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Jazz away from a lead sheet.

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by powellmacaque, Apr 28, 2010.

  1. So I can read basslines in standard notation and lead sheets, but I haven't found a way to translate the jazz ideas written down into something I could comprehend and reproduce. This is, no doubt, mostly due to the fact that I wasn't brought up on jazz and I just started listening to it a year or so ago. But does anybody care to share some common themes with jazz that make it distinctly jazz.

    For instance: I've come to learn that the ii - V - I is a very common theme in jazz. Any other tidbits like this that could maybe help me come up with my own compositions?
  2. i would say that working through the american song book via the real book and getting out and playing that stuff any time you can
  3. Right. That's what I've been reading from, and it's hard for me to take what I read and translate it over to something new.
  4. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Can you be a little clearer in what you're asking? I can't really get a sense of what information you're looking for.
    Playing jazz isn't really about applying formulas or trying to make things sound like other things. Think of it more like a deep conversation; you have a point of view or an idea that has formed around the topic of discussion and you want to use the clearest and most specific language you have the deepest understanding of and most nuanced control over to communicate to the other folks you're having a conversation with.

    If the topic is HAVE YOU MET MISS JONES then that's the melodic and harmonic framework that you hang your internal conception on. At some point it has to be about the exchange and interaction of the musicians you're playing with and not just plugging notes into a chord structure.
  5. Well for instance, in Rock and Blues I've found:

    1. Standard progression is the I-IV-V or I-V-vi-IV or some variation on those ideas.

    2. Dominant scales are prominent

    3. The Pentatonic scale is also prominent

    These are but a few common themes in rock and blues. I guess I just want to be able to walk into a jazz jam like I do with a blues jam (and by jam, I mean a completely independent musical idea, not jamming to Red House or in the case of jazz, Satin Doll). I just don't know what musical ideas separate jazz from blues, for instance.

    In other words: how do I sound "jazzy"?

    EDIT: Sorry if I sound ignorant or generalizing. Like I said, I'm a blues/rock/country guy who loves listening to jazz, I just want to be able to play it.
  6. Toronto Bassist

    Toronto Bassist

    Jan 9, 2008
    Well, if you're walking into a jazz jam, you have to know the chords to the song that they're playing. If someone calls out "Body and Soul", or "The Song Is You" or whatever you have to know the chords. You'll usually need to do a walking line, maybe some soloing.

    There are a few things that are fairly universal, like rhythm changes or blues, but other than that, you have to know the songs - or maybe bring a fakebook if they don't mind that sort of thing.
  7. it seems to me that jazz guys come from a really solid theory/harmony background.....the standards are so embedded in their heads they can hear the changes in their sleep.....and they can anticipate/react to just about anything on the fly......i'm not sure if you just want to learn some jazzy licks,or if you want to play jazz,but either way ed would probably be the guy to ask
  8. BluesWalker

    BluesWalker Supporting Member

    Jun 17, 2008
    San Diego, CA
    You are not going to learn how to play jazz overnight. You probably need a good teacher to get you started and show you the proper path. It is a long process that never ends.

    For example, the blues are a standard feature of jazz and one has to be well versed in it. You can start with the simple 12-bar blues format that is typical of "Chicago" style blues, such as Blue Monk (with one harmonic wrinkle, sub of a Edim7 for Eb7: Bb7 - Eb7 - Bb7 - Bb7 - Eb7 - Edim7 - Bb7 - Bb7 - F7 - Eb7 - Bb7 - Bb7). You can do some chord subs as in a tune such as Parker's Billie's Bounce (F7 - Bb7 - F7 - F7 - Bb7 - Bb7 - F7 - Am7, D7 - Gm7 - C9 - F7, D7 - Gm7, C7: iii7 - VI7 sub in bar 8; ii7 - V7 - I7 progression in bars 9, 10 and the 1st half of bar 11; VI7 sub in second half of bar 11; ii7 - V7 sub in bar 12 to lead back to the I7 at the top of the form). Taken to the extreme one ends up with so-called "Parker Blues" as typified by the Tommy Flangan's tune Freight Trane (I won't spell this one out, it packs in 17 chord changes in a 12 bar tune).

    This just gives you an idea of how much is out there. One difference between jazz and standard rock/blues is the fluidity of the form. For example, you might be playing through one of the simplier jazz blues forms. During a solo turn, the piano player might start putting in some chord subs typical of a Parker blues. You have to hear/recognize this and adjust your note selections accordingly. This type of fluidity is rarely needed in rock/blues.
  9. nic salsus

    nic salsus

    Mar 16, 2010
    Listen, listen, listen.
    KCSM and WBGO are two NPR radio stations that stream jazz. There are lots of other stations also streaming jazz but these two are staffed by real live human DJs and you'll learn a lot about the music from them. Sounds like you have a reasonable start on the theory. Try forgetting that part and taking a tune learn the melody practicing it in your head without an instrument. From there begin to embellish the melody and also sing basslines with the melody in mind.
  10. elgecko


    Apr 30, 2007
    Anasleim, CA
    Are you talking "free jazz" or typical jazz?

    Typical jazz, the kind most likely to be encountered in an open jam, really isn't "completely independent". It's played within the context of a song or chord progression. If you play too far outside those constraints, it goes from "jazz" to poop really quick. To get where you want, you need to learn the standards (i.e. Satin Doll, Autumn Leaves, Blue Bossa, etc) and play "independently" within those contexts...or find a free jazz open jam.

    The best way to learn how to write jazz compositions is to understand what typical elements/chords progressions are present in jazz. The best way to do that is to learn the standards.
  11. skwee


    Apr 2, 2010
    Of course working on walking the bassline is very important to jazz. I'd put some time in on that (sorry if that's obvious). Working on a good sense of swing rhythm is also pertintent.
  12. BananaKing

    BananaKing Supporting Member

    May 15, 2008
    Vancouver, B.C.
    I would also ad that, if you plan on playing over changes or even jumping into a jam, knowing your Harmonic Minor and Melodic Minor Scales and Arpeggios would be a good idea. When a chord chart calls for a IIMin7b5 - V7b9, it would be a good idea to know how to play over those.
  13. funkyfretless


    Jan 15, 2006
    Atlanta, Ga
    learn tunes from the record, transcribe bass lines from the record, learn the melody and bass lines in all 12 keys, go out to sessions and write down the tunes that are called you don't know, and stay away from real books (always wrong).... hope that helps.... oh and sing the melody and play the changes on your bass to hear the function of the melody with the harmony.

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