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Jazz and Classical Chops?

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by Farin, Mar 7, 2006.

  1. Farin


    Oct 19, 2004
    Akron, Ohio
    As some of you might know from my profile, I am mostly a jazz player, but I have been known to dabble in the classical area as well. However, I find it extremely frustrating for me.
    It seems that my knowledge of jazz and contemporary music and jazz chops are way higher than my classical chops. In fact, I was placed in my college's top jazz combo, and am doing quite well, while last week I was moved back to 4th chair in the Symphony Orchestra because I simply "wasn't cutting it". And this seems to be consistent with everything I am doing. I auditioned at Berklee (jazz school), and did quite well, while I auditioned at Cleveland Institute of Music, (classical), and got whomped. It's super frustrating.
    It's not that I don't enjoy classical music. It's just I suck at it. More specifically I suck at Orchestra playing, not so much as soloistic pieces.
    I am studying classical this semester, and am really busting my hump, but I just feel so far behind on my classical technique. I am still working out of the George Vance books, its degrating at times!
    Any suggestions, Comments? Anyone else suck in this positions
  2. glivanos

    glivanos Supporting Member

    Jun 24, 2005
    Philadelphia Area
    Hey Farin,

    I have the same problem. My jazz chops are much better than my classical chops.

    In my case its because playing classical music requires bowing technique as well as left hand fingerings.

    Playing jazz, the right hand is just plucking away, and I don't really give much thought to it. Classical has all the different bowings that are part of what you are playing. In my case, I end up concentrating on on bowing and it takes away from what my left hand is doing.

    Right now my bass lessons are concentrating on, you guessed it, bowing techinique!!!!
  3. sibass89


    Jan 29, 2006
    Cincinnati, OH
    Farin - Here is my suggestion.

    PRACTICE SLOW! I'm not a jazz player, and I don't know how to play jazz so the few times I dabbled in it, it was a catastrophe so I know how you feel, but from the other side of the spectrum.

    Practice slow. The bow shouldn't be like an extra thing to think about. It should be an extension of your arm and fingers. It is your tool for creating sound just like your fingers are in jazz. Also dont work on individual things.

    For example, if you work on your left hand for 15 minutes and pay no attention to your right hand, then your right hand is doing everything wrong so now you have to go back and fix your right hand while youre not paying attention to your left hand and it really slows down your practice.

    Take very small sections (2-4 bars) and work on everything. There are even times when I work just on two notes for a good 15 minutes.

    Finally, be patient. My teacher taught me that students want to see overnight progress. But its not going to happen and youre not going to hear it. So practice slowly every day and don't put yourself down.

    Record your practice sessions one day and then record them two weeks later and you'll be surprised how much youve improved.

    Remember- Jazz, Classical, Bluegrass, Country, or anything else, they are all music. You're just more comfortable with one style, but it will come to you.
  4. Farin


    Oct 19, 2004
    Akron, Ohio
    I feel comfortable with the bow. It's phrasing and complex rhthmic figrue that ties me up. It seems I read complex rhthems well in a jazz setting but not in a classical.
    I also feel held down by classical music. It seems that I am always being told to play quieter and more sensitivly, which makes me not confident and therefore makes me sound like a weaker player than I am. This is where I say that I am a better solo player than an orchestral bass section player. I seem to feel more confident when I do not have to match tone and volume.
  5. jallenbass

    jallenbass Supporting Member Commercial User

    May 17, 2005
    Bend, Oregon
    Learning to play softly as well as loudly is one aspect of what mastery is all about. Strong players know how to access a broad palette. We can't be one dimensional and be an accomplished player. Playing with sensitivity is required anytime we play with one or more musicians. In my experience being asked to play quieter means that whatever we are doing is not fitting in with the musical environment whatever that might be. Adapting to different musical situations doesn't show weakness. It shows strength and maturity.
  6. Tbeers


    Mar 27, 2005
    Chicago, IL
    I don't think it's reasonable to have better "jazz chops" than "classical chops." The two are not so different.

    Classical technique will take your jazz playing to a new level. Learn to play the prelude to Bach's 3rd cello suite, and then see how much easier it is to toss out fast licks in thumb position! Learn to play through a Mahler symphony, and you'll be able to follow the time signature changes and key changes of any jazz chart... with ease.

    I hope you keep at it. Solid technique and classical orchestral/solo experience will set you apart, even if you're looking for a career in jazz.
  7. jazzbassnerd


    Aug 26, 2002
    I agree with TBeers. Though, at the same time, I can understand where you are coming from.

    I guess I'm gonna separate technique from chops. Technique is universal on the bass, good is good. But classical music takes something that is different from jazz and visa versa. That being said, I think that they unquestionably help each other.

    Keep doin' it.
  8. Anonymous75966


    Jun 29, 2004
    It's harder to play slow than to play fast. It's harder to play quiet well than to play loud. A co-worker of mine at my day job plays in the Vancouver Opera - right now they're doing Don Giovanni, and the conductor is getting the strings to play the quiet sections PPP and very dry and precise - he says it's the hardest thing he's had to do for a long time.

    A few years ago I saw a well-known bassist play with a faculty string quartet at my old school ... Dvorak G major quintet, I think? He blew them right off the stage - you could barely hear the cellist. He had a really impressive sound, but it just wasn't right for the material.

    I read the start of this thread and was tempted to say, chops is chops - intonation and good time are universal to any kind of music. But it sounds like what you're talking about is getting into the headspace of the classical repertoire, really internalizing the forms of the music and the, I dunno, group dynamic of the orchestra. That will come with experience, don't worry about it. It goes both ways, too - I've seen really good classical bassists or pianists get smoked at jazz jams, and it's not for lack of technique.
  9. Farin


    Oct 19, 2004
    Akron, Ohio
    I am fully aware that classical chops will help and ultimatly co-inside with jazz chops. I guess I am more specifically refering to the fact that I feel so behind in classical music. It just does not come natuarally to me like jazz does.
    It's frustrating because my classical teacher has me playing twinkle twinkle in thumb position, and hot crossed buns in 4th from the George Vance books. Although I know in the back of my mind I know this is what I NEED to be doing, its frustrating because I am way beyond this stuff musically. I'm sticking with it, it just feels degrating.
    I feel inclined to start digging into more interesting and challenging classical music, but my teacher says she is not willing to "spoon feed me" the music, and I do agree with her.
    My question is how I could possibly be so head in jazz and so behind in orchestral stuff. It just doesn't make sense. My intonation is decent, I've been told I have a great left hand technique, and my bow arm and hold is good, I am just not connecting something somewhere. Maybe its time I put in 6 hours of practice time a day. Uhg.
  10. Anonymous75966


    Jun 29, 2004
    Naw, 6 is too much. I'd say 4, tops. Ha. But you could do 6 hours of classical listening ... put your orchestra rep on the CD player before you go to bed and all that stuff, really get it into your head. Maybe you already do this.

    I hear you about the frustration, though. I came to the bass with a lot of piano and cello training and it was hard to start from scratch. But even now, if say a month goes by where I can't get much playing in for one reason or another, I have to take a few steps back and practice a lot of long tones and shifts and all that stuff. Gotta eat yer vegetables.
  11. sibass89


    Jan 29, 2006
    Cincinnati, OH
    Well it can be that your jazz playing is at such a high level that you just aren't satisfied with your classical playing which is normal. I understand your frustration with the Vance Books. From what I understand they were written for beginners to music and young kids so that they can play fun melodies that they already know.

    Also, just because you play soft doesn't mean your tone should less confident. This is a problem I just recently broke with college auditions. I've been working for over a year to try to get my soft playing to have the same tone and quality as my forte playing and there is a lot involved.

    Like I said before, practice slow and practice well and you will be satisified. Fitting in to an orchestra section comes with experience as well. With more time playing you learn how to communicate through a section and play at the same dynamic levels. It just takes time.
  12. Well, it is a common problem amongst jazz musicians who play classical - and the opposite - that they don´t naturally get the phrasing right. Perhaps it´s because they don´t "eat and sleep" the other style?

    Also, you should be aware that most classical musicians work VERY detailed on their music. Like, a flute player will practise the Mozart concertos for, say ten years, and still not be happy with it. They work on every little detail - to be able to say exactly what they wanna say.
  13. Kam


    Feb 12, 2006
    Minneapolis, MN
    I have my playing compartmentalized.

    In other words, since my progression on bass was slab rock -> slab jazz -> DB jazz -> DB Classical -> DB Bluegrass (Roughly) I adapted myself by thinking of each style requiring a different instrument. Of course, I don't literally mean a different instrument, but a different approach.

    Also, it takes more than a good bow hold for classical, IMO. You need to be able to respect the bow as being it's own instrument, not merely a tool. The bow has great power, and with great power comes great responsibility. :) It can be your best companion, allowing you to pull great sonorities of light, dark, tranquility, drama...or it can be your worst enemy if it does not percieve you as an ally.
  14. Tbeers


    Mar 27, 2005
    Chicago, IL
    Find something easy in thumb position that inspires you. I always enjoyed "Amazing Grace" in G major.
  15. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Just to play devil's advocate, I think it's perfectly normal for a player to be at a higher level with one than with the other - it all depends on where you put in your time. I'm a pro jazz player who teaches jazz bass at a university, and I don't even own a bow. I plan to pick one up later in life (maybe in retirement, even), but I don't feel like I'm missing out because I practice the music that feeds my soul, and the music that I want to pursue with the limited amount of time that I have here on this planet.

    I'm not saying that working with the bow does not have the potential to make you a better jazz player in some ways; but for me, I think the best way to become a better jazz player overall is to spend the time I have to give the instrument playing jazz...kinda seems like a no brainer, in fact. YMMV, of course.

    With students who wish to study arco, even if only to "expand their horizons" (which I encourage), I send 'em to Sid King for that. He does the same with his classical performance majors who want to get a taste of jazz technique. So far, it seems to be working well for everyone as far as we can see. :) (FWIW, YMMV, WYHIWYG, PPPAPOPP, RBBB, NHOP, ***, etc...)
  16. Farin


    Oct 19, 2004
    Akron, Ohio
    TYVM Chris. and IMHO I believe you are right. However I wish my professors had the same out look as you do. But thats just IMHO. LOL, JK, BRB, BBL, SYL, and TYVM. ;-)
  17. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Chris --

    Something to think about, being a Yoda and great player. What the bow can offer you as a jazz player -- and especially as a 'former' pianist -- is the approach music to music as a voice or horn rather than a gamalon/piano/vibraphone. Pizzicato bass and piano aren't that far apart, really. The bow lets you 'ride that note' once you've launched it -- and your variety of launches has so many possibilities.

    Having working knowledge of your instrument and music from this perspective not opens a billion doors for you, but also gives you another leg up on your students as you try to punch information into their heads.

    Now, back to your regularly scheduled thread....
  18. dhosek


    May 25, 2000
    Los Angeles, CA
    I feel a bit odd jumping in here since I'm not necessarily a very good jazz or orchestral player, but I do feel compelled to point out that jazz vs classical is a whole hell of a lot more than being able to play with a bow vs playing pizz.

    It seems like the group is missing out on a key element here: musicality. In a jazz context, you're generally playing an improvised line, and paying attention to how that supports the harmonic changes of the piece as well as the choices of the soloist. You have a fair amount of rhythmic freedom as long as you're doing your part in the rhythm section.

    On the other hand, outside of chamber/small orchestra settings, the classical musician is playing as part of a section. Your choice of how to play the music on the page is determined by the conductor and section leader. You're more tightly integrated into a whole in a classical context than in a jazz context (note that in the jazz world, the cover a CD will usually list all the members of a combo. In the classical world, the cover of the CD lists the conductor. A generalization, yes, but certainly a useful one).

    And personally, I think that all bass players should practice everything with a bow. Otherwise, you'll never know if you're really in tune or not.
  19. jallenbass

    jallenbass Supporting Member Commercial User

    May 17, 2005
    Bend, Oregon
    Right on the money.
  20. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Great observations, and a part of the enticement of the bow for me. When it happens, this will be the biggest payoff. On the other hand, I feel a much greater ability to "ride the note" on the bass - even pizz only - than I ever did with the piano. Maybe this is part of the reason I like super tense "bridge cable" sustain-y strings? I dunno...but this is one of my favorite aspects of the doghouse. I love using vibrato and changing the timbre of the note once it's been sounded. When the time comes for me to add the stick, Sid King has promised he'll be there to help me get started, and I couldn't ask for a better arco mentor than Sid.