Inspiration for Improvisation

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by precisionguitar, Jan 16, 2013.


  1. precisionguitar

    precisionguitar

    Joined:
    Mar 11, 2010
    I find soloing to be a topic that is described as so big, theres often little advice given. To be fair, there are some good books and resources, but I haven't found anything comprehensive. I admire players that can solo on the bass because it's difficult with the instrument itself not designed to be a melody instrument (which requires stronger technical ability), and more-so, the pitch is low which presents another challenge.
    Wanted to know what was it for you that finally helped you to get over the crest and open the door (a specific book, teacher, website, YouTube, ..?) and gave you that 'I got it!' moment...please share with us non-soloists.
  2. Don Higdon

    Don Higdon

    Joined:
    Dec 11, 1999
    Location:
    Princeton Junction, NJ
    There's no substitute for listening. For the rest of your life. Some education in theory will help you understand what you're hearing and how to reproduce it. There were no books when I was developing. You'll be needing listening skills when you play in groups. So listen.
  3. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Dec 13, 1999
    Location:
    Brighton, England, UK, Europe
    I agree with Don 100% - but I feel that maybe I have the opposite perspective to msw - in that I came to feel that there was actually no need to emulate a horn player and play "blazing " solos that light up the room. I came to see how a DB solo can give a nice contrast to the overall performance by providing a moment of calm - it's a quiet instrument compared to the rest of the band and I find that a bass solo works very nicely as something like the slow movement in a symphony - to give contrast and somewhere to build from. I hear beginner or inexperienced Jazz groups and it's all at the same volume and speed - whereas the best groups of players for me, have great variety of tone,dynamics and touch.

    When I started playing Jazz on BG I wanted to be Jaco or Stanley Clarke and impress people with how many notes I could get in - but the thing that opened doors for me on DB was trying to engage people while playing short, quiet solos with as few notes as possible! :p
  4. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

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    Dec 13, 1999
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    NYC
    Disclosures:
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Studying with Joe Solomon. He provided me with methods to develop the skill sets necessary to play with meaning and intent, so that I could stop speaking gibberish. And that's not just soloing, but also accompaniment. It's all the same idea, being able to get what you hear "inside", your musical imagination, out into the air so everybody else can hear it.
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  6. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2004
    Location:
    Chicago
    I agree with Ed and Don 100%.

    There are any number of books (Abersold, Omnibook, etc) that have jazz solos or solo ideas in them. When I was first learning I studied out of these heavily. I found though that while they gave me some basic vocabulary I was not playing my own ideas.

    I think this is where the listening comes in. Conception is sometimes the harder part for me meaning letting my brain and my ear do the driving not my fingers. Even without transcribing (which is important) listening with focus and intention can start getting solo ideas or alternate melodies swimming around in your head.

    Then the trick is getting those ideas out.

    These videos have a few interesting exercises to get the ideas in your head out.

  7. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2001
    Location:
    Portland, ME
    Disclosures:
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    We are lucky to have advice from the veteran musicians and long-time posters who have responded so far. There's a lot to learn from each of them.

    But now you get me instead!

    You think the bass is hard? Heck, push a button on the trumpet and any one of about six notes will come out! The double-bass can and does work like any other instrument. All musical limitations are completely self-imposed.

    I started playing bass (BG) around 1974 and it was simply expected that bassists would step up as jazz soloists. By that time the general notion of the bass as a fully-active solo instrument was ancient history. Jimmy Blanton, Oscar Pettiford, Paul Chambers and Scott LaFaro had already come and gone. Ray Brown and Eddies Gomez were in the prime of their careers. My first inspiration, Stan Clarke, was a fiery youngster knockin' down doors. Jaco Pastorius came onto the scene. The standards were and are astronomical but that's no excuse to skip your turn at the plate. Take a swing! You'll keep breathing even if you strike out!

    The Word From Wood. OP, it comes down to this: Do you want to be a bassist or do you want to be a musician who plays the bass?

    To each their own; the essence of improvisational music is that you've gotta be who you are. But again, for me the key is to try be able to access all those elements in my own playing -- from calm to fiery -- and to bring them to the moment musically. Easy to say and hard to do, not because the bass is hard but because playing musically is hard.

    Isn't that the goal, though? Not to play a blazing bass solo that will clear the bar, but to play music that stands beside the music of the ages? Of course I have a 99.9% failure rate in that effort but it would be 100% if I didn't try.

    Next . . .
  8. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2004
    Location:
    San Francisco, CA
    I've tried many "shortcuts". I'm no pro (I play one on TV), but after years of music lessons and classes, these seem like the only things that really work.

    1) Melody melody melody. Learning be your guide as they say. Melody is in way more important than knowing the chord changes. Once you have the melody down, it informs the solo and provides inspiration to new phrases and new ideas. I stole an idea from Lee Konitz that you should be able to recite to a melody to feel as if you had just invented it on the spot. Now that I've done it alot, learning new tunes comes so much faster when I learn the melody first. I used to just memorize the changes first and it took forever and the retention was poor.

    2) Remember your phrases. This is something that Sam kinda helped me out initially. If you invent a phrase, you should be able hang on to it and use it to create variations for the next few sets of phrases. If you just came up with a great phrase, why throw it away?

    3) Transcribe in fragments. Entire solos are too daunting to get your head completely around. Start small and nail it piece by piece. Divide and conquer. Run the fragments through 12 keys so you hear it and have the ability to "move" in that particular manner. After all, there is a large physical component to music performance.

    4) Not only should you sing your lines, but also work on the mechanical aspect of playing what you sing accurately. I don't really see really anybody else focusing on this. Something that should be outside of practicing theory, scales, arps, etc. Sing a random set of notes, and you train your muscles and ears to play those notes exactly in the way they come out. Otherwise, you're just noodling til you find the right notes that match the sound in your head. This is the execution side that comes after conception. It's not about playing scales or fast licks - just the act of getting your ideas out.

    5) Conception speed is purely mental. Many of these previous posters taught us that if you can't hear fast, you can't play fast. Which also means that it takes mental practice to conceive faster - not neccessarily practice at the instrument. Speeding up your imagination, if you will. There's a great Brecker video on youtube where he says he spends alot of time practicing concepts in his head before he even approaches the instrument. Certainly singing a melody in your head all day will make it far easier to play it, and probably get to playing it faster sooner.
  9. longfinger

    longfinger

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2008
    Location:
    Montreal, QC, Canada
    I just re-started my Db lessons, and we're focussing a lot on soloing. Right now what's helping me in getting some confidence in soloing is the focus on 1. rhythm, 2. rhythm, 3. rhythm

    Simple notes, on a convincing rhythmic vehicule sound convincing.

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