How Fast Can You Walk Uptempo for 3 Minutes?

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by Kevin Hsieh, Jul 25, 2009.

  1. And by walking I mean, never repeating one note more than twice and using one finger for pizz a la Ray Brown, Sam Jones, or Peter Washington, rather than alternating two fingers.

    Just curious, trying to build my stamina and want to know where everyone else is at.

    My goal by the end of the summer is to hang with Anita O'Day and the Oscar Peterson Trio on Them There Eyes from the album, Anita Sings the Most. the trio swings it at about 350 bpm. I die about halfway
  2. Why just one finger? And why just three minutes? I always use two for uptempo stuff and have gotten it to the point where I don't lose any sound or thump that way. Also, in my experience, a better test would be to see how fast you can play for at least 10 minutes straight, because usually when a song gets counted off that fast, some of the more technically-oriented instrumentalists like to take as many choruses as humanly possible.

    I'll post my numbers soon, It's late here and I don't want to upset the roommates at this hour.
  3. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    New Jersey
    In the Rufus Reid DVD I've got, he talks about 1-finger uptempo technique.

    If I remember correctly, he recommends pulling the string a little more gently to get away with it. Sure you play a little quieter for it, but RR also uses an amp.
  4. Adam Booker

    Adam Booker

    May 3, 2007
    Boone, NC
    Endorsing Artist: D'Addario Strings, Remic Microphones
    Zip 'em up boys. I'm more impressed by a cat that can hold, I mean really HOLD a tempo like 45bpm.
  5. You got me - I died 3 bars before the end of the 2nd chorus
  6. Adam Booker

    Adam Booker

    May 3, 2007
    Boone, NC
    Endorsing Artist: D'Addario Strings, Remic Microphones
    Sorry for the pre-coffee harshness.

    I once got a call from a guy who asked me if I can play "fast upright bass." Seriously. Just like that.

    Went back and listened to those cuts you mentioned Kevin. No freakin' way for me. I would have to double up notes to make it.

    Good luck!
  7. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    I'm not super comfy at hyper speeds, although I can get it done. I usually end up alternating between one and two fingers. The weird thing about playing uptempo stuff... if you relax into it, it almost starts feeling slow again. If you think of it as quarter notes at 350 bpm, it's daunting. But if you think about it as say, practicing a scale or an arpeggio using 16th notes at a much slower tempo.... well, hell, you can do that without breaking a sweat. It's just a little mind game, but it has worked for me. If you have a clear idea, a sense of where that walking line is headed, it becomes much easier. You need to be thinking a couple of moves ahead... if you're thinking about the notes you're playing right now, it's too late. So then, you just have to train yourself to do it for 15 minutes without stopping. :D

    I have to say, the one thing that really got me comfortable at 300+ was playing for six years with a gypsy jazz group (Gypsy Pacific). There were always several blazing tempos every night we performed.... and no drummer. We were doing a show one night, and we had the great saxophonist Dave Choy sitting in with us on soprano. We were on it... so Dave took a killer solo, a good ten choruses, and then, as the crowd went nuts at the end, he turned around to me and said "you guys are f***in' crazy".
  8. Nathan Parker

    Nathan Parker

    Oct 10, 2008
    Seattle, WA
    I'd say with a drummer I can walk with one finger at about 320-340 bpm for 3-4 minutes. I usually spend about 5-10 minutes working on up tempo stuff. It's tough to do with one finger, but now that I've gotten used to it, it's harder for me to alternate fingers, as the line sounds a little dis-jointed. Of course, when you're on a gig, you do what you have to do to survive at that tempo, so anything goes.

    On a side note, Kevin, I was just at the Centrum Jazz Week with one of your high school chums, a young pianist named Andrew. We got to play in Benny Green's combo together. He's quite a talented player and he spoke very highly of you.
  9. I find that there's a tonal discrepancy between the first finger and second finger. It just might have been that I haven't trained my middle finger enough. I find that I'm able to walk uptempo with alternating fingers on the gig (I find myself using two fingers in unison more often to get a meatier sound), I just find that in the practice room, it'd be a nice thing to build up some stamina on. If I can at some point bring the one finger uptempo technique, up on the bandstand, with a very even sound and good time, then all the better

    I just watch all these videos of the old masters, Ray Brown and Sam Jones playing with Oscar Peterson and they all play with one finger and get such a strong, even, swinging sound out of it. It might as well be something to work for while still having the option of going back to alternating technique in case my arm craps out on me.

    I saw that rufus reid segment. I agree with what he says, I bring my right hand up a couple more inches higher than i usually do on normal tempos and play a little lighter. BREATHING IS KEY
  10. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    I've posted this idea before here, but it fits this thread, so;

    Emil Richards is a tremendous vibist/percussionist, who's played with just about everyone. He is no stranger to uptempo raveups. When I play with him, I can count on some extended tunes well past the 300 mark.

    He gave me a tip once, on one the earliest gigs I played with him, many years ago. He told me that if he's up against the wall on an uptempo tune, instead of hearing it in four, he starts hearing in in groups of three (over the four pulse). What this does is, it then tricks your mind into hearing the tune in a slower four, with the first note in the group of three becoming a downbeat. Kind of hard to describe, but easy to implement. It's just another means of fooling your brain, so that you can get out of your own way. I was skeptical at first, but I've found it to be a helpful survival tool, with Emil and other high-speed nut cases. :D
  11. I usually play fast stuff with one finger (or one/two combined) throwing the second one in when necessary such as when skipping strings. There are other times when I play alternating fingers; I guess it depends on the tune and the circumstances. It's one of those things I haven't analyzed preferring to go with instinct. Scott LaFaro played alternating and he swung like a madman on the Arrival of Victor Feldman. Check out:

    One of the big keys to walking fast tunes is relaxation. If you tighten up, you're done. The saxophonist I play with most likes to play tunes like Bebop or <pick one> Rhythm Changes tunes at EXTREMELY fast tempos and then take 20 choruses. So it becomes an endurance test of maintaining the tempo and the feel without your hands and arms crapping out on you.

    I practice at home playing something like Rhythm Changes with a metronome on 2 and 4 starting at 120 and then 140 and then 150, 160, 170, 180 working my way up. Avalon is another fun up tempo tune do this with. It's really easy to turn the time around at really fast tempos so not doing that is part of the practice process. Again, relaxation is a major key to doing this successfully. Concentrate on monitoring your body for signs it's tightening up and will it to relax. After a while it becomes second nature.

    To answer the question, I've never figured out where my top speed is but we played Let Me See (old Lester Young tune) today at about 300-320 and stayed there for about a good 7 or 8 minutes and then I took a couple of choruses of my own. I do it so often though that I don't really think too much about it anymore (I find it MUCH harder to play slow tempos). That might be the real solution: find guys that want to play at fast tempos and do it all of the time.

  12. played through the whole track with one finger today!
  13. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Depending on the changes of the tune in question, my threshold at any kind of comfort level over an extended period of time is right around 360. Rather than always alternating, what I end up doing on the gig is to relieve the physical tension by switching techniques between sections or choruses whenever the mechanism starts to tighten up. The three basic techniques are:

    1) index only
    2) middle only
    3) alternating
    4) (three finger alternating)
    5) (ring finger only)

    As for the rest, I'm with Marcus in that the key for me is where the accents go. At those tempos, I think it's wise to make large motions at a slower pace and let there be echos or "ripples" off those larger motions. At 360, I would die if I had to accent each note equally, but playing as though I were playing 16th notes at Q=90 or 8th=180 is ultimately a lot more doable and sustainable.

  14. Here's a clip of our friend Eddie Kahn illustrating this (at ~400 bpm):
  15. It's another TalkBass miracle!
  16. I can play three minutes of walking so fast it last about 1 minute 20!! Only joking!
    350 seems excessive, maybe 220ish indefinitely bebop (some doubled notes here and there with little skipping) I can swing at about 200 but not for very long. real swing indefinitely comes in at about 172 or so. I'm out of practice in jazz playing at the moment so don't ask for a demonstration!
  17. chicagodoubler


    Aug 7, 2007
    Chicago, that toddling town
    Endorsing Artist: Lakland, Genz Benz
    A couple points:
    Why do we always try to tuff guy it? What's the point in masochism when it doesn't swing? Ray used 1, 2, or alternating and if you closed your eyes you couldn't tell the difference.


    Rufus recommends breaking things up, or just laying it out sometimes, regardless of tempo to create nuance. Listen to Ron Carter on the burners from the quintet. He very rarely is just humping it for the whole tune. This however, is not a question of technique. It is a question of shape, creativity and subtlety.

    That being said, I payed dues fri-sun for 2 years with a maniac who chugged away well over 400 bpm all the time. He got fired from the gig for playing angular B.S. that alienated the audience. Wanna actually (gasp) keep a gig? Learn how to play tippin' swingers and ballads with aplomb. That's the stuff the girls like...:hyper:
  18. Ah! Universal Truth number 2! Well stumbled upon!
  19. Nathan Parker

    Nathan Parker

    Oct 10, 2008
    Seattle, WA
    This video has been my inspiration for my up-tempo, one finger walkin' technique.

    Hope you find it useful. Or fun.
  20. i have that whole video. it's pretty unbelievable