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Can you help me walk over "Milestones"

Discussion in 'Music Theory [DB]' started by ccyork, Dec 21, 2004.

  1. ccyork


    Jan 26, 2004
    Hi All

    I'm very new to playing jazz and I've got a question or two about creating a walking bass line for "Milestones." (I have been studying in "Building Walking Basslines by Ed Friedland.)

    I know the tune is in G Dorian. My lead sheet shows the progression like this: Gm7 (Am7) (Bbmaj7) (Am7).

    I assume that the parentheses mean that the chord changes are implied, but not explicit?

    Do I need to follow all these changes in building my line, or can I just walk on the Gm7 through the whole progression?

    Also when walking on a single chord for more than 1 measure do you HAVE to come back to the root on the 1 beat of EVERY measure?

    Any help would be much appreciated. I need to come up with something pretty quick. Thanks!
  2. One typical treatment is to walk over the G- sections and pedal the bridge or A- section. By pedal, I mean hang around the note A a lot, either with a repetitive rhythm or not. This tends to open or loosen the time feel, with the potential to build tension until you release back to walking. It also helps you keep track of the form (AABBA) which is a major consideration at your stage of development.

    For the walking, it's really all G-. First try alternating downbeats, using the root on the 1st measure, then the fifth on the 2nd measure, then root, fifth, root, etc. This will give your line the potential for some direction, and help you keep track of where you are. It's easier to feel eight bar phrases when you're counting by two's, which is what the alternating target notes will allow. For a more advanced approach, create a series of target notes, stating with the root, then the third, fifth, seventh, and back to root again. This essentially creates a 4 bar phrase. Do the same thing in reverse, (R,7,5,3) and you've got another option.

    Choosing the other 3 notes in the measure is another challenge.

    The answer is quick, but learning, practicing and implementing it is not.
  3. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    The other thing that I would point out, since you say that you are "very new to playing jazz" is that picking a tune like (the new) MILESTONES may be counterintuitive. That is to say, you may actually be able to better work on constructing walking lines by playing a tune with MORE chord changes rather than FEWER chords. The challenges of creating a propulsive, melodic line over static harmony are, in many ways, far greater than coming up with one when the harmony changes every two beats.

    If this is indeed the case, I urge you to pick something from the standard repertoire with some moving key centers, changing harmony. That way you can get your ear accustomed to hearing a line linking a progression, it then becomes easier to "impose" your own tensions and resolutions through static harmony.
  4. ccyork


    Jan 26, 2004
    Thanks for the help everyone. Actually I didn't pick "Milestones" myself. It was picked by the leader of the group I'm going to start playing with. Most of us are new to jazz except the leader who plays trumpet (and is a jazz professor at a university) and the drummer. They've both been playing jazz for years, and they're going to show a few of us the ropes. I think the tunes that were selected were picked more so because they might be easy to solo over. The tunes are:

    Angel Eyes
    Freddy the Freeloader
    I Mean You
    Bernie's Tune

    We're getting together on Friday. I'm reallly looking forward to it. It will be the first time I sit in with a jazz group! :bassist:
  5. I mean You is a mean piece...
    You might wanna listen to some recorded versions of those tunes carefully, before trying to follow the changes from the lead sheets. Good luck!

  6. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I think what Ed says, applies just as much to this! So - it might appear easier to noodle aimlessly over static harmony, but it's pretty hard to play a solo, over this kind of thing, that will hold an audience's attention - unless you are a Miles Davis, Coltrane etc.
  7. I think what might be meant by Gm7 (Am7) (Bbmaj7) (Am7) is that an approach that does work with this line is walking up and down the dorian scale a bit using thirds like

    (Gm)  (Am7)  (BbM7)  (Am7)
    G Bb   A C    Bb D    A C

    Now of course that doesn't get you very far and is a very simple idea - but I think my point is that this tune seems to like a walking line that propels it forward at least in that verse section. I've also found that glossing over or implying the root instead of hopping on it can yield some interesting results.

    Like Ed said, this is a tough one for us newbie jazzers - the structure is so open it is a bit frightening!
  8. I'd suggest getting a recording of the tune. The best one I can think of is The Bill Evans' Trio Waltz For Debbie. Listen to Milesstones and what Scott does on it, try to hear the sections change and try to grab what you can from it. Another idea would be take the tune to your teacher and work on it with him/her. You could also sit down and write a bass line, then play it, see what you like and don't like and change accordingly.
    Something you cab do is, over the long G dorian sections you can go into F major, imply different changes. Just put on a metronome and try playing the tune, improvise a line that sounds musical and makes sense. Yhis will help you when your actually playing.
  9. You can't beat the version on the album Milestones by Miles though...I used to listen to that over and over and over and over...then I lost it. You can buy it for me for Christmas though!
  10. nypiano


    Feb 10, 2003
    I think the fella could use some actual line samples fellas.
    Give it up!
    It's my recollection that the PC with Miles version and the Lafaro version with Evans are a bit different. I could be wrong but doesn't Miles version approach it more from a C7(sus) perspective and Lafaro more from the G-? Plus Scotty breaks up the time a bit. They both play a pedal line on the A- section not walking. There is another aspect to learning this tune—the form is hard! 16 /16/8 Which means-absolutely stick the pedal thing on A- to keep your place. Right after that there is 8 bars of G-. and then it starts all over again. The main thing as a student is to have a good way to mark the top of the form—some specific way to get to the top of the form

    The basic thing is it's a never resolving G-7 C7 progression that keeps cycling back. Since I don't have a recording at hand I would guess you could approach with a C7 to G- perspective (which is similar to descarga in latin jazz where the often dominant comes first then the minorII).Or you could approach it with a G-7 C7. Any preferences fellas? The difference being whether a D7ish set up before major phrases starting on G-7 sound right or whether it takes a C7 then "getting to C7 sound approach".

    A C7 to G- approach could do this:
    C G(down)C D /E F G A/ G-G F E G/C G(up) Bb B/Cetc

    A G-7 approach could do this:

    G A Bb C /D E F A/G-G D Bb D/G A Bb A/Getc

    Also you can combine G-7 C7 in ways that mix up the harmonic rhythm—for example in this one there is 1 bar each chord implied in the 1st 4 measures than 2 bars each the next four:

    G A Bb B /C D E D/G D(down) G(up)F/E G C C#/ D C Bb A/ G A Bb B/C D E G(down)/C Bb A Ab

    The idea of mixing it up interval wise is always a good decision—you can get a lot of mileage out of just root and 5th done creatively with arpeggios and scale interspersed.
    D (up)G (down)G (up)G/ (down)D E F A/G (down)D Bb D/G A Bb C etc

    And on the root-5th idea.. You might get some ideas from salsa which often deals with vamps on one chord (ie descarga)

    It’s really about creating a larger harmonic rhythms behind the soloist. This is what Ed was referring to. It’s harder to play over open tunes because you have to basically ear your way through creating/implying bar groupings that you invent on the spot while keeping your place in the music.
  11. ccyork


    Jan 26, 2004
    Thanks for the help...I've never learned so much so fast. You guys are right about this tune being very hard to keep your place. I'm ok during the head, but after that...I get lost quick! I like nypiano's idea of having a specific way to get back to the top of the form. That should help me keep my place.

    I'm very intrigued by nypiano's C7 G-7 idea, I'll definitely give it a try. In the mean time this is what I came up with, which I believe is a G-7 Bbmaj7 approach:

    G Bb C F / Gb G Ab A / G F E D / Bb D E F

    I'm not sure how to notate up and down scale motion, but I think you can get the idea. What do you think of this? It seems to sound ok to me...is the chromaticism in the second measure ok in this type of tune?
  12. Of course you can talk all day about what chords you could imply in a modal context, but really what you need right now is fewer choices, not more. IMO, you should pick one and stick with it. The number of possible permutaions for a good walking line over any one progression is already staggering.

    Your example is sort of ok, but rather than explaining in painful detail what I don't like about it, it would be just easier to give you another example. Starting on low G, and ascending:

    G A Bb C / D E F F# / G F E Eb / D C Bb A / or a slight variation:

    G Bb C C# / D D# E F# / G Gb F E / D Bb A Ab / and here's another:

    G Bb C A / D E F A / G F E C / D Bb A F / and a variation:

    G Bb E Eb / D F A Ab / G C E Eb / D F A Ab /

    Notice these all adhere to the root-fifth alternating target note scheme, each target note is reached by a chromatic, scale, or dominant approach, and there are several double-chromatic approaches. They all go from the root to the fifth to the octave, then back down to the fifth and finally the root. You could do the reverse: start on the octave (open G), descend to the fifth, then down to low G, and back up again. This creates nice symmetrical 4 bar phrases. Start mucking around with other stuff and you're just asking to get lost in the form. After you play this music for 4 or 5 years, your sense of form will develop. Then you can start rearranging the trees because you will not easily lose sight of the forest.

    Here's another variation. Start on low G, but continue up two octaves, and back down again, for an eight bar phrase.

    G A Bb C# / D E F F# / G G# A C# / D F F# A /
    G F Bb E / D C F A / G F E Eb / D C A F# /

    And now with other chord tones for targets:

    G G Ab A / Bb Bb C C# / D D D# E / F E F F# /
    G A G Gb / F G F E / D E D C / Bb C Bb A /, or

    G F# G A / Bb A Bb C / D C# D E / F E F F#/
    G D G Gb / F C E Eb / D A C B / Bb F A Ab /

    Notice that the sequential nature of these examples provides a sense of cohesion and direction over the entire phrase.

    One more detail, when you are in the 16th bar of the tune, you need to set up the bridge, so a reiteration of the G in that measure is helpful, as well as an appropriate approach to the note A. Examples for bar 16:

    D C Bb G / A
    D Bb G G# / A
    D G Bb E / A

    or if coming from Bb,
    Bb A G G# / A
    Bb D G Bb / A
  13. nypiano


    Feb 10, 2003
    CC..I'm going to have to play stern critical guy on you here :meh:

    What you have posted here is not the strongest melodically speaking-although if you played it with a band they probably wouldn't notice.

    For example the opening 2 measures G Bb C F --it seems like an outline of G-11 chord in a pentatonic scale-doesn't seem strong as a bassline for jazz. The placing the Gb on a strong beat-it's a lower neighbor of target note G and then having Ab and then upper neighbor A as the tone that arrives on the G just isn't working for me. It could be that this combination of notes feel good in terms of your timing but...A combination where F# or Ab approaches G on a strong beat would be preferable.

    There is nothing wrong with chromatic notes--Ron Carter uses tons of them and he has played on a lot of modal records. It's a question of being used to target key tones on strong beats. Chromatic neighbor tones is really what they are.
    This is example of his style on a Gminor change. Wasn't able to upload a jpeg so this will have to do
    In quarters:^=up *=down

    What he typically does that is cool is sometimes ends up on an unlikely start note--for Ex A in second bar on beat 1 but makes it resolve to F# so then you can hear the clear D7 to G implication that arrives on bar 3. The other chromatic note Eb sets up D. This is typical bass/scale stuff.

    Oh and BTW--that Gminor Am7 Bbmaj7 thing you mentioned with the changes--is really coming from the piano in the head Those exact chords are played with the horns while Red Garland wangs away on the C pedal. PC walks freely then plays this in the bridge: 1, "E-A---E (Eighth, dotted eight, quarter nothing on beat1)
  14. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    This thread is great!!! Thanks guys for more ideas to look for when I do my transcriptions to see where the greats have employed similar ideas.
  15. ccyork


    Jan 26, 2004
    Everyone's ideas have been very helpful to me. I now have some useful things to play, and I understand what I'm playing, which is a good thing.

    I'll get try it all out with the band tomorrow. It should be great fun!

    Here's another question. Since I'm new to jazz and constructing walking bass lines, I'm spending a lot of time right now figuring out what to play ahead of time...if not exactly what to play, at least the possibilities. Do you ever get to a point where you could look at a lead sheet and play a walking bassline to tempo, sight unseen? Is that too much to ask for?
  16. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    ummm, CORK, honey, that's kind of the industry standard. Although that's not really accurate either, the industry standard is to either know or be able to hear a lot of different tunes.

    I get yelled at all the time that the following is not useful for folks just starting out, but I gotta say this is where my teacher starts with EVERYBODY, beginner or pro.

    See the whole idea is that you make up a walking line (or a open feel line, or a solo or whatever) in your head, you make it up cause you hear notes up there as both an internal conception of how you hear the tune AND as a reponse to what you hear going on around you (that is to say, the other musicians' internal conception and response to external aural input). Then you play the notes you heard on your instrument.

    So rather than having students write out lines or read lines that somebody else wrote or pick notes from chord scales that are "supposed" to work, he works on trying to get you to REALLY hear the tunes from the chords up, hear chords starting with triads, hear the relationship of the notes by hearing intervals, making sure that you are hearing with clarity by singing what you are hearing. He has exercises that work on getting you to internalise the melody and the harmony for a tune, that work on improvising over harmony in ways that free up your placement of notes (phrasing) and develop your ability to pick notes that push the harmony forward in such a way that everybody hears how YOU are hearing the tune.

    Playing a walking line is all about using quarter notes to propel the harmony, in order to push the harmony forward your line has to show intent and be able to communicate that intent and in order for it to have that intent, it can't be random choices. It has to follow the logic of what you are hearing and the situation in which you are hearing it.
  17. ccyork


    Jan 26, 2004
    I'm not your honey! :rollno: I'll just ignore that though, because you're making a well thought out statement, and there's a lot of good stuff in there about how to learn to play walking bass lines.

    But my question wasn't about the learning process, it was about playing sight unseen. You replied:

    You need to internalize the melody and harmony? OK. How do you do that if you've never heard it before?

    I agree that a bassline should show intent and that intent should be communicated to others who hear it. But how can a bassline have intelligent intent, other than moving the harmony from one chord to another, when you've never heard the melody before?

    Are you saying that it is the industry standard to walk any tune sight unseen, with intelligent intent, your own personal conception of a tune you've never heard, no preparation whatsoever? This is the norm and not the exception? :confused:

    Well I can play a bassline for a 12-bar blues sight unseen if you tell me what key it's in, but I've gotta at least hear the tune first before I can play something that really works well. I'm a mere mortal!
  18. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    No, it's not impossible. It can be hard, depending on how diatonic the tune is, how well set up movement between the key centers is etc. I'm not going to be able to hear my way through PINOCCHIO, but I should be able to hear my way through FOOTPRINTS. But there are lot's of tunes that, if the piano player knows them (and it's a good piano player) then there's a bunch of tunes I can make it through by asking 3 questions -
    1. What's the key
    2. What's the first chord
    3. Where's the bridge go

    But somebody wants to play a tune that nobody in the band knows, so they bring in a chart. Those letters and numbers and dots on the page have to make some kind of sound in your head, you have to be able to look at a dominant 7 chord and hear that sound in your head, to look at movement and function and hear something in your head, to see a melody and hear something in your head. Your line has intent because, instead of randomly picking notes, you see G- 7 going to C7 and the sound of that movement suggests note choices and the line that you hear moving through those has the LOGIC and INTENT of your will (if you will), YOU chose those notes cause you HEARD those notes. This communicates to the other musicians how you are hearing the tune and, when you all are communicating on that level, you are playing actual music. Instead of hitting random notes that happen to be consonant with the other random notes the other guys are playing because the paper you all have in front of you says that the second chord in the seventh bar is a Gbmaj.
    You talk to some people that don't listen to a lot of jazz (or a lot of good jazz anyway) and they say " it's like they're playing different things, all at the same time". And it can sound like that, if you are just playing scales or picking notes by some method other than playing the notes you hear.

    Well let me ask you, what is it that YOU think folks like Steve LaSpina, Ron Carter, Rufus Reid, Oscar Pettiford etc ARE doing when they play a tune? How is it that jazz bassists perform thousands of different tunes without reading them? How is it that jazz bassists can perform the same tune, night after night and have them sound different each time? Or play something like the blues form or rhythm changes with a kyriad of difeerent melodies and play something different for each one?
    What do you think is going on?
  19. ccyork


    Jan 26, 2004

    I think what you're telling me is: "Keep playing and developing your ear, and you will be able to play intelligently through any tune."

    I can dig that. Thanks!
  20. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Work on developing your ear, music is heard, having the ability to hear with enough clarity to know what you are hearing and having the ability to get that out on your instrument is what being a musician is all about.

    Ear training ear training ear training.