Help please I feel overwhelmed and depressed( need help on how, what to practice)

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by Libersolis, Jan 14, 2006.

  1. Libersolis


    Sep 9, 2004
    Austin, TX
    Some of you may already know, but back in July I started playing one of the best, if not the best gig in SC, a great place for jazz, and an even better town for bass players. I started taking bass lessons from a great player and teacher when I moved here in May, and he offered me the gig in July (which he just happens to play a very fine piano on.)

    If you have ever worked with him, you know that he is a very demanding and well organized band leader, the best I have ever played with. I am always on edge, because I know something about my playing isn't up to snuff, and sooner or later I am going to hear about it during and after the tunes.
    My main problem initially was time. Being the first drummerless gig on acoustic that I have ever played, I learned alot about what good time is. I was able to improve my time drastically through work with the metronome on a daily basis and now, while ceartainly not perfect, my time is actually getting good.

    With time issues resolved for the most part, He now wants me to take my playing to the next level. (the bassists who have played there and have taken lessons from him all sound phenominal and are well accomplished in this area) I want to take my playing to the next level, and listening to many great bass players makes me understand what the next level is. Someone who knows the bass well, has great time and intonation, listens and intereacts with his bandmates, has a great sense of form, melody and harmony, and has a decent number of tunes memorized as well as having a consistent tone and solid technique and also shows up to the gig with a positive attitude ready to take advice and criticism when needed( there have I covered everything?)

    Knowing all of these things is great, but I feel so overwhelmed. While this a great learning gig, it is also a substantial part of my income, and getting fired would not only have profound pyschological effects, but also hinder me in a way financially to where I would not be able to support myself.

    Im here for help, I'm desperate and scared and want objective third party advice on how and what to practice. ANY sort of guidline you guys could layout for me for a 2 hour practice timeslot ( doesn't all have to be at the same time) Would be greatly appreciated. Often times when I pick up the bass, I might start by playing a scale for a few min, then working on a tune, then getting distracted and ultimately losing interest, putting the bass down, and feeling like crap about wasting my time and nervous about the upcoming Friday evening gig.

    Please give me advice on how to work on all of these things, specific things are best. I realize that not everyone should practice the same way and have the same schedule, but please help me... I am very willing to listen and only want to learn and get better....
  2. jallenbass

    jallenbass Supporting Member

    May 17, 2005
    Bend, Oregon
    If he's your teacher why not ask him?
  3. Libersolis


    Sep 9, 2004
    Austin, TX
    I have but, its a complicated situation right now...I'm just nervous around him right now....
  4. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    I use this, and am having pretty good luck with it so far. It's written in "syllabus speak", but you get the idea. The repertoire sheet that goes along with it helps me stay focused when I'm out of ideas...there are just so many tunes out there that I still need to learn, or learn better. If you'd like me to sent you the whole Excel file of tunes, just send me an email.

    Also, you might want to consider that talkbass has a way of being read by more people that most of us think, and your post contains a lot of specific information. I bet the type of help you're seeking from the good folks here could still be gotten without the danger of some of these details getting back to the original source. Just something to think about.

    At any rate, good luck with your studies. The journey is a wonderful one.
  5. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Well, for starters, being nervous and worrying about getting fired is the thing that will get you fired. Be assertive and have a good time playing. Second, take note of mistakes and don't make them again. Third, ask him what he thinks you should be working on next. Fourth, be assertive and have a good time playing. Fifth, , be assertive and have a good time playing. Sixth,...assertive..good time playing.

    Record yourself at the gig and see how you sound -- that'll also tell you what you should be working on.
  6. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    It would help me to answer you if you let me know about what level you play now and what you have studied so far. Also, what problems you are having and what you would like to achive. I never approach the Bass as an instrument for one type of music but rather a Bass for whatever you are going to play. Training, learning or improving is the same method for me. I have a stack of books I had collected in my earlier years that can never be too high. I have even bought a few more books in the last few years as well which include a Bottesini method, Levinson fingering and Zimmerman solos etc..

    I play Jazz and Classical but when I practice to play the Bass better, it's always the classical approach I use. When working on Jazz type things I warm up with Classical training stuff first always using the Bow. I also 'doodle' playing classical type arpeggios and made-up melodies playing whatever comes to mind with and without the Bow. Then if there is something Jazz wise I wanna work on or a tune, I go to it after I am warmed up.

    Tell us about what you play, how you have trained and what you think you need to improve on. Then, we can look into making a suggestion..

    It's like something Henny Youngman said "Doctor, it hurts when I go like that", and Shrugs shoulder to show him. The Doctor replys: "So don't 'go' like that"!, Shrugging his shoulder back with his answer.

    It's even harder when you do it over the phone or on line. Give us some clues so we can help you. There are alot of great players out here.
  7. Libersolis


    Sep 9, 2004
    Austin, TX
    Hmmm how would I describe my level of playing... well I have studied jazz for a while, but really only formally since May. I have a decent grasp of scales and arrgegios, but am a master by no means. My intonation is pretty horrid and I have very few tunes memorized. I can "get you through a gig" but as far as being very creative, I fall short.

    I have spent most of my time, working on developing a solid pulse and playing with good time, out of all the aspects of my playing, I feel that this is the most solid component. My soloing ideas are not very well developed.. I usually resort to a few licks I know and stumble around from the roots of the chords trying to play something that sounds decent and it usually just sounds like a bunch of broken up garbage. I cannot really connect chords with any degree of smoothness.

    I don't know if that helps at all, but thats about the best degree of detail I can give you unless you ask something specific.. Sorry I am sure you guys get these questions all the time and are proabably a little tired of them...
  8. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    "My intonation is pretty horrid and I have very few tunes memorized." hmmm, that's not really my definition of "getting through a gig". But it's someplace we've all been.

    There are some hard questions, but that is a lot to go into here. As Ray says, attitude is a part of it. I would add that it's not enough just to have confidence, you have to be able to trust what you are hearing and JUST PLAY THAT. Frank is not looking for virtuosity, he's just waiting for you to stop speaking gibberish and come up with a cogent, musical statement that communicates. You're not at a point where you are going to write poetry every time you speak, but you do need to start concentrating on conveying meaning and intent.

    LEARN (and memorize)the melodies to every tune you are playing, start improvising by embellishing the melody. Play it in a bunch of different keys. Oh, and to see how well you are hearing the melodies, try playing them without reading them at first. Hear the notes, play the notes. THEN pick up the lead sheet and see how on it you were. LEARN THE LYRICS to songs that have them.

    CREATE A CHORD LINE for the tunes you are having problems with. A chord line is just the arpeggiations in time (chord lasts a whole bar use quarter notes, lasts two beats use 8th notes etc.) that maintains "proximity" in fingering by using all inversions (i.e. D-7 G7 Cmaj7 = root position second inversion root position OR D F A C D F G B C E G B, right?)

    Set the nome (qnote=60bpm is always a good place to start) and PLAY
    1 chorus melody
    1 chorus "chord line"
    1 chorus melody
    1 chorus improvised solo

    When you start out, try just improvising a chorus in half notes. Keep the idea that you're trying to make a MELODY not a bassline with half notes, and one that still communicates the sense of the harmony AND the melody. Play around with quarters, then 8ths , then triplets (this is NOT going to be all in one practice session, I've been working on these exercises and their extensions for about 9 years now), likewise challenge yourself by using rests, by only playing 3 bars of the melody and improvising the rest, by moving around where that 3 bars of melody falls in an 8 bar section.

    There is NOTHING that you can do that will change your playing overnight, all you can sound like is what you sound like. The work you do in the shed shows up in your playing slowly, which is why consistent work is so necessary.

    But the focus needs to be " what can I work on to get more focus and meaning in my playing", NOT "what can I do to keep this gig". Gigs come and go, you can't define yourself in those terms.
    To thine ownself be true.
  9. Libersolis


    Sep 9, 2004
    Austin, TX
    Thank guys.. this has been a very helpful thread... I know it might seem like I am whining, but sometimes its good just to talk to people who aren't directly involved in the situation. I have a lot of problems with linking my musical mastery to my selfworth as a human being. I recognize that isn't a correct way to feel or think, and have been reading "Effortless Mastery" to rid myself of musical and personal self loathing.

    I am definately going to take these suggestions and create a schedule for myself.. One another thing...My main aspects of my playing I need to work on are in no particular order: Intonation, Time, Scales and Arpeggios, Learning Tunes ( Changes and Melody) and improvising over those changes ( both the bass lines and soloing) Should I work on each of these things everyday? Or work on one thing each week, or try to combine all elements....?
  10. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Strap in.
    Dead wrong.

    Not only is really learning a tune properly the best way to get this stuff together, you have the added benefit of direct musical application for all of these tools and more. More, in the sense that you are also learning form and tune structure, giving you a clue as to what the hell you're doing and the sandbox in which you're doing it.
    Not after two or three tunes. If you've learned your harmony properly, then changing keys is a cinch.
    Picking an extreme example is an invalid way to make a point. If I hired him and he was working on something like 'A Foggy Day', then I would nod in approval that he is doing his homework. Being the kind of guy/teacher that I am, I would be busting him on this anyhow, calling it in different keys every night.
    Going years without learning the music makes one sound like the 90% of musically retarded bass players that are around. Not the best way to carve a niche for yourself.
    Working on melody and soloing are very good ways to understand some of the fundamentals of improvised music, but should be balanced with practice of rhythm section playiing if you are weak in that regard. After all, a good bass line HAS to be melodic counterpoint, right after it is minimally functional.
    Being a good soloist doesn't make one a bad ehythm section player, but just the opposite. Have screwed up priorities and a lame attitude, however, will. I think that this is what Foghorn was addressing and you misunderstood.
    Take my prescription, then, and your rhythm playing WILL set you apart.
    This paragraph, read in the light of what I've laid out, should seem self-evident.
    OR misdirect him.

    How can one part of your body be any more important than another? How can one part of music be more or less important (read: advanced) than another?
    Ray and PC certainly could, as can I, Ed and other long-toothed pros, because -- at least in my case -- this is my training.

    Always good advice.

    Turn off the tube and get to work on Stella.
  11. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    If two or three nights a week represents the lion's share of his income, then I would seriously doubt that lack of practice time is his problem. This is an assumption on my part. Still, if something is important for you, you can find the time.

    We could practice for him, too, but this isn't going to do him any good, either.

    He has to dig deep and figure out why. Being overwhelmed is probably the reason. Lack of guidance is another of the myriad possibilities, as is discipline.
    Sigh. Instead of me repeating myself, read my above post and wait for other old-bastards to chime in.
    Yes, because playing the melody, the root, lines through both individual chords, changes, etc. is THE BEST WAY to get the sound of these things in your ear. If he had a gig playing a major scale from end to end and back and forth, then what you're recommending might be worthwhile.

    You point out above that you're suffering the same frustrations, but a 15 YEAR OLD version of his exact situation. 'Nuff said?
  12. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    Ok, I don't have the eyes tonight to read all the replys and suggestions so here is what I suggest;

    Intonation), Go back to Basics and work with Simandl Book I. That is the best that I can think of. Intonation and Solos are to be practiced seperatly. It would be like going on a trip without a map or directions and trying to find your way. You know haw to drive but don't know where OR You take a trip and still need to learn to drive better. Don't practice on the trip. Practice b4 you go out on the road and live longer.

    Solos and Ideas) Stick to the basics with R,3,5,-7(dom) with passing tones. For the basics listen to Ray Brown, Paul Chambers or any other Bass player that 'SPELLS' it out as he plays either in the walking lines or Solos. Not to say Ray or Paul are 'just' Basic players, no they are two of the best in the world, BUT it is easier to learn from them than say a Scott Lafaro or Eddie Gomez type player. You would have to be past the Ray and Paul thing both technically and musically to get any benifit from the more technically advanced soloists.

    Practice the Simandl with the Bow.. SLOW.. Listen and correct your intonation as you play. Metronome not as important for this. Booring? Maybe.. Necessary? YES.. You need to re-train your hand, fingers and mind and watch your self do it. I taught about 450 private students between 1973 and 1985 using Simandl and did my best to stay awake. Some lasted a lesson or two. Some a year or two. One dedicated student learned the Dragonetti under me and that made me feel great. He practiced harder than I did so I know what it feels like and looks like to work hard. Now I have things I work on and the quantity of things is less important to me than the quality in which I play it. If you learn the excercises you can then begin to play them better and more in tune. Reading and playing 100 different things poorly is not learning at all, it's just killing time. I got the Levinson Book and have only worked on one page as he uses different fingerings than I am used to. I will NOT turn the page untill I can play 'that' page as if I know it!

    Back to Basics and don't pass 'GO' unless you know everything up to that point with good intonation.

    As your playing gets better technically, everything you played before will soung better and maybe even different to someone listening.

    Be your own toughest critic. No one else cares as much as you do!
  13. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Don't quit or I've wasted my effort. I'm giving both you and he good stuff -- things that are a culmination of the experience of everyone that taught me plus my years of study and teaching. Jeezus.
  14. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    So Ray, who are you referring to there? At what age does 'Old' start in your book?

    BTW, My previous post is for anyone that needs help. Old or young!
  15. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Age is more a spiritual thing. :)
  16. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    ..and 'other' would implicitly include myself, only roughly only 2/3 of your advanced temporal age.
  17. Set aside some time for bow work. It will improve your intonation. The bow work does not have to be fancy. Long slow scales will strengthen your left hand, which will help you get some tone out of your pizz playing. Scale work from Simandl will teach you fingering and shifting in various keys.
    Don't practice fast. As Foghorn once said, if you can't play it slow, you sure as hell can't play it fast.
  18. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    Stormwriter, here's a great reason for you to learn the melodies to increase your intonation -- because the melody of a standard is written in stone and there are umpteen freakin' places to hear it, and play against it.

    I just recently submitted to the TBDB sampler a recording of me playing the head to "Body And Soul" and soloing over the form (until the last A, where I play the head out) in a piano trio setting. There are parts where the intonation is bad -- most noticeably, the part where it goes "for-YOU-dear-on-ly" (the "YOU" being the high Eb where I most frequently go out of tune.) However, when I practice this tune, there are many recorded versions I can play against including one by the Laila Biali Trio where the vocalist hits that note with the most beautiful intonation and tone I've ever heard from a singer. Even now, only a few days after I recorded it, that note is clearer and more solid in my ears than it was before.

    I like Ray's analogy of music to physiology. I don't know a single person that takes care of any part of their body at the expense of another. Sucessfull boxers, swimmers, and gymnasts are complete athletes because they have trained every limb, every muscle of their body at expense of no other. So why the hell would a complete bass player ignore learning melodies for fifteen years? This boggles my mind. I can understand how one can get carried away with learning melodies and soloing and neglecting their rhythm section playing, but completely ignoring a whole facet of music for almost as long as I've been alive is completely beyond my comprehension.

    EDIT: I'm going to second Don's suggestion about using the bow. Practice heads with the bow as well. Heck, you might even consider peforming some ballads with the bow ;).
  19. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Didn't mean to imply that I thought that you were going to -- I meant quitting the conversation. I honestly meant from the root of my soul to try to steer you to a better place than I perceive you being. That fact that you were bantering indicated to me that I might be able to snag you.

    Say la vee.

    Off to the gig.
  20. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    I couldn't disagree more. The melody is the tune. The bassline is supposed to be a countermelody that works with and against the melody. How can you play a countermelody to something you're not hearing? Playing tunes without knowing the melody is not a good recipe for growth and improvement as a jazz musician.

    If it's a bop head and you don't have the physical chops to pull it off, then learn to sing it (in rhythm and in tune), then learn to sing while you play a bass line (or at least the roots of the harmony). If it's a standard, then at least learn the melody in the standard key...and most importantly, learn to hear it at all times, even when it isn't actually being played - it should always be right below the surface, like the skeleton of each song.

    Of course they could. If you're actually hearing the tune instead of playing a bunch of memorized chords, all you need to know is that the melody starts on 8-7 of the key and the harmony starts on #IVmi7b5. The rest all moves from there. If you're not hearing the tune, it's going to be very difficult to play when the physical landmarks change.


    I did. You just didn't like it. :)