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For those of your Classically trained

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Fire-Starter, Nov 19, 2003.

  1. Fire-Starter


    Aug 11, 2002
    I have read about bass players that have Classical training, like Verdine White of EARTH,WIND,FIRE, but could you help me to understand where this helps you as a bassplayer who does not play Classical music? I ask with all due respect because I would really like to know how the training in Classical comes into play with other music??

    Gods Peace and mercy to all:cool:
  2. The help you achieve the two T's that are necessary to grow as a musician : Tone and Theory


    EDIT: Make that 3 T's => Tone, Theory and Technique
  3. JMX

    JMX Vorsprung durch Technik

    Sep 4, 2000
    Cologne, Germany
    Classical or any formal training helps you because learning an instrument will always help you in learning another one.
    You learn to read notation, you learn how to practice, how to develop good technique, you get a repertoire, you get dexterity (depending on the instrument) etc.

    So people who learned a classical instrument usually have a head start over people who start fresh.
  4. I have been classically trained on upright. I started upright after i had been playing electric for about 2 years or so. My technique and tone imporved 10 fold at least. I imporved my bass clef reading and my tenor clef reading.

    If you have a chance to get even a little classical training, i would advise to take it.

    good luck with everything
    and have a good one.

    Rockin' on the ROCK
  5. stephanie


    Nov 14, 2000
    Scranton, PA
    My bass teacher played upright in college and through this I've learned a lot of classical theory. I think it's helped me improve technique and learning classical pieces has greatly improved my sight-reading skills. It never hurts to learn different things - classical, jazz, rock theory...whatever. It all helps.
  6. I think one of the bigest things is the reading thing. For me, it has also helped me by just expanding what I play. In classical there are very different intervals, rhythms, and phrasing than in rock, jazz, blues or whatnot. The my bowing has gotten much better too.

    One cool thing is that my experience in jazz has helped my in Symphony, I can almost hear what I'm suppossed to play and when I come in.
  7. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Well - if you're going to be a session player in any sort of music, then reading standard notation is a very useful skill to have and there's nothing better for getting your reading chops honed than classical music.

    I remember the quote from a Bass Player interview with a top Nashville producer who said : "I don't hire bass players to play fast - I hire them to read fast!!"

    If you can read classical music, then reading nearly everything else must seem pretty easy! ;)

    [EDITED to say what I actually meant after Howard pointed this out to me! ;)]
  8. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    Not speaking as somone who can do this, but we all know this aint neccessarily so!

    Just cause you can read complex music perfectly from sheet doesnt make improvising a walking line over complex changes at 200bpm easy!

    And I'll bet there's a zillion classcially trained players out there who cant rock like Nick Olliveri, groove like Paul Jackson or lay down a one note reggae line like the Family Man!

    I'm not in anyway disputing the value of classical or formal training, not at all.. just saying that it cant teach you everything! :)
  9. JMX

    JMX Vorsprung durch Technik

    Sep 4, 2000
    Cologne, Germany
    Yup. Ever heard Nigel Kennedy play Hendrix? Jimi must be turning in his grave.
  10. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    Oh gee thanks. Yes I have heard that, nmany years ago and I'd forgotten until now!

    Let us speak no more of this wrong.
  11. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Sorry - I wasn't being very clear!! I do of course agree with you!

    What I meant was entirely about reading music - don't know why I included "play". I was just saying that classical music is probably the best training for learning to read music very well.

    So - what I meant was that if you practiced reading classical music - reading anything lese will seem easy, by comparison.

    So - I was thinking about my example of the country music producer - if you could read some Bach proficiently, then reading country bass lines. should be a doddle after that!! ;)

    Of course there is a lot more to playing different styles - but if you wanted to be a session player, then reading written bass lines quickly - will be good skill to have.

    Of course it won't necesarily help you improvise Jazz walking bass lines - but the question was what could an education in classical music help you with!
  12. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    I always wondered, does classical training also incorporate sporadic head shaking skills?

    All those classical dudes and dudettes on TV seem to have simelar, yet noticably individual head shaking habits ofr when the piece gets a little tricky, I wondered if that's taught as well?
  13. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Probably comes from trying to simultaneously :

    look at the music, look at the conductor, look at the section leader, look at person next to you, to see who's going to turn the page!! ;)
  14. thrash_jazz


    Jan 11, 2002
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    Artist: JAF Basses, Circle K Strings
    I'm wondering about the benefits of classical training myself (although they are obvious).

    My formal training has been mostly on the jazz side of the spectrum - but I'd love to learn things like counterpoint and four-part harmony properly.

    So many things, so little time...
  15. Fire-Starter


    Aug 11, 2002
    So, would I be wrong to assume that people who get a degree in Music, "like for example" from the Berkley College Of Music...means they have studied Classical? or is Classical study a whole different world of its own??? if the latter is true,,I need some help with that because I thought Music Theory was Music Theory, I am not trying to be void of understanding, I am just trying to put all of this together so it makes sense to me:meh:

    Thanks for the help

    Gods peace and mercy to all!
  16. Funkateer


    Jul 5, 2002
    Los Gatos, CA
    I can't claim to be ready to take the LA session scene by storm, but in a previous life (25 years ago), I was a serious (way too serious) composition/theory/classical guitar student. I went as far as a Masters degree, and if I had completed my dissertation I would have a Phd.

    So now as an aspiring funkateer, what of all of this classical training do I find direcly applicable? Only the basic stuff. I can read bass and treble clef, have no problem spelling chords and find them on the piano, understand the power of the circle of fifths. On the theory side that just about does it.
    Classical tonal theory uses some of the same terminology as jazz theory a la Mark Levine, but there is significantly less emphasis on modes. Classical music took a wrong turn somewhere around 1800. Your standard classical harmony course focuses a lot on what is called 'figured bass'. Back in Bach's day, organ players would get a bass line with notations that indicated what intervals should be present above, and they would just improvise within those constraints. Only hard core early music specialists do this these days. Everybody else learns the rules so that they can put together 'correct' 4 part harmonizations, and in most cases (mine included) this is done mechanically, not by ear. Still you do learn about key relationships which does help when trying to put together bass lines. As a composer, I was into atonal stuff, including 12 tone theory, which so far does not seem to be particularly relevant to non classical music, except perhaps the most avant-garde jazz. 12 tone theory is radically different from tonal theory in that it is based on order not content. In tonal music, you pick 7 notes around the circle of fifths and you get a diatonic collection (a k a key). Chromaticism is understood in term of passing notes between scale degrees and membership in a particular key (e.g. if you are in C major, and a Bb appears, you think heading toward F major). 12 tone music keeps all 12 pitch classes in play at all times, and it is only the order that they appear that makes a difference. The result tends to be pretty dissonant, and intellectual. If you are curious, I would direct you to Donald Martino's wonderful chamber piece Notturno, which is my favorite in this genre.

    My classical guitar training is more helpful. All of the left hand stuff transfers pretty directly to the electric bass. More of my right hand technique should be applicable, but I stupidly put my blinders on and have been using i and m exclusively for finger style, even though I spent years developing an articulate thumb and ring finger. I intend to open up my right hand technique and find more use for these fingers. I saw Charlie Hunter last night for the first time, and he definitely inspired me.

    I am rambling. I am also someone who decided to find a different career 25 years ago, so YMMV. If the classical theory stuff is approached as ear training (which almost nobody really does), I think it could be liberating and helpful. Most popular music seems go by in 4 and 8 measure chunks, while if you study the great German composers, you see a lot more phrase length variety.

    In closing, I will confess that one area where my classical guitar training really hurts me is my time. Because you are playing solo, and the instrument has limited dynamic range, a lot of expression is done via rubato, which is death to laying down a solid groove. I spend a lot of time with a metronome atoning for this sin.
  17. ChenNuts44


    Nov 18, 2001
    Davenport, IA
    Counterpoint isn't all that awful. You've got rules, you write following those rules (it's ironic, however, that the man who wrote the bulk of the rules regularly breaks them in his own compositions... :p ...damnit Fux). Granted, there's more to it than that. You can't just follow the rules and make it sound good. ;)
  18. Yea, what is it with the head shake. Double Bass was too unwieldy to start flailing, I had to leave it up the the guitarist with long blond locks!

    Alot of what has been said here could could be applied to how you 'listen' in musical situations, or don't listen. I've heard people perform while reading sheet music, and you can tell they're on autopilot, and not fully aware of the full dynamics of the music around them. While others seem to comprehend more.

    Figured bass, within it's interval constraints allows you to listen the the other part(s) in conjuction with yours.

    Playing classical pieces can help your reading chops plus playing chops. Plus playing Double Bass is more regimented as far as your hand positions and fingerings. While playing Bach pieces on electric I had the fingerings all worked out before recitals. There's no other way, u don't wing it! Plus knowledge of arpeggios is helpful for those shifts in fingering (going from high to low, or opposite), and use of open strings to facilitate shifts. Practicing with a metronome can make you realize how off you really are on some things. Learning scales with different shifts/patterns can help with improvisation later, by learning the neck.

    ANYWAY, after this playing other things is much easier, and allows you to listen more, and gives you confidence.

    Ear training, interval recognition helps immensely... gives you an idea of what a particular bass line is, before you play it.

    Discovering Gary Karr was almost like hearing Jaco. Gary can make it sing!

    Gary Karr:
    Audio: Listen to link/tab 2

    Now I just have fun with it, I never want to sit thru another theory class at 8am, ever!!

    OHH Yea, if you haven't taken piano lessons, this can help your understanding of chords-bass-melody together.

    Or tapping out simple Bach melodies with your right hand on the fretboard, while simultaneously playing a few bass notes/chords by pressing with your left. a la that amazing Steve guy. All of these things can give you a better understanding of music.
  19. I don't know what the curriculum at Berkley entails, if you can specialize in Jazz Studies specifically, or what. This might be a good question to ask in the Double Bass forums of this site. Just stay away from 'plank spank talk', dot your i's and cross your t's, and tell them you're a conservative and you'll be O.K! :D
  20. BertBert


    Nov 9, 2002
    I started off playing double bass in my college orchestra before switching to electric about two years later. Some benefits I've found from this small bit of classical training:

    - You learn the crucial importance of intonation. You can probably learn this without classical training, but (a) playing an instrument with no frets and (b) playing with a bunch of other instruments, also without frets really whips your ear training into shape. I'm also classically trained as a singer, and singing with a choir will teach you about intonation BIG TIME. Almost every bad band/session experience I've had as a bassist or vocalist involves somebody not paying attention to intonation.

    - I have small hands, and the left-hand strength and technique that I had to learn as a double bassist has really served me well as an electric player. The fingerboard alone on a double bass is the size of the entire body of most electric basses.

    - Playing classical music teaches you how to be a musician, not just a dude who can play an instrument well. Classical music trains you in how to LISTEN to other people. Listening, and intonation, are what I consider the basics of being a good musician. (Note: This isn't limited to playing double bass. Choral music, for instance, is a great avenue into classical performance, especially considering you already own the equipment. :) )

    - Don't forget the most important benefit: Classical music is beautiful. A lot of it is, anyhow. And it's a broad genre, with something for everybody. Being exposed to beautiful music can't be bad for you as a bass player, even if you end up not playing classical. Being a good musician on any instrument means you have to be something of an omnivore -- you should be able to at least appreciate, if not enjoy, all kinds of music.

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