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How to get good at Jazz fast (or efficiently)

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by SirFunk, Sep 30, 2005.

  1. SirFunk


    May 24, 2001
    Lincoln, NE
    Ok, I'm just wondering if anyone out there can offer me any suggestions on how to become a better jazz bass player.

    My situation:
    I go to a music school with 20 bassists. Out of those 20 bassists maybe 8 play jazz regularly and there's a few non-bass majors who also play jazz bass. There are 2 pianists who play jazz. That's a pretty bad ratio. Anywho, that means unless you are one of the top few jazzers you don't get to play. I'm not one of the top few. Our teacher won't do any jazz stuff with us until we're really good with classical stuff. Which i'm not. The good guys get the chance to get better, the rest of us are SOL

    Anyway, so I'm wondering what everyone would recommend as things you can work on on your own. I can sit in a practice room for hours playing bass lines, but it doesn't really seem to help much. Any books or video's or anything anyone would suggest?

    Oh, and yeah, I have tons of classical stuff to work on so, what's the "most efficient" way to get better (i.e. least practice time used in the best way)

    I'm mostly concerned with being a good bass player.. not a fantastic soloist.

    Here's a few tracks from a coffee house gig i had a while ago.. not anything particularly good in my opinion but it's the only recording i have laying around. (no drummer ugh) Feel free to rip me apart.

    Green Dolphin Street
  2. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    My sound card isn't working, so I'll have to check out the clips another day.

    My best suggestions are these, in no particular order: Listen to jazz constantly - get an iPod or someting similar. Put together as many sessions as you can. Catch as many of the best players live that you can. See if you can find some older players in the area and bug them, eventually one will take a liking to you (or pity) and tutor you. Find a teacher outside of the school - on ANY instrument. Get into a better scene next year.

    I could go on a bit longer, but this is a good start. :)
  3. Freddels

    Freddels Musical Anarchist

    Apr 7, 2005
    Sutton, MA
    Wow, a place that has more bass players than pianists? That's generally unheard of. What school is this?

    How about guitarists?

    Without others to play with the next best thing is Aebersold albums. Get the blues in 12 keys one and one with rhythm changes. Play with them over and over again.

    Find some other players to play with.
    Listen to jazz all the time. Listen to Blanton, Pettiford, Ray Brown, Rufus Reid. The Rufus Reid video and book are really good too.
  4. tzadik


    Jan 6, 2005
    Thanks for sharing the clips. You're lucky - It's great to have people around to play with.

    As you already know, there is no fast way to get good. I have a few suggestions which I offer most humbly, as I am no expert myself. And maybe you are already doing them anyway. Regardless - here.

    It sounds like you have some good ideas. My first reactions are 1) that you play lots of notes: would you truly stand behind each one? Would you play like that if Dave Holland was in the room? Would you really want to have that many notes out on the table, requiring your responsibility?

    and 2) I think you need lots and lots of milage playing with people. Your timing and intonation stuff will be solved by more playing, preferabel with a very good drummer or pianist, but metronomes are helpful too.

    Also, your attack is strong. I like.
  5. SirFunk


    May 24, 2001
    Lincoln, NE
    That's the problem.. there are some good people aorund.. Like those guys on the recording... The problem is, i'm not the best bass player around anymore, so they never want to gig with me, i get to play maybe once a month or something.

    Are you talking about durring my solos? or in general? I guess your right in both casses. Generally in my solos I'm too scared to commit to long tones. In my bass lines, i guess i get bored too quick.

    I agree... unfortunately i hardly ever get to play with people.. guess i'll have to stick to metronomes and abersol for now.

    thanks for the feedback.
  6. SirFunk, what kind of classical are you working on? I work with my students on the Simandl method. With students who want to play jazz, the idea is to learn position exercises to gain a knowledge of the instrument. It's easier to give a student other things that are jazz specific if the student knows how to play the stuff, where to find the notes to play things. Your teacher may not give you much time to play, but on your own you want to start putting together a sense of 'feel' on the instrument, your style. You can put together the pieces to give people a reason to want to call you and no one else.

  7. SirFunk


    May 24, 2001
    Lincoln, NE
    Hi :p Well, I guess i do mostly simandl, I use the etude book I have the method book but i never really looked at it. Whatever i do is more simandl-ish than rabbath-ish though. Right now i'm working on the 1st movement of Dragonetti, Koussavitsky(sp?)'s Chanson Triste, a simandl and some other etude (forget who) As well as 3 "scale packages". Plus 6 or so pieces for orchestra.

    Yeah, I guess my question then is.. what can i do on my own to give people the reason to want to call me. That's the tough part though.

  8. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    WHy don't you make the calls. Better players will reward you with their presence when they see that you're eager to learn AND improving. Providing the beer also helps. Ya gotta be proactive...
  9. Freddels

    Freddels Musical Anarchist

    Apr 7, 2005
    Sutton, MA
    I guess you could hustle up some gigs. Then if they want to get paid to play they've got to play with you.
  10. SirFunk


    May 24, 2001
    Lincoln, NE
    haha, both of you had a very good point..

    You're right, that is a good idea... It's really hard around here to find gigs that pay.. and i'm always terrified of telling someone i'll play for them; then the pianist/drummer's that are around are busy/sick/don't want to play, and then having to tell them i can't play anymore. I'll try to find some gigs that pay real money soon though, hopefully that will help.

    Back to my main question though.. what can i do to improve my playing? Is playing with other people the only way?
  11. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    Not that i'm a gigging bassist or nuttin, but I would tend to think that playing with solid time, good feel, and a strong command of the song structure would go a long way. Basically, everything that Ray has been pushing all along. IMO, holding down the bass role would be more important than being able to play flashy solo's. I can't see how you can get good in a hurry, otherwise I'd be doing it myself.

    I don't think anything can really replace playing alot, namely playing with others in any situation. I'd just play out every chance I get, even if the players I'm playing with aren't so good. Have you looked into going to jam sessions at jazz bars and such? Eat, sleep, and drink it.
  12. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Being in over your head as much as possible and busting ass to keep up will improve your playing faster than anything else.
  13. Brent Nussey

    Brent Nussey

    Jun 27, 2001
    Tokyo, Japan
    Why don’t you start transcribing? By that I don’t just mean write down what notes a guy plays during a performance. You start with that, ok, but what you do is you learn to play that one performance *exactly* as the original player did. Articulations, time feel, note choice, everything. This is not to turn you into a clone of the player you’re studying. If you do a little of this, you learn about how a master made note choices, made his lines swing, developed the tune/his ideas both in his lines and solos, and you’ll actually get to feel what it feels like to produce this kind of performance. Not the creative part exactly, but conceptually and technically. It’ll also teach you how to control your instrument to produce the sounds you are hearing, and you have a handy reference (the original recording) to measure your success by. Also, if you study several different bassists, you’ll develop the ability to easily hear the differences in each guy’s style and approach, and can make better decisions about what you want to play. On your recorded tracks I noticed you drop the beat a few times and the beat wavers, especially when playing little fills. Learning some great bass performances will give you an idea how to make your fills more effective, and playing them with the record will help you to feel to play them without dropping the time. It’ll also improve your concentration for this kind of context. Lastly, you’ll learn that almost no modern jazz bassists slap the bass like that.

    This is a big part of how most of the great players learned the music. It’s simple really. If you love the music, just dig in and try and figure out how it works. When you hear something you like, learn it.

    If I can offer a last bit of advice, try to think in a little longer ideas with your walking lines. You seem to be thinking just note to note often, and it makes for some go-nowhere lines, but more important, it makes the time less steady. If you walk across a dirt field while looking down at your feet, when you look back you’ll see that your feet kind of meander around, your gait won’t be so straight. On the other hand, if you pick a spot across the field, keep your eyes on it, and walk across the field toward it, you’ll find you’ll walk in a much straighter, even way.

    I’m a little nervous about saying this without having you here with me, but based on your recordings, maybe one thing you could consider is thinking of your right hand as a little independent of your left for a while. That is, even if you can’t think of a good next note to play in your left, your right hand still has to play the next beat in time, without fail. Just get that motion going. A lot of how the beat sounds comes down to note choice, but sometimes guys are at a stage where they have to realize they can’t let thinking hold the beat back. Something to consider, anyway.

    What other (non-bassists) want from the bass player is a guy who plays solid time, who provides notes that line out the chords (even if it’s not “clever”), and who *never* messes up the form. I’d make those your priorities for now.

    Good luck.

  14. tzadik


    Jan 6, 2005
    To clarify...

    In my *opinion*, I would say that both in your bass lines and in your solos, that you are playing way too many notes - for my personal taste. And of course I encourage and welcome people to disagree or agree or not care or whatever.

    My thoughts: <b>If you cannot play one big fat note and be confident about what it's going to sound like, than for pete's sake, DON'T play 4,249 little notes!</b> You're still going to sound like you don't know why and it makes the confidence thing stand out pretty frightfully. I do not mean to sound harsh at ALL - this is, again completely opinion and not fact!

    I also agree with Brent on the "think longer". Think in terms of four bar chunks. Or longer. And also I think everyone should transcribe everything, all the time. Everything you hear, wonder what it is, notice how it sounds in ralation to everything else, and think about the type of effect it had on the situation: startling? superfluous? funny? random? hip?

    Again, this is just my opinion, but I can't stand Aebersold. I am sure there are some things it is good for, and the idea is excellent, but I think it is a million zillion trillion times more valuable to play with other people. Can you not call Mr/Ms.GoodPianist and say, meet me for an hour of tunes sometime? Better yet, ask them to come over and help. People love to feel like someone thinks they are awesome enough to "help". That'll get em to play with you! Just HOLD BACK and don't let all the notes get in the way of the simple, elegant bass lines that you will be playing. :)
  15. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Sounds good to me. (Brent's bit)
  16. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Ha - that's exactly my feeling - there really is no quick way and one of the big things that makes me appreciate Jazz, when I go to gigs every week - is that you know those guys have put in the time and effort to get where they are! :)
  17. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    Actually there's a book out there that gives alot of functional advice that covers muscianship, crash-course theory, practice tips and soloing ideas too. It's a Sher Msuic book called "Metaphors for the Musician" by Randy Halberstadt. I was just going through some of the ideas last night, and I find the book extremely valuable as an aid to getting up to speed in an efficient way. It's written from the pianist perspective, but alot of it just applies to being a musician in general.

    I don't think that a seasoned pro would get all that much out of the book, but for newbies or whatnot, I think it's a great starting point to help you understand some of the things going on and what you have to learn.
  18. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
  19. Dan1099

    Dan1099 Dumbing My Process Down

    Aug 7, 2004
    I'll second that. Phew. Nothing makes you work harder than wanting to not look like an ass when you play with people you respect.
  20. B. Graham

    B. Graham Guest

    Aug 11, 2002
    I always liked the Jamey Abersold Play-A-Long stuff. If your stereo has a balance control you can set it all the way left or right to filter out the bassist on the recording.