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Elevating oneself

Discussion in 'Music Theory [DB]' started by Alex Scott, Mar 12, 2004.

  1. Alex Scott

    Alex Scott

    May 8, 2002
    Austin, TX
    Thanks guys, this is a very nice dialogue. I have been kind of in a void as to how to get out of this barrier that I have come up against and I appreciate all the dialogue. It is nice to have so many valid viewpoints and I will see what I can do about participating in the next sampler so I can get some more feedback.

    I had a very good 5 minute conversation with my old teacher the other day too, and I think watching him for years has influenced me quite a bit, he has a self-proclaimed potluck approach and is very creative, and we discussed what standards are and why we play them, and you have many different ways to play things based on the same structure and within or around the tradition are both options, and don't have to be mutually exclusive. I see myself craving listening to lots of recordings of standards, and listening more to the way different people play them. My posting in this forum was an attempt to get some deeper harmonic understanding because I am increasingly becoming resistant to faking my way through changes. I did have probably the best gig of my life the other day and I only took one solo and it totally sucked, but I really tried to listen to what everyone else was doing, and that made it great. I didn't really miss playing solos in that context.

    As far as my two cents on transcribing, for everyone else's benefit, I tend to want to figure out things I really like, just for the sake of doing that, because I really love the way something sounds and want to play like that.

    All through college I was hating transcribing, because my ears really sucked back then, where as now they just suck, but I can kind of get things. Also, I was drawn to listen to stuff I really had no chance of transcribing, like gary peacock solos and charlie haden basslines, just stuff that was really above my level of hearing.

    On the other hand, I had some friends who would figure everything out. Some internalized what was going on and what they liked, or maybe they liked everything, and some worked out how many licks they could play over ii V's, in a mathmatical way, or tried to copy all of Cannonball's solo licks or whatever, some that just gigged all the time.

    I really don't think any of that matters at all. I know guys who are great players through all sorts of combinations of those ways, and people I hate to play with who learned how to play all those different ways. It really just comes down to what are you hearing, how much are you listening.

    So for me that means I am going to do a lot of ear training, keyboard work and transcribing stuff I like. Right now I need to get my ears and my functional harmonic language solid, and then maybe I will wait to hear what I want to play, and will be able to know what I am hearing and play it.
    Please continue the dialogue and I would love info on what others have done to get their ears in shape

  2. Alex Scott

    Alex Scott

    May 8, 2002
    Austin, TX
    P.s. I would love to see more of these upper level posts out there, it is very refreshing.
  3. Hey Alex...
    I use a great software called EarMaster Pro 4. It's a great program with interval comparison, interval identification, chord identification, chord inversion, chord progressions, scales, rhythm reading, rhythm imitaion, rhythm correction and melodic dictation. I've been using it for about one month now and I think it's great. Probably you should take a look at it.
  4. I'd say, find a guitar or piano player to play duets with. Just run through turnarounds, ii-V-I progressions, and tunes. Eventhough it goes against what most here say, I'd also recommend getting the Omnibook in bass clef. For me, it is helping to be able to play examples of the vocabulary as melody. I'm in a similar spot, when I solo I either do a walking bassline with rhythmic embelishment or lines that sound like scales. I have taken some motifs from it and am trying to play them in 12 keys. As far as transcribng goes, it has opened my ears so much more, I practice the transcriptions, but mostly try to take motifs just like the omnibook. I can't say I'm hearing great ideas yet, but I have a better idea of how to make the transition from scales to music.
    Plus if you look through my thread on walking, soloing, and pratice in technique you'll see great suggestions from Peter Dalla AKA Ed Fuqua and others.
  5. I think it's essential to have a good sense of what some call "relative pitch", in other words the ability to instantly recognise intervallic relationships between notes. So before you start trying to analyse complex chord structures, you must make sure you know how to take a simple diatonic melody that you know, sing it first, either with solfege or note numbers (1 through 8 for each note in the scale) and play it in any key. Like Mary Had a Little Lamb in Db, Happy Birthday in E, Auld Lang Syne in Eb, Christmas tunes, etc. This gives you practice transferring what you hear in your head to your instrument.

    If you know the interval by name but can't find it on the bass, you also need to spend some time learning the fingerboad some more. Scales and arpeggios in all keys, the latter especially since it helps you connect different regions of the bass, and to "see" the whole thing all at once. Also scales in broken 3rds, 4ths, 5ths, etc.

    If you can play those melodies without mistake, move on to some a little more challenging. Take a standard that you know but have never played the melody on. It may sound elementary, but I'm frequently amazed at how many musicians I come acrss who can't do this well. The idea is to hear what you're going to play before you play it, and to be able to play what you hear. It's been said before, but I'll repeat it again, because the whole process hinges on this concept. Hear the idea before you play it, and be able to play what you hear.

    Sorry if I'm too verbose.
  6. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Not at all - this can't be said too many times as far as I'm concerned. This has been my mantra as regards both reading and improvising for years now, and is at the heart of what I mean by "singing" your solos. In other words, don't play anything you can't sing. If you can't sing something but still want to play it, learn to sing it first, then play it. We're back to the language analogy with this point, but imagine you were taking part in a radio play that was being broadcast live on the air. You have some of your parts memorized, but not others. However, you have the advantage of being able to read the parts you don't have internalized. Which parts do you think will sound more organic and "real" to the listener - the ones you really have internalized, or the ones you are "reading" and plugging in"? It's no contest.

    At a recent jazz area meeting at the U, we had an impromptu group discussion after a student performance on an up-tempo tune about how to play on tempos. After a lot of the usual advice, several people started talking about "playing within yourself" at tempos, and that's when I started to get interested. What that means is only playing what you can hear and execute in the manner mentioned above, even if it means that you might not be able to show off your blazing bop chops. It means accepting and being who you are in any musical situation, and not trying to bull**** anybody (including yourself) into thinking that you are a different or better player than that. This doesn't mean don't take chances - rather, it means be yourself and accept where you are...you can still take chances within that context. If you try to play a lot of stuff you can't hear yet, you're trying to be someone else (IMO, of course), and where does that get you?

    Caveat: all of the above applies to what to do on the bandstand. The woodshed is a completely different animal - that's where you are trying to learn to hear new sounds and figure out how to play them.

    ALEX - What's an "upper level post"?
  7. Alex Scott

    Alex Scott

    May 8, 2002
    Austin, TX
    My naivety shows. I was willing to accept that there might be one more great bassist out there posting. I have some other questions for you, and will think them out and get in touch. I went through a brief playing without an amp phase, which ultimately died due to the overwhelming amount of players and average volume of the austin jazz guitar scene. Welcome back Ed

    Upper level post: apparently, just one where ED is involved, although I thought the world was becoming a better place there for a minute
  8. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
    I would say the parts that the reader would normally say in a similiar situation and/or has a personal attachment to so that they can bring forth the emotion and transmit it to the listener.
  9. This brings up a few questions for me, would it be a good starting off point to sing scales and arpeggios? And if I'm practicing a tune, should I try to sing ideas over the changes then play them? Would it be a good idea to try to sing and play licks in a practice situation too?
    Sorry for all the questions, I just really want to reach a new level in my playing too and know that it takes more than just learning vocabulary.
    I almost forgot, would the keyboard be a good tool in this work?
  10. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    I'm sure everybody is going to have a different methodology for getting to this. But let's really analyse what we're looking at here.

    If the problem is knowing where the notes you are hearing are on your instrument, then an exercise that starts with you singing a phrase and then finding the notes you sang (basically transcribing yourself) is a good one. That, coupled with the technical work of playing arpeggios of 4 parts in all inversions in all keys to help get basic sounds and where those sounds are on the fingerboard in your ear as well. So that you hear yourself sing an idea that starts on the b9 of the chord, ascends stepwise by these intervals and then aprpeggiates a second inversion dominant chord you kind of hear it doing that and can "see" where that is.

    But my problem wasn't really that, it was actually clearly hearing something to sing. I talked to Joe about this a few years back (cause I would get uinto a thing where I would "sing" along with my solo like in an effort to get a more musical line). His feeling was that it was getting in the way of actually hearing what I wanted to play and that the way to be more musical was to just shut up until a line emerged that was insistent enough that I just had to play it. But he had to prove that tome. So we took my little minidisc and recorder me playing a couple of choruses on I REMEMBER YOU and then singing a couple of choruses of solo. And then a couple of choruses where I'd play 8 bars and then sing 8 bars. And the result was - when I was clearly hearing a line it didn't matter if I was singing or playing, it really sounded like something. And if I wasn't hearing anything (hearing he change clearly, hearing what notes in my everyday vocabulary would work with what I was hearing) then it didn't matter if I was playing or singing. I would sing with same imprecision of pitch or placement that I would play with. Point being, my problem wasn't with PLAYING it was with HEARING.

    Joe has a methodology for ear training (as do many other people), again it's a LOT easier to do this with an objective ear that is not going to let ALMOST getting something down pass. You start with identfying intervals, from the bottom up. First in one octave. Then you sing those with a constant bass note (the comfortable bottom of your range). First with a keyboard - you play the bass note, sing the bass note and then sing the interval, then play the interval. Then you sing the bass note, play the bass note (listening for those minute "corrections" you make when the pitch was a little faulty), sing the top note and play the top note.
    Next somebody else plays the interval, you get to hear it twice, the second playing they sustain the notes. You sing the interval twice. Then you move to the extensions (second octave). This goes on (i'm singing triads in inversions with a moving bass note) til you are singing 6 part chords.It is a function of time put in, but this is not something that will happen over a couple of weeks.

    So you are working on some things concurrently here, all of which will affect your walking line and your solo line.
    1. SCALES and ARPEGGIOS - 2 octave major, natural minor, melodic minor and harmonic minor, 4 part arpeggios in all inversions. There are rhythmic variations, melodic fragment etc exercises within scale work
    2. IMPROV - some of the exercises already outlined to help reinforce the sound of the tune in your head so that you can hear melody, harmony , rhythm/time and your own line all at the same time.
    3. EAR TRAINING - to help identify aurally, intellectually and viscerally what you are hearing both around you and in your head.
    4.TRANSCRIBING - at half speed, singing and internalising all aspects of the solo line - slurs, vibrato, dynamics, articulations. Sing it at half speed, then at full speed. In addition to just getting the notes, you are hearing and internalising how phrase placement affects line development, you are actually doing work on hearing a line internally, identifying what you are hearing and then playing what you are hearing. Transcribing has you doing it with say Oscar Pettiford. When you are playing a tune with your group, then you are doing exactly the same thing with your own internal line.

    So yes, keyboard acquistion is a Good Thing. But you have to approach work there in a focused way. Sean knows what he is about, if you have concerns about ear training bring them up. I think you are ultimately going to get more out of whatever methodology he uses, becaseu he will BE THERE to guide you through its usage.
  11. Nick Ara

    Nick Ara

    Jul 22, 2002
    Long Island, NY
    Very well said. The teacher as coach, or facilitator. Excellent.
  12. Usually I just use a footstool to elevate myself. Buh de de che!

    Anyway, seriously, all this stuff you guys are talking about sounds great, but singing a solo is beyond me. I am just working on singing the d**n melody while playing the roots! I figure if I can get those sounds in my head, that's the 'song'. Then maybe the solo will come. I guess I'm trying to learn how to sing at all too, since I suck at it, and if I can improve hearing and singing notes, I KNOW my ear is going to take 80 leaps forward.
  13. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Hey we all been there. If it was easy, everybody would do it.

    I don't remember, LERM, has you all got a teacher? What are they working on with you?

    If not, have you tried some of the exercises in PAC's thing, or that we been suggesting around here? Instead singing the melody against the roots, try playing the melody with the nome, then arpeggiate the chords in time, then walk a chorus. See if that don't help get the tune in your ear a little more. Check out Mike da Mooks WALKIND SOLOING AND PRACTICE thread for some other stuff too.
  14. I was just sprayin that I'm not a very good singer, and I am working on it. I do lots of stuff beyond just that.... I've got a stack of ways of approaching this stuff, and you guys keep adding to it! Yeah, I've got a teacher, we're working on my bow work and also on jazz stuff (currently transcribing tunes from "We Get Requests", as well as learning changes/melodies to a variety of standards using lots of the techniques that have been mentioned here). Jazz isn't really my main gig, so its a bit tough for me, since I'm not gigging on it (at the moment) but plan to go that direction, probably in a year or so....
  15. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Re: Singing - you don't have to sound like Johnny Hartman, you just need to be able to externalize what's in your head. In other words, it doesn't need to be pretty, it just needs to get out!

    I'll repeat one of my favorite mantras from the ear-training portion of my theory classes at the U: If you can't sing it, don't tell me that you're hearing it, 'cause I'm not buying it.

    Needless to say, this is a favorite of mine, not so much a favorite of the students I repeatedly bust with it. :D
  16. I have a vocal range of a minor 2nd, could make for some interesting ideas!
  17. Jeff Bollbach

    Jeff Bollbach Jeff Bollbach Luthier, Inc.

    Dec 12, 2001
    freeport, ny
    See how easy it is to archive Fugquatic pearls! Ya never know. ;)
  18. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Hey me and Ray wanna come out as SOON AS IT STOPS BEING COLD, f**king winter. What kinda beer you like?
  19. I've got a singing problem. My voice doesn't seem to know the difference between 5ths. Like I will supposed to be singing Bb and I will sing the Eb above it, or the F (depending on if its the root of the V7). Does anyone else have this issue? I think its not just a singing problem - its a hearing thing - its often hard for me to distinguish between a note and its fifth when transcribing or listening. Obviously, once I realize it, I'm like "duh" and I completely hear the difference in that particular context. Should I work on singing chords? Or just continue down the road I am on (transcriptions, singing melodies over chords, singing lines and writing them down) with the idea that problems like this will resolve themselves? Its so much easier to hear/sing a minor third or a ninth or something because its a more distinctive harmony against the root....
  20. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

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

    They say the first step is admitting you have a problem.

    A lotta things I used to hear a 4th away, but again that's the thing I work on. Recognising the interval is recognising the interval, and that's what you gotta work on and nail before you move on. Just like building a house, you don't want to start on the walls until the foundation is solid. The problem doesn't "resolve itself", you work on it until it's not a problem anymore.

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