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Improvised Music

Discussion in 'Ask Steve Lawson & Michael Manring' started by osciphex, Feb 5, 2003.


  1. osciphex

    osciphex

    Jun 1, 2001
    Steve or Michael-

    I'm certainly not a truly experienced musician, but I'm curious: how do both of you approach improvised music in general?

    I've listened to things like Steve's "Drifting" mp3 and most recently the McGill/Manring/Stevens cd and I was wondering how this stuff actually starts.

    I mean, do you have things in mind when you start one of these tracks? A chord structure? Or are some parts actually written out?
     
  2. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    Hi

    Improv is a fun thing - sometimes, very occasionally, something happens that is utterly unique - a phrase or sound or chord that I've never played before... just hit it and see what happens...

    however, more often than not, I'm working with ideas that I've had for a while in a new way... taking a chord shape or sequence and breaking it up, taking a new rhythmic approach, using a new sound and seeing where that goes... reordering the material, like having a conversation, just trying to judge what should be happening at that moment...

    group improv is another level in that you are reacting to what the other person might to, and you can get used to their way of thinking... often improv involves revisiting and idea in a new context. I've taken fragments of ideas from my duo CD with Jez Carr, and thrown them into improvs with Michael, and then end result has been very different. An interesting comparison to make is to listen to the first Attention Deficit CD, and 'Book Of Flame', and see how some of the ideas that came up in the improvs have made their way in a morphed form into Michael's tunes... and it helps that both albums are fantastic... :)

    best way into it is to just play til you run out of cliches and take it from there.. ;)

    some jazz background helps too - if you're having lessons have a look at the way jazz is formed - chord changes that are malleable, melodies that are phrased differently by everyone, solos that use a particular language but are still distinct...

    feel free to post a follow up question - this has all been a bit general...

    most of all, as always, have fun!

    cheers

    steve
    www.steve-lawson.co.uk
     
  3. Michael Manring

    Michael Manring TalkBass Pro Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Thanks for the kind words, Steve!

    I agree that there are many different approaches to improvisation and it's fun to experiment with various concepts. On the latest McGill/Manring/Stevens CD we didn't prepare anything in advance, but we usually decided on a general direction before the record button was pushed. Sometimes we had a chord progression and/or general structure in mind, others just a vibe or a mood. The key, as always, is listening.
     
  4. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    You might also want to check out the feature from Bass Guitar Magazine where Michael and I interviewed eachother - we talked a lot about stuff relating to improvising... you can find it in the issue with TM Stevens on the cover, or it's archived in text only version on my site, in the interviews and reviews section, accessible from the mainpage...

    cheers!

    Steve
    www.steve-lawson.co.uk
     
  5. Chip

    Chip

    May 2, 2000
    just to expand on the question a little, i just started at a new music school and we have a impro class (most likely jazz impro) just want to know what is expected of the bassist, walking bass, solo?
    cos im a little weak with my walking bass (just starting to learn it now)
     
  6. osciphex

    osciphex

    Jun 1, 2001
    Thanks alot for the responses! I was really just curious as to where this interesting music was coming from; you guys did a pretty good job of adressing that.

    Side Note: Speaking of improvisation, the McGill/Manring/Stevens tour needs some venues! It's two months away, I gotta figure out how I'm getting to the milwaukee date!
     
  7. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    Chip,

    if it's a fairly 'normal' jazz class, then it's most likely going to involve learning about walking bass concepts, and then soloing ideas within jazz... However, I wouldn't worry about not being proficient - if you were proficient already, the class would be a waste of time... A class in school is the one place as a musician where not making any mistakes is a really bad sign... the worse you are, the more there is for you to glean from the class! Never dispise your own learning curve - go along with an open mind and an open notebook, and get learning... :)

    have fun!

    Steve
    www.steve-lawson.co.uk
     
  8. Michael Manring

    Michael Manring TalkBass Pro Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Osciphex,

    Sorry about the sketchy information. Supposedly the Milwaukee date is confirmed for April 27, but they haven't yet told me the venue. I'll post it at www.manthing.com as soon as I get it. Hope to see you there.
     
  9. Chip

    Chip

    May 2, 2000
    thanks steve, im alot more confident about stuffing up now :D :p
     
  10. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    as a wise old sage should have once said,

    'the path to enlightenment lies through stuffing up on a regular basis'

    :D

    Steve
    www.steve-lawson.co.uk