video & get the PDF »

That’s just a few… check out my website for even more!

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Fun & Helpful Tools I've Made

Fret Monster

Interactive fretboard map! See the patterns behind every scale in any key.


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Free PDF templates to download, print, and write out your own guitar tabs!


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