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How to improvise?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by TheYoungBassist, Jan 19, 2012.

  1. TheYoungBassist


    Jul 6, 2011
    Amateur Bassist: Soloist, Recording Artist
    What are some good techniques that would help me be able to play a nice improvised line?
  2. Techniques wont do it.... knowledge will. Try this .....
    Title 04 chunk 1 - YouTube

    To get the gist of this you will need to have a basic understanding of scales and knowledge of your fingerboard.
  3. BassChuck

    BassChuck Supporting Member

    Nov 15, 2005
    The Jeff Berlin vid is great and Marty is most correct that knowledge will carry the moment.

    Improvising is composing on the spot. Anything that helps you understand your instrument or advances your knowledge of music or lets you be more aware and familiar with the piece you are improvising on will make you a better player. There's no real shortcut, it takes time and lots of hard work.
  4. kr0n


    Feb 4, 2009
    Hear chords, use scales, think intervals, feel rhythm.
  5. ZanaZulu807


    Aug 6, 2007
    Do y'all have a varied list of scales to follow? I've hit a bit of a speedbump and everything I'm improvising lately always goes back to the same thing, which also screws up the muscle memory in my hands as I'm getting too comfortable playing it instead of drifting off to something newer and complicated. Much thanks in advance...
  6. JTE

    JTE Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    Do you know the chords you're soloing over? That's a critical starting point- and I don't mean that you know the names of 'em. "Know" in this instance means at a minimum that you KNOW:

    The notes in each chord
    How the chords relate to each other
    What they sound like

    You should also know the melody to the song, it's a goo starting point for a solo. But here's the REAL answer to soloing...

    A. Put your bass down, lock it up in its case.
    B. Listen to the what you're going to be soloing over again and again. At least fifty times. Don't analyze, just listen.
    C. Listen to it a few times again, but now start thinking what a good solo would sound like to you.
    D. SING an improvised solo, and record it.
    E. Only now get your bass out, and make yourself learn precisely what you sang. Every little nuance- dynamics, rhythm, notes, attack, slurs, etc.
    F. Analyze what you did- look for where you used chord tones and passing tones, where you put the notes in the rhythm, how you built up the flow of the solo, etc.

    That gets you past the mechanical stuff and into making music. And also listen to great soloist- and almost no bassist is really a great soloist. If you heard the same solo played by a good guitarist, saxophone, trumpet, or keyboard would it still be a great solo? So listen to folks who really are great soloists, because solos are NOT at all about the specific instrument, but about the music that comes out.

    And until you have chords down cold, don't worry about any scales except the diatonic major scale, and perhaps the pentatonic minor scale.

  7. jack_wantz


    Jan 20, 2012
    Exellent answer :D !
  8. Phalex

    Phalex Semper Gumby Supporting Member

    Oct 3, 2006
    G.R. MI
    Notes are like fruit. Only pick the ones that are ripe.

    I totally stole that fron Carlos Santana, actually I think he stole it too, but it's a very cool concept.
  9. LayDownABoogie


    Jan 3, 2012
    Listen to alot of George Benson. Play along.
  10. Snarf


    Jan 23, 2005
    Glen Cove, NY
    Use right hand fingers to pluck strings, stop strings with left hand fingers?

    Question is too broad.
  11. DiabolusInMusic

    DiabolusInMusic Functionless Art is Merely Tolerated Vandalism Supporting Member

    We should be asking you OP, it says your the soloist in your tag...

    But yeah, I'll go with the above post
  12. Jinro


    Oct 9, 2011
    West TN
    Not to hijack the thread, but what if you can't do part C? For the life of me I cannot create any kind of musical phrase in my head; I can't even correctly repeat a musical phrase after hearing it (which is probably more of a short-term memory problem). But as far as creating my own musical phrase, it seems that the creative center of my brain is literally dead. Is this something that just comes with experience and exposure to music? Or was I just born to be an uncreative drone?
  13. The secret to Jaco's solos was..... melodies.
  14. Mike M.

    Mike M.

    Feb 14, 2010
    I don't have as much time to practice as I'd like to. So in an attempt to keep my brain and fingers somewhat in shape, there's a CD/book pack I found that's really helping me out.

    "The Bassist's Guide To Creativity." It's by Chris Kringel and it's available thru Hal Leonard publishing.

    There's examples of a lot of differant chord progressions in differant styles and in differant keys (with full band backup) in which one (or a few) examples are given as to what you could play on bass. Then they'll play the same track with no bass so you can do your thing.

    Some of the examples aren't as long as I'd like them to be, so I recorded them onto my looper and can now play along as long as I'd like. But it's really helping me to learn my way around the fingerboard much better and my improvising has taken a step forward.

    For someone like me who doesn't have the time right now for a band but who want's to try to keep the wheels moving forward, this book has been of tremendous help.
  15. Jinro


    Oct 9, 2011
    West TN
    I'll have to pick that book up--sounds like just the thing I need.
  16. Mike M.

    Mike M.

    Feb 14, 2010
    I've barely scratched the surface and it's already helped me out a great deal. Covers a lot of ground.

    For example: I play at church about once a month and barely have time to learn the songs. I was always a bit afraid to try and improvise on certain things live, but already (with the help from this book) I've found I'm more willing to take that chance because it's helped me to find my way around.

    Don't get me wrong, as I've got MILES to go. But it's a good start.
  17. A solo is a counter melody. As you're listening for 50 times sing along and gradually change a phrase here, a phrase there. It might even be just singing an ascending line over the melody's descending line. It wont come fast, but it will come. Another angle is to learn to play the melody. Many great solos are not blazing masterpieces of bebop substitions, they are variations on the actual melody line. Jaco said the key to improvising over a melody is to learn the melody first.
  18. Youngspanion

    Youngspanion Supporting Member

    Jun 16, 2003
    Staten Island, NY
    He said improvise. Thats not the same as soloing. I believe he means fills over chords.
  19. Youngspanion

    Youngspanion Supporting Member

    Jun 16, 2003
    Staten Island, NY
    good tip Mike
  20. Russell L

    Russell L

    Mar 5, 2011
    Cayce, SC
    Why could I improvise on piano at age 8, but one of my college music professors could not at age 40?

    It's not all about the knowledge. At age eight I did know something, though. I knew the way things "looked" on the keyboard, and I associated those "looks" with the sounds that had become familiar to me. At that point, without knowing the theory that we talk about so much, if I wanted to invent something I had some ideas as to what would work. I could tell what notes would blend in with the chords---or, that is, I knew that certain principles applied, and knew what they were. I just didn't have a name for it all. How did I learn it?

    Ear training, and many hours playing did it for me. I think we all have an ear, to whatever extent. Some may be better than others, some don't even know they have one. The other ingredient needed in order to improvise requires that the player give care to the wind, that is, let go enough to explore. To some that may indeed be the stumbling block. We all think that it is the act of trying that makes something happen, when in fact we should instead "let" it happen. I found this to be true at an early age when I first ever let my mind wander as I was tinkling away on the ivories. It was an epiphany that gave birth to the hunger that has driven me musically for over half a century.

    Study the basics of scales and chord structure so that you have that in the back of your mind. Then, without thinking let yourself say what you want on your instrument.

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