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Common jazz techniques.

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by CrawlingEye, Sep 11, 2003.


  1. CrawlingEye

    CrawlingEye Member

    Mar 20, 2001
    Easton, Pennsylvania
    I play largely rock music, and I'd like to diversify my playing. Not being well versed enough to really pick up a particular jazz band that I know is good or would like, I'm curious if anyone could give me any common jazz stylistic traits.

    For instance, any common rhythms found in jazz?
    Any common progressions used?

    Thanks. :)
     
  2. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    Yes.

    Four quarter notes to the bar.

    Blues and Rhythm changes (the chord progression to Gershwin's "I've Got Rhythm")
     
  3. cowsgomoo

    cowsgomoo gone to Longstanton Spice Museum

    Feb 8, 2003
    UK
    the primary function of the bass in jazz is to outline the basic harmonic changes typically using 'walking', (4 quarter notes, sometimes 2 half notes to the bar) lines

    your lines will generally be a mixture of arpeggiated figures.. chromatic runs & scalar kinds of movement.. anything that sounds good to you, basically

    if you've got extended chords, you're not always expected to throw every component of the chord in.. but a few harmonically definitive tones from the chord can sound really strong & authoritative

    a good thing to practice is to try and go through changes in one direction only for a couple of octaves.. then come back down again... this will help you get out of the 'playing patterns' way of thinking that you can get into from playing rock

    remember that you don't necessarily have to play the root note on the 1st beat of each bar... for example, the 1st inversion of a 7 chord (i.e. starting on E instead of C over a C7 chord) always sounds great to me!

    you can have a lot of fun with throwing a really tense note and chromatically resolving it on the next note... this happens a lot in all kinds of jazz and the 'eureka' moment everyone goes through is when you realise you can throw any note in there and make it work with the right kind of resolution

    remember jazz is about freedom and playing what you like... 'learn the rules and then forget them', a wise man once said

    a copy of a 'Real Book' will also be worth its weight in gold... if you can get someone to play piano with you, you'll be getting a great start
     
  4. ConU

    ConU

    Mar 5, 2003
    La Belle Province
    Swing.
    Improvisation.
    These are the 2 defining elements of jazz.
    A jazz player swings hard,and he never plays the same thing twice.
     
  5. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Ludwig Wittenstein in the "Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus" !





    ;)
     
  6. CrawlingEye

    CrawlingEye Member

    Mar 20, 2001
    Easton, Pennsylvania
    Thanks, everyone. I'll have to be sure to check all of the suggested groups/songs out as well as try to incorporate said key things into my playing.
     
  7. jazzbo

    jazzbo

    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    I wouldn't necessarily agree with that.
     
  8. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Yes - Art Blakey was famous for getting his Jazz Messengers to practice heads over and over until they could play them exactly the same, every time!!
     
  9. ConU

    ConU

    Mar 5, 2003
    La Belle Province
    I was inferring the art of improvisation/paraphrasing...my mistake for not being specific.

    (certain heads,you just don't mess with...they're perfect the way they are..."Escapade" by Kenny Dorham comes to mind as a good example.
     
  10. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    UK
    Not that I have an ounce of the knowledge or experience of either ConU or jazzbo... but I wouldn't agree with that either.

    This discussion has appeared in many forms on TB, and I still find it hard to believe that any player can be 100% original in improvisation all of the time.
    Also, I personally see no problem with repetition in improvisation - if something's worth saying, surely it's valid to say it twice - maybe not in consecutive solos, or songs, or on the same night...
     
  11. cowsgomoo

    cowsgomoo gone to Longstanton Spice Museum

    Feb 8, 2003
    UK
    "a jazz player never plays the same thing twice" is obviously a misleading statement.. not only are heads frequently played the same in different performances, but all musicians have a vocabulary of phrase fragments, rhythmic ideas, harmonic groups of notes, pitch & timbre devices etc they like to use... they might not be playing the exact same phrases, but you're hearing the same ideas being evolved and worked through

    how else would you recognise a musician's playing if it wasn't through hearing a variation/evolution of something you've heard earlier?
     
  12. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I think there is a constant debate within Jazz about this - so I think there is a sense in which you may have 'building blocks' from which you construct solos, which may be repeated often - but the idea is to create a solo that is unique in the sense that you are reacting to the other players, the audience and your current mood etc etc.

    I think the spirit of Jazz is that you are listening and reacting to what is going on around you - OK this might mean repeating some things - but the important thing is how you shape a long solo - so a Sax player at my local Jazz club would typically pay a solo that may last 5 - 10 minutes.

    Within that there will be sections or ideas that he or she may have played before - but it is also unlikely that the whole thing will be exactly the same as a previous solo - in fact I think it would be very difficult to play two long solos exactly the same - without doing some pre-preparation and even so - the rhythm section may well go down a completely differnet track - changing the feel, altering the chords and how busy or sparse they are etc. etc.

    If a solo was completely pre-prepared and the player didn't deviate from this, no matter what happened around them - tehn I would say that is not Jazz.

    But between that and completely Free Jazz, there are lots of variations and gradations in how much is repeated ....I have heard Jazz players say that they try very hard to avoid repeating themselves and others who say that every soloist has 'licks' which they repeat... :meh:
     
  13. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    I've often read stories of people who were disapointed when they went to see a famous bebop and post-bop era saxophonist because he'd play the exact same solo on several of his more famous tunes. His take was he'd, through performance, found the 'perfect' solo for the tune - exactly what he wanted to say.
     
  14. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Whereas a lot of people I know, were very disappointed that when Wayne Shorter toured recently with his acoustic quartet, he (and the group) didn't play anything they'd heard before - not even the heads and just improvised as a group for the whole show!

    I think there was a turning point with Miles' quintet which included Shorter - where they played each tune very differently in performances - and most "modern" groups since then have approached Jazz from a point of view of creating something new each time. The 'Plugged Nickel' approach.

    In fact - I now see in record shops and hear people talking about a big distinction between "modern" Jazz - which is precisely bands that improvise collectively and try to avoid repetition - and other labels - like you mention of Bebop and Post Bop, Hard Bop etc.
     
  15. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    UK
    That seems perfectly valid to me... and of course the player could still improvise the subtleties of phrasing etc of the same solo in the moment.

    When I saw Mingus Big Band (an utterly mind blowing gig), I was hoping to hear goodbye pork pie hat, the first sax solo on the version on Ah Um is just immense - the first few notes just send shivers down my spine - it's ecstatic - I'd love to hear that same solo live, or a close approximation.

    In the same vein we all have bass lines that are functional to the song and improvise fills as we go. Every now and then we find a fill that works so well that it becomes part of the song.
     
  16. ConU

    ConU

    Mar 5, 2003
    La Belle Province
    "Jazz is a tree.A most unusual tree...whose branches reach out in all directions...From each branch come many multidirectioal twigs,no two alike,with no two pointing the same way...
    On the tree of jazz there are never twin blossoms,and none the same...
    On close examination of it,we discover that the trunk is extra sturdy,that it may appear to be labeled Made in Japan.But as we study it more deeply,we find that it's very blue-blooded roots are permanently married to,and firmly ensconced in,the rich,black earth of beautiful Black Africa."

    Duke Ellington,Music is My Mistress
     
  17. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    And how long ago did he say that - 50 years ago, 60 years?
     
  18. ConU

    ConU

    Mar 5, 2003
    La Belle Province
    Why?
     
  19. Actually Bruce I believe, without having the Tractatus in front of me for reference, that Wittgenstein's statement was (loosely translated) "He who truly understands me understands that all the preceeding that I have said is nonsense and uses it as a ladder to climb above me." I guess that comes close to the same thing. Now if we could get into a discussion of the speaking lion from the Philosophical Investigations, we might really get somewhere. "If a lion could play bass, could we truly understand him?"
     
  20. cowsgomoo

    cowsgomoo gone to Longstanton Spice Museum

    Feb 8, 2003
    UK
    judging from the Banana Splits, i'd say probably not

    :)