Psst... Ready to join TalkBass and start posting, make new friends, sell your gear, and more?  Register your free account in 30 seconds.

Improvisation...

Discussion in 'Ask Steve Lawson & Michael Manring' started by relman, Oct 10, 2001.


  1. alright, i am having some troubles with this art...it seems that i keep playing the same patterns, and it gets repetitive and boring. Any ideas on what i should do? New Scales? I'm mostly doing improv in Jazz and rock, and i'm not very sure what scalse would suit each style the best...could you help me out?

    thanks

    Ariel
     
  2. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    Hi Ariel,

    good question - first of all, don't worry, every musician I know is still working on widening their improvisatory skills. If you can play anything off the top of your head when faced with a chord progression or such like, then you're half way there...

    I guess the essence of improv for me is that it's not about playing completely new music everytime you play, but more about using the various musical devices that you have at your disposal to create something complementary to whatever else is going on. So the patterns that you're stuck with are a big part of the process, you just need more ways to go, more 'patterns' and a deeper understanding of what can be done with those patterns. All music is about patterns in some sense (though I guess ultimately you'd want to forget about seeing shapes and be more into hearing lines...) so familiarising yourself with the various possible permutations of a particular arpeggio, scale pattern, sequence, rhythmic exercise is going to give you more options the next time you decide that that is the vague area you want to work in. For example - you're playing over a blues - the first chord is C7, what are you options? What can you do with the notes that relate to C7, the arpeggio, a C Mixolydian, C alt, C Lydian dominant or just mad chromatic stuff? what do each of those options do to the music? which direction do they point in? Do they imply a stylistic change? are they affected by what's going on around them?

    taking single chord patterns, or two chord patterns (II Vs are a good start place - eg Gm to C7) and work on as many different possible patterns, building up your vocabulary as time goes on. Take it slowly, start simply, and have fun!

    I hope that helps. Feel free to come back with further questions if neccessary.

    Steve
    www.steve-lawson.co.uk
     
  3. Thanks a lot!:)
     
  4. PS: how was playing with Manring?
     
  5. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    ...Terrible - that guy doesn't know one end of a bass from the other...

    Just kidding, it was fantastic, we had a great time, played some very fine music, some funny music, some serious music, funky stuff, heavy stuff, ambient stuff and good old fashioned weirdness. Look out for a live album sometime in the next 6 months, all things being well... :oops:)

    Steve
    www.steve-lawson.co.uk
     
  6. PS: how was playing with Manring?
     
  7. sorry for the double post...

    i'll look for it!:)
     
  8. rob_d

    rob_d

    Jun 14, 2001
    I'll just add my .02 cents to this for whatever its worth, but this has helped me.

    What I've done to help my soloing is this: I got a copy of Band-In-A-Box. Yes, I know the word "cheesy" comes to mind. But with a decent soundcard you can get half-way respectable sounds. Then just program in your changes, pick a style and let it fly. From there you can explore infinitely.

    I like this because for me its all about exploring how the sounds of what I play on solos sound against the chords. Being a bass player I never really studied soloing. So with BIAB I can play for example, a phrase starting on the 3rd of the chord one time through..and listen how it sounds against the chords. Then next time I'll listen to the flavor you get with a 5th against the chord. Eventually you can get more exotic and feature 9ths against the chords etc.. I found this really has ingrained into my inner ear the way different chord tones, and non-chord tones will sound against a particular change. Plus I can experiment with different phrase lengths..starting phrases in different places, soloing over complex "key of the moment" heavy tunes.. etc...etc.. All the while I don't have to worry about testing my bands patience as I sit there and fool around with solo ideas while they angrily comp the same changes over and over as I practice...this would never fly. Best of all, if I make a mistake or fuddle up too much..the CPU band will just happily keep on moving, or stop if I want.

    Through this I've developed many patterns and alterations, and developed a good ear as to what flavor a certain note or series of notes will produce against certain changes. And for me, it beats my old way of practicing solos at home..which was just soloing into thin air, with no harmonic backing to base the sounds on. And I can truly say that when I solo now in a band setting my ideas are more complete, and more pleasing and have come a long way from just the nimble-fingered jibberish that I would pass off as solos before.

    Anyways, just a thought, and something that has helped me.

    Cheers,
    Rob
     
  9. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    Rob,

    good point - I use Band In A Box a lot when I'm teaching as a quick way of generating ideas, and it is a good way of getting started in soloing, and working on some of the theory. The problem with BIAB is that all the traffic is one way - it doesn't respond to what you're doing, and can lead to one being a bit 'selfish' when soloing - having got used to BIAB not getting bored with one's interminably long solos, it's difficult to adjust to the listening skills required in a band situation, especially the ability to rearrange things on the fly to fit the gig...

    So, I would second your endorsement of BIAB, but say that ultimately there is no substitute for actually playing the way you will play in front of an audience, whether that's solo or with a group. You'd probably have the best of both world's if you used BIAB to 'correct' things that went wrong with the band - sitting down the following day and working on the sections of the tunes that you struggled with in the jam session, rather than soloing over all the things you are for 25 minutes at a time... :oops:)

    cheers

    Steve
    www.steve-lawson.co.uk
     
  10. rob_d

    rob_d

    Jun 14, 2001
    Definately,
    I use BIAB as a supplement. I have a regular band I play with so I'm not stifled by the natural mechanical nature of the program.

    My most interesting stuff always comes playing with the live band. On good nights they'll jump-start me into directions I would never head while playing with the BIAB.

    Never substitute a program for a real band. It's just sometimes you'll have a hard time convincing your band that they should comp the same changes for a half-hour while you experiment with different sounds over it. Though as a bassist you're usually comping all night for their solos. Selfish B*****S! Just kiddin.