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I discovered I have ears

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by jazzmonk, Mar 21, 2005.

  1. jazzmonk


    Feb 24, 2004
    Dallas, TX
    Folks, I've played 6-string guitars off and on for years. I took lessons off and on for years without really getting anywhere musically. The instructors would always steer me towards theory which I soaked up but I didn't know how to use. It was all intellectual and it didn't do me any good when we jammed - I would end up doing something mechanical (scale patterns, arpeggios). At home, whenever I picked up the guitar I would always play pre-arranged jazz tunes or rock riffs. I rarely strayed from what was written - I didn't know how to improvise and I didn't trust my abilities to play what I was hearing in my head.

    Well, I bought a bass a year ago to experiment with and to satisfy my curiousity about the instrument (and because my gear lust has no bounds or common sense :p ). To my surprise, I "resonate" better with the bass: I find it easier to experiment with AND eventually I was able to play what I heard in my head JUST by sliding around.

    This is a defining moment for me because I discovered that I have usable ears, and by sliding around until I hear the pitch in my head I can now transcribe recorded music and improvise (just not in real time). This has changed my perspective of the instrument (bass and guitar) completely! Before this revelation, I perceived the instrument as a Rubik's cube with strings wherein the right (and absolute) combination of fret positions unlocks the sound. The frets became an obstacle to the music because I was more focused on the fret position than I was on the pitch it produced. Now, I see the instrument as a means to the music and the frets not as an obstacle but as convenience markers.

    So now I want to train my fingers to fret the right pitch rather than fret the wrong note then slide to the right pitch. It would seem that interval training with the instrument in hand would do the trick. Considering that for many years I focused on the wrong thing until now, what should I pay attention to when I'm doing interval training for it to be effective?

    This may seem obvious some people, but I wished I had made this discovery years ago - I would have gotten more out of my lessons and more joy/connection with the music I was mechanically cranking out. By writing this blurb I hope others can shave a few years from their personal development.

    I would love to hear your defining moments and what you got out of it. Help me shave a few years or at least see beyond the obvious when it's not.
  2. DaftCat


    Jul 26, 2004
    Medicine Hat
    For me it was(still is) trial and error. Way back, someone posted a suggestion about printing out and memorizing the fret board. If I recall, one poster even mentioned he looks at such a chart when he gets up out of bed.

    Hope this helps.. I am still learning this stuff myself.
  3. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Augusta GA
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    well, no. There's a lot that needs to be going on concurrently.
    1. you need to be working on playing two octave major, harmonic and melodic minor scales in two octaves and with different fingerings in all 12 keys to work on fingerboard familiarity and getting position shifts, alternating fingers (or up and downstrokes if you use a pick) etc. comfortable at a wide tempo range
    2. playing triads in closed and open positions in all 12 key centers
    3. playing all the 4 part chords (major 7, dominant 7, minor 7, diminished 7 b5{half diminished} augmented, mediant and tonic minor {minor major 7} in closed and open position to work out fingering issues AND to help get the sound of the chord quality in your ears
    4 EAR TRAINING - singing and identifying intervals within the octave,, singing and identifying intervals in the second octave (tensions), singing and identifying closed position triads, singing and identifying open position triads, 4 part chords, 4 part chords with one tension, 4 part chords with 2 tensions.
    With a keyboard, you need something that can hold six pitches at the same time.
    5. TRANSCRIBING - solos and lines,starting at half speed, singing them til you get all the nuances, than at full speed again with all the nuances and THEN picking up your instrument and playing the notes that you can sing and then identify and then play because you HEAR that it's step wise motion til the third note and then goes up a minor triad arpeggio and ends on the b9 or the next chord.

    No slipping. NO sliding. You just play the notes you mean to play cause you hear them and you know where they are cause you can hear where they are.

    Music is not about hunt and peck, music is about hearing with clarity and being able to convey WHAt you are hearing with clarity.
  4. jazzmonk


    Feb 24, 2004
    Dallas, TX
    Thanks DaftCat!

    Good stuff, Ed! I really appreciate your broader point of view.
    But perhaps I should change my username to DaftMonk :) because for me there seems to be a gap (a minor omission maybe?) between suggestions 1-5 and "play the notes you mean to play cause you hear them and you know where they are cause you can hear where they are".

    I want my fingers to automatically fret the notes I mean to play in same way that I can touch-type without hunting and pecking for the right keys. For this to happen I imagine that during transcribing and interval training, you would:
    1 identify the interval between the notes
    2 figure the fret distances and string jumps to play that note
    3 internalize the interval (1) with the mechanical steps of (2)
    4 decrease the time it takes to go through these steps (1-3) to the point that it's second-nature

    I'm guessing that this is the missing gap for me, but perhaps you can better explain how you arrived at "playing the notes you mean" from suggestions 1-5.
  5. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Augusta GA
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    When you transcribe somebody's solo line, what are you doing? You are listening to the solo and internalising the phrases and pitches, so that you can sing the solo accurately. Pitchwise, in the correct place rhythmically AND with all the nuances (attack, decay, vibrato, legato, dynamics etc.).

    When you are practicing scalework and arpeggios, you are teaching your fingers how to get around the fingerboard in a variety of ways, so that you can start on any (fingerboard) finger.

    When you are doing ear training, you are working on your ability to clearly hear and clearly reproduce (by singing) the notes you are hearing. First interval relationships, then chordal relationships. You are working on "understanding" the sounds the same way you understand language. So that you don't have to stop and go " OK that first interval is a minor third and that second is a tritone from the second note, so I'm hearing a first inversion diminished triad", you just "hear" diminished and "hear" that it's got a wide interval at the top so it's an inversion and the first inversion. Kind of the same way when you pull up to a STOP sign you don't have to spell and define the word, see that the sign is red and that it's hexagonal and try to determine why someone would put a hexagonal red sign with a word on it near an intersection.
    You just see the sign and you stop. It has meaning.

    SO now you're transcribing and singing this solo. You go to pick up your bass and you sing the first note. If you don't have perfect pitch, you find that note. And then, from that note forward, everything should have some relationship/meaning that unfolds before you, right? Becuase you hear THIS SET OF NOTES(transcriing) in a phrase and it sounds like THESE INTERVALS AND OR ARPEGGIOS(ear training) and THIS INTERVAL IS THIS FAR AWAY FROM THE FIRST NOTE AND THE SECOND PART OF THE PHRASE IS AN ARPEGGIO STARTING HERE (scalework and arpeggio work). Clear so far?

    When you are improvising a line, you are doing exactly the same stuff as above. With the exception of the notes you are "hearing" are coming from your imagination instead of out f Sonny Rollins' tenor. You hear your own voice (with enough work) and you play that.
  6. jazzmonk


    Feb 24, 2004
    Dallas, TX
    This helps alot, Ed, when you show how it all fits together with real world examples. Thanks.

    It sounds like the answer to my question is in the 4th paragraph. I don't have perfect pitch, so I still have to find the initial pitch I hear in my head, but from there on interval relationship and arpeggios (ear training) should be my guide for fretting the rest of the line. I imagine that inially this will be a slow process, but with practice I can play what I hear in real time. I'll buy that, I'll certainly give it a try.
  7. Tash


    Feb 13, 2005
    Bel Air Maryland
    If you have the time go to your local community college and take a course in ear training if one is available. They are usually very cheap if taken on a non credit basis. Hell if you show up on the first day and ask the instructor if you can audit you can probably get through it for free. It may be part of basic music theory, or it may be seperate.

    This will guide you through the basics of training your ear. The only other thing is practice. I don't do enough of this, which why I pull Ds in ear training yet get perfect scores on my theory exams...

    Yeah, practice, lots of practice.
  8. captainbeardo


    Mar 11, 2005
    What do you mean by open and closed positions?
  9. Surgeon


    Mar 4, 2003
    North Dakota
    I love this new passion of mine but when I read posts like these I can't help but feel a bit overwhelmed.

    I know, I know....I'm gonna go practice right now.

    Victor Wooten, in the live at Bass Day '98 video, compares soloing to speaking. If you're familiar enough with the language (in this case music) you don't think about the individual words/phrases/syllables you just talk. Unfortunately, in the language of music I only know how to say hello, goodbye, and where's the bathroom. :D
  10. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Augusta GA
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Closed position means in order, open means apart
    Cmaj triad & inversions in closed
    C E G
    E G C
    G C E
    in open
    C G E
    E C G
    G E C
  11. WillPlay4Food

    WillPlay4Food Now With More Metal! Supporting Member

    Apr 9, 2002
    Orbiting HQ
    Thank you for clarifying this. I thought opened or closed positions had something to do with fingering, not with chord tone order.

    Geez, I think TB should add a mod to just show Fuqua's posts. :)
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