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Ok to write down a bassline?

Discussion in 'Music Theory [DB]' started by akuma12, Oct 3, 2003.

  1. akuma12


    Aug 25, 2003
    Sarasota, FL
    Ok, so let's hypothetically say that I suck at playing Jazz :D, and need to work on making my walking bass lines. Is it ok to sit down and write out the bassline, and use that? I have a hard time (hypothetically, of course;)) making up basslines on the fly. Obviously this is something I hope to stop doing. Anyone have ideas for some standards I can work on to get a good idea of what a good walking bassline should be like? I have a Real Book to look through. Thanks!

  2. Lovebown


    Jan 6, 2001
    A few good ones are Any blues, Any Rhythm changes, Automn Leaves, All the things you are and Stella by Starlight . They're all very common and sooner or later you'll need to learn them as well as couple of other tunes.

    The best way to learn to construct walking lines would probably be to transcribe a bass line from a recording where the bass player is clearly audible. Basic walking is about approach notes and target notes. This concept isn't that hard and I believe Chris Fitzgerald wrote an article on the subject that you can find under "lessons".

    Good luck,
  3. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Writing out basslines (like writing out voicings for pianists) is a great way to get started in line construction until you get to the point where the process becomes more intuitive. Combined with transcription, I would heartily recommend this as an excellent way to get the ball rolling. Good luck.
  4. I have a fairly decent grasp on walking - but not great. I've been transcribing Oscar Peterson's "The Days of Wine and Roses" (with the great Ray Brown on bass) recently. Before that I was doing some John Clayton ones. Really helps understand what works and what doesn't...and also opens your mind to millions of possibilities!

    I've never really written down my walking lines, but I have kind of constructed and memorized lines over changes. Basically the same thing as writing them down, but without the ability to retain more than 12 bars or so!

    Anyway, I've found that out of these two approaches, transcriptions have helped me the most, with the caveat that writing out the notes isn't enough - you then need to go back and understand them with regards to the tune's chords and melody. With this Ray Brown line I am working on, this really showed me some of the hipper substitutions they're doing, as well as alerting me to a) the differences between the way they played the chords as opposed to the real book versions and b) the modifications that are part of the song structure (it seems like one repeating chord pattern at first, but really has distinct A and B parts).

  5. Rope


    May 27, 2003
    Essexville, MI
    There is nothing wrong wit writing out your parts - no matter what stage of your development. You will find that what you write and what you make up "on the fly" are probably two entirely different animals. Also, writing is a great way to keep a record for posterity. You may find that you have a little more trouble finding cool lines if they are simply played and evaporate into the air.
  6. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    BA, I don't play rock and what you said might make sense in the rock world. But with all due respect, I almost completely disagree with what you've said.

    Writing down lines in the practice room may help you learn new ways to connect chords together. But when I'm playing with musicians, my goal is not to force-fit cool licks into a tune, it is to play music and connect with what the other players. Playing written-out lines tends to -- not guarantees, but tends to -- impede that process because it's hard to listen and read, and because when people read they tend to focus on playing their part perfectly instead of listening.
  7. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    I think the point here and mostly confirmed by the answers you have already got is that this is a good idea for practicing at home or wherever you practice on your own!

    But it is not a good idea to bring those written lines along to use when you are playing with other people.

    You have to internalise that process and bringing along written lines is going to mean you focus on that and not reacting/interacting with what is going on around you - which is a big part of Jazz!

    Of course - you bring along the concepts and ideas in your head - just don't go along to a Jazz jam, workshop, gig etc and stare at written walking lines - it's probably going to be more of a hinderance than help.
  8. Rope


    May 27, 2003
    Essexville, MI

    I have to agree with what you wrote. When I responded, I didn't assume he was going to write out lines and carry these notes along to a gig. That would be unwieldy and, as you point out, stifle anything that might happen in the moment. Tyring to force your coolest lick - in a place it might not fit - is also a recipe for mayhem.

    That being said, when developing lines, I can't imagine that there is anything wrong with writing them out. A good chunk of the finest music ever performed benefitted from a chart or a written part at its genesis.

    Further, many a top notch jazzer will use charts or fake books to familiarize themselves with a what a tune should do. You've got to admit, while you have to listen and adapt while you play, not everything is created "by ear."
  9. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Well I think there is a big difference between glancing at chord chart on a gig and what this thread was originally about - i.e. writing out walking basslines!
  10. Rope


    May 27, 2003
    Essexville, MI
    Point taken. I still think that, for the neophyte, it might help as a learning aid while he practices.

    On another note - I recently moved back to the States after five years in your fair land. We lived in Solihull, outside of Birmingham. We are going through a real culture shock at the moment. I really miss that island - the people, the pace, the political discourse and the approach to life. Cheers, mate.
  11. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    No argument there! ;)
  12. I think I misread the original question. I took at is it helpful to the learning process to write out basslines, which is why I said that I both write out lines and transcribe, with the latter giving me the best results. The intention is to study the way walking can be done from as many different angles as possible in order to broaden the horizons of your noggin when you are on the spot and expected to improvise with a tune. This is not to say that you are playing anything you have transcribed or written verbatim at that point, but rather you have seen similar pictures painted with many different artistic choices, which makes your spontaneous contribution something more meaty, informed, and interesting.
  13. akuma12


    Aug 25, 2003
    Sarasota, FL
    Thanks so much for the help everyone :) This gives me a better idea on how to practice. My next question is this....does anyone know of a good resource on learning jazz notation? I'm having a hard time figuring out what certain chords mean. Like if I see a C7+4, what exactly does that mean? Thanks again!

  14. WORM GLUE,
    agree w. you.
    Just wondering how´d you ever get that feeling about "Days of Wine..etc" being distinct A and B parts?
    Don´t know how O.P. plays it, but the standard chord structure is A1 A2.
    like in F:

    / F / Eb7 / D7 / D7 /
    / Gm7 / Gm7 / Bbm6 / Eb7 /

    first ending:
    / Am7 / Dm7 / Gm7 / C7 /
    / Em7b5 A7 / Dm7 Gm7 / Gm7 / C7 /

    second ending ( from bar 9 ):
    / Am7 / Dm7 / Bm7b5 / Bb7 /
    / Am7 Dm7 / Gm7 C7 / F ( Bb6) / F6 /

  15. Sorry arto, you are right, that's really what I meant. I guess what I am saying is that on the initial listen with my untrained ear, I didn't really notice A1 vs A2 at all. I will post some of the chords I wrote down later this week (my notebook is at home) - there are some interesting subs Ray/they seem to be doing, including subbing in a tritone - E7 instead of the Bb7 in A2 and a Gdim run instead of the Gm7 in the head. Also some crazy stuff in A1 during the solo section that I can't even really put chords to...

    Anyway, yeah its A1/A2. Thanks for the correction...
  16. OK, no need to be sorry...anyhow, writing down Ray´s lines and figuring out the chords / subs is interesting. Please post what you came up with "The Days..." after you finish your transcription.
    To the original subject: As it might have been shown already, transcriptions are extrermely useful ( and fun ). I just wish I had unlimited resources of idle time to make them...

  17. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    You said it, brother. The most precious thing in the world? Not diamonds, not platinum, but TIME.
  18. originally posted by Misplaced Feather:
    "Not diamonds, not platinum, but TIME."

    Good time is the hardest part to write down, too.

  19. abaguer


    Nov 27, 2001
    Milford, NJ
    When learning to construct jazz bass lines (emphasis on learning), I found writing out bass lines to be extremely helpful. When I was studying with Harvie Swartz he insisted on lines being written out on paper so you could see how they were done.

    I don't think the original question meant writing out lines, bringing them to the gig and playing the written lines on the bandstand. I agree with Samuel that when playing you shouldn't be trying to force licks that you wrote into the music, but writing lines down away from the instrument is a great way to approach chord changes from another perspective, mainly one in which your fingers aren't moving where they usually go.
  20. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    I only found out about this stuff from Mark Levine's "Jazz Theory Book" and also the first few pages of the Sher Real Books - they have a great chart which shows you what notes are in every type of chord, on one page!!

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