Levels of technique

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by Ian Brown, Jan 7, 2006.

  1. Hello everyone!

    I've been playing DB for about a year and a half now, and I'm having a bit of a predicament; the predicament being that I don't know of any serious students of classical DB in this area besides me. As such, I have no idea how far along-- technique wise-- a bassist should be after a year and a half. My teacher telling me nothing more than that I'm doing 'well' doeesn't help much.

    Which brings me to my queston: How far along were you, technique wise, after a year and a half of playing DB? Solos you had played, method books gone through, anything, really. I just need someway to measure my ability as a player.

    Thank you in advance to anyone who answers such an akwardly written post.
  2. Dave Speranza

    Dave Speranza Supporting Member

    Mar 28, 2005
    Brooklyn, NY
    Comparing yourself to others obviously won't get you anywhere. Your teacher gave you a good answer.

    How far along should a bassist be after 1 year and half? How should anyone know, and why does it matter? A friend of mine has been playing for a year and half, I've been playing for at least 3. He's nearly as good as me. Why? He practices more than me.
  3. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Record yourself playing in a number of situations. How do you sound?
  4. Good news: Your question is understandable and normal.
    Bad news: We can't answer it.
    Good news: It doesn't matter. All that matters is that you're doing your best. There will always be someone not as good as you, and someone else who's better. So what? You can always be proud of doing your best.
  5. Thanks for your answers and understanding, everyone. I see what you mean, and after having read what you said, I agree with you.

    I did record myself, and it sounds pretty good; but there's always room for improvement.

    Thanks again, everyone.
  6. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Very nice, Jason. Very nice, everybody.

    To that I would like to add:
    You can only sound like what you sound like. How somebody else sounds does not affect that in the least. The only thing that changes how you sound is the work you put in. And, like Ray's signature says, you can't work just towards "goals', on some level you have to enjoy just being the shed for its own sake.
  7. Kevinlee


    May 15, 2001
    Phx, AZ..USA
    I agree, the journey always seems more exiciting then the destination itself. Every time I reach a new level, destination or whatever, if I don't get moving I start to get complacent. And thats not good.

    Although there is something to be said about having a steller performance with good players when everything is clicking. That's hard to beat. But then it's time to get moving.

  8. JayR


    Nov 9, 2005
    Los Angeles, CA
    At the risk of playing the devil's advocate to this entire thread, it does help to have someone to compete against. I didnt get a double bass lesson till I was 18 (though I'd been playing plank since I was 14) but I was really determined to get good and my buddy Travis had been playing for about 6 years, so I really set myself out to play as good as him, if not for my ego then for the sake of our college's orchestra, and I just busted my ass for 4 hours a day till I was better than him. I know that's not really as zen be-at-peace-with-the-world as it should be, and I did sort of give myself tendonitis in the process because I would practice huge stretches on end without breaks and then jump right into a 3 hour orchestra rehearsal. So, yes, in retrospect, I probably should have just worried about competing with myself, but I know I wouldn't be as good as I am now if I hadn't.

    PS: Go pick up a copy of the Capuzzi Concerto in F and give it a whirl. I started working on it after I'd been playing for about a year and it did wonders for me once I'd gotten through it. Simandl's 30 etudes also has a lot of really good stuff for that level.
  9. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Competition breeds excellence.
  10. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    With deep respect, we disagree. Work breeds excellence. Competition breeds attitudes of all sorts.
    After 30+ years I'm still trying to wipe it out . . .
  11. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    I let the disagreement stand, but to say that; rather than competition breeding attitude, attitude will make or break anything. It ain't what life throws at you, but how you deal with it. A little fire at your feet can be a real inspiration.

  12. Uncletoad


    May 6, 2003
    Columbus Ohio
    Proprietor Fifth Avenue Fret Shop. Technical Editor Bass Gear Magazine
    I've been self employed for a long time. Fire at my feet is sometimes the one thing that gets me out of bed.
  13. Sam, the operative words are "of all sorts." A sh***y attitude isn't created by the competition. The player brought it with him, and will have it afterwards. I don't believe for a second that Michael Moore doesn't enjoy competition.
  14. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    I dunno, I hear where Sam is coming from. If all you can sound like is what you sound like AND you need to love the shed just for being the shed, then marking where you stand by looking at where everybody else is standing makes less sense.
    And if you're relying on outside impetus instead of interior desire to keep you in the shed well, to me, that would be an extremely frustrating life. I mean, at some point, you have to feel that whatever there is in your playing is the right choice. No matter what anybody else would have done.
  15. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    I'm not talking louder/higher/faster.

    For me competition comes in two ways; Gotta get and keep good gigs. This comes from musicality and professionalism, being personable, etc. The other way is pure music. When I catch somebody really spinning 'The Magic' well -- better'n me -- it kicks my ass to get a piece of that mojo. Also part of this is hearing someone on my own instrument, like EM, and having the realization, "You can do THAT on bass?" These are the sorts of things that kick my butt and keep my steam up. Playing fast, fancy, etc? No biggie. I can play faster than most and it doesn't mean beans.
  16. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Agreed - but I would call that "inspiration", which is a far different thing than "competition". :)

    Just so. I'm sick of getting bitched at and vibed by certain local bassists who are pissed because I'm playing with X, Y, and Z after only having been a double bassist for 6 years. I never, ever went into any of this thinking, "I want to become better than bassist X so I can steal his gig and sit on my throne looking down on bassist X from my lofty perch". Rather, it was more like, "I fell in love with the sound of the bass, and I'm going to play it the best I can...and maybe, if I work really hard and have a little good fortune, some of the bandleaders out there who I'd really like to play with will give me a shot someday".

    I don't consider myself anywhere near the "best" bassist in town, nor do I care to. And if I get certain gigs that other players feel they are somehow "entitled to" because they are "better bassists" than I am, then...well, hell...that's with them. I'm just going to try to become the best musician I can be. Maybe someday some other DB newbie will end up with some of those gigs in my place. When that happens, I'll have to assume that they got the phone call because something that they were doing spoke to the person placing the call.

    Inspiration is an entirely different story, and becomes almost a constant state of mind at times, but I don't think it's at all even remotely the same thing as competition.
  17. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    I'm certainly willing to explore that the difference in our respective situations is a product of our differences on this point. I work a day job, you don't. I do like to think that my own desire to play at a deeper level is still serving me well. Being a BigEgoHead, I may just be fooling myself (I tell myself, what's done is done...).

    I gotta go with DURRL on this, but it may just be semantics. Competition always implies the "better than" jones to me. Maybe this is the difference between the perjorative "competition" and the accolade "healthy competition"?
    But underlying both still seems to be the "survival of the fittest" mentality...
  18. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Competition as at a table of friends for dinner. If someone is starting a pissing contest, then no one is interested. Keeping in with the dinner conversation and making it a more memorable experience by your contribution -- even if that means total silence, as an example -- is what I'm talking about.

    The word 'competition' carries with it some negative weight, in larger number with the Boomers and younger folks, but it doesn't with me and, being short of another word that would more clearly get my point across, I guess I'll have to qualify and define my statement every time I make it. :)

    A related thought on this, although I havent' taken the time to frame it in the context of this topic thoughfully, is that (healthy) players don't come to New York to rip it a new one, but rather to use the energy (sic competition) to raise the level of their own musicianship; to see what they are 'made of'.
  19. bassbaterie


    Dec 14, 2003
    Houston Texas
    Director, Quantum Bass Center
    Maybe what Ian was talking about was not competition, but isolation. How do you know what to do at all, never mind if it's better or worse than the next guy, if you never hear anyone play? Been dealing with that lately myself - suspended gigging temporarily to stay home with my little boy at night. Now I don't know who-tha-what-tha is going on. All I have to go on is professional recordings, which I'm now collecting like they're going out of style, and what I hear in my lesson, so the input/comparison material is restricted to 100% great bass playing. I want to believe that I'll be pleasantly surprised at my own progress by the time i get back to gigging. It is a lot more exciting and interesting to get your seed material from watching someone play live, but for developing core technique, studying recordings gives a good foundation. Just like practicing your solos along with recorded accompiament will reveal shocking details about your intonation!

    Saw a quote from Michael Jordan some years ago about his dedication to turning his worst weaknesses into his greatest strengths. A great way to go about it, as your weakest areas CAN be those that you decide to give the most detailed scrutiny and patient attention to. It's great when you discover some slop in your playing - especially when you find it before anyone else does...

    No way around comparing your own playing to everyone else's, as that's how we maintain a standard of technique, and it's human nature to feel the competitiveness. It's part of our performer mentality to covet attention. Just hopefully you will be able to channel that into ferreting out your flaws rather than doing it JUST to get better than a specific other player, which is likely to be temporary anyway.
  20. ToR-Tu-Ra


    Oct 15, 2005
    Mexico City
    This is an interesting thread. I don't have as much experience as some of you, but I'd like to throw in my two cents if I may:

    There's this standards band that we have at school so we can practice the stuff we learn in the classroom. There used to be three bass players, now there's only two of us and we are constantly forced to compete to see which one is going to be playing this or that tune. We take this competition in a good way (i think/hope), there's no hard feelings and we're always helping each other out but there's always that competitive feeling. Both of us are always trying our best in order to get picked for a tune. USUALLY the teacher picks me for latin grooves and some "heavy swingin'" jazz while "soft" jazz and more rock oriented stuff often goes to my mate. This works perfectly for me because latin and jazz are my favourites, but theres been times I don't get to play a tune because I'm not the sound the teacher is after.

    Sometimes I can see my fellow bass player has been working on his sight reading/walking/soloing/ or whatever and I feel like I've been slacking around and this motivates me to go practise harder. Sometimes I guess it's the other way around, I see him struggle through a chart with that look on his face like he's having a hard time, (I know that face, I've been there :bawl: ). Then, after a couple days, he's back on track and plays the chart like he's known it forever.

    Long story short, I guess all this healthy competition really works for us. I feel I'm playing better than ever. :hyper:

    There... I'm done.;)