Long Phrases?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by LWatford, Aug 2, 2001.

  1. LWatford


    Jul 28, 2001
    Helena, AL
    Are there any exercises I can do to help develop long phrases? I've been listening to the playing of John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Jaco, Eric Johnson, Wes Montgomery, and a couple more players, and their phrases are so long and legato, and often span several octaves in the same phrase. I find that my phrases are usually shorter, 'choppy', and within one or two octaves. I practice scales starting on 1st, 2nd, and 4th fingers, and also play chromatic scales. Is there anything else I should be doing? One person said I should be doing more one-string scales, does this help? I know that being able to construct these phrases will help my soloing and my walking lines. Any ideas will be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you,
  2. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I think this is an interesting question and one that my Jazz tutor has talked about in our regular classes. He is an alto sax player and talks to us about linear as opposed to vertical improvisation.

    If we are talking about the same thing, I think it is more down to an understanding of functional harmony than practising a technique.

    So you can look at a chord structure and pick out which notes are continuing throughout and which link the chords together, so you can pick a smooth line and think of tunes that you can create out of these notes rather than just folowing the chord changes and for example, outlining root motion as you would in a bassline.

    I'm not sure there is an easy answer though and all you can do is play through as many tunes as you can and learn to spot the way through - I presume we are talking Jazz from the names you mention. So I would say the way is to go through Real Books etc and maybe some of the Aebersold playalongs and try playing solos against as many new sequences as you can, and try for smooth lines.

    I think there is a technique they teach at Berklee (I've been told!) for doing this - "leading tones" for finding your way though and it mostly involves looking at 3rds and 7ths of chords.

    But as I say, I don't think there is an easy answer and it's one of those things that comes down to a lifetime of study.
  3. LWatford


    Jul 28, 2001
    Helena, AL
    Thanks for answering. I figured the answer would be something like that. I will be starting my sophmore year at college, and have started learning about playing through chords, stringing the phrases together, etc. Most of this has been in my Tuba lessons, and I try to apply everything I learn there to my bass playing also. My teacher can rattle off the changes to a song in any style by just looking at it. So I guess you are right and it is just a lifelong thing.

  4. td1368


    Jan 9, 2001
    Bruce I am a bit of beginner at all this music theory, but I have been taking lessons w/ a jazz guitarist. Currently we are working on playing the C major scale on 5 different hand positions up the neck. We're hitting variations on the theme for fingering the C major scale and working on movement up and down the neck. This method seems very useful for moving around and hitting chords at different octaves. Now all I have to do is learn it for all the other key signatures.

    Is that what you mean by finding your way through? Do you use standard hand positions moving around the neck and through chord changes?
  5. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Actually this sounds (although I'm not exactly sure) like exactly the opposite and is more likely to be the sort of thing that Lee mentions about making you play choppy phrases - I think you need to do these sort of thing to start with - but if you want to play long phrases like sax players then you need to get away from or beyond "patterns" and think about forming the lines. One of the things Double Bass players do is to try playing solos on one string only.

    Personally I still have along way to go - I'm really just passing on the lessons of my Jazz tutor who is adept at this sort of thing - fluid legato solos, that continue the melodic line through the chord changes.
  6. bootyquake


    Mar 29, 2001
    Washington, DC
    Had you considered learning some Irish music to develop long phrases. Jigs and reels will teach you how to phrase a line that never stops--because it was developed on the bagpipes, which can't every stop releasing air.

    Another good suggestion is to start copping lines from the great jazz guitarist Pat Martino. His lines just keep going and going...