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Is this a good jazz practice plan?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Matthew_84, Dec 29, 2012.

  1. Matthew_84


    Nov 7, 2010
    Been playing bass for 5 years now, and I feel pretty mediocre. I am changing my priorities to be a decent jazz improvisationalist. My first goal is to learn how to walk well, and then solo around a melody. My biggest flaw is that I don't have a great ear for pitch.

    I have created a three month plan, that should hopefully get me into a decent shape:

    - Work through Ed Fuqua's "Walking Bassics". This will be combined with arpeggio exercises.
    - 15 minutes of daily work on Miles.be's "Functional Ear Trainer"
    - 15 minutes of daily work on learning to sing on pitch with "Singing Coach". I will believe this will help my ear out, and when I do ear training later on which involves singing intervals, I will be singing the intervals on pitch.
    - doing scale exercises courtesy of Scott Devine
    - work through "Scales, Intervals, Keys, Triads, Rhythm, and Meter".

    - Study various versions of "Autumn Leaves" with Ed Fuqua's method on how to really learn a tune
    - continue same ear training work.
    - continue scale exercises.
    - work through "Basic Harmonic Progressions"

    - continue scale exercises
    - Study another jazz standard, using the same method. Song is not determined yet.
    - Start doing the Ear Training work from jazzadvice.com, which is supposed to help me master my intervals in 28 days.
    - Work through "The Jazz Theory Book" by Mark Levine.

    Does this look like a good plan?
  2. Duce-hands


    Nov 4, 2010
    I don't know if its a good plan or not BUT, I feel like I'm in the same boat and I think I'm going to follow the same plan you laid out and see how it works for me. Thanks for the idea and good luck.
  3. I had the band superintendent, crusty old piano picker, brilliant player, walk up to me and my drummer friend (who was mostly a tymp picker, not much into traps) and say "You guys ever played a jazz combo gig? No? Good, you're playing one tonight." And he worked with us patiently for a very long time, no book, just calling out the chords, no rehearsals, only gigs. Wish he was still alive. He had been a bone player at Torrejon when they needed a piano so he taught himself cocktail piano by listening to records, George Shearing, Oscar Peterson. Anyway the key to it all is to listen to lots of good tracks, listen, listen, listen. YouTube has tons of good stuff. Then you'll sound like the greats, you won't sound like you learned by playing along with Aebersold tapes.
  4. mbeall


    Jun 25, 2003
    This looks like a good plan. You can adjust as needed as you go along. The only thing I see missing is the listening part. Put yourself on a steady diet of jazz for your recreational listening to really get it in your ears. It's not enough just to practice the methods. If this is already the case for you then so be it, some would say this goes without saying, but I found it odd that it was absent from the plan.

    Dig the journey cause it never ends,

  5. Matthew_84


    Nov 7, 2010
    Thanks, I do plan to transcribe songs. That will be included when I study a tune each month. For Feb. I plan on learning three different simpler versions of Autumn Leaves, and am thinking that in March, I'll dedicate the whole month to transcribing the walking bassline and soloes in the Miles Davis and Cannonball Adderly version.

    Thanks Mike, I do listen to jazz as I drive to and from work, which is at least 90 minutes of a weekday. I don't really have much extra time on the weekdays to listen to it though, but will add it into my weekend somewhere.
  6. hgiles


    Nov 8, 2012
    Awesome dedication and mental toughness if you can keep up with that.
  7. Matthew_84


    Nov 7, 2010
    Thanks. I'm partially hoping that somehow posting the plan on here will make me more determined to complete it.

    I realized though that I am likely pushing myself too fast in regards to the theory books, particularly the first two. They are exercise books and it can take half an hour to get through ten pages. I figured that ten pages a day is a good pace. I'm halfway through the first one, and should get an early start on the second, but it will likely take me until near the end of March to complete that, which includes listening to examples and working things out on a keyboard.

    This should make it much more manageable for me, and less likely for me to drop it.
  8. Melamel


    Apr 25, 2011
    Interesting thread. Can you post a weekly recording of yourself so we can see the progress? You can post a recording of you playing the melody, then walking the changes, then improvising Autumn Leaves once per week. This will give added incentive to practice, too, and we could all see an objective result of your progress.

  9. joebar


    Jan 10, 2010
    for the last year i have immersed myself in learning jazz too
    i have studied every bit of info i could find online.
    i best learning method was to learn jazz tunes and figure out what is going on harmonically chord to chord.
  10. Anonymatt


    Jan 3, 2009
    Brooklyn, NY
    I think books work best when you go slow. I'm sure mastering the material in Ed's book would be awesome if it took you six months. It's taken me two years to honestly get through most of Evolving Bassist. Same deal with Simandl 1 concurrently. Levine's book boggles my frickin mind. It's awesome, but it's like it's too big. Kinda like a big recipe book to use after you've got the fundamentals of cooking down. Not trying to bum you. You sure have picked a nice curriculum. Got a teacher? Without mine, I would have had a difficult time pacing myself. You know, "that's not working, lemme try the next thing." Not sure if I'd have ever learned to walk without his help.
  11. Matthew_84


    Nov 7, 2010
    Sounds like a good idea. Would certainly help keep me determined... But oh man... It's going to be pretty ugly in the early stages, but yes I will try... LOL, this is going to be like "Insanity".

    Thanks. This is a lengthy, and likely a lifetime goal. This is just to get me started. Once I start studying songs, this kind of teaching will be my main area of study, as well as chordal/scalar studies and ear training.

    I agree with the books, that's why for the theory books I'm only doing like 10 pages a day, and will take breaks when I can tell my brain is getting sluggish.

    As for Ed's book, it is a great book, but for now I'm only going to do the first section for now where I'm basically playing the same 12-bar progression the entire time and he goes through small steps at a time and really ingrains that progression into your head. I am taking my time with it and only moving to each exercise once I'm very comfortable with the exercise that I'm on. I'm really just doing it to give me a decent foundation so that when I start studying tunes I have a better idea of what's going on. He is a good player though, and once I've learned some standards, I will go back and transcribe his CD and verify it by reading the second section.

    I have worked with teachers, but I haven't found one that guides me as I would like. The ones I had kept giving me their exercises and said things like, "don't learn that song, that song's boring... Learn THIS one". I just haven't found the right one yet, but I'm saving up for a wedding and don't have the extra cash right to put towards lessons anyway.
  12. Matthew_84


    Nov 7, 2010
    Yeah... So... the recording thing is not happening. I tried to make a recording on my laptop, but the sound quality is horrible and there are huge latency issues. I need to get some sort of an interface, but can't afford anything like that at the moment. Sorry, I was looking forward to it.

    As for now, until I can figure out a way to do it, I'll just record my progress.

    I'm trying to walk on a 12-bar Blues-Jazz progression in Bb. I can start in the first position for the first progression, and then the second time the progression begins, I move up to the fifth position (index is on fifth fret), then after a progression there, I move to the 10th position (index is on tenth fret) give or take, then I move to the 17th position (index is on the seventeenth fret) give or take, then I repeat in that position trying to play notes I didn't play during the first progression there and then I descend. So I play that progression through eight times going up and then down the entire neck, trying to play every root note that I can.

    As of right now, I can do this solidly by playing the root notes only, and on every quarter note.

    Now I'm going to start incorporating a chord tone on beats 3 and 4 of each measure. In a week, hopefully, I'll be able to this well in all positions on the neck.
  13. FretlessMainly


    Nov 17, 2010
    I think it's an admirable plan, but don't get so bogged down in working on mechanics. ear training and such that you forget to have fun. While it's important to establish a curriculum and stick to it, every now and again you need to just play free form and become reacquainted with just how enjoyable playing music can be.
  14. Roy Vogt

    Roy Vogt Supporting Member

    Sep 20, 2000
    Endorsing Artist: Kiesel, Carvin, Accuracy, Hotwire, Conklin Basses, DNA, Eden
    IME doing something every day to work on your playing is a Win. This should definitely get you going in the right direction and as you practice and get better other things will start to suggest themselves to you as far as good ideas to work on.
    Go for it! Have fun!:bassist:
  15. SBassman


    Jun 8, 2003
    Northeast, US
    Any effort to sketch a plan is a great thing.

    My problem is that I have bass ADD, and I'm always Changing the plan I lay out. If I stuck to one, I might actually get somewhere. :)

    Great thread. Please keep us posted on your progress. You'll inspire all of us. And, when you get a chance, check out that book I suggested. It might be your speed. I think it's a winner.
  16. Matthew_84


    Nov 7, 2010
    Thanks guys.

    You are right John, I will try my best to keep it fun, but I'll be partaking in a course in April and that's pushing me to get my act together... Hopefully I keep up the momentum.

    And SBassman, I will check out the book after i accomplish these goals, but I'm pretty satisfied with my plan so far, and the current material I have.
  17. Anonymatt


    Jan 3, 2009
    Brooklyn, NY
    Sounds good. Good luck w/ the wedding. I am a wedding expert (my day job), so if you have any bass related wedding concerns, just ask.

    Good luck finding a teacher one day. Working with a good one as often as possible is worth any reasonable sacrifice.

    When I first started working with my teacher, I couldn't believe that he was having me focus on just one page a week. I was like "is this guy afraid he's gonna run out of stuff to teach me?" After all, I had been playing music in fits and starts my whole life and had some decent dexterity on the bass. But after a while, I realized it takes a "long time" to get some exercises into your playing. Of course, when you review a year's progress, it doesn't seem like you've progressed slowly at all. Hm, kinda like that Karate Kid.
  18. Gaining experience by rehearsing and playing live combined with personal study is to be recommended.
    Get a pianist or guitarist and drummer to rehearse with in the Jazz Blues groove. That will then get you in the swing. You can then learn a list of standards from across the decades.It would help to learn some straight melodies ten you can begin to incorporate them into a solo section, follow up with an improvisation on that melody and depart from that with an innovation before returning to the last section and finish. You can then spend the rest of your life adding more material to your repertoire.
  19. wrench45us


    Aug 26, 2011
    I (perhaps mistakenly) decided I wanted to learn walking bass having never even played bass. I've been at it about a year. I had to learn to read etc bjah, blah, blah

    Here's my take on walking
    You can pick up a certain vocabulary for walking fairly readily for one bar patterns: using scalar or chord tones and the different approach methods to the next (usually root) target, chromatic above or below, scalar above or below, 5ths above, 4th below.
    Todd Johnson and Ed Friedland books cover this material very well.

    Where the 'art' of this enters is setting up a musical intention. Otherwise it just sounds pretty much like vanilla book exercises -- still I get a bit of a thrill just from that. With a chord across 2 bars or 4 bars, the musical intention and theme development gets to be a real task. I don't think there's any track in Ed Fuqua's book that has one chord per bar changes. My sense is Mr Fuqua did that book to help bring about the intentional breakthrough necessary for real counter melody walking. Another book you may find helpful is Jay Hungerford's. Mr Hungerford doesn't bother with much theory talk, but does offer a lot of examples for typical chord progressions -- a very different approach -- and very useful to me once I could recognize the walking vocabulary in his examples. Also his book has a lot of useful 'standard' backing tracks.

    Just about everybody who knows more about this than I do, tells me playing aliong to backing tracks or even better live music is the best and fastes way to get better. I'm right at the brink of getting that set up.

    Best of luck. It's a great goal and I'm having a lot of earned fun getting there.