Here are two articles I've written over the years on how to play Jazz organ bass lines... they should definitely be more than enough to get you crackin'...
How To Play LH Jazz Organ Bass Lines
The three most important lessons I learned about Hammond Organ Bass playing came from Big John Patton and Hank Marr.
During our first lesson, Big John told me that if I could get my bass line happening I wouldn't have to do a lot up top. He also showed me the importance of using roots and fifths in my basslines.
Hank Marr inspired me by telling me, "To have a good organ walk all you need to do is have a few good patterns going up, and a few good patterns going down." I never got to meet Hank in person (we just chatted on the phone) but that advice did so much for my playing because I found it to be true and practical.
There is only one other thing you need to know about playing good organ bass (besides the drawbar settings). That is to be a good Jazz Organ Bassist, you have to be a good bassist period. In fact, to be a good Jazz Organ player, you have to be a good Jazz organ bassist double period. The reason is becase in a Jazz group the bass player is the backbone of the rhythm section, so if you are taking his job and don't do it the band isn't really going to be able to groove. This, in fact, is the biggest problem many Jazz organists make: Getting so tied up in trying to solo like Jimmy Smith or Joey DeFrancesco, that they forget to walk bass in time. But if you listen to any master player no matter how simple or complex their playing is, you will notice one thing : rock solid bass player. So the catch is, if you want to sound like "Joey and Jimmy" you have to be able to walk like them. If you can't, that means you gotta lay back. Never do more up top than your left hand will let you, even if it only means playing one note. Sometimes you can simplify your bass line a bit when you solo, but always remember that when you're soloing you should be thinking about what your left hand is doing first, then worry about the complexity of your solo. Big John Patton was right... if your left hand is happening, you won't have to do as much up top and what you do will sound better. But if your left hand isn't happening you can play the perfect solo note for note, and in probability it won't work. That's because the rhythmic, harmonic and melodic counterpoint won't be there... that means the tune won't have a feel or a groove. The end result : not interesting for the listeners, and difficult for the other musicians trying to accompany you.
There is one other bit of advice I can give you. Make sure the drummer plays simple and gives you a good upbeat. Most of the classic Jazz organ drummers (like Ben Dixon, Joe Dukes, Donald Bailey, etc.) were influenced by Art Blakey. That means they played with a strong upbeat and sometimes a bit of a backbeat. In drummerese this means :
In the end, remember this : The way the drummer plays (especially in terms of his cymbal patterns) dictates ways that you have to play too, so if the drummer is playing in a very complicated way, it might require more RH/LH dexterity and independence than you (or virtually any otother organist) is capable of. When this is happening you have to be firm. The drummer has to play more simple, or go and get a "better" organist or a bass player instead (or preferably you should try to find a better drummer... remember in Jazz "better" is a relative word. "Appropriate" is probably a better term!)
Now, as for actual Jazz organ technique:
1. Learn to tap your feet and snap your fingers along with famous Jazz recordings, listening to both the bass player and the cymbal and high hat of the drummer. No, this isn't over simple or a waste of time... unless you already have a natural sense of tempo and rhythm.
2. Have someone teach you a basic 12 bar blues bass line (preferably in the key of F) for starters. Play it over and over and over again until you have it memorized, then start accompanying real Jazz recordings.
3. Learn to play Root-Five, "Root-half step up-back to root-half step above next chord tone", and root-five-octave patterns in all keys. (ex. C G, C C# C B, C G C B)
4. Play through simple tunes in fake books using the simple bass patterns you learned in your blues walk, and also the patterns I taught you.
5. Remember : The secret of a good bass line is that everything has to be connected. Approach tones from a half a step above and try to walk or lead to the next tone so that by the fourth beat you are a half step above or below the next root. ex. C- F7 = Db | C D Eb E | F
6. To really get our bass line swinging, count using forward momentum and triplet feel. This means don't count 1 2 3 4 or 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and, but rather uh1, uh2, uh3 uh4. If you play passing tones on the uh (for example chromatics) and roots and fifths on the beats you'll have a real swinging sound. If you want to have a really complex bass line like Groove Holmes, you always want to think onto the beat, not off it !
These are just a few secrets to get you started. I hope you find them useful.
Jazz Organ Bass Lines
Creating a Solidly Swinging Walking Bass LineThe secret behind getting a solidly swinging bass line is to simply learn how to get your hands in position and to grab those roots, fifths, chromatics and octaves.
While the basic technique will vary between upright, electric bass and Hammond organ the principle is simple... Get your hands in position, and let your fingers do the walking.
Now in terms of a classic 4 beat Jazz bass line it all comes down to this : Playing the changes and keep the pulse. As a general rule, if its a bar with one change (one chord) I almost always play the root on the first beat and on the fourth beat I (more often than not) play the note that's either a half step above or below the note I want to get to... So for example, if the change is C-7 | F7 then my bass line is going to look something like this...
C __ __ Gb | F __ __ __ __
As for the notes in between, if you've studied various walks in the past, you probably know about walking scales and chords, but don't rule out fifths and chromatics either. Played with the pulse, they swing hard... Look :
C C# C Gb | F __ __ __ __ (chromatic style)
C G C Gb | F __ __ __ __ (fifths)
"C G C Gb" might sound very simplistic, but actually it isn't... and there's a wide number of reasons... one, you can inverted it in many ways, including flipping up to the octave... second, the choice of G and Gb open up a lot of doors for the rhythm section... Gb, for example is the tri-tone of C, which happens to be the Fifth belonging to F... so if the piano playing plays a V I progression to get to the F (for example the notes E Bb D# over the Gb), you have some really far out passing action. - - Confused ? Sounds like rocket science ? Well, that's the wonder of a solid but simple bass line like that... it looks simple, but it isn't... ! And most amazingly, this approach requires no knowlege of chords or scales beyond the roots !
Oh as for two chord changes in a single bar... its even simpler. Say you're playing a change like this : C-7 F7 | Bbmaj... I'd simple play the roots on the first and third beats, and the notes leading onto them in between. In fact, here's a great rule of Jazz bass playing. Always lead ONTO the notes you have to play... don't walk away from them. Feel yourself stepping ONTO the pulse... so the line I might play might be...
Db | C Gb F B | Bb
(*The Db is a pick up beat that I'd play before stepping onto the 1 !)
In conclusion, bass playing is a task not to be taken lightly... as a bass player you are not only the pulse and heartbeat of the rhythm section, but have incredible amounts of control over the momentum of the arrangement by the way you approach and cue the changes to the rest of the group. Take what you say seriously, because if you're playing with good players, they should be listening to you ! If you play the changes in a wishy washy manner, then the overall sound of the group will lack depth and sound wishy washy, but if you're playing in a manner that's deep, rich, cool and lucid, the group will swing enormously and have an incredible rhythmic drive. Remember, remember, always remember : Every note must have its purpose !
In conclusion, listen to the masters, tap your feet along, and learn to sing and anticipate their "messages" in your mind. Great soloists don't merely read lead sheets, they listen to the tall guy in the back (or short pudgy guy on the organ) who's holding down the fort. Stay cool, swinging, and perservere ! ! !