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Jacos "Donna Lee"

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by bassduder, Aug 1, 2001.

  1. bassduder


    Jul 30, 2001
    Canada, GF-W
    Hey all,

    Can someone give some some tips on this song, i've been trying to learn it on my "fender Jazz", and yes I know Jaco played it on a fretless, but does anyone have any tips on the rhythm or anything...because I find this song really hard to get the timing, its not that fast in my eyes, just weird rhythm and stuff...

  2. Well ... that's jazz, you know? Sorry, but IMO there's no way anybody could post anything that would really help you hear and feel the rhythm. It would be like dancing about architecture, to use the old phrase.

    Are you trying to learn this by ear? That's a vlaid way to do it, but if it's not working for you, I recommend you try getting sheet music for it, and practice it SLOWLY until you get the rhythm. I'm sure somebody's published this for bass. I'm going to recommend against tab for several reasons, one being that if you're even going to begin to deal with jazz, tab is IMO irrelevant and kind of a waste of time; and another being that the thing you're having the biggest problem with--the rhythm--is precisely the thing that tab is worst at rendering.
  3. like Richard Lindsey said theres no real advice that people can give you concerning rhythm

    get a good transcription of the bass parts, and just have a go at it. jaco was a brilliant bass player and we all, at some point have a go at his work, i know how hard things can get,, i'm having a go at birdland and the very beggining of teen town at the moment

    the biggest problem i found is that i was learning it by ear and instruction from my teacher, who plays Jaco's stuff in standard and swing time, and it sounded exactly right, but if you have a look at the tabs on the net there inaccurate, weak and in some cases completely altered for easier fingering, while this may be easier for them, it throws the entire song off.

    another thing you have to remember, any piece by Jaco takes a lot of work, it's not a week or two, for example

    my bass teacher, who is an excellent electric and upright player, has been working on, say donna lee for over a year, it took him that long to get it spot on, but it still takes a few goes to get the rythm going,

    the thing to remember is you won't get them to a point where there exactly like jacos, but how could you?, the best thing to do with his music, and especially the stuff he did with weather report, is to use it to get your technique right

    jaco's playing is focused around the played note, trying to keep everything else silent, no stray notes, buzzing etc, thats the way i use his music, i can't play more than a couple of bars correctly and fluidly, but i know lots of different sections and i work on them to bring it together

    just have fun with them

    it's good to be a ble to throw a couple of his riffs out when you need to
  4. Christopher


    Apr 28, 2000
    New York, NY
    There's a transcription of the song available over at the "Downbeat" mag website. To me, the rhythm sounds just like a swung 4/4, but I can see how the percussion line might throw you off.
  5. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    I agree - all Jaco is doing is playing the sort of 8th note line that an alto sax player like Charlie Parker would play as a solo and there is nothing difficult about the rhythm - it's the most standard Jazz form. The difficulty comes from the fact that it is continuous - no pauses and the responsibility for outlining chords and rhythm are all down to you - but any semi-pro Alto Sax player nowadays, would consider this easy stuff and no problem.

    The difference is that most bass guitarists don't study things like this and are way behind most Jazz players. I was on a Jazz SummerSchool last week and talked to a few people who had been playing Bass or Guitar for many years and considered themselves pretty good - but felt like absolute beginners in the company of the Jazz players at teh SummerSchool - the same thing happened to me 4 years ago so I could sympathise.
  6. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    Jaco himself admits it took him about 6 years to get Donna Lee right. Of course, he was writing and arranging it, you'd be playing it note for note, but you see my point?
  7. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Well I think that "conceptually" it is something that hadn't been done before by a bass guitarist and required thinking about and a certain approach to playing, but many Sax players had played solos like this before.

    So in his 1977 interview in "Down Beat", Jaco said :

    "I had never heard someone take a tune like Donna Lee and play it on the bass without a piano player so that you could always hear the changes as well as the melody. It's a question of learning to reflect the original chord in just the line. Players like Wayne Shorter, Sonny Rollins, Herbie Hancock, Ira Sullivan can do that. I wanted to be able to do that too."

    Bill Milkowski also mentions in his Jaco biog that on some Word of Mouth big band gigs the Tuba player would play Donna Lee, which was a much more demanding feat! :eeK:

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