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Jam Session train wreck

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by Garagiste, Dec 7, 2017.

  1. Garagiste


    Feb 16, 2013
    Brooklyn, NY
    Got killed last night trying to get through “Strollin’”. Confluence of issues including bass which seemed like an unfamiliar string length (though it was a D neck), volume was too low and I was reluctant to increase while I was lost on the chart, and the chart which is tough to begin with, especially given how much I rely on iReal pro in which the charts are so much easier to read. Not whining, these are all things I need to work on. But wanted to share my pain! It’s a shame too because I know the tune. And this was my second jam session. Would love to hear some of your jam session war stories.
  2. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    You'll excuse me if I'm flummoxed by the paired statements "I was lost on the chart...given how much I rely on iReal pro..." and "...I know the tune."
  3. Carl Hillman

    Carl Hillman

    Jan 1, 2010
    It doesn't get fun until you have to play a tune you've never heard before...without a chart. As stressful as that can be, it's actually good for developing your ear and instinct. There's an art to faking, and the only way to learn how to do it is to do it.

    If you happen to get lost on a chart of a tune you "sort of" know again, I would suggest you blow it off and just try to get through it using your ears.
  4. The jams I've been to don't even let you use an iPad or lead sheets. "If you don't know it well play a different tune "
    Or since I usually know the least tunes, I'll be the one who picks it. Say something like "hey guys I don't really know a lot of tunes- is it okay if we do something like all the things you are?"
    Michal Herman and Ed Fuqua like this.
  5. DrayMiles


    Feb 24, 2007
    East Coast
    This is brutally blunt... True words nonetheless, but brutal... I know because I've learned how many tunes I thought I knew I didn't...
    jthisdell likes this.
  6. BrotherMister


    Nov 4, 2013
    PVG Membership
    Anyone who has ever played at jam session has probably been roasted a fair few times, I certainly have. Use the experience to highlight areas that you need to work on and get to it. Don't let it put you off and have fun.

    I did a jam session a few months ago that was like a special singers night. I was in the house band, and the only bass player in the building so I was in the trenches all night. When it came to some of the singers though let's just say playing the tunes in different keys was the easiest part of my night...
    Randy Ward and Garagiste like this.
  7. Garagiste


    Feb 16, 2013
    Brooklyn, NY
    Yeah I should have clarified that “I know the tune” doesn’t mean I’ve ever played it. And the iReal pro thing for me is real. I sometimes struggle looking at images from real books with handwritten charts compared to the clean look of iReal pro. Maybe it’s just a glitch in my brain. Still, it’s a hard tune (for me).
  8. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    And so, G, it's time to work on ditching charts. Pick a tune that you think you won't get sick of. Pick a recording of it you think you won't get sick of.

    Step One: Put your chart on the floor. Play one chorus with the record, then look up and don't look down. Repeat until you feel ready to move on.

    Step Two: Skip the chart altogether, playing with the recording. Repeat until you feel ready to move on.

    Step Three: Play the tune without the recording, working a minor third higher than you used to with the chart and the recording. Repeat until you feel ready to move on to a different transposed key.

    Step Four: Begin again with a different tune.

    This might take a while. I've seen Mr. Fu say that he's been working on particular tunes for several years. (He's much more skilled and diligent than me. Also, his bar for 'knowing a tune' is several orders of magnitude above 'hum some when it comes on the radio.')

    + + + Edit + + +

    Past few years I have been spending a bunch of time working on jazz guitar. One of the things it has taught me is that jazz bassists have it some easy when it comes to playing new standards or new keys, because a jazz bass line allows the operator to circle in toward a target and still potentially sound purposeful. Phrased otherwise, you can fiddle around a bit and eventually get there, and sometimes it will sound like you meant to. On other comping instruments many mistakes tend to sound like mistakes.
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2017
    Sebastian Owens. likes this.
  9. Well, that could work in a few situations, but generally: don't trust your ears. If you trust your ears and try to listen to the changes you're gonna be late for the changes every time. That's a no-no for a bassplayer. You can't listen ahead of time. That doesn't mean you shouldn't listen, but you should go home and learn the tunes (changes /and/ melody), and you should read and play as much as possible. The more charts you read and play, the faster you'll read and play and learn later.
    DrayMiles likes this.
  10. That's true. Pedals and chromatic movement works 99% of the time when you're lost on most standards (ok, maybe 98%).
  11. Garagiste


    Feb 16, 2013
    Brooklyn, NY
    Yes, this is all super helpful. But I still feel like I need to spend some time on charts so that I can read them correctly before I ditch them and internalize the tune. I’m also working on reading skills in general, standard notation etc. I don’t want to be handicapped in that way. I started music on electric bass and didn’t learn to read music as a kid. But I’m all about ditching the chart as soon as possible and strengthening my ear.
  12. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    I could not disagree with this more. Music is an AURAL experience, not a visual one. Working on hearing with clarity is not just something you save for the stand, it should be part of your daily practice routine. And just like driving a car isn't about looking at what's happening right in front of your windshield, neither is hearing your way through a tune about just hearing a chord alone, out of context. It's not just a change, it's a chord progression. There are patterns of tension and resolution that build through the harmony AND the melody (and as countless reharmonizations of tunes have proven, there are any number of ways to harmonize a melody), that's what you work on hearing.

    Look, G, it's up to you to do what you want, but as someone who has been through all this before, my recommendation would be to NOT leave your ear to the last thing you work on. Sam's suggestion is a good one, a method that helped me a lot is here and something else I recommend (along the lines of Sam's method) is getting some of the Jamie Aebersold play alongs (with standards) and not opening the book at first, but sitting with the recordings with your instrument in hand and trying to:
    1. get the key and any modulations to new keys (where's the bridge go?)
    2. start getting the root movement of the progression
    3. after getting the root movement, try to get the chord quality (major, minor, augmented, diminished, half diminished etc.)
    THEN take out the book and see how close you got.

    Because ultimately it's not that you weren't able to keep your place looking at a piece of paper,its' that you couldn't HEAR where in the piece the ensemble was.

    You're in Brooklyn. I would HIGHLY recommend studying with Joe Solomon, he's the guy that got me from speaking gibberish to making some kind of sense when I play. His studio number is 212-741-2839.
  13. You skipped the important part: "That doesn't mean you shouldn't listen". Of course you should listen. Of course you should work on your hearing. When you play, when you practice, all the time. You are arguing against something I never said. On the stand (the context of op), on a gig or a jam session, you can't rely on your ears. You'll be to late all the time. Learn the tunes, learn to read. While listening, of course.
  14. lurk


    Dec 2, 2009
    What? Generally don't trust your ears? When you play by ear you"hear" in your mind what you're gonna play next. That's what every jazz player of any ability does. Even classical players reading music do this if they're any good at all.
    Sam Sherry, lz4005 and Ed Fuqua like this.
  15. Reiska

    Reiska Supporting Member

    Jan 27, 2014
    Helsinki, Finland
    Not about throwing fuel on flames here, but how many players of bebop era actually did read music at all? At least the stuff was all around then. Please don`t kill me, I`m a hack northern scandinavian music enthusiastic instead of New Yorker working jazz musician. I see it from audience perspective, it`s allways just plain dull to see academic performance with nose on the paper. Classical music is a different beast to some extent, but I remember a fine finnish cellist who toured with John Schofield and a string quartet telling that it was just magic how they just kept on playing the paper and the soloist played all the stuff from the back of his guts. Schofield had internalized all the multi-challenging music they were playing, and was in the music, not outside of it, looking at it.
  16. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Feel free to embrace whatever belief system makes you the most comfortable. Anywhere to hear what your approach sounds like?
    rickwolff and JeffKissell like this.
  17. YES!

    Hey Ed, Do you know if Joe Solomon uses things like skype teaching at all? Does he have an email Address?
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2017
  18. Couldn't help myself sorry!
    But I absolutely agree with Ed on this and in fact I rarely use charts for tunes at all I just learn from the records and figure them out and play till there internalized. And if I forget something then it's back to the records! Happened last night in fact on i hear a rhapsody on the Bridge section, but I didn't pull out a chart just tryed to use my ear to get through it! The best way IMHO!
    BrotherMister and Max George like this.
  19. Well I imagine alot of guys did big band work right?
  20. As I said, you are arguing against something I never said.

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