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bass improv and what not

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by brungus, Sep 18, 2004.

  1. brungus


    Mar 24, 2004
    i just got back from the bass extremes show in NYC, where victor wooten, steve bailey and oteil burbridge we're laying it down. i consider it an enlightening event, as ill probably be playing bass 10 times as much from now on. but seeing as i stopped taking lessons, i need some ideas on what to do.

    bassically (pun intended) ive had my bass for about 4 years, ive been playing seriously for maybe a year. i need some suggestions on what i should be working on to improve my soloing and just plain basslines. up to now ive always been playing other songs. if youve ever heard any of these guys youll know what kind of music i like. and if you know a lot about them, then id have to say i liked oteils style the most, and id like to play stuff similar to that.

    i have a 4 string, looking at 6s though
  2. Whafrodamus


    Oct 29, 2003
    Andover, MA
    One thing that a lot of musicians don't understand. You can't be taught or learn how to improv. You can learn how to solo, but you need to teach yourself your own solo. The only way to improv and such is to be crazy. Yes, you need to hear the little ditty in your head, and just feel the music when you play. It's a little hard to explain. Vic, Steve, and Oteili make that stuff up! They hear the ditty in their head, and you can to. Just tune the little radio in your head to improv :p.
  3. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    While you pose a romantic image of improvisation in your head, it's not entirely accurate. Vic, Steve and Oteil are able to demonstrate on their instrument what they hear in their head not because they're "tuning the little radio in their head", but more because they have played and played and played with an idea toward a goal. They have studied what they need to in the form of sight reading, harmony, theory, scales, arpeggios and more, over and over and over through the years, to the point to where they've internalized these things and are able to express what they're feeling and hearing in their head at that particular moment.

    To simply say that you can't be taught improvisation is, in my opinion, quite incorrect. Musicians study all aspects of music, their craft, to increase their musical vocabulary so that they may call upon their knowledge when needed.
  4. brungus


    Mar 24, 2004
    i guess what im thinking is that you can be taught how to make your music sound good to an extent by learning certain parts of music theory and scales or whatever. i hate myself for not paying attention to scales when i started. so in essence i basically want to "start over". what would be the first things youd recommend me to learn, in order to play this style (or something close to it) of bass.
  5. damn jeff... you got me feelin' like I should too :eek: :rolleyes: :bassist:
  6. Whafrodamus


    Oct 29, 2003
    Andover, MA
    What I should have said is, improvisation can only be taught to an extent.
  7. mattmcnewf


    May 27, 2004
    I don't know if this was said or needs to be said, but get experience playing in bands no matter what style, just get comfortable with a druumer
  8. fiebru1119


    Mar 2, 2004
    Orlando, FL
    I agree. And to add to this listen, listen, LISTEN. I dont know how others feel about this, but IMO internalize all the music of all different types you can. Listen to how the instruments communicate with each other. Sometimes its not about how badass of a solo you do but how locked in you are with the rest of the band.
  9. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    You know, I actually think my bass bag is older than you are. Which is neither here nor there really, but you may want to reconsider making such portentious announcements as to your insight about "things a lot of musicians don't understand". Or not, up to you. Egg is pretty easy to clean up.

    Saying that you can't be taught or can't learn improv is a lot like saying you can't learn to say anything by learning anything about language. Sure, learning HOW to speak, learning vocabulary, how language is constructed etc. does not give you ideas about what to say. What it DOES do is give you the tools to say EXACTLY WHAT IT IS YOU WANT TO CONVEY.

    A good teacher is going to help you to identify that vague conception, turn it into a concrete idea, have the vocabulary to articulate your idea in such a way that other s can understand it.

    Do what you want, this is working out pretty good fo me.
  10. Another thing I think we're all forgetting is that they have an amazing familiarity with their instruments which only comes with time. They know where every note is, what it sounds like, and they can visualize in their head what they want to do and then easily apply it to their playing in a matter of seconds. It's almost like learning how to use a keyboard, I guess that would be a simplification. You know what you want to say, or type, and all the keys, or notes, are right there in front of you. It just takes time to be able to do that. I bet you remember when you were first learning to use a keyboard you struggled to use all ten fingers, or it took you 30 seconds to type out any word with more then 10 letters. Get what I'm saying? Now you can probably spit out a one page draft in ten minutes, taking your thoughts and putting them directly onto the computer.
  11. jimjwl


    Oct 2, 2004
    if you are to play music that comes from a key, you have to learn functional harmony some kind of way. Willis' Fingerboard Harmony for Bass is a very good way to get into it; I'm working with that, but also I took a harmony class where all we did was write 4-part harmony. The book we used had an outline form that made it easy to find things; it's called "Modern Harmonic Technique" by Gordon Delamont, and it comes in two volumes. Absolutely packed with info. The more you know about harmony and the better your ear is connected to your brain, the more mature-sounding your solos will be. Gary's book purposely deals only with harmony and removes the element of rhythm, so you can deal with just harmony. One thing he says that's very important, is "You have to teach yourself what is under your fretting hand", and that when you are about to reach a change in chord or key, you can train yourself to see the fingerboard change under your hand.

    But of course, a good improviser has to have a "library" of rhythms at his/her command. One way, get a drum book that has a collection of different rhythms. Study it separately, understand the different note values, be able to write rhythms in correct grammar, play them. Then combine with harmony. If you're interested in polyrhythms, Peter Magadini has a book called "Polyrhythms: the Musician's Guide" (and one way to find Peter is at drummerworld.com).

    A book/method I'm using mainly for harmony and melody, is Jim Grantham's Jazzmaster Workout. The method entails cycling through keys at the rate of one key per week, and working through the week by first writing out the scales and progressions you want to work on, work through a "warmup" which includes major, chromatic, pentatonic scales, basic chord types, and chordscales (you only write out the things you will be actually practicing that week) and finally run "The Tools" on the progressions. I've been running the workout for maybe a year (last three months, running it solid every day). Another feature of the method is it's based on a "movable doe" system, meaning that everything is done with respect to the key.

    I have a specific way of combining Jim's Jazzmaster Workout with Gary Willis's Fretboard Harmony for Bass books for the specific purpose of learning what's under my hand (without moving it all over the place :)) and I can talk about it if people are interested. It's not new or anything, in fact I see many elements in this forum, but certain elements are specific combinations of these methodologies.


    Jam sessions community web site: http://jam.sessionsnet.org
  12. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    'Bo...I agree though I will add that when Oteil played around here back in '83-'86 he was not reading music. He did play/listen all day, though. His playing back then was still better than what most players are doing today, 20 years after the fact.
    Oteil's older brother(Kofi) is a schooled flautist that took up keys. Both are extremely gifted & have internalized a great deal of material.

    Agree 100%. I like Mark Levine's opening comment in his Jazz Theory book.
    Music is 1% 'magic' & 99% stuff can be taught/learned.
  13. rawgreenbean


    Dec 27, 2003
    But isn't pretty much all music written to impress someone? Music is very rarely used on the proffesional level for purposes that aren't selfish. It's either to make money, get laid, or some other selfish reason.
  14. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    No, just music written by self centered, greedy little gits.

    Just because there aren't any elephants in your neighborhood, doesn't mean that elephants don't exist. Open your mind.