Brain Question

Discussion in 'Ask Lynn Seaton' started by Shmelbee, Jan 25, 2007.

  1. Shmelbee


    Mar 28, 2005
    Sioux Falls, SD
    Mr. Seaton,

    Lately, my jazz teacher has been getting me to get out of the pages and start memorizing forms and stuff. I can do this for the most part without fail, but my problem lies in multitasking.

    I seem to be going into auto-pilot mode with my lines when I'm trying to keep the form. Then, when I notice this and try to change up my bass lines, I end up losing track of the form a little bit. I am not thinking about what's coming up next...

    I'd like to get soem suggestions on maybe another way to go about my job mentally...if that makes sense?

  2. I tend to play a lot of "default" lines. When I try to break these habits I a) get a little lost b) play things that make sense in regards to harmonic motion. If this needs to be moved please do so, either way your answers are appreciated.
  3. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Augusta GA
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Not to totally hijack, but in my opinion you need to develop a better methodology not for memorizing the tunes but for getting them, the melody an dchanges, in your ear. Hearing them go to (for example) ii of IV in the bridge rather than remembering that the first change in the bridge is Bb-7. If what you are doing is trying to think about what the chords are and think about what notes work with those chords and think about where in the form those chords are falling, you're gonna be playing the tune while the drummer's packing up to go home. If you can keep the sound of the melody in your head, the sound of the changes in your head, the time stream you're in in your head and actually hear your line in your head, believe me you're not going to have any problems coming up with a nice line AND keep your place in the form.

    My teacher has a nice methodology for approaching learning tunes on a very deep level, and learning 4 tunes in this way has really informed my ability to hear more and play pretty much any standard ish tune without resorting to either a sheet or rote memorization. I'll be happy to go over it again, maybe after Lynn gets a chance to address this question....
  4. Yeah, what Ed said.
  5. Shmelbee


    Mar 28, 2005
    Sioux Falls, SD
    Ed, would you mind PMing you and your teacher's strategy to me? that would be awesome.
  6. Lynn Seaton

    Lynn Seaton Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 3, 2006
    Denton, TX
    Ed has a great point about hearing the tune in your head while playing. I agree this helps one keep the form. Using the number system for chords can allows you to know a tune in any key. Also understanding the interval of the root movement helps some people. For example: rhythm changes in Bb, the bridge goes to D7. It is a dominant chord up a third (III 7). Aebersold has a great book on memorizing tunes in the play along series.
    Regarding default basslines- Everyone does this to some degree. I have transcribed LOTS of basslines by many different people and read through lots of other published bassline transcriptions. All the masters repeat themselves. I think unless one transcribed the bassline, the repetition wouldn't be noticed by most of the other players. By transcribing lots of basslines one will also learn many ways to get through different chord sequences. Make sure you analyze how the notes and lines fit the sequence, not just each individual chord.
    One more thing, the notes the soloist play and the chords the comping instrument play should suggest notes to include in your bassline if one is listening correctly (and the other way around for the soloist hearing what we do).
  7. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Augusta GA
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.

    Rather than PMing, go here.
  8. Shmelbee


    Mar 28, 2005
    Sioux Falls, SD
    Thanks a lot. It seems like a very thourough and thoughtful way to go about new stuff. I really appreciate that.
  9. bmanbill


    Jun 29, 2003
    Chicago, IL

    Not to rain on anyone's parade but here's my two cents on a method for learning tunes that won't take you ten years to master:

    Don't use sheet music or a fake book to begin with. Find a tune where the melody is already familiar to you or that moves slow enough for you to be able to learn it by ear. All The Things You Are is an excellent choice for this.

    1) Learn the melody by playing along with a recording ONLY for as long as necessary for you to remember it. Sing it, play it, whistle it in the shower, really internalize it. (It helps to pick a tune you LIKE)

    2) Go back to the recording and learn the roots of the chords, again by playing along as long as necessary for you to get it. I suggest doing this in 8 bar chunks.

    3) SING the melody and play the roots of the chords simultaneously. This is internalizing the relationship between the top line (melody) and the root motion that it is connected to.

    4) If your ears are good enough to be able to transcribe the harmonies, do it. The melody notes will point you in the right direction a lot of the time but you do need to go back to the recording to listen to what is going on between the melody and the roots. If you can't hear the chord types now's the time to break out an accurate fake book (Chuck Sher's books are excellent).

    5) Now you can play through the changes as Ed suggests, using the harmonic rhythm of the tune and arpeggiating through each chord change.

    6) SING the melody to yourself whenever you play the tune, either in roots, arpeggios, bass lines or soloing.

    The idea is to keep your ears involved in the whole process. You will never forget a tune you learn in this manner.

    For fantastic, practical soloing ideas, get Concepts for Bass Soloing by Chuck Sher and Marc Johnson.
  10. Lynn Seaton

    Lynn Seaton Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 3, 2006
    Denton, TX
    bmanbill has posted an EXCELLENT methodology!! I agree 100%.
  11. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    No kiddin'. Print that page!
  12. bmanbill is right on!
    Just to add another word to the mix - jazz guru David Baker uses the word "internalize" which really gets the message across. As I have gotten older and am working less I do find myself looking at a real book more to re-familiarize myself with the changes to a tune. I think this is because I've played a lot of tunes through the years and I start to confuse bridges, etc. But, I would never look at a real book on a gig. If I haven't internalized a tune i prefer not to play it, or at least not solo on it till I have.
    In Jerry Koker's first book, Improvising Jazz there is a great appendex that catagoriizes tune by there changes, starting on a II-V, starting on a IV chord, etc. This system has been very helpful to me. Also if you can get hold of the original John Mehegan piano books - Mehegan notated tunes by a roman numeral system that works in all keys. Whenever I learn a new tune I think of that system.
    Internalizing a tune can happen anywhere, while you are driving a car, shopping for groceries, ridding an elevator - wherever. if you hear an old tune like on the TCM movis channel or played by Mantovanni at the grocery store, put that tune in a key and play the changes! :D
  13. CamMcIntyre


    Jun 6, 2000
    Great info in this thread. I'm posting both as a person that has issues with memorization/internalization and as a person who is starting to get some tricks/techniques up my sleeve. I've got the David Baker book on memorizing tunes [released as part of the Abersold play-a-long series]. It has helped a good bit.

    I think it was Ed who said the bit about memorizing stuff as ii/IV etc. I agree entirely. My teacher, Scott Mason, has me analyze the tunes before we play through them. I feel like when i think of the tunes in terms of functional harmony, i'm able to play it more easily and without just trudging through chord by chord. I haven't read the method that Ed has posted just yet, but i plan on it.

    Something that i don't think can be emphasized enough is listen to recordings of the tunes. I try to find as many versions as i can. For example-for Body & Soul, i listened heavily to Coleman Hawkins version and Billie Holiday. I liked the Coleman Hawkins, but i based more of how i phrased the melody off of how Billie Holiday did hers.
  14. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

    Jun 14, 2004
    I think this is HUGE. iTunes has been great in this regard. Whenever I have to learn a tune I go to iTunes. I can usually find several versions of the tune. I try to download three versions so I can see how different folks have treated it.
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