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Practice and regimen that help develop creative groove

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by capnsandwich, Jan 6, 2013.

  1. I'm not really talking about timing but rather things that I can do to develop a sense of groove and creative fills and runs in a song. I've been listening to a lot of newer funk and jazz stuff lately and I must say that I try to rack my brain around where the bass player's coming from when he comes up with some of those fills he's playing. For example:

    Now, these are just examples of what I'm talking about. I really dig what Sharay Reed is doing in that gospel song. It's nothing over the top or beyond my level of playing but.....how does he come up with this stuff? Does he practice the same fills in the same songs or is he simply going with the flow and being creative on the spot? I believe the latter to be true. How does he develop that sense of creativity and groove so he can do this stuff?

    I hope I'm making my question clear enough.
  2. Anyone???
  3. 20db pad

    20db pad

    Feb 11, 2003
    I been everywhere, man...
    None. At all.
    This is a good question, but a huge one at the same time. In a general sense, a player that functions really well in this style of playing is deep into the type of music they play, and part and parcel of it is well placed fills and musical comments. If one's head and heart is in that music, this is the usual way a bassist communicates it because it's expected and encouraged.

    No one player can be reduced to a set of influences, but I hear an awful lot of Anthony Jackson, Nathan East, Andrew Gouche, and even Pino sort of stuff in the above clips. It's not unusual for a player to grab favorite licks and phrases off of recordings and catalog them, and recall them when the time is right and the music calls for it. It becomes a natural thing after years of doing it, along with developing a strong understanding of how and where to place this material. This could be through trial and error, or with a strong understanding of theory, with emphasis on arpeggios, chord tones, and pentatonic patterns on the neck. In this manner, you can grab an Anthony fill you like that happens in the key of A and place it in a tune you are playing in G, for instance. This is a common practice amongst all improvising musicians, regardless of instrument. It's actually more of a Jazz-oriented mindset where the idea of "imitate, assimilate, innovate" is the key. You copy, put stuff into your own playing, and finally after being able to do that, you learn the lay of the land and come up with your very own stuff.

    Ultimately, if you want to play like that, study and copy the guys that already do, with a special emphasis on getting the notes and phrasing absolutely right. A study of the masters of the style, along with a knowledge of how, what, where, and when to put this stuff is the path to being able to do it.
  4. I'm glad you understood my question. I was afraid I wasn't making myself clear enough.

    So you're saying that ear training and theory knowledge are the keys to getting better at this type of improvisation? Sounds like I'm already on my way there. I just need something to get out of these ruts I find myself getting into. I get a groove down and follow the pattern but I find myself repeating a lot of the same rudiments and scales and I get tired so of hearing myself play to the point where I stop pushing and pressing to get better. Then I hear a new bassist or new group and wonder why I ever stopped shedding. That's when the guilt sets in.
  5. 20db pad

    20db pad

    Feb 11, 2003
    I been everywhere, man...
    None. At all.
    I'm not convinced that ear training and theory knowledge is the only way - I know too many guys that know no theory at all and have never done ear training that play on international stages all the time. Those guys understand the language of music so well that they function seamlessly in it, but the stuff they play has roots in proper theory at the end of the day anyway. They just don't know why it works, they just know how, and that it sounds good.

    However, the guys that DO know their classical practice textbook theory and harmony (like Marcus Miller) and the guys that DON'T all have the common experience of sitting down, learning the stylistic components from recordings, making it their own, and making it work while playing in an ensemble.

    I've seen many players spend tens of thousands of dollars at schools and grind their gears in all sorts of time-wasting ways in an effort to avoid doing the work involved. You have to listen a lot, listen very deeply, and play a lot, too. As Wooten always says, music is a language and you have to be in the act of learning and speaking the language to speak it well.
  6. Yes, agreed. When I was a young kid, around the ages of 11-14, I moved to Germany with my parents. It was a culture shock for sure but when I was there I learned so much about the culture that, when I came back, you'd think I was a German. Here I am, 25 years later, and I can't speak enough of it to get anywhere. It's all gone. Yeah, I could probably find a bathroom or order a hamburger but it's night/day compared to how it was when I was over there.

    I guess I just really need to immerse myself in music like I did when I was immersed in the German culture. I didn't have to take classes even though I did take a few in school. I had to learn it or I couldn't talk to anyone unless they spoke English. After about 3 years, I could express myself just like a German. Maybe I'll get to the point of being able to express myself as easy as some of these guys I listen to. I mean, I can solo and groove but coming up with different lines and grooves, especially on the fly, have been my challenge here as of late. I guess getting off talk bass and into the woodshed would be a first step in the right direction.
  7. DiabolusInMusic

    DiabolusInMusic Functionless Art is Merely Tolerated Vandalism Supporting Member

    Work on your voice leading, that and practice grooving with others.
  8. Yeah, voice leading is something I've been working on, especially playing in the urban gospel genre. We use a lot of it with all the key changes we do.

    Also, would videos like this one help at all? I mean, it's just a simple beat with no movement or key changes but I still find myself doing a lot of my little things over and over again. I really need to expand my musical vocabulary when it comes to doing runs and fills.
  9. Immersing yourself in the music you love is the way to go. If you like the basslines in those videos, why not sit down and figure out the bassline, note-for-note if possible. Want to play like Pino or Nathan East? Get as many recordings of theirs as possible and learn the basslines. And don't just learn the notes - try and get all the articulations that the player uses as well. There's a great video on Youtube of Pino playing with John Mayer, but the camera is on him the entire time. One thing that you can see in the video is that he slurs a lot during his fills. It can be hard to hear in a recording, but it's part of what gives him his unique style.

    Eventually, what you realize is there's no secret notes, no secret scales or chords theses guys use - just the same notes as everyone else, filtered through their individual style.

    I think a distinction needs to be made here between formal theory and ear training study, and on-the-job training. While plenty of musicians have never sat in a classroom with a theory textbook, or taken a formal ear-training course, a lot of guys (especially successful players) have some basic knowledge that most players consider "theory" - basic chord tones, scales, etc... Same thing with ear-training - figuring out basslines from a CD is still training your ear.
  10. 20db pad

    20db pad

    Feb 11, 2003
    I been everywhere, man...
    None. At all.
    IMO, not really. You're given a topic - a groove in A - but if you have nothing to say, you'll end up with the same frustration you've mentioned in earlier posts. Expanding your musical vocabulary means doing the work of transcribing and THEN applying the material to a backing track or with a group. If you find a track that has Nate or AJ or Pino playing a static one chord groove, it essentially serves as a study of how those guys approach a static one chord groove. Copy their work as an example of how to do that well. There's a lot of work involved in that, but it's how you learn how to do it and cross over from the academic to practical application, and finally into listenable music.

    As the guys on the DB side would say, if there's a teacher or even a guy in town who can play like this, try to get together with him and absorb how he navigates this stuff.
  11. Thanks for the input, guys. This is what I was thinking I had to do before I started this thread but I still wanted to know if there were any more tricks or techniques to get the desired result. I also needed to hear some confirmation on this as well and I think I got plenty of it. There are a few guys here in town that can play at this level but most of them are so busy it's hard to get together with them. A good bassist is always in demand.
  12. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    A rut is the re-organising of what you know, that's why you get dispondant, feeling empty, dissatisfied etc. because you already know what you are playing and how to play it.
    You may think you are working on new ideas or learning new things but maybe all you are doing is re-arranging what you know?
    So you feel it's new, but all it is really is different, not new.
    This is why a change of thinking to learn new ideas, get out your comfort zone, and have to work to understand the new learning.

    So a teacher is important, someone who will challenge you with ideas and learning you do not have answers for till you learn and understand what is being put to you.
    Now that teacher may be someone you see once a month, they give you book work and listening and you have four weeks to work on it.
    Four weeks passes fast, your concepts of what you are working on will change as you develop the ideas being put to you. I find that when I work with a certain type of player, weekly lessons are pointless, because they have not had time to realise things for themselves. So each week it could be that I get paid to review what we done the previous weeks, we cannot move on till they have a grasp of the ideas.
    This could almost be one of the reasons players give up with lessons, because they feel they do not develop enough, it seems to be the same things week in week out. So its like a rut in many ways, they become dissatisfied with have to cover the same ground, rather than learning, but as I said I cannot move a player on till they have the ideas under their fingers.......and for that it needs to be in their heads.

    Great playing is lead by the mind, the techniques or ideas become a reality created by the need to recreate and play what is being heard in the head. Where as a technique learned with no reall purpose rather than it seems cool, has no where to go, you try and find uses for it.....and those uses will be based on what you know, so again nothing new has been learned.
    Look at it this way if you learn a song, changing key may see you needing to re-arrange the way you play it, not learn it again. So you can play it in all 12 keys, it is still the same song. Learn it on a variety of instruments, its still the same song, learn it in various styles or genres, its still the same song, apply various techniques, effects or what ever to it....it is still the same song, still the same information. If you spent a few years of your life doing all of that above, you have still not really learned anything new, just different ways to show your limitations....and that will leave you eventually feeling dis-satisfied, you know deep down you are lacking and start to question what and why you do what you do.

    So ask yourself this, are you just going through the motions of what you know, re-arranging your known knowledge when you woodshed, or are you working on new ideas, new learning that you may not understand just know, but have to learn to understand? That means making mistakes, being out of your comfort zone and actually learn new ideas, not rearrange and work on what you do know.
    Are you setting the questions to which you already know the answers?
    Sure you can re-phrase them but it is still the same answers that you get, because you set the questions.

    Check out those other players, try and find out what makes them tick and see if it can work for you. OK you might feel overwhelmed by it, that's why I work with those players once a month, sometimes once a year, it gives them time to think, make mistakes, experiment, get on with the other things in their playing lives without this being not so much a focus but an add on to run along with what they do.
    And for the record I do the same, I go and take lessons, I get out my comfort zone, I take on new challenges and ideas.....I have been playing over forty odd years now and it is learning new ideas that give me the buzz, the feeling of something becoming right after feeling so wrong is a feeling of achievement, the feeling that I have learned something this week I did not know last week ( week, month, year..it's all the same ) and have it under my fingers is one of the best feelings in the world.:)
  13. I thought about getting a teacher but I would have to find a teacher that's way above my level. I'm not saying that I'm awesome or anything but I do play at a professional level. I've been putting off getting a teacher because I wouldn't know where to find a teacher in the area that could take me past where I already am without paying a fortune and because it would cost a fortune and I don't have that kind of money right now. The better the teacher, the higher the price in my experience.

    However, you're definitely right about me needing a teacher. I took some classes from Adam Nitti's old website Music Dojo and learned quite a bit from it but it was $50 a class and I felt I needed a more personalized regimen for what I wanted to accomplish. I just wish I lived in Nashville and had a really good job so I could get Adam to give me lessons in person. He's a really good teacher from what I got from musicdojo.com.
  14. Here is one of my favorite exercises, inspired by Scott Devine:

    Take a 4 note box pattern. Root, major 2nd, 4th, 5th. Basic blues box pattern.

    Then you take those 4 notes and come up with a groove. Play only those 4 and come up with something unqiue, fun and interesting. Syncopation, 16ths, and ghost notes help.

    Then, when you can do that, cap it to 3 notes. If it's fun for you to play and feel groovy, it probably is. Reduce it then to 2 notes. I have never been able to create a groove that lasted for more than 12 bars or so with only one note, but with 2 you can create a pretty awesome groove.
  15. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    OK, good points, but it is not always a better teacher of bass, but of music. You as the bass player would naturally convert and apply what you learn to suit your needs ( sort of transpose information ).
    One of the things I know for a fact is that taking lessons from a bass player means you have the bass part or line and you have to then reference that to the music or part. So if you are not musical this can be hard to hear and understand.
    But if you took music lessons from a piano teacher, got into the theory of harmony and melody, the extentions of chords and what is available to be used to support of 'colour' the chords being played, it is easier to here the bass within it than it is to hear the music around a bass line or part.

    This is why you will always read about players giving advice about the virtues of transcription, the act of writing out the music and parts, gives you a visual relationship to the music to internalise, to run along side and support (or make you question) any other information you have or learn.

    If you already do transcriptions, then vary what you transcribe, it does not have to be of a higher level, just a different level. The same applies to what you listen to and what you practice, just the fact that something is different can put you out of your comfort zone.

    One simple exercise in this type of thinking (if you will indulge me) is the apparant obvious to others......but not to you situation, so can I ask what is you practice when you woodshed?
    Just a short synopsis of what you practice, and how you practice it.
  16. Well, I woodshed in different ways, not just by playing but sometimes listening and dissecting the music with my ear as well. When I do this, I sit and listen to a song and I try to figure out the bass line's pattern. Since I'm just listening without my bass, I'll try to figure where the bassist's hand is and try to follow it. That's how I do ear training. I've gotten pretty good at it and it has taught me to learn songs quickly and on the fly a lot easier. This has also helped me to transcribe songs much easier. I've wowed people with how fast and easy I can transcribe a song for them. I used to be a musical director at a church and the worship leader would ask me to do this a lot.

    When I woodshed with the bass I'll warm up with some rudiments, usually with playing something over a major scale like going over my modes or playing up and down the fretboard in a 1-2-3-4 pattern like, say I was playing in the key of C, I would play C-D-E-F, D-E-F-G, E-F-G-A, etc. until I reach 2 octaves from the note I started on. Then I'd play it backwards and alternating my fingering.

    As far as practicing a song, I'd try to figure out the chord progression by doing what I've written in the first paragraph, figure out where the drummer's foot is hitting, and listen for the bass line intently. Once I get that down I'll begin to add my own flavor and style to the song. I'll go over the song several times until I feel comfortable that I've got it down and could play it live if I needed to. I'll also chart everything I practice so that I have a visual reference when I come back to it. I'll also switch to different songs and then come back to songs to strengthen my memory of the song.
  17. Thanks everyone for their input. Anyone else have an insight to this dilemma?
  18. bassinplace


    Dec 1, 2008
    Go forth and chop, my friend. :bassist:
  19. Lately I've been loading up a randomish groove in Superior Drummer and then picking a key and throwing some chords down for keyboards and using Sonar to turn it into a riff. Then I'll loop that stuff and just improvise over it for a good long while.

    It takes me about 5 minutes to set up the backing tracks, so not much time invested, but I find that picking a ramdomish key over a randomish groove makes me kick up the creativity and try lots of new things...
  20. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    Great workouts, you really use your time well, you have a good various, so keeps you motivated and interested, set of principals to work on.

    But...and this is the reason I asked, see no mention of timing, so would you practice all this in 4/4.

    Players set up practice to play even, to make each note have the same qualities as the previous, so they have an even sound and feel when they play. I have written about, talk about at demo days, open days etc..about such things over the years.

    If just by reading what I have writing so far an idea should be forming that if a player all they ever do is practice being even, practice making their action strictly alternate, practice in 4/4.......then all these things are reinforcing an action and sound that is repeatable to the point it is seen as efficient and faultless......that is what we want in mechanical machine operations, cars, engineering etc.........but all this has nothing to do with groove, in fact groove belongs in the opposite skills and desires of all this.

    Playing 4/4 is even, so is playing in between the beat, you are still dividing 4/4. Many players think they are playing off beat when in fact they are just playing in between the beat, they are still working in and reinforcing 4/4.

    If we asume that timing can be broke down into two very clear areas, the feeling of even numbers, and the feeling of odd numbers, then when we combines these numbers we create new areas to work in.
    7/8 so we have 8th notes, being divided into a group of four and a group of three, so it is when we play 7/4 but it is quarter notes divided into two groups.
    So if they are being divided into groups of two they are simple time signatures, because that is really the definition of simple time, divide the beat into two smaller units. Compound time is the division of the beat into three smaller units.

    If I stop at this point, because to much info can be pointless at this point (depending on the players abilities of course, but this is the web) and now ask you this.

    Can you play your practice routines in 3/4 and 4/4?

    We hear and read about practice in all 12 keys, but what about practice in the two most basic components of timing?
    Because certain time signatures are just extensions of 3/4 and 4/4 ( not true in the strictest meanings but for now it applies) 3/8 has it roots in 3/4 as does 12/8 in 4/4. But if you play a slow song in 4/4 your sub-divisions are limited, but play the same song in 12/8 and more options on where you can be are open to you.
    Tempo is a relation of time to the beat, not the timing of the beat.
    If I played this;

    Am I playing quarter notes over 16 bars?
    Am I playing eighth notes over two bars?
    Am I playing sixteenth notes over one bar?

    It is obvious that tempo used to play this can be set, but because the tempo is the same there are more possibilities for sub-divisions of the time with eighth notes over quarter, and sixteenth notes over eighth notes.
    It is not about speed, it is about sub-division, a player can play as fast and a furious as they want at 200bpm, but it will always be 200bpm, that's why most practice advice is about practice slow, practice so slow its like slow motion in your head, because the nuances of rhythm and sub division have nothing to do with tempo. Once it is under your fingers you just choose the tempo you want to play it at, again it is a skill that many work on without realising they can do it already.

    Try playing your two octave rudiments in 4/4 then again in 12/8 and feel the difference. Then try them in 3/4 and again in 9/8.
    Once you have these meters ( time signatures are also called called meters) under your fingers other meters become easier because you have a foundation to build and relate to, so you adapt what you already know to feel the new meter.

    Now maybe your playing is starting to sound a little less mechanical, a little bit more intuitive, maybe tight but not in a mechanical way, maybe this is what groove is.......if so then why is timing away from 4/4 meters not practiced more and why is there such a focus on all notes being the same in sound, tonality, timbre etc?.....that is what a computer would sound like........wouldn't it?:)

    I hope this helped, sorry if it made assumptions about your ability, but this is the web so a bit of over explanation and examples never hurt.
    If you already practice meters then keep on it it pays off in the end, as does listening, it is amazing the amount of information we put under our fingers just by listening, and I mean hear it and understand, not just listen.