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Help me reach the next level of playing

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by anton_b, Jun 2, 2012.

  1. anton_b


    Jun 29, 2011
    Hey ! :)

    So, this is kind of a long post and don't know if its posted in the right place. I'm danish, so sorry for any language flaws :)

    Im Semi-professional bass player and i'm 20 years old. The last couple of years i've been playing a great deal. I'm mostly playing electric bass and this is kind of what my post is about.
    I have always loved jazz music, and always played it. However the kind of musicians that i play with and hang out with are in no way jazz musicians, and trough my teen years it has always been something i wanted to dig in to, but have never really found the right way to do it.
    I live in the second biggest town in Denmark, and i am a relatively wanted bass player for pop/rock and cover gigs. The last couple of years i've been playing a lot of that party/moneymaking gigs that in the end
    mostly is about looking good and playing tunes that people know.

    I have now, at the age of 20 come to the conclusion that i wanna go "all in" and try to become the best jazz-musician i can be. As i said, i've always enjoyed playing jazz, but
    until now my dedication and determination have been, so to say, very dissapointing! I've played upright for about 2 years, but have never been practicing steadyli and have had very few lessons.
    I am accepted at this 3 year music course thats preparing me for a conservatory education and i am accepted at various summer camps.
    The thing is that i now have 2 months with a lot of time on my hands, and i really wanna be prepared in the best way for starting at the musicschool and participating in the summer-camps.

    so what my post really is about is:

    If you, like i have now, had 2 months where you had, how would you use them in terms of practicing? My upright playing is very mediocre, but i regard myself as a very musical person.
    I'm looking for Etudes, right hand - left hand patterns and excercises, Hand positions, rythm excercises, practicing schedules, ear practing, books etc. and of course tunes that are good to learn
    It's mostly my technique i'm looking to improve. It's kind of a big thing for me, and i think my biggest problem is where to start.

    I really hope anyone out there can help me, to help myself reach that next level that i'm really craving for! :)
  2. I've just recently (about 6 months) started playing upright and really immersing myself in jazz, so I can hopefully help out a bit here.

    The biggest thing I can recommend, which has worked wonders for my playing is get a teacher! Find the best local jazz player you can, and all the things you're looking for will follow.
  3. Roy Vogt

    Roy Vogt

    Sep 20, 2000
    Endorsing Artist: Kiesel, Carvin, Accuracy, Hotwire, Conklin Basses, DNA, Eden
    I'll echo that: Find a teacher-Copenhagen has some great Jazz players so it may be worth your while to commute from time to time and study with a bassist there. I'd also work with a Classical Teacher, intonation is key for DB and that will really, really help. Trust me on this one.
    I'd also find some like-minded players and jam and study the Music. If you can work with older players with more experience (a possibility, since bassists are often in short supply) I'd do that. I learned a lot in my 20s even playing dumb Wedding Band gigs with great drummers, pianists and horn players 10 and 20 years my senior.
    Practicing: If you want to do this for a living, you're going to have to log some hours. A good teacher will help you with your technique and make sure you're not hurting yourself. I don't get much chance to practice now since I'm so busy teaching and playing but when I was in school my practice hours varied from 2 to 8 hours a day and 12 hours a day when I was preparing for my Master's recital. Take breaks often and practice intelligently. Here's a good article on that, even though it's for Bass Guitar:
    and another:
    I can vouch for the fact that Ryan puts this to good use. She's an extremely talented young lady and is doing very well in the Nashville scene.
    Finally, I'd hit the books. Here's some of my favorites:
    The Evolving Bassist (book and DVD) Rufus Reid
    The Real Book (bass clef so you can learn the heads of the tunes)
    The Charlie Parker Omnibook (bass clef)
    Any of the Jamey Aebersold playalongs (start with one that interests you)
    A whole lot of other material that you can get here:
    The Improvisors Bass Method by Chuck Sher
    Concepts for Bass Soloing by Chuck Sher and Marc Johnson
    anything else by Sher Music is a winner, IME.
    Finally, if you're all in nothing substitutes for a great Music School. Used to be that the US had a monopoly on that from Berklee, UNT, U of M and Indiana but now there are great schools all over the EU. If you can study with John Goldsby in Austria at any point that's golden, but there are great players and teachers everywhere.
    Good luck and happy playing, learning and practicing!
  4. playbass0410


    Feb 8, 2008
    Roy already said everything.
    I only want to stress: Find you a Jazz combo for playing upright. Learning at home, learning with a teacher is one thing, but playing the upright in a combo with musicians on a higher level than you is simply key!
    Fortunately as bassist it is really easy to play with better musicians, as there aren't as many upright bass players on the scene.
  5. Finding a group once you feel comfortable (enough) on the upright to do so would also be great for your playing. Along the lines of Roy's comment regarding studying with classical bassists for intonation and what not, there's something to be said for studying with great jazz musicians in your area in general, not just the bass players.
  6. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    Two days and this is all? Next to finding a jazz teacher, you should be drowning your ears in jazz recordings of all the greats. It goes beyond listening to just bassists but also the legends that created the genre. Basie, Ellington, Charlie Parker, dizzy, monk, bill Evans, Miles, etc etc. You need to be familiar with the repetoire and what's been done. See the Bassists forum for recs on bass players.
  7. Forgot that one ... also, not just listening to the greats, bass greats or not, but transcribing them willl be a fantastic guideline for you.
  8. anton_b


    Jun 29, 2011
    Thanks a lot!

    I don't have the money for a teacher right now. As i write, i am accepted to one of the best schools in copenhagen and i start in september, so it's really no problem.

    I'm using play-alongs, mostly Aebersold and i am gonna purchase some books this week.

    The article about laser practiing is really interesting!
    However i dont feel that i would be able to do it for 5-6 hours.
    Do you know if theres is any classical etudes avialable for free on the web?
  9. powerbass


    Nov 2, 2006
    western MA
    along with listening look on YouTube for videos of jazz performances
  10. PaulieBe


    Jun 25, 2011
    Los Angeles
    While there is a tendency to run out and get a pile of books etc. and immerse when inspiration strikes, I would suggest picking only one small element to work on that would help solidify your vocabulary. Then practice it slowly and thoroughly with a metronome (ALWAYS!) Keep it simple, fun and be kind to yourself about your progress.

    You might try Jerry Bergonzi's book, Jazz Line which step by step lays out the basic chromatic language of bebop scales in a way that helps you connect your phrasing in a harmonically solid way over changes. http://www.amazon.com/Advance-Music-Jerry-Bergonzi-Improvisation/dp/B0006BH4SY

    No one has ever been faulted for making sense while playing lines!

    But while practice materials are ultimately personal, one thing that always helps for me to remember is not biting off more than you can chew by trying to practice too many things at once. Learning the elements of Jazz (or any musical language) is like crossing a long bridge. You can work and work but unless you span the entirety of the structure you will have not crossed the river- you'll still be stuck up in the air having gone so far with little to show for it. Meaning, no amount of studying a thing helps until you have effectively internalized that thing. Go slow, a bit at a time and really learn one thing until you can't help but nail it without thinking about it. THEN move on. Taking things to the next level is exciting- be kind to yourself above all things.

    Good Luck!

    p.s. this thread makes me want to go practice.
  11. Herbie 80's

    Herbie 80's

    Dec 15, 2008

    If you're not able to practice for 5-7 hours a day, you're in a for a big surprise when you start school and camp. It is not irregular for students at the BA level to practice for 5-7 hours a day, and even more so when the opportunity arises. I look at my practice schedule as a full-time job. I need to do that 40 hours a week or I don't get paid - and I want more money, so I try my best to do over time. However, my employer doesn't like it when I'm unfocused and don't make great progress, so I organize my schedule and have goals for each day / hour / piece.

    When I first went into my BA I was surprised because I got blisters again within the first month. I had practiced so much in a month that blisters had come back, which I didn't have for years. Build yourself up to the 5-7 hour marker, and don't falter from it, or else it will be hard to get back to it.

    In a year, I try my best to log 10,000 hours at least. It's extremely hard to make this goal, but I set it high to make myself strive. Don't be scared to set high goals for yourself and keep yourself to them.

    EDIT: My 5-7 hours a day is just in the practice room; this excludes orchestra, chamber, choir, and jazz band.

  12. jazzbill


    Jun 4, 2010
    Richardson, TX
    Not only is it extremely hard to meet this goal, I would venture to say it is impossible. There are on 8784 hours in a year and that's a leap year.
  13. noagreement


    Oct 12, 2006
    Yo Philly!
    :D Aren't you an expert at something after 10,000 hours practice??

    I have to chime in about the teacher - I just started studying on a bimonthly basis with a local instructor and it has opened up music in a whole new dimension (after 20+ years of playing with no regular instruction). Books and videos only go so far - it usually comes down to discipline. When $$ is being paid, there is a natural tendancy to learn the lesson.
  14. playbass0410


    Feb 8, 2008
    From the playing capabilities of the great double bass players it seems they practice 50.000 hours the year by managing to do time traveling :D

    Thanks to this thread I've just switched to laser practice and must confess - it's harder than anticipated - no, you cannot do this 5 hours long.

    What I do is my 1 hour laser practice (technical training, scales&arpeggios over the full fingerboard, sight reading, rhytmic training, soloing, uptempo walk, ...) and afterwards switch to my former informal practice, be it soloing for 4 hours over Misty...

    But, even after a few days the "Laser practice" starts to pay off, even if it requires hard disciplin, when you come home from work tired and exhausted....
  15. John Goldsby

    John Goldsby Supporting Member

    Mar 4, 2003
    Bassist @ WDR Big Band Cologne, Columnist — BassMagazine.com, Conservatorium Maastricht, NL
    Thanks, Roy -- I'm in Cologne, Germany btw :)
  16. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Augusta GA
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    And that's, like, northern Austria, right? Closer to New Zealand?
  17. John Goldsby

    John Goldsby Supporting Member

    Mar 4, 2003
    Bassist @ WDR Big Band Cologne, Columnist — BassMagazine.com, Conservatorium Maastricht, NL
    Exactly - just right of Paris, left of Berlin.
  18. DC Bass

    DC Bass Supporting Member

    Mar 28, 2010
    Washington DC
    "Klink, I have to be in Brussles in the morning." ;)
  19. playbass0410


    Feb 8, 2008
    John, you forgot to mention that Cologne is pretty close to New Zealand! This nice litte village in sleepy, cozy county Germany located in northern Austria! :D
  20. John Goldsby

    John Goldsby Supporting Member

    Mar 4, 2003
    Bassist @ WDR Big Band Cologne, Columnist — BassMagazine.com, Conservatorium Maastricht, NL
    Hey Anton_B, since I derailed your post with geographical nonsense, I thought I would chime back in and answer your question:

    You have two months to practice before you enter music school. The best thing you can do at this point is to make it a habit to have a practice routine. You'll be overwhelmed if you just start practicing all kinds of hard stuff 8 hours a day, so make a list of things you can do a little bit, and things you'd like to improve gradually over the next few months. You should aim to practice effectively and efficiently for 2 - 3 hours. Write things down the night before you are going to practice those things. Divide your practice time into 1. mastering/perfecting simple things (long tones, slow scales, slow arpeggios), 2. playing slowly/step-by-step through a couple of harder things (melodies, etudes, bebop heads), and 3. playing music (playing through actual songs). You should divide your day into chunks around your practice time: an hour in the morning, 1 hour in the afternoon & 1 hour or more later.

    As I said, you'll need to make thoughtful, consequent practicing a "habit." Once you have the habit ingrained, then you can practice anything and everything in the correct amounts and never be overwhelmed.

    Since you are in Denmark, you might want to check out BASS2012 in Copenhagen in the middle of August -- should be fantastic.

    Good Luck!

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