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In over my head.....

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by MJ5150, Mar 3, 2004.

  1. MJ5150

    MJ5150 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Apr 12, 2001
    Olympia, WA
    After spending my entire bass playing life, two years, playing hard rock, I am now playing bass in a jazz/blues/pop trio. Major change as you can imagine.

    For some reason, I just can't "feel" the songs. I am trying to learn about 20 covers to get this new band off the ground. When I played the harder stuff, I could listen to a song a few times, and start "feeling" it. I have never had a lesson, can not read music, and have no real knowledge of music theory. I have just learned songs from listening to them and getting the feel of the structure.

    What is wrong with me? Do I need to learn more theory to play this kind of music?

  2. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002
    I'm pretty in over my head too when it comes to jazz. It's amazing how music that is as seemingly free as can be is also tied down by many guidelines and rules.

    I'd say, just listen to as much jazz as you can. Learn tunes from the real book(bass and melody) and do what you can to learn some theory.
  3. MJ5150

    MJ5150 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Apr 12, 2001
    Olympia, WA
    I'm doomed to failure! :(

    Anyone need a hard rock bass player??

  4. Matthew Bryson

    Matthew Bryson Guest

    Jul 30, 2001
    Hey Mike, I have a very good friend that plays sax and spent years trying to play jazz without much knowledge of music theory. He assures me that a person must know theory to successfully play jazz. I have no personal experience with jazz, but I know it takes a lot of doing your homework. Jazz players are scary good musicians. Blues should be no problem - are you talking 12 bar stuff or something trickier? What kind of pop are you doing? If your doing covers, can you post what type of stuff your working on? Maybe some TB'er will have specific advice for you. Beyond that, just keep your chin up and keep practicing - you'll get it.
  5. Matthew Bryson

    Matthew Bryson Guest

    Jul 30, 2001
    Oh, no - don't say that!
    I'm looking for those gigs in these parts!
  6. MJ5150

    MJ5150 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Apr 12, 2001
    Olympia, WA
    Well....the jazz songs I have to learn are on a CD, and I have no idea who the artists are. I just sit listening to them, hoping to feel something.

    Here is a list of the bands we are covering: Pretenders, Third Eye Blind, Poison, Alice In Chains, Tesla, Audioslave, Tom Petty, Matchbox 20, Pearl Jam, Kenny Wayne Sheppard, Jonny Lang, Queensryche, The Police/Sting, Van Morrison, Tonic, Black Crowes, Mad Season, and Sugarloaf.

  7. Matthew Bryson

    Matthew Bryson Guest

    Jul 30, 2001
    I say, cheat - search for tabs for all of the covers and see if you can decipher them (If you've never used 'em - internet tabs are like clues, not answers. If it doesn't look or sound right, it may not be - but you'll find some good parts too.)

    Then I'd take 2 or 3 of the hardest tunes and scratch them from the list. Hopefully the other guys would understand that - maybe even let you pick some easier tunes to replace them (you should get 1/3 of the say in a 3 piece, wouldn't you think?)

    beyond that, I'd say that for the jazz tunes you've got to get the song titles. If they are standards they should follow a set chord progresion from the real book. If you know what the tunes are you could probably get some pretty specific advice on them here at TB, there's lots of jazz players here. If they aren't standards, maybe originals or something I'd say that the person who expects you to learn them needs to tell you a little something about the tunes - the chord progression or at least the key - they've gotta give you something to work with.

    I still think you'll get it. Last weekend I started out to learn 2 or 3 songs to jam with some dude - 1 of 'em I was thinking I just wasn't going to get. I kept hammering away at it anyway. As of last night, I now think I'll have the tune nailed in a few more days. Keep us posted on how you're doing on this stuff.
  8. MJ5150

    MJ5150 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Apr 12, 2001
    Olympia, WA
  9. jive1

    jive1 Commercial User

    Jan 16, 2003
    Owner/Retailer: Jive Sound
    Here's my key tip for you when playing Jazz/Blues: Think triplets

    To avoid going too much into music theory or detail, let's use straight 8th note Rock and Roll. So if you're in 4/4 time you'll have 4 quarter notes per measure, which comes out to 8 eighth notes per measure. So the way you count out a measure for 8th note rock would be 1-and,2-and,3-and,4-and.
    Lets take the same thing and try to give it a jazzier feel.
    Jazz, Blues, and the shuffle are in what is known as a triplet feel. Instead of using 2 eighth notes to denote a single beat, use one triplet. So your count would be 1-and-a,2-and-a,3-and-a,4-and-a. The triplet feel is where the swing comes from. If you listen to ride cymbal on some Jazz tunes, you'll hear the 1-and-a,2-and-a,etc..

    Remember, if you get lost in a song listen to the hi-hat or ride cymbal. That is what the drummer is using to keep time and place. In Rock, the old snare and bass drum are good standbys for finding the beat, but not so for some jazz.

    Lastly, you gotta swing if you want to get the feel. As Duke Ellington said, "It don't mean a thing, if it aint got that swing".
  10. MJ5150

    MJ5150 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Apr 12, 2001
    Olympia, WA
    Dang jive1!

    That is some seriously AWESOME advice. Honestly, that is the most logical explanation of what I am trying to learn I have seen all day. Everything else I am trying to read explains it as if you are already familiar with jazz, which I am not.

    Man..I still can't get over how great your advice is. I am seriously impressed. I can't thank you enough bro!

  11. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    Firstly - and this may sound harsh, but it's SO the truth... you'll never play jazz properly if you dont learn some theory. There are exceptions to every rule, but in this case I guarantee they are very few and far between.

    You can learn jazz tunes note for note, but you wont be learning how the songs 'work', which means you wont be able to improvise effectively, which means, in a nutsehll, it aint jazz.
    If you learnt just some basic theory along side this project, it will make those tunes a hell of alot easier to learn, and it will make you a better musician. contrary to popular belief theory aint complicated, or difficult to understand. In just a couple of lessons I swear you'll be amazed how much sense it all makes!

    Re: Getting the feel - dont despair, if you've played rock 'all your life' then you're bound to have to work on nailing a new style. It's almost like a new language.
    Jive's advice above, re: think triplets, is spot on. Blues shuffle is a triplet pattern and jazz swing is a triplet feel.
    The only warning I would offer here is that because of the improv nature of jazz in MANY cases the drummer doesnt play exact triplets on the cymbals.. he'll be playing a number of differnt rhythms around them. Eg

    1 & a 2 & a 3 & a 4 & a

    Ride cymbal
    1 - a 2 - a 3 - a 4 - a (where the - is a rest, i.e. no beat)

    The trick is to just feel the pulse, rather than listen to the precise hits on the cymbal. That may sound daunting, but again, if you just listen to jazz you often cant help but tap your foot or whatever - so the pulse is there and the trick is to feel with without listening so closely you get put off by all the weird rhythms they use. It aint easy, I'm still wroking on it myself!

    In the end the only way to get the hang of the feel of these styles is to play and listen to them over and over.

    And, this works in any case, if you're having trouble with a part... sing it, tap your hands, tap your feet - do anything you can to reproduce to the groove BEFORE you pick up your bass. If you cant sing it, you cant play it.

    Another tip, listen to these new styles all the time, the more you listen the more you'll start to feel it.
  12. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    None of those are really Jazz - although Van Morrison is probably the closest, though most of his output is Blues veering towards pop/folk etc. - depends on the song?

    But having said that - music theory is going to be a much better approach than "sitting there hoping to feel something" ...? :meh:

    What a strange approach - would you approach any other job that way?

    Oh - I need to wallpaper the lounge - well, I'll just go and look at a few rooms and "hope to feel something" !!! :D
  13. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    Oh, I didnt realise that was a list of THE bands! No jazz there guv!

    Yup, absolutley. All this stuff will be SO much easier once you know major from minor. Be sharp from sea.
  14. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    I think you need some systematic approach anyway - so like making a map of a song structure - is it AABA - verse, chorus, middle 8 ?

    Then you can start to get the different parts sorted out - what sort of chord is it, what's the root etc, what sort of rhythm - how many notes per bar, rests etc.

    Work out a plan for 'nailing' each part of each song - like with wallpapering a room - you need a table big enough for the paper size, you need to measure the space, you need to have a system for pasting the paper and hanging it while drying etc.

    You can't get any job done by just hoping you will "feel something" !! :meh:
  15. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    Give that this aint jazz were talking about I'm sure the verse, chorus, middle 8 approach should do the trick.

    Q. Do you know what a bar is? (not you Bruce!)

    I'd expect that most of the tunes you're learning will be in 4/4 time - meaning there's four beats to every bar (or measure). If you tap your foot in time and count 1 2 3 4 - that's gonna be a bar.
    If you sit down with each song and count the number of bars in a verse, then do the same for the chorus, etc. You'll find that there are repeated sections throughout each song. Obvious right!

    Find the root notes for each chord (that's usually the lowest pitched note in the chord, usually the bass is playing the root) and work on the root movement.. i.e. what's the pattern of root notes.

    This will give youa basic feel for the song - and in many, many, many cases is all you'll ever play as a bassist!

    Once you've got that root thang sorted. Take your time reading this article - that should set you on the righteous path :)

  16. GooseYArd

    GooseYArd Guest

    May 15, 2003
    Hey Mike,

    Get the first Jamey Aebersold book "Anyone Can Improvise". If you are meant to play jazz, that book will have everything in it that you could need.

    Don't sweat the theory stuff, the bulk of the theory that you're going to need to know to play jazz is the circle of fifths. When you memorize it, you'll know how to read key signatures and you'll automatically know the notes of any major or minor scale, which also means that you know the notes in most chords you'll come across in standards.

    When you get that book, you'll find out right away you'll have to learn to read, get the first Mel Bay bass book or something to help you with fingerings and counting.

    The way most people I know have started into jazz is via the Aebersold books (http://www.jazzbooks.com/) combined with listening to a lot of jazz. A grasp of theory will allow you to intepret more about what is going on in a piece of music, or to understand why what you are doing instinctively is "good" or "bad", but you will have a hard time trying to play jazz if its phrases do not come naturally to you and you are thinking about your theory while you are trying to improvise.

    Take the first book, Anyone Can Improvise. There are going to be about a million scales in there, but take one of the first modal examples (It's F dorian iirc), learn that scale. Then do the warm up excercises where he talks about learning a chord, play the 1 3 5 7 9 up and down until you get the sound of that chord in your head. Then solo over that track for a long time. Find the notes that are shared between adjacent chords and listen to how they sound when you use them over a chord change. I think there are 12 and 24 bar forms, play over them both so that you get the feel of the way they turn around. Don't bother playing bass lines yet or trying to walk, it's a lot easier if you learn to improvise over chord changes first than to try and remember rules about walking.

    As you run out of phrases, try the longer tracks on that playalong where you do a call and response with Aebersold and try copping a few of them on the other examples.

    When you can hear a blues/minor blues in your head, and your fingers know the shapes of those chords, you will not need to think of theory to play them. If you try to learn the theory before you know the "language" you will probably not get anywhere. You will pick up the rudimentary theory as you go along.

    The other thing I think you have to do to play jazz is start a record collection, which is unquestionably the most expensive part of playing this music, and I bet I've spent 3 times over what i spent on instruments buying recordings. Buy everything, as indiscriminately as possible. If you don't have anything already, go buy Kind of Blue and Giant Steps, if you don't like those, you should quit now while you're ahead :)
  17. Man! you just got to love this place!
    In two posts i learned more than in the whole summer dwelling with my books and all that sheet paper :)
    Thanks Howard and Bruce.
  18. that is the book i've been reading during the summer. It's a great book if you like play-alongs, IMHO.
  19. MJ5150

    MJ5150 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Apr 12, 2001
    Olympia, WA
    Well, some excellent advice can be found in the above posts, and I appreciate it.

    Bruce...I am well aware that the bands I listed are not jazz bands. I made it pretty clear in my post that the jazz songs I need to learn are contained on a seperate CD. The bands I listed would fall under the pop/blues category I mentioned in my first post. I know the songs from those bands already. Bruce, you're a good guy, and you provided me some good info, thank you. :D I'm not going to start talking about my job and wallpaper though.

    For those who do not like to read all of the posts before you add a comment....the list of bands above is a sample of the pop/blues stuff we are playing.

    Thanks again for the wonderful advice. I am practicing my fingers off right now. I guess I started this thread out of frustration on trying to learn a new style, and my "old" approach to learning songs just isn't working this time!! :(

  20. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    In general?
    ...or do you want to go alphabetical?

    Seriously, you haven't been playing too, too long...& you have probably spent much of your playing/learning/listening in one specific genre(i.e. "Hard Rock", Mr. 5150?) ;)
    Right now, you're in territory that's a little unrelatable to you. Been there, done that.
    I had a rude awakening when I gravitated away from '70s Hard Rock & into '70s R&B/Funk/Soul. What kicked me in the butt-
    ...it seemed as though I was playing 'less notes' but the placement of those notes seemed to elude me. You mean it's possible to play UPbeats & not all the DOWNbeats?!
    Wow, whadda concept.

    If possible, talk with your drummer & keys/guitarist-
    ...they should have some hints about what to play & listen for.
    You're going to be pushing your boundries a bit; IMO, re-inventing oneself musically is supposed to be a good thing. So much to learn.

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