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Haven't talked about theory for awhile!

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [DB]' started by jazzbo, May 16, 2001.


  1. jazzbo

    jazzbo

    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    I've really gained a lot from past threads I've started discussing theory, especially jazz theory. I like to post on this side of the board because double bassists seem to apply the concepts I'm interested in much more often than toy bassists do. That being said, I'd love to hear some opinions from everyone, regarding:

    How much does your bassline vary during a jazz tune?

    If I use an example, of let's say, AFTERNOON IN PARIS, (I don't know why that example), after playing through the AABA and returning to the original A section, how much do you change up your line through the changes the second time, or third, or fourth, etc.? Because my jazz chops are not even close to "strong" I find that I lean on a certain lick over certain changes. If there are some quick changes, or odd changes, I will probably play the same line over that passage, each time I get to it. I'm pretty comfortable improvising over repetitive chord structures, (and if anybody remembers my earlier posts, that's saying something. I've put A LOT of time and practice into that). I think I'm asking the questions just to get a sense of what the other cats out there are doing, and to get a feel for everyone's techniques:

    - do you vary up your line constantly, or do you have certain little licks that you keep for certain changes, that are played over and over?

    - how much does your line change, rhythmically and melodically, during solos?

    - do you have certain "tricks" or patterns that you stick to?

    - etc.? If anybody else can expand on this, it would be appreciated.
     
  2. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    Umm, define "trick". That could mean a lot of different things things in this case.
     
  3. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    This is a perfect example. Like when Ed says, "THERE ARE NO MUSIC POLICE WHO ARE TRYING TO DISCREDIT YOU IF YOU CAN'T REHARMONIZE 'LAZY BIRD' ON THE SPOT", it's used as a way of saying, "no one can tell you exactly what you have to do in order to be considered a 'real' musician by others". That's like a verbal "lick" or pattern. I've heard Ed say this more than a few times (and I'm paraphasing anyway) when a certain type of issue is raised, and the gist of this "lick" makes its point admirably. But I could never predict when he's going to say it, nor would I care to. Like in language/conversation, everything that happens is about context. We all have our little standard catchphrases or ways of putting things, but we don't plan on using them at any given time - rather, we just use them as we see fit based on what's going on.

    Somebody pointed out to me once in a PM that I tend to use a certain typing device a lot when I post in forums like this one to get a certain type of vibe across: the device is(....), which in my mind I suppose signifies a thought trailing off and leading to a different but not completely unrelated thought. I thought that the fact that it got mentioned was pretty funny at the time, since it made me aware that I have my own little habits just as everyone else does....and like most people, it's often easier for me to notice other people's habits than my own, since I see other people's habits from the outside and they seem more visible that way. But these "habits" or verbal "licks" or "patterns" or whatever you want to call them are just devices for getting a point across at any given time in the flow of conversation, and in no way predetermine what you are going to say or when you're going to say it. I could no more tell you what pattern I was going to play over a certain ii-V out of context of the tune and the performance than I could tell you what words I would use if the subject of ________ came up in the middle of a conversation.

    Musically it doesn't hurt in the beginning to "collect" various ways of dealing with certain harmonic situations and practice them through all 12 keys, but once the tune is counted off it's all about reacting to what you are hearing at that moment - and if some of these patterns happen to emerge as a natural outcome of you reacting to what's happening, then great. If not, then also great.
     
  4. Playing jazz is no different than having a conversation. How often do you repeat yourself when conversing? Every player has certain stock phrases or little licks, but speech has the same things, common word combinations, grammar, verb conjugations, etc. How many different ways can you tell a cat you bought a gallon of milk this morning? How many times in the course of a conversation with the same cat are you gonna tell him you bought a gallon of milk this morning?

    Listen to the great jazz bassists. How much do you hearing them playing the same thing in a bassline during the course of one tune? A lot of cats could play a tune for twenty minutes with out repeating themselves.

    As for solos, I'll assume you're asking about my own solos, not what I do when someone else is soloing. When I'm playing a solo it sounds like it's own melody, I'm not worried about supporting anyone. It sounds like a solo, not a bassline, unless I feel like playing a bassline.
     
  5. jazzbo

    jazzbo

    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    I guess I didn't come back to this thread for a while because I almost felt like my question was so remedial. I would never dream of calling myself a jazz bassist right now, but it's the genre that I work daily to develop.

    For me, there are still many struggles I face. One of them is certainly being able to have something new every A section, or whenever a phrase repeats itself. Beyond that, being able to have that "conversation" while still interacting with the other musicians and creating a cohesive piece.
     
  6. Jassin' Boy: for starters, write out as many choruses of tune as you can without repeating yourself. That should open your eyes to some more possibilities.

    What you're experiencing isn't remedial at all. It's just part of being a beginner trying to learn to do something that is actually quite difficult. Playing a bassline that is not only supportive of the ensemble and outlines the harmony, etc. but is interesting and interacting in the moment is no small feat. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it and doing it well.
     
  7. jazzbo

    jazzbo

    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    Lately I've been feeling like truer words have never been spoken! :)
     
  8. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Also do (ideally) or study (as a fallback) bass line transcriptions by those whose lines inspire you, and you'll find that every player, no matter how great, repeats him/herself. What's interesting when you look at it from a global perspective is the DIFFERENT WAYS that they repeat themselves.

    I've transcribed about half of the piano solos of Kenny Barron's "Green Chimneys", one of my favorite trio records. After looking at what Kenny's playing, I see lots of repetitious stuff, but in context, I never feel like "Oh yeah,....there's THAT lick again :rolleyes: ". He just has his own little manners of speaking.

    With your basslines, you're going to repeat yourself, and you're going to put all of the little puzzle pieces that you use into your lines over and over and over to the point where they're just choices that you make on the fly depending on what you're hearing. The trick is not to put them together in EXACTLY THE SAME WAY. I'll probably get busted for mentioning it, but Jamey's got 5 or 6 transcribed bassline books from the playalong series that I've found really useful, including transcriptions of Ron Carter, Rufus, Tyrone Wheeler, and Todd Coolman. that's a great place to start.