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Improvising through a difficult chord chart

Discussion in 'Music Theory [DB]' started by ClassicalDB, Feb 6, 2006.

  1. ClassicalDB

    ClassicalDB Guest

    Apr 9, 2005
    Beverly Hills
    hey everyone,
    i recently started getting back into jazz and discovered many different approaches to walking bass lines and soloing. however, when reading a chord chart, what is everyones personal preference in soloing as far as what to play when? for example, would you prefer soloing with emphasis on intervals or rather take a more overall look at look at chords as groups? please give me your input on how you solo because right now i do not know where to begin as far as taking a path down soloing lane (especially with all those extensions)...any help is appreciated thanks
  2. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    The advice I've read and received myself is to tell a story -- beginning, middle, and end. Climax, rising action, etc. Look at the chart as a whole. Learning the melody to the tune really helps, because it's basically what you want to do -- make your own melody to this song, right?

    Figure out the structure -- AABA, ABA, AABC, etc., and then figure it out section by section. Work on the A secction, the B section, the C, etc. After you *can* play over them, when you're playing, think of the whole thing as one composition. Unless, of course, you're playing those Mingus tunes with 19 different sections, repleat with tempo, style, and key changes.
  3. jazzbassnerd


    Aug 26, 2002
    As far as making the changes, I've recently been trying to connect the changes not through 7-3 resolutions, but ascending or descending lines that change "scale" if you will in them. More of a linear approach.

    As far as playing a good solo, beg. middle end is a good way. I tend to just get it to climax, normally I achieve this best when I remember to start SLOW. Play whole notes every other bar for a little (that's exaggerated, maybe).

    Other advice, listen to anyone solo. You'll know what you liked and didn't.
  4. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Where to begin, is making solos out of chord tones - even root 5th 3rd 7th - to make a solo, can be made interesting! Based on how each chord is functioning in the sequence - I've always been told by Jazz teachers that this is a good way to practice . :)
  5. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    When on stage, I've been taught not to try to concentrate on anything while soloing on stage except hearing lines in your head and trying to play them. Works for me. Whatever comes out is what comes out. Hopefully it'll include stuff I'd been working on recently. If my head just happens to hear a particular tone over a ii-V-I, that's what I play.

    But to prepare for that moment, I've been getting a ton of milage on praciting/making little melodies out of subsets of tones in the diatonic scale. Just pick several random notes over a single scale and shed on them until the sound gets ingrained in my head. I know when I'm ready when I can sing them all comfortably. Then I'll take it and play it over a simple progression, like iiVI.
  6. All of the above is good advice, but I'd like to add learning the melodies (which I think was mentioned) to the tunes and memorizing the changes. Plus transcription (walking bass lines, melodies, solos) it's really important. At least figure out what's being played even if you don't write it out it's still a good way to get sounds in your ear/brain/hands. I think writting out transcriptions out is good just so you have a reference to study from. Plus look through the newbie links and the search function of this site, there is a wealth of advice from some really great and generous cats.

    Most important, have fun with the music.

  7. when i play solos on bass, i don't generally follow the exact changes in chords, and a lot of the time i can focus on the root note of the song, and/or the scale. of course adding melody, and dramatic effect over the bars you have for the solo helps acheive a nice solo as well.
  8. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Improvising through difficult changes is really no different from improvising through simpler changes: if you want to do it well, you have to learn to hear the changes and their implications before you're really going to get anywhere.

    When I'm playing a tune and find myself stepping on my johnson regularly, the only thing for it (for me, anyway) is to take the harmony apart and figure out where the stumbling blocks are. In most cases, I find that parts of the tune make perfect sense, while others are big aural question marks, kind of like "black holes of non-understanding" within the song. When I encounter these spots in a song, they tend to throw me off balance, so that they affect not only the spot they occupy, but also a variable number of bars directly before and after they occur. This being the case, I think it's best to extract these "black holes", analyze them, and work on them out of context first. Then later when they start to make some aural sense on their own, they can be plugged back into the tune and the contextual connections to what comes directly before and after can be made.

    In this way, it is possible to figure out the real trouble spots on their own, which allows for the possibility of keeping intact the material surrounding them. In my experience, most tunes that we find difficult are only partially difficult, but unless the difficult parts are addressed and some attempt to understand them is made, the normal temptation is to simply throw the baby out with the bathwater and avoid soloing on the tune in question.
  9. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I see what you mean Chris.....;)
  10. ...or instead of trying to unpick the Gordian knot, cut through it?
  11. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Naw, I think it's more instead of trying to untie the Gordonian knot, just pretend you aren't tied up....
  12. Indeed LOL I must stop trying to be clever, I must stop trying to be clever, I mus...:D
  13. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    I try to approach solos by looking forward to where I'm going as opposed to where I'm starting from.

    Since I'm usually unfamiliar with the tune (don't have many memorized yet) and just have a lead sheet in front of me I use lots of chord tones. If I see related chords (circle of fifths motion, etc.) I might use a scalar run.

    Eventually I "arrive" where I'm going, play a strong chord tone and insert a REST before starting up my next phrase.