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Improvisation

Discussion in 'Ask Michael Dimin' started by stephanie, Mar 30, 2001.


  1. stephanie

    stephanie

    Nov 14, 2000
    Scranton, PA
    Hello,

    Some time ago I mentioned to Steve about 'improvising' a bassline. My teacher had given me a few chords and I had to make up the bassline around them. At that time I was allowed to write down what I wrote.

    But now, he gave me a few chords and I have to improvise again, but I'm not allowed to write down what I'm doing. And I have to play at different tempos as well.

    I seem to be having a problem making up things as I go along. I can start off OK. But then I either start playing the wrong chord, playing the wrong notes in the chord, or just play something that doesn't sound good, sounds rather boring. I can feel some of it is just jitters of being 'put on the spot'. LOL. Cuz I know what notes I'm playing for the chord. I practice them over and over again.

    Is there some technique, some way, that can help with improvisation? This is something I'd really like to hone, that I'd like to be good at...as with anything having to do with the bass of course. :)

    Thanks,

    ~stephanie
     
  2. ok, i'm not too good with making up basslines by means of bass solos, but what i find works well is to sit down/stand up and relax. I am into death metal so don't laugh at this following bit. I put on the Classical station, close my eyes and play along to the melody, i let my fingers go, let them walk.

    In your case, start on the note(s) and just play. Don't think. If i can't stand the classical songs, i turn it off, stand there and let my fingers go. Sometimes you can be playing, most of it sounds crap but one line, be it three notes can sound ok, then you work on that, then something else will come.

    If you try to think of something, then it rarely comes out good. I was stressing about a solo i had to write for my band, in the end i just played anything at rehearsal and they were like "hey thats cool man!" :p pity i keep just playing "anything" lolol

    Merls
     
  3. Mike Dimin

    Mike Dimin

    Dec 11, 1999
    Clinician: EA, Zon, Boomerang, TI. Author "The Art of Solo Bass"
    Stephanie,
    I have a couple of suggestions for you. If we "define" what a good bass line is - we can set a goal for ourselves. I recently had the opportunity to hang with and listen to Chuck Rainey, once again he has defined for me the meaning of a great bass line (improvised or not)!

    If we define a great bass line as a line that:
    First and formost - serves the song. It must lock with the drummer and create a strong rhythmic feel. As well, a great bass line needs to support the singer/lead player by creatively outlining the harmony without overpowering or getting in the way.

    Although this sounds imposing, it gives us some real parameters to work within. The fact that you start out "OK" is wonderful. The next steps are then easy enough.

    In trying to support the song, lock in with the drummer and yet go relatively unnoticed by the singer/lead player (not stepping on their toes, so to speak) - a simple bass line played with authority is the best way to start. Because your goal is to support the song, changing the bass line too much, too quickly can be problematic. Use that simple but authoratative bass line to set up a groove, slowly throughout the tune embellish the bass line with a fill, a run that transitions from one chord to the next, an upper register douple stop (2 notes at once), etc. The key is to develop the bass line over time, allow it to breath, embellish it or change it over a period of time.

    This way you can really stay focused on the feel and the harmony, develop an intesting line that changes, grows and develops throughout the piece and serves the song.

    Hope this helps

    Mike Dimin
     
  4. Mike

    Mike

    Sep 7, 2000
    Cali
    Realize too Stephanie that improvisation is an art in and of itself. Some nights/days you will "feel" it and be convinced you have been asisted by God. On other days, everything you do will contort your face with absolute disgust and make you wonder why you ever bothered to pick up an instrument. Anyone can improvise and everyone should. However, in my experience, I've found that some days you are on and on other days you are OFF. Just keep playing around with it and eventually you'll probably come up with something your satisfied with.

    Sorry to interfere, Mike. I didn't mean to take over your house. :)
     
  5. stephanie

    stephanie

    Nov 14, 2000
    Scranton, PA
    Thanks guys for the suggestions. They're a lot of help. :)

    and paleale, you are so right on. Somedays are such off days I don't even feel like practicing at all and I push myself then i get all upset..lol...cuz I think..if i don't feel like practicing does this mean that i'm not really passionate about what I'm doing? hell..I thought i was? But I suppose everyone has those days.

    Thanks,

    ~stephanie
     
  6. Mike Dimin

    Mike Dimin

    Dec 11, 1999
    Clinician: EA, Zon, Boomerang, TI. Author "The Art of Solo Bass"
    Kenny Werner's book, "Effortless Mastery" addresses just this feeling. It is important to allow yourself to fail without beating yourself up emotionally. We learn most from our mistakes. Having a bad day is NOT a reflection on your ability, your passion or anything else - it is just a bad day, that's it. On the other hand it is important to put the great days in a similar perspective. If we pat ourselves on the back, and get a bit egotistical about the good days - it can be just as harmful. It breeds complacency. We tend to then stick with what has worked in the past and don't grow as musicians and as people. Try to remove the ego from your playing. Try to disconnect any relationship between having a good/bad day with your self esteem. Let the music flow!

    Mike
     
  7. What about me?! :( Gee its so hard to make a buck in this town without selling my body. :eek: lol

    Improv is cool. although as a bass player (and i assume many do this) I set too high a goal for myself. I will play something that my band says "hey thats cool" and i'll be like "nup crap!" Oh well, back to my street corner, i mean room, oh crap.

    Merls