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jazz help please

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by pbassfreak, Dec 20, 2002.

  1. pbassfreak


    May 2, 2001
    long beach
    ive been playing bass for about 10 years and am totally self taught all by ear now im really interested in jazz..i pretty much play along to cds but was wondering if theres any basics to jazz available or what would be the best route for me to go..thanx
  2. beermonkey


    Sep 26, 2001
    Seattle, WA
    And before Ed drops some science on you, you'll be wise to start learning how to read music and start learning that theory. You won't get far in jazz "playing by ear".
  3. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    Jazz, IMO, is "ear music".
  4. beermonkey


    Sep 26, 2001
    Seattle, WA
    Yes, jazz is "ear music" if you mean that you need to listen to what is going on around you and interact constantly with the other players. However, you're not going to get too far in jazz not knowing how to read or knowing basic theory behind what's going on.
  5. Fred W

    Fred W

    Feb 21, 2002
    Bronx, NY
    Budape- please check out Charlie Christian, Errol Garner and Wes Montgomery. To be fair, I do believe it's almost impossible to become a master of a bygone style by ear.
  6. Lovebown


    Jan 6, 2001
    Actually, up until the 50's or so (and still to this date) a lot of jazz musician didn't know how to read and they were still smoking improvisers.

    Of course reading is very useful in many aspects but I don't think its one of the most important aspects of playing jazz..

  7. stephanie


    Nov 14, 2000
    Scranton, PA
    To add to what has already been said...

    In my Jazz training (I play much walking bass) reading music is important to me...and learning theory. I want to be able to know chords and modes, and read key signatures; all will help me if a chord chart is put in front of me.

    Hope this helps,

    PS: At my lesson the other day my teacher told me I "have a good ear for harmony". That made me so happy. :)
  8. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    Guess blind folks don't have a chance, then. ;)
    I'm definitely pro-read, pro-theory, pro-learning everything you can.
    Nevertheless, the ear reigns supreme in my book.
    Music, IMO, is an aural skill...not a visual skill.
    Ever notice how, on a whole, horn players have better ears than electric bassists/guitarists?
  9. dirk


    Apr 6, 2000
    Memphis, TN
    I would say any music is "ear music" in the sense you need to listen to what's going on around you. If you're not listening to everyone else, then you're not making music, IMO. As a musician my goal with anything I play is to "sing through my instrument". So what if I need to 'sing' another persons ideas, sure I could listen to it a few times and pick it up, but it is also useful to be able to read that musical thought and transfer through your instrument.

  10. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    As somebody who played rock/pop bass "by ear" for quite while - but then tried playing Jazz fairly recently; I would say you need as much help as possible and I've talked to quite a few people who made the same jump as bass players and you do feel like a complete beginner again!

    So - while, as people have said, you need to be listening to what is going on, it often makes no sense at all unless you know a few basics in terms of music theory and performance "protocul" !

    I would recommend Ed Frioedland's book "Jazz Bass" as a good summary of what you need to know to get started - but it is only a start and there is so much to learn!!

    So in rock/pop I really never heard any discussion of theory and everybody played by ear - but in Jazz, playing even the simplest tunes required some knowledge of music theory.

    So - probably the simplest Jazz tunes to play are "Modal" tunes - but they are based on knowing
    what modes are - how scales relate to modes and vice versa and they are also quite "stressful" for the bassplayer - so I found every body is looking to you to be counting 16 bars and give them big clues as to when the chords change.

    What I will say was that starting out on Jazz classes, I was very rarely given anything to read as a bass player and 99% of the time I was expected to make up bass lines from chord symbols - again something that requires you to know what works, what notes are in what chords, what notes you can use at which point in the bar etc etc.

    As a beginning bass player in Jazz, I would say I learnt more music theory in a few months than I had in the previous 10 years and the more you can get "under your belt", the better off you will be!
  11. pbassfreak


    May 2, 2001
    long beach
    Wow thanx for all the tips..i figured i would have to have some theory in jazz..i will get that book and start there..thanx again
  12. Lovebown


    Jan 6, 2001
    Yep true , but I still believe that reading music isn't one of the most important aspects of playing jazz (and improvising , of course). Most jazz players I've talked with/read about do spend most of their time working on their ears or working on their instrument... And I think if you ask the average jazz musician whether he would like to sight read at a faster rate, or be able to improvise at a higer level than he is ... I'm sure he'll choose the latter.

    One does not exclude the other however...

  13. Lovebown


    Jan 6, 2001
    Well, I'm pretty sure a lot of jazz musicians DIDN'T know how to read as well. But of course a good bunch knew how to , all the bigband guys etc. that you mentioned.

    Anyway, my point was, you don't NEED to read music to improvise well , but you do need good ears!

  14. frederic b. hodshon

    frederic b. hodshon

    May 10, 2000
    Redmond, WA
    Microsoft Product Designer
    learn as many melodies as you can.

    then learn the harmonies that support them.

    try playing the melody up a diatonic third or fifth. use leading tones into melody notes.

    reverse the melody over the changes.

    invert the melody.

    these are all classical tricks for themes and variations.

    improv is spontaneous composition.

    chord melodies are an excellent way to learn a tune inside and out.

  15. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    I go to Jazz classes/workshops/summerschools and meet/get to talk to a lot of the working Jazz pros in Britain - they invite questions about their approach, how they work etc.

    I have never met a working Jazz pro, who isn't a fantastic sight reader and can play whatever is put in front of them at the gig. So - a lot of them teach, where reading is part of the curriculum, a lot of them play in "big bands" where complicated arrangements are always written, a lot of them will play sessions or form the "horn section" for other types of music where rehearsal time is limited or non-existant and the reason they get the work is because they can sight read anything.

    Of course a lot of the students, semi-pro aspiring Jazzers etc , that I meet, can't sight read well - but I think in the UK, if you are a professional Jazz musician, then sight reading is taken as read! ;)

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