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Makin' it swing

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by Freaky Fender, May 13, 2010.


  1. I am enrolled in my jazz studies program at University of Rhode Island (Go Rams) and I recently got back my jury sheets with good remarks, but I see one that I never want to see again, "Work on your swing feel". Normally when walking through changes or playing the head of a tune, my teacher told me to put the metronome on 2 and 4, which I have been doing, but I'm still not swingin as I would like. What can help me improve?
     
  2. MR PC

    MR PC Banned

    Dec 1, 2007
    Start listening to classic music. A lot. Ray Brown with Oscar Peterson Trio, and Israel Crosby with Ahmad Jamal Trio are two good places to start.
     
  3. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    I hope this doesn't sound glib, FF, but welcome to your life's work as a bass player. The longer I play the instrument -- whether it's DB or EBG; whether it's jazz standards or bluegrass or country or pop or whatever -- the more I realize how little of it is about the notes and how much of it is about rhythm feel. I'm exagerrating things a bit to make a point, but that's how I feel about music and my role in it these days.

    All I can tell you is that you've got to make it an object of analysis. Listen to where you're at right now, especially when playing with a variety of other players. In what ways does it suck? In what ways does it not suck? How can you amp up the good, develop the not so good, and purge the bad?

    It definitely means listening to the classic players with the same analytical intent. Listen across musical genres, too. How does a bluegrass player, playing "simple" root-five lines, move the tune forward? Can you replicate his success?

    It's about hearing rhythmic goodness -- swing -- and being able to control what you produce. It might be a more or less natural thing to be OK at playing good time, but it's definitely not a natural thing to have masterly control over your time playing. You've gotta develop it consciously.

    And, oh yeah, get used to it. Making sure it swings is a job that never goes away.
     
  4. MR PC

    MR PC Banned

    Dec 1, 2007
    That's for sure.......
     
  5. Lo-E

    Lo-E

    Dec 19, 2009
    Brooklyn, NY
    Find a drummer who you can practice with who swings his *ss off!

    It's amazing how well you can develop your sense of swing when you're playing with someone who can really swing.
     
  6. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    ...and it's amazing, too, how you can develop a magical thing with one player (or group of players) and then, when you go to another player (or group) -- no matter what skill level they are at -- it could turn out to be like breaking rocks to get a time feel you all feel good about. In other words, chemistry is a factor. It's not the be-all and end-all, but it's a factor.

    Play with the best you can, but play with lots of different people. Pay attention to how things feel, where the differences are...
     
  7. nic salsus

    nic salsus

    Mar 16, 2010
    And failing that the Aebersold play along recordings have great players on them.
     
  8. Me and a bunch of friends were discussing and trying to define swing and groove a while back.

    The general concensus was that swing was the ability to push and pull time through competent control of tempo and rhythm subtlties.

    My favorite came from a guitar player though..."That which it doesn't mean a thing if you don't have."
     
  9. Jazzdogg

    Jazzdogg Less barking, more wagging!

    Jul 29, 2006
    San Diego, CA
    +1 At the risk of recycling, this video by Hal Galper offers some valuable nuggets about time:
     
  10. jallenbass

    jallenbass Supporting Member Commercial User

    May 17, 2005
    Bend, Oregon
    I took a lesson with Ed Friedland this spring while in Austin and we worked on this very thing. Along with the metronome he had me vocalizing the drum part. Since working on that I've been getting positive feedback from my gigging colleagues about my feel.
     
  11. Jazzdogg

    Jazzdogg Less barking, more wagging!

    Jul 29, 2006
    San Diego, CA
    Interesting. I may have to try that!
     
  12. skwee

    skwee

    Apr 2, 2010
    Minneapolis
    Swing work seems like plucking hand work to me.
     
  13. jallenbass

    jallenbass Supporting Member Commercial User

    May 17, 2005
    Bend, Oregon
    IMHO it doesn't have anything to do with how one physically plays the bass. There are too many different physical approaches by players who swing like crazy. I've tried just about every way to pluck the string that I could think of. In recordings that I made I sounded the same no matter what I did. YMMV.
     
  14. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    NYC
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    I may be in the minority, but I still like to talk about note choice. The arc of your line MUST move the harmony forward.

    But I absolutely LOVE Jim Hall's response when he was asked to define "swing". He said "camaraderie"...
     
  15. Jim has a way with word.
     

  16. This isn't a bad idea. However, it is not a panacea. All it really means is the drummer swings. It doesn't mean that you swing. It is a far better idea to try and work on your time so that people say YOU swing your a$$ off. That is a life long endeavor and there are no quick fixes or short cuts IMHO
    :cool:
     
  17. pmcd

    pmcd Supporting Member

    Feb 22, 2006
    Denver,CO
    2 and 4 is cool, but a better way to practice swing with a metronome is to sub-divide each beat in triplets and set the metronome on the last eight note of each triplet and walking quarter notes against it. If done correctly it is a great time exercise and gives a closer feeling to actually swinging.
     
  18. nic salsus

    nic salsus

    Mar 16, 2010
    Thanks for posting this. I'm sure for some these Hal Galper vids are old hat but I'd never seen them before....knew his playing well from Phil Woods but didn't realize he was such a heavy educator. What he had to say about needing to understand New Orleans second line drumming really hit home. It caused me to spend a couple hours this afternoon revisiting The Rebirth Brass Band and The Hot 8 Brass Band stuff I hadn't listened to in ages. Galper says that you have to have an understanding of the roots of New Orleans jazz which is second line drumming and I'd say he's right. The moment of the snare drums transition from straight 8th marches to a triplet feel is the moment of the birth of jazz. May be worth delving into if you wanna swing harder.
     
  19. al808

    al808

    Oct 11, 2008
    Sydney
    Hi Freaky Fender,
    Try getting some hihats and practice playing the bass while playing the hihats on the 2 and 4. Can be lots of fun.

    Cheers, Al.
     
  20. Roger Davis

    Roger Davis

    May 24, 2006
    England
    Some very wise words posted here. I'm sure that many young bassists don't swing (and I've heard a few) because they are concentrating on the notes so much. I once heard such a player and in the interval told him that he seemed note perfect but he had to consider what else he was there for - to provide propulsion. I suggested that he staepped back from the notes a bit (in his head, I mean) and noticed a great improvement in the second half.

    I was on a gig once and chatting to a drummer I hadn't met before. We were discussing swing and I opined that I know that the stuff is swinging when I can play two in the bar with ease. (Think Adderley's Soon). To which he replied 'yes, but a minim's a long note to play wrong!'
     

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