How to take "easy" walking to the next level?

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by ctrlzjones, Jun 11, 2017.

  1. ctrlzjones


    Jul 11, 2013
    It's a roadblock that I believe all the experienced players must have passed at some point ...

    I am about to play a standard: all the 2 octaves arpeggios are under the hood (scales not so much, but chromatics: yes), I know the changes, I know the melody, I can swing, I am totally willing to play beautiful lines ... But nonetheless the tendency is to apply the same (!) patterns on every chorus, lead by the root and fifth and not being really free to react to the surrounding noise. I am rather bound to a most likely visual pattern the fingers are attracted to follow in every round ...

    It may be a psychological problem: how to let go of preconceptions (do I have to find 'musical shrink?)... But anyway: if someone has anything to say, some routine that helps to loosin' up, I'd be happy to hear about that ....
    Garagiste, Groove Doctor and Enienai like this.
  2. Tom Lane

    Tom Lane Gold Supporting Member

    I'll suggest transcribing or not quite as good playing transcriptions. Either way, memorizing them helps get them into your playing. Another good method, IMO, is to setup exercises for yourself such as start every bar on the 3rd, or play start on the 3rd and then play to the next chord using a scale and then play the closest chord tone of the new chord relative to the last note of the previous measure, etc. I found both approaches helpful.
  3. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    I did a clinic with Ron Carter many moons ago. Even in person, he'd still counsel a lot of root, fifth, but would have us consider not playing one of those two notes on the one.

    But there's always much more to play with other than just note choices - which is the first thing everyone thinks of.

    95% of the time, our jobs when we walk are to be predictable. Making melodies using just root and 5 is hard without being monotonous. I would leave your note choices alone and start exploring simpler things: rhythmic figures, repeated notes, pedals, repeated phrases, dynamics. Then there is stuff related to what the soloist is doing, picking up on their rhythmic hits, tension against what they're playing, etc. Same goes with the drummer. I play lots of root on beat one but somehow never seem to really get bored of it. So many other things to play around with.

    I did a camp with Tootie Heath and he had me pedal the same note through an entire chorus of blues. Once you release the soloist after a few minutes of that, they go crazy with what they play after being held back so long. Changed my walking completely after that.

    Now I try to build up the solo for the soloist, demarcating the end of phrases, helping them delineate chapters in their solo, and then building up the to the climax in their solo. Even if they're not trying to do that, at least they end up having their solo composed anyway. Just as it is for the soloist, walking lines don't just exist in a vacuum.
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2017
  4. unbrokenchain

    unbrokenchain Supporting Member

    Jun 8, 2011
    Black Mountain, NC
    Seems to me like scales are the most important part to know, simple patterns of muscle memory. Practicing all scales and modes across the strings and up the next is the best way to get to know all the notes well, or at least it was for me. I usually stick to something predictable under the head or vocals, and even during the first form or two for someone's solo. But if we're jamming a tune out, I often just nod to the changes by occasionally playing the root on the 1 beat, but otherwise just let my fingers explore while my ears are listening to the other instruments.

    Best part about walking lines is that you get a new chance with each quarter note, really any chromatic can be worked in if you put the right feeling into it. The hardest music imo is the slow, drawn out stuff where if you hit a sour note you have to hang on it for a measure or more.
    tinyd likes this.
  5. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Supporting Member

    Which standard are you playing?
    That might open up a discussion of specific basslines and approaches.
  6. Walk up or down, like a scale, like an arpeggio, or chromatically. That's 6 choices on every change.
  7. ctrlzjones


    Jul 11, 2013
    So you are saying that there are specific approaches for different tunes, besides the obvious differences (AABA, Blues, Modal, Bossa ...) and that there is no "one size fits all" approach? That you should go different with "Afternoon in Paris" and "All The Things"? Interesting, I have never thought about that ...
    But in fact the question goes for all the tunes ...

    Yes, this is useful advice. Obliged.

    But to re-phrase more to the point clearer, as I should have been more precise in the beginning:
    What can be done for preparing the "opening up" of the playing when in battlemode (not only note choices but also and as mentioned: also rhythmic figures, being reative etc)?

    I have a tendency to feel looked-in a posture with a small level of freedom. Any choice I make seems kind of automatic to come and I do not seem to have the time/wisdom/instinct to decide in the moment what is best to do.
    And I was wondering what could be done in preparation for developing a more flexible attiutde ...

    Now: thinking about all that again and a day later the answer seems to be so obvious that I am kind of baffled not to have been aware of that before: One must have a better and deeper understanding and handling of the possible matter (one knows how to get that: transcriptions, playing in all keys etc), so that the egoistic-control-freak can shut down and leave things to the subconscious ...

    Sometimes typing questions is a good way to find answers ... Even if they are kind of pointless; such as "How can I become more creative"?
    unbrokenchain likes this.
  8. sean_on_bass

    sean_on_bass Supporting Member

    Dec 29, 2005
    I think transcription would be a good thing to do in this instance, even if just small bits. Analyzing the lines you like of other players will surely fuel some new ideas and approaches.
    DrayMiles likes this.
  9. tinyd


    Mar 11, 2003
    I'd agree about learning scales. Not because you'll usually play them in their entirety when walking, but because they'll get your fingers used to finding the pool of notes that you can call use when walking. I'd include the bebop and pentatonic scales as well as the regular modes.
  10. Carl Hillman

    Carl Hillman

    Jan 1, 2010
    Listen and transcribe bassists you like, but don't neglect stealing ideas from musicians other than bassists.Transcribing other musicians leads you to all kinds of phrases and ideas that aren't idiomatic to the bass.

    Don't practice things you can already play.

    Practice "in your head", away from the bass. Come up with a line you like, sing it, and then figure out what it is on your instrument.
    krfoss and Groove Doctor like this.
  11. Tom Lane

    Tom Lane Gold Supporting Member

    A good tune to focus on for this is Rhythm Changes - I Got Rhythm - because the harmony is pretty static and nearly no one plays the tune as written in the real books; it begs you to improvise your bass line, IME.
  12. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    That's like saying all blues are the same. I personally try hard to play Blue Monk vs. Au Privave vs. Bags Groove differently. They're different tunes and as a bassist would force a different feel on each and try to cater to each's melody, character of the composer, and the people I'm playing with. Why should you walk the same on each?

    But stating the problem clearly is important - it helps frame the right answers.

    Yes, you have to have all the fundamentals down and make it as automatic as possible. Transcriptions/vocab, scales, arps, memorization, melody; each by themselves is not enough to unlock creative freedom, you need to have them down to at least some modicum of mastery/automaticity. You can focus on listening to your bandmates if you don't know where your fingers should go or losing your place in the form. You can't be aware of your surroundings if you're all tense and trying to keep up with the music itself. To me, the goal is Hal Galpers concept that the instrument should disappear and you simply create the sound directly from what you hear inside. Playing what you hear accurately and timely is no small feat and takes a lot of work in itself.

    I spent a week in a camp with Lawrence Hobgood (ex-MD for Kurt Elling) and he focus on the fact that the really transcendent players focused listening to their bandmates and not focused on what they're doing themselves. As if listening and focusing on your own playing was an equal fraction of attention spent on listening to others playing. As a bassist, are you locking with the drummers ride cymbal? The pianists left hand? Their voicing choices? Accenting rhythmic hits the soloist is making? Accenting hits on a made up shout chorus? On and on.

    I've found that simply trying to keep up and being aware of these concepts takes up a lot of my time. Transcriptions and vocab are useful to an extent but I personally do not spent lots of time doing transcriptions. When I do it, I look at the "verticality" where I also try to examine what's the soloist, comper, and drummer are doing, not to mention where the song is in the lyrics. I never transcribe whole choruses, just fragments but looking at the overall "orchestration".
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2017
  13. DrayMiles


    Feb 24, 2007
    East Coast
    If you want to think differently than scales... I'd suggest...

    Learn the tune in 4 to 8 bar sections
    Maybe think 1, 3, 5 and it's permutations...
    Think inversions on Triads, and take this stuff up to two octaves for a start
    Think of the 3rd's as goal notes, and then remember, c, e, g, ... Maybe c .. open e, to g..
    Take the two-five's and think of the key...

    It's a start anyway...
  14. ctrlzjones


    Jul 11, 2013
    So: no shortcuts. Gotta chew well everything beforehand, digest it and eventually (with the just mindset) become a master of the moment ...

    In a way I was expecting that, knew that ... music that is not pattern based is beautiful ... life that is not pattern based is beautiful ... and you gotta know them well and control them to succed ... the mind is an interesting place ...
    J_Bass and Groove Doctor like this.
  15. DrayMiles


    Feb 24, 2007
    East Coast
    Umm... A mind is a terrible thing to waste... ;)
    SteSte likes this.
  16. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Good advice at multiple levels of the subject matter above. This is a huge subject, and there are no easy answers.

    I'm a big believer in permutations of lines and chunking when using the basic building blocks. I outline the concept in my second walking line video, but the cliff's notes version is that when you find yourself in that "tweener" stage of being able to create basic lines on the fly but also find yourself playing the same lines a lot, it can be helpful to practice your four basic pathways from target note to target note as permutations. In this way, you quickly become aware of what your strengths and weaknesses are and you can begin to focus on the weaker areas.

    The four basic pathways from target to target would be:
    - Linear/scalar up to the next target
    - Linear/scalar down to the next target
    - Arpeggiated up to the next target
    - Arpeggiated down to the next target

    Chunking in this sense refers to having all of these things at the ready so that decisions can be made at the measure-by-measure level rather than note-by-note. I'll often have students choose one or the other and then practice a pattern of movement of chunks over the changes. Say they're working on their linear connections. Start on the first measure, then connect the targets as follows:

    Then do the same with arpeggiated approach. Once those pieces are in play, start mixing the two. With those four basic chunks in play there are a lot of permutations possible, and practicing them systematically can help us get out of ruts that we get into because we tend to always do a certain thing at a certain spot. Once a student gets to this place on any given song, they are ready for a more creative and spontaneous "countermelody" approach to the song because they have a lot to fall back on when they run out of ideas.
    marcox, dtsamples, Garagiste and 3 others like this.
  17. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Tons and tons of great advice above but Huy, you've got it:

    The further point, @ctrlzjones, is that even if you're stuck in a rut, the people you're playing with are not stuck in your rut. They will lead you out if you let them.

    Huy, your words remind me of a saying from the Dalai Lama:
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2017
    Jason Hollar and hdiddy like this.
  18. tmntfan


    Oct 6, 2011
    Victoria Canada
    free jazz it up and start to solo all the time...
    or try and fill in spots where there is space. like in a trio or duo setting.
    Pedaling or playing a two-feel for a few bars also add verity. I like doing the two feel after someone does a big phrase or double times a phrase so it feels like the band is catching their breath.
  19. Tom Lane

    Tom Lane Gold Supporting Member

    Ah, another method I find useful anytime I'm trying to acquire a new aspect of musical vocabulary: compose. In your case, right out a half dozen bass lines to a good chord progression tune like the blues, Autumn Leaves, or All the Things You Are that incorporate the sounds you're working to acquire.
    Don Kasper likes this.
  20. Brilliant technical advice so far. I'll offer something more lateral...
    This. Start with ballads as you have more time between notes.

    Before your play a song, Close your eyes and "travel to somewhere new". Have an emotion or an image you're wanting the songs to embody, and start learning how to shape your playing to suit.
    eg. Georgia On My Mind - I asked the band to imagine it's 2am in a smoky piano bar. We nailed that wistful slow blues feel from that day on.

    Yep. Learn to draw inspiration from your fellow players. One of the best compliments I've gotten was "You were right there!". I followed the soloist in volume, intensity, busyness, etc which helped him play new things. Heck, I even played things I hadn't played before by drawing on his ideas.

    Absolutely. Discuss this with your band mates... just like family, they know how to lift you up if you ask.

    I was in a rut soloing, and the piano player called me to solo.... eight times in a row thru the 16-bar head !!! He let me train wreck, then fumble the melody, nail the melody, improv based on the melody, and by the end I didn't want to stop. He knew I needed to break thru.
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2017
    hdiddy likes this.
  21. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

    May 17, 2022

Share This Page