Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Vampyre, Nov 14, 2005.

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  1. Vampyre

    Vampyre Guest

    Dec 9, 2004
    im sure there has been thousands of threads like this but its late and im too lazy to search

    basicaly...i want to learn how to improv im into more of a jazzy feel over the speed metal type solos ive read about in other posts. I manly want to learn because i now play during school masses and other school related events during the masses we are given books with the chords... and im fine with that but i want to play more than the root notes over and over ive also been told i could have a solo in a few of the more upbeat songs if i wanted

    ive been learning scales and am just starting the different modes but what more do i need to know?

    any help is appreciated
  2. Marcus

    Marcus Guest

    Dec 26, 2004
    NYC & Vancouver, BC
    There's no such thing as "improv" on a musical instrument.

    You learn music theory, it accumulates, you practice and hopefully it gets to the point at which the communiqué of messages from your brain to your fingers becomes so transparent and fast, that you're playing something that strikes other peoples ears.

    I apologize if that is not what you wanted to hear, but you must accept that as reality.
  3. Vampyre

    Vampyre Guest

    Dec 9, 2004
    ok thanks.... im sure others will be more helpful
  4. I don't think that there is a short-cut on this one. At least none that I have learned. What you need to do is take those chord sheets and your knowledge of scales and just start playing little fills. Before long you can expand on some of your fills to become a small solo. :bassist:
  5. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002

    oh boy....

    You don't learn music theory THEN play music. you play music THEN learn music theory, only as a means to understanding what you just played!

    This is the central problem with so many students an musicians in their quest towards musical betterment. They approach theory as this separate entity, like it's a rulebook and they have to abide by it, they approach it detached from music and their instrument, they approach it with the wrong intentions, and the wrong goals.

    In a thread earlier today, Kung Fuqua put it brilliantly.
    "Music theory isn't RULES, it's OBSERVATIONS"

    Approaching improvisation as this enigmatic, difficult to obtain entity that can only be achieve through the study of theory is bollocks.

    YES, you can use the knowledge of our musical forefathers to better ascertain certain concepts and ideas revolving improvisation in various mediums. But, in no way shape or form is the study of theory prerequisite to improvisational ability(or lack thereof).

    Music is expression, it's art, you understand the technical aspect of HOW to create a sound, and from there the possibilities are not only limitless, but they are boundless, and no amount of compartmentalizing through theory will change that.
  6. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002

    My concept of improv is essentially this. There are no wrong notes. To qualify this though ain't easy. Because, clearly, in contexts there ARE wrong notes, but context is malleable in most(arguably all) musical settings. I would have a hard time reconciling improv in G major over a C diminished harmony, but that does not mean I cannot do it. That does not mean I can't make 'wrong' notes sound 'right', that does not mean people won't be able to enjoy it.

    I believe improvisation to be an act that is almost entirely pure expression based on what you have to say through music. It's affected immensely by your ears, your sensibility, your musical sensitivity, your creativity, and to a lesser extent your technical prowess.

    While many cats may not mesh with what you're trying to say, that does not mean you cannot say it. If that is what you hear.

    Obviously, this approach is a bit controversial, and there are many sides and ideas revolving it. I wouldn't go so far as to say that improv is always A or B, or that it is always comprised of X,Y,Z.

    You can get there through the study of theory, you can get there through listening to music, you can get there from breaking down people's solos, trying to emulate and duplicate so that it becomes part of your vocab. etc. There are many paths to excelling at improvisation. I think that with a good ear, and a good sense of what is going on around you musically, the rest will come as it comes via what you have to say.

    More or less, YMMV, grain of salt...etc.
  7. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    Well put, Mr. Data.
  8. Marcus

    Marcus Guest

    Dec 26, 2004
    NYC & Vancouver, BC
    Let's just agree to disagree - or at least for about 90 percent about what you said.

    Sure, it's not a "prerequisite" but do you genuinely see cats out there soloing over tunes without even having a lick of knowledge about scales?

    By the way, you phrased it best when you said theory essentially provides a rule book of a foundation. Of course rules can be broken depending on the feel you're going for, but to downplay the crucial importance of actually knowing what you're playing...

    P.S., never once did I ever imply theory as some "enigmatic, difficult to obtain entity."

    The stuff is simple.

    Just shed it and stuff will make sense!
  9. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    I think it's just 'semantics'.....

    So I could easily say that listening, hearing what sounds good to you in different contexts and creating your own response to musical situations - is actually : "learning theory" !!

    You are learning a theory of how to play - just because it's not written down anywhere, doesn't mean it isn't a theory!!
  10. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002

    Oh, no doubt, I agree 100%, but I highly doubt that's what the poster meant, he seemed to be referring to actual written, textbook, documented...etc. theory. Knowledge as opposed to wisdom and all that.
  11. Marcus

    Marcus Guest

    Dec 26, 2004
    NYC & Vancouver, BC
  12. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002
    I would never downplay the importance of knowing what you're playing. I am saying that knowing what you're playing is in no way required to play. Saying "there is no improv on your instrument, sorry, you have to learn theory first to do that" is incredibly misguided. It's shortsighted and, well... wrong.

    Yes, there are more abstract definitions of 'theory', like bruce suggested, but, to say that you actually NEED to study scales, chords and textbook theory or else what you're doing isn't 'improv'... I don't see how you could possibly support such a position.

    I never said theory is all that hard either, I was making the point that, by separating it from music that you are actually playing, you are taking 3 lefts to a right.

    I also never said theory is a rulebook. It's the opposite!!! If you want to go that route, theory is a guidebook at best. But I would call it... a reference manual.

    As for cats soloing without knowing what they're doing. Yes. Many of the trailblazers and innovators and true musicians of our time come from little or no training. More often than not, astounding playing came first, and the theory came later, as the next generation said "whoa, what the hell were those guys doing?!" I know I've met my fair share of players who have little or no training but can tear up improvisation.

    That's what improvisation is!!!


    And that's my rant for the day. cheers
  13. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002
    So. "theory" that you were referring to in your first post was NOT the study of scales, chords, harmony..etc.? You have not bee advocating reading a book as a prerequisite to being able to improvise? Certainly sounded that way, furthermore, what's this about then?

    or this

  14. NoisemakerD-Lux

    NoisemakerD-Lux Guest

    Oct 12, 2004
    I'd just like to say I really like Wrong Robot's responses.


    Also, that if you look at Billy Sheehan who admittedly knows very little theory... the guy outsolos and outshines any Jazz bassist with 10 times the (theory) knowledge.

    Again, I would never knock theory in and of itself... but I will knock people who rely on it too much and who let it dictate what they play.
  15. ii-v


    Mar 27, 2005
    SLC, UT
    I think that even though this thread is falling well short of answering your questions there are some good points. Theory is learning then applying and it is playing then seeing how it fits. Imho theory can assist musicians where their ear might fall short. Theory can teach principles and successful options over chords (this is personal and you may not like what I like, etc. etc.). Theory, when applied can assist in explaining why certain tones are pleasing to the ear and why others are not (your ears can judge as well). Theory, when applied can teach your ear to enjoy melodies that you previously may not have appreciated the tension and resolution of. There is a whole host of concepts theory has a more difficult time assisting with. Dynamics, emotion and expression to name a few. There is theory for every one of these ideas, but it is not as concrete imho as chord structure and harmony.

    I would first recommend learning the scales (diatonic and parallel) and their theoretical use over chords and changes. Diatonic would be learning the modes, ionian (C major), dorian (D), phrygian(E), lydian(F), mixolydian(G), aeolian (A minor) and locrian (B). Chords are built in thirds and can be taken from the scales. EX.
    CDEFGAB, CEGB (Maj7)
    DEFGABC, DFAC (min7)
    EFGABCD, EGBD (min7)
    FGABCDE, FACE (Maj7)
    GABCDEF, GBDF (G7, Dominant)
    ABCDEFG, ACEG (min7)
    BCDEFGA, BDFA (min7b5) note: classical term is half diminished

    Parallel would be playing them all from one root, we will say C. In this case these scales would look like this:
    C D E F G A B
    C D Eb F G A Bb (b3,b7)
    C Db Eb F G Ab Bb (b2,b3,b6,b7)
    C D E F# G A B (#4)
    C D E F G A Bb (b7)
    C D Eb F G Ab Bb (b3,b6,b7)
    C Db Eb F Gb Ab Bb (b2,b3,b5,b6,b7)

    You said you wanted a jazzy feel. Try learning these scales as well:
    Melodic Minor (and its 7 modes)
    Harmonic Minor (and its 7 modes).

    Once you have done this feel free to shoot me a PM and I will help you with additional direction. It is important that these be viewed as choices, there is nothing wrong with using these scales as a colaboration over a chord. Although without a better grasp of how to use them it will be difficult.

    A byproduct of learning these scales is their ability to help you move around and know your fretboard! Good luck.
  16. Marcus

    Marcus Guest

    Dec 26, 2004
    NYC & Vancouver, BC
    Sure, it is in no way required but when you ask "Hey, what would you suggest I do to benefit my improvisational abilities?" would you respond, "well, play whatever comes to mind?"

    That would make no sense at all, as the individual would still be left at step one of their problem.

    What you're doing, is pulling out arbitrary statements and launching into a tirade over something you're taking far too literally.

    Sure, you do not -need- to study scales, but what are you playing? The stuff is intuitive, no question about it. You're literally perceiving what I had stated as "whip out the fourth edition of Music Theory by Jesus Christ and study until his coming" when the point I was trying to get across was "improv" is a myth! You're essentially playing something in some way that is rooted in theory.

    You're example was "hey, there were greats who had no idea what they were doing" and to that I say, sure, they might not have had a clue, but pull someone else who has some form of knowledge into theory and they'll tell you. Just because the player did not know what they did was an inversion of so on, does not mean they did not do something that could've otherwise been learned.

    Quote where I stated, "okay, pull out a book, throw out your instrument and study," otherwise that inference is incorrect.

    Once again this is semantics. You call it a manual, I call it a rulebook, and they’re essentially the same thing!!! I'm not a huge proponent of music theory myself, but I can genuinely say that if I would have learned the stuff as a kid, I would be ten times better than I am today. Sure, I would've improved, and I did, but it would have been exponential if I knew the LOGIC behind what was being done.

    Do you just assume I'm talking about an education at a conservatory or even private lessons? Jeez man, theory is something you could learn from a $10 book book from Barnes & Noble over the span of a few months. To equate the logic behind my reasoning to "innovators and true musicians" is ridiculous, as that is most subjective. Once again I reiterate, they might not have had a clue as to what they were doing, but nine times out of ten, an individual would have been able to say, "Oh, I dig your chord voicing of..."

    The point I'm trying to make is this: Improvisation, when done by lets say Jaco Pastorius, was knowing what to play, how to play it, and where. Rhythmic stuff, such as him slamming down on the board with his palm and sliding, yes, that is improvisation as he adding another dimension to his instrument, but actually playing NOTES is again what I referred to above. There is no easy way to say, "Oh, I'm going to be a better improviser by having someone say 'do this'." You can practice, which many people do for years without ever learning how to read a chart, and so on, or learn the stuff and employ that knowledge in further understanding what it is you are trying to do.

    Man. You sure got worked up over this :scowl:
  17. ii-v


    Mar 27, 2005
    SLC, UT
    Define outsolos please. Is it in reference to speed? Quality of melody or harmony over chord changes? I find this post interesting because the nature of a solo is quite subjective. He "outsolos and outshines any Jazz bassist", if that is the case you must have some great criteria for what a solo should express, please elaborate.
  18. Marcus

    Marcus Guest

    Dec 26, 2004
    NYC & Vancouver, BC
    Interesting read.

    Definitely worth a print out for anyone who wants to get crackin'
  19. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002
    Your first post, marc, was very misguided and terse. You provided a short-sighted opinion as an absolute without any backing or even much information to support it. When I called you on it, it got more ugly as you started to change what you initially had said to be slightly less absolute. Yes, I did get a bit worked up, I apologize. No hard feelings :)

    The point stands though. Approaching improvisation as an unobtainable something unless you study is a poor way to approach it. You can learn tons about improvisation through study, but to say that it is the only way to approach it... that is a very unwise thing to say.
  20. Marcus

    Marcus Guest

    Dec 26, 2004
    NYC & Vancouver, BC
    I agree with you on that, what I did say was rather... well... I'll just stick with concise, but I really, really had to stress the critical importance of learning at very least some theory. Having only recently (as in the past few years) learned -some- theory myself, I find that it would have helped immensely to have had that knowledge much, much sooner.

    Never any hard feeling on TB, just differences in opinion :smug:
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