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Do you improvise?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by guinessdrinker, Jul 30, 2002.

  1. Hi all,
    I have been a lurker for a while and I think this board is full of great info and advise! So, I finally registered and have a question.
    I recently started a band with some guys from work. I have owned a bass for 6 years, but never played seriously. The lead guitarist and vocalist are both really talented (the vocalist spent a year touring with a professional organization). They both know more songs than I and sometimes at rehersals they play some random songs not on our set list and expect me to be able to play along. The vocalist said to just look at what the guitarist is playing and play the same thing.
    I think I play pretty good when I have a chance to learn the notes and the rhythem and can practice some. However, I can't just hear a song and make something up. If I know the chords, I can usually play root notes and eventually develop a more intricate bass line. Is there a trick to improvisation or do my band members just have unrealistic expectations?

  2. Funk3108


    Jul 30, 2002
    improvisation is something largely based on scales...
    try the penta and the major scale,
    you'll be able to play without any distort note_;)
  3. I would try to stop them and ask for the basic structure of the song. It's the least they could do. After all, do they expect you to learn the tune or do they just want to get their jollys?
  4. First of all you should feel good about the fact that your playing, and not letting the bass sit in the closet.

    Let me now ask you this, can you watch the guitarists left hand and know what a "G"chord looks like? When he's playing can you tell the difference between 2 different chords, by where his hand is on the neck an/or by the sound? And lastly do you know your scales?

    If you don't know the progression it is very hard to keep up, especialy if you can't feel the changes. But you should not feel bad!!! If these guys your playing with, really want to do that tune, then they won't mind telling you the changes. I reccomend you keep pen and paper close by whenever you play, so if you have to ask them to spell out the changes to you, you can write them down and you'll never need to ask for them again. It's also a learning exercise writting something down. You'll remember the progression better after having written it down, trust me. Also, Ask what key the song is in. Once you know that and the progression it, will be much easier for you to conceptualize an improvised line. Because you'll have confidence in knowing where the song is going. Even if it's the first time you play it.

    Feel good about playing, it's the only way to get better...
  5. RAM


    May 10, 2000
    Chicago, IL
    I'd try telling them that. I don't know any bassists (though some may exist) that can play a tune without at least understanding the chord progression. Tell them that if you are given a chance to learn a song out of practice you'd be happy to play it in practice.

    I think their expectations are unrealistic and impatient.
  6. Samie


    Dec 13, 2000
    Madrid, Spain
    What are you talking about!! this is complitely not acurate at all. Most good musitians will follow any song and "hear" the chord progresions. Specially if its pop!!!

    The trick is getting to know your intrument!!

    Try this:

    Practice 1 octave scales for EACH note!!

    Start on G, do the 1 octave scale, then go to C do the scale, then F then Bb then Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, B, E, A, D, and G again.

    Do this slowly, take your time. Make sure you go through the whole circle at least a couple of times a day.

    Soon you will start to see the relationships between the notes that will make improvisation achivable. it will also sharpen you ear and hand coordination.

    Once you have mastered this you can do the same excersice but always starting out from the E string. The try 2 octave scales etc.

    In about 2 months you will be in good shape, Make sure you do this everyday for at least 2 half an hour periods. (half an hour at home, and half an hour before practice, or before bedtime).

    Then You can move on to whatever you want to practice.

    Trust me it makes a big diference, get to know your intrument well and the songs will follow gracefully.
  7. Also, if you have a good drummer, you can use the rhythm of his drumming to develop your line also. Like, if he is playing a song with a latin feel, matching his bass drum pattern will probably sound better than straight 8th notes, etc.
  8. Wow, how can I add to that?

    I guess the only thing I can say from my personal experience is once you get more familiar with the guys you're jamming with, on a musical and non-musical level, you'll know more of what to expect from each other when you're improvising. Could be that you just have to get used to each other a little, and it's hard to let loose right now because you're afraid to screw up the song, or whatever, or look bad in front of them when you're just starting out. It'll get better the more you play together and the more confidence you build with experience in the band situation.
  9. Only when i didn't practice for practice sessions with other musicians :eek: :D

    I know im a lazy a$$... but... what the hell... i do my work fine that way!

  10. Thanks for the good replies. I will spend a little more time learning my scales. I still think it is best to know what songs the group expects to play before our rehersal so I have a chance to learn the chords and develop a bass line. To me, asking the bassist to improvise without knowing the chords of the song is like telling the vocalist to improvise the words of the song:)
  11. Nick man

    Nick man

    Apr 7, 2002
    Tampa Bay
    If nothing else, follow the guitarist, and play the root of each chord, untill you get how the tune goes.

    Once you get the hang of it, you can go all out playing whatever sounds good from there.

    I usually learn stuff from a new band by having them just play, and I follow, untill I know where the gutarist is going. From that I find my own route between chord 1 and 2, keeping it moving in between.

  12. punkfunkfreak


    Dec 16, 2001
    i reccomend practicing to a traclk from your stereo, something simple that has a groove that you like.
    Now just learn to play the root notes, then slowly start to find alternate notes thru trial/error. do this with lpot of songs, keep thinking about how the way you improvised on the last song may help you improvse on the current one, eventually youll get the @language@ down and will be improvising on tracks you are not soaquainted to :)

    well,t hats how i did it ;)

    good luck, and if you think these guys are being too fast for you, tell them. If they care enough too play the song theyll spend some time with you getting it down :)
  13. punkfunkfreak


    Dec 16, 2001
    well, um.....never mind then.

  14. Samie


    Dec 13, 2000
    Madrid, Spain
    Its true, I must add that it is a good thing to separate the time spent learning your instrument (scales, exercises etc) from the time you spend jaming, playing with others or learning new song.

    Learning your instrument should be done alone, regulary and with lots of concentration. No need to spend many hours if you do it with regularity.

    "Playing with others" and "Jaming" while is very important it should never get in the way of your "real" practice time. It can actually "kill" your playing skills!!1
  15. I improvise all the time. I DO NOT know many scales, i know my chords yes and i do look over at what the guitarist is doing.

    Improv to me is not very formal. Do what you want, feel the song. Play with a drum machine at home, or a keyboard with a drum track on it. Jam along, construct things. Start on a A and run up and down the board, get a groove.

    Then when the band cranks into a song, look over.. "oh we're on a G" and jam around that, listen to the drums and the over all song. Do what your hands want. If you end up playing a scale then so be it.

    If you start with "well improv is based on scales" then to me thats not improvising, thats playing something that is uniform and already pre determined.

    Also try to sit back on the overall feel of the song(s) no-one likes a soloist in a unit of musicans.... thats why he hate guitarists. lol

    Thats my two cents and it works for me... *points finger* back off.. i am an aussie... :p


  16. punkfunkfreak


    Dec 16, 2001
    if only i was an aussie!

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