Do you learn the melodies to the songs you play?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by rabid_granny, Jun 6, 2003.

  1. I was watching part of a video I downloaded off Kazaa - an interview with Jaco (Pastorius - I think he's a famous musician...). Anyways, he said that the first thing he learns is the melody to a song. That way, he can learn to be a better melodic bass player. He says that most musicians never bother learning the other parts of songs.

    Anyone here who actually learns to play the melody on the bass? Beyond learning to play it by ear, does anyone break it down on paper? Any tips on how to connect the melody with the bass parts?
  2. ConU


    Mar 5, 2003
    La Belle Province
    That's a standard practice for any serious jazz player.You should be able to sing and play the melody."Knowing" the melody means being able to write it out and play it in all keys.
    Learning vocal melodies from "Pop"tunes is also done alot.Peter Gabriel tunes are great for that,his phrasing is really unique.I like to learn Chet Baker's vocals and trumpet part's on jazz standards,they sit well on bass and it really opens up melodic avenues I otherwise probably would'nt have explored.
  3. moley


    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    I often listen to albums, and just play along with the melody, yes.

    I don't really "break it down on paper", generally, no. I suppose I just don't see the point. I know what notes I'm playing, I know how they relate to the harmony, without writing anything down.
  4. ConU


    Mar 5, 2003
    La Belle Province
    For someone who does'nt know though,the practice is invaluable.
  5. moley


    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    Yes, very true.
  6. pkr2


    Apr 28, 2000
    coastal N.C.
    The whole question is almost invalid.

    You cannot play the back up part of any song without knowing the melody! How can you possibly know what the chord progression is if you don't know the tune to a song?

    Every proficient musician I've ever met knows one verse and the chorus to a huge number of songs. You don't even have to use the right words as long as the phrasing is correct.

    So far as knowing the bass part in every key and breaking it down on paper in order to be able to play, that's total BS! If you know how to play bass it doesn't make even the slightest difference what key the song is played in! All the keys play exactly the same way. Just a different position on the neck.

    Common sense tells you that you have to be hearing the tune, or melody as you play ANY song unless you are reading the notes as you play.

    Why does everyone make music so much more complicated than it really is?

  7. ConU


    Mar 5, 2003
    La Belle Province
    You don't get from point A to point B by skipping Point A.
    I did'nt say bass part,I said song...and it really only applies to jazz standards.Although it's great practice for learning"that all keys play exactly the same way."
    If you consider written analysis "total BS" and not a viable means of studying music,then you're in complete disagreement with every music educator of the last 300 years or so.
  8. I think the question is valid because I never thought to learn to the melody. For example, I just charted out "All my Lovin'" by the Beatles. It's just a walking bassline but I don't know the melody. But let's say I figured out the melody on bass, any tips on how to connect the melody with the chords I just charted out? This is a new way of looking at music for me.
  9. ConU


    Mar 5, 2003
    La Belle Province
    Really depends on where you're at with your knowledge of harmony(chords).And by "connect"I'm not sure exactly what you're asking.Be more specific on both things and I think I can help you.:)
  10. I have basic knowledge of's a better illustration of where I'm at: I have always known the modes (ionion, dorian...etc) and I've always known about the basic types of chords (major, minor, dim, aug...etc). Then my teacher said, okay connect them and I made me find all of the roots, 3rds, 5ths and 7ths in the modes. Something totally simple but I never thought to do that before. It clicked and my bass playing totally changed. So, did Jaco mean something similar?
  11. ConU


    Mar 5, 2003
    La Belle Province
    So correct me if I'm wrong,you now know which chords the modes of the major scale can generate,is that it?If it is,of course you're playing totally changed!!:bassist:
    I'm not exactly sure about the Jaco quote,but if we agree that music has melody,harmony and rhythm,all can we ignore melody?
    Look at your chart you've done for the beatles tune,write out the melody and look at the chords.Is the melody note a chord tone?If it's not what is it in relation to the harmony?This is something you should be exploring fully with your teacher.If you're not,he's not doing his job.
  12. I'll be sure to ask him about that - he's busy recording in LA right now. Would I be able to find more information about melody-harmony interplay in a textbook? Perhaps I can do a bit of study before he gets back.
  13. ConU


    Mar 5, 2003
    La Belle Province
    There is a ton-o-books...go to a university library and take a look or buy one...I suggest "Jazz Harmony" by Andy Jaffe from Advace music,best 40$ you'll ever spend(don't let the "Jazz" thing throw you...a chord is a chord is a chord;) )
  14. Thor

    Thor Moderator Staff Member Gold Supporting Member



    [ hard to mimic the singers lines if you don't...]
  15. Blackbird

    Blackbird Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2000
    I try to know them well enough to sing them at least.
  16. Mike Dimin

    Mike Dimin

    Dec 11, 1999
    Clinician: EA, Zon, Boomerang, TI. Author "The Art of Solo Bass"
    Don't want this to sound pretentious but the question I have is:

    Are you a musician or a bass player? IF you are a musician (who plays bass) then, YES you do know the melody.

    As for Andy Jaffe, I'll have to check out that book. He was a teacher of mine when I was at Berklee

  17. I don't think it does any harm to have a general idea of where the melody is going.. regardless of what instrument you play.

    (Heya, Mike D., I love that quote on your sig!)
  18. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002
    The melody is often easier to learn than the bassline :(

    thus, I generally learn to play melodies as well as bass parts

    annoys the hell out of guitarist:D ;)
  19. Mike Money

    Mike Money Banned

    Mar 18, 2003
    Bakersfield California
    Avatar Speakers Endorsing Hooligan
    I have trouble playing melodies...

    but i can play iron man and jingle bells

  20. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I agree that knowing the melody is a good idea - but this statement (copied above) is simply not true - I have played many pieces where I have had no idea what the tune is and have just played either a written bass line or improvised line from a written chord chart - this has happened to me hundreds maybe thousands of times!

    There are many Jazz pieces or part of pieces, where no melody is specified and just a set of chord changes or modes/scales.

    The most famous example is Miles Davis' (best selling Jazz album ever) "Kind of Blue" - the track : Flamenco Sketches is just a number of modes, with improvisation - no specified melody whatsover!!

    I have played this and things like it, many times.