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Miles Davis' "So What"

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by 77PBass, Nov 26, 2010.

  1. 77PBass

    77PBass Banned

    Dec 5, 2007
    I have been playing this tune for years and still don't feel like I am inside it.

    I've approached as D Dorian and Eb Dorian, C major and Db major and feel most comfortable thinking in D minor Eb minor. I feel like I a missing the essence of the song and my walking sounds stiff and not melodic like Paul Chambers.

    Any ideas on how to break through?
  2. puddin tame

    puddin tame

    Aug 14, 2010
    you won't find the essence of any song by thinking about a scale
  3. plangentmusic

    plangentmusic Banned

    Jun 30, 2010
    I know what you mean. It essentially is what you say. But Paul is so fluid that even when he breaks out of the mode it's musical and melodic. Try isolating just 8 bars at atime and see what he does. You'll realize, it's pretty simple but OOOOOOH so swingin'!!!
  4. slybass3000

    slybass3000 Banned

    Nov 5, 2004
    Harmonically it is happening between D and A. All the notes in between suggest alterations to Dmin like DminMaj7-Dmin7-Dmin6 and Dmin/Bb. It is really interesting to imply a harmonic mood using these voiceleadings in the bass. Don't forget to groove cool as well ;-)
  5. i have the first couple of measures of paul chamber's bass line in this song tattooed on my arm
    seriously, his groove is so fluid even though the notes aren't that hard to identify you will NEVER be able to play as fluid and smooth as paul chambers, he's above us all in fluidness
  6. eddododo

    eddododo Supporting Member

    Apr 7, 2010
    use your ears
    try singing a line or something
  7. monroe55


    Mar 17, 2009
  8. Duplo42


    Jan 23, 2007
    Important thing with modal scales is that you DONT think in its related/parent major - in your example, you said that for D-dorian, you think in terms of C ionian (major).

    D dorian has same notes as Cmajor but from D to D, that your focal point, to grasp fingerings easier. But you rather approach modes as scale of pentatonics than parent ionian mode. D dorian outlines D minor pentatonic rather easily and gives the jazz standard connection to blues, with its notes, passing notes and rhythm.

    All other notes will come later on by themself, either by making a mistake and realizing it sound good or just by feeling and having fun with rhythm. Experiment, research and you'll be there in no time :)
  9. 251


    Oct 6, 2006
    Metro Boston MA
    Here is a transcription of Paul Chamber's bass line on Miles' recording. (courtesy of the Berklee College bass department)

    Most minor scales will work fine for bass solos. Comping can create some dissonance but I like that on this tune. It's modal & bluesy so Dorian or Aeolean minor work well for me, walking. Less important than the scales chosen is the way Chambers adds the unexpected. Look carefully at the 5 bar patterns he plays from the beginning & how he links them to fit the 16 bar sections of the form.

    Paul Chambers was the man!!

    Attached Files:

  10. Technically the scales would be D Dorian and Eb Dorian. If those notes don't sound right (played at the appropriate time of course) then you must not have any feel, to be blunt.

    That being said, like practically everyone else has said, it's not really about a scale.
  11. bobknowsbass


    Jul 27, 2009
    Monrovia, CA
    Thank you very much! Can't wait to jam with this!
  12. slybass3000

    slybass3000 Banned

    Nov 5, 2004

    This is exactly what I was talking about. He does imply different moods or shades of D minor with B- Bb-C and C#.
  13. Jimtoonz


    Aug 26, 2007
    Nashville, TN
    It's worth taking a look at what Evans was playing on the piano, something oft misplayed by a lot of keyboardists who try this song. The right hand part over the "D stuff" played by the bass is a G major triad in 6/4 inversion descending to an F major chord in the same inversion. At the same time, in the left hand, he plays parallel fourths(A over E going down a whole tone to G over D) and so on... up a half step at the change. This is what gives the changes a very "modal", open, 11th-like sound. This also allows quite a bit of latitude for the bass line, as you can walk a lot of tones under this and they will do nicely.

    A lot of piano players will (incorrectly) play an open fifth or octave based upon the "root" note of D, etc., getting in the way of the bassist. If you are trying this song in a band setting, and your piano player is doing this, get him to stop and get on board with what Evans was doing.
  14. Duplo42


    Jan 23, 2007
    Oh, and So What is quite difficult tune, no matter the simplicity. I remember when my teacher taught me to play over it - his solos where always so jazzy/bluesy and mine sounded like im playing Twinkle twinkle little star.
  15. 251


    Oct 6, 2006
    Metro Boston MA
    I often miss such details. Thx for the ear training project. :cool:
  16. 77PBass

    77PBass Banned

    Dec 5, 2007
    Wow! The ideas everyone has posted in reply to my op are fantastic.....they are exactly what I needed to jog my mind and approach this song in a fresh way.

    Thanks everyone and keep the ideas coming....they go beyond this cosmically, universal and iconic song and will help me and others become better musicians....this is the priceless value of the TB forum.
  17. Audiophage


    Jan 9, 2005
    I've been studying PC's bassline in "So What" recently and find it amazing how in the Eb- sections he's really playing around a Dbmaj7 chord more so than an Eb- one and somehow it sounds right because he's able to pull it off with such killer feel.
  18. 77PBass

    77PBass Banned

    Dec 5, 2007
    Thinking about this, makes me think chromatically, almost 12 tonally, trying to land on the chord tones that give the right minor feel on strong beats and forget about key per se.

    I do this on other tunes, paying attention to swinging hard and it works leaving me satisfied I am 'in the tune'.

    I heard a recent interview with Quincy Jones where he said 'it's just 12 notes' and alluding to equanimity among them...which, in my understanding is a basis of 12 tone music. Maybe this is why Dbmaj7 against Eb- works.

    Swing hard and create all kinds of different harmonic tension.

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