question re: soloing on "Footprints"

Discussion in 'Music Theory [DB]' started by AJ Love, Aug 1, 2003.

  1. AJ Love

    AJ Love

    Oct 8, 2002
    Madison WI USA
    getting into developing as a soloist on bass...I know the basslines and the melody to Wayne Shorter's Footprints well, but I am looking for more info on soloing on that song...which scales/chord shapes to use....any hip type lines to play over the turnaround, basically any info you guys can give me would be much appreciated

    Cm11-Fm11 (so basically study those chord shapes and scales inside and out?)
    turnaround F#m11(b5) - F13(#11) - E7alt - A7

    now I do understand that in order to solo one has to play ideas and not scales, still it would be helpful to have extra theory knowledge behind where I am soloing
  2. I would say practice the chord/scale shapes. Try creating lines off of different members of the chords (the 3rd, 5th, 7th). Look for the relations between each chord and the scales they belong to, use those relations to bridge the changes melodicly. Use variations of the "Footprints" bassline when all else fails. Most importantly, get a good teacher!
    Good luck,
  3. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    The tune is a minor blues, but I don't think you've got the turnaround right. You're ending on VI dominant, which isn't right.

    Try (in Cm): F7b9#11 / E7#9 / D7b9 / G7#5

    Of course, there are many variations on that turnaround, but I'm fairly sure you're always going to end up on some sort of V chord (or bII7).
  4. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Mike, your point's well taken. AJ is studying with Richard Davis. 'Nuff said.

    My two cents: "Hip lines" are for the practice-room. When you're playing with people -- especially people like your esteemed teacher -- the name of the game is to work with them, not to cram in some pre-packaged idea. Keep your ears open and see where you wind up.
  5. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    What helped me a lot when I was starting out trying to solo over changes in Jazz was being able to hear the changes played by a harmony instrument and then try out ideas and ways of "joining it all up" over the top of these changes.

    So I have two ways of doing this - mostly I will programme in the chords (simel piano chords) and basic rhythm track into my microcomposer and just loop it - so I can keep trying soloing or playing bass lines forever over this background.

    So everybody might not have access to this type of gear - but the other way is to get the Aebersold play-alongs CDs and try playing solos over a few of these with the bass turned down.

    So - it is OK for people to give you theoretical ideas about what to play - but if you can't hear how these fit over the changes and how it all works in context then they are always gong to sound like mechanical exercises involving scales.

    Whereas if you can hear a chord sequence and then know what is available to you to play, then it all opens up and you don't have to think about it too much - and you don't really have the time to think anyway!! ;)
    WaveyDavey likes this.
  6. Samuel, I couldn't agree with that more. Joe (my teacher) tells me this all the time. The only problem I have had, and still do at times, is when I am playing with the "cut and paste" crew. A couple of guys I have played with made me feel like my playing was worthless because my improvising didn't invlove cramming in as many pre planned ideas as possible. I don't play with them very often now though.
    It's amazing how so many people "improvise" in this way. I guess when you get around better players this idea fades, I hope. :D
  7. AJ, I'd also say try to play ideas. Try to hear the sound of the changes in your head, then play melodic ideas that you hear. If you are able to record yourself playing with other people, when you listen back you may be surprised by hearing yourself later. I have surprised myself many times.
  8. AJ Love

    AJ Love

    Oct 8, 2002
    Madison WI USA
    I appreciate all the feedback thankyou
  9. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    That turnaround has probably been written about 50 different ways, much like the infamous "Herbie polychords" at the end of Dolphin Dance. I'm not aware of any one turnaraound as being THE DEFINITIVE turnaround for this song, and it's not uncommon to hear different soloists blowing over different changes during the same performance. For this reason, Sam's advice is best - play what you hear at the moment based on the context the band creates.

    Having said that, there are two pieces of advice I can give:

    1) WDMD? - What does the melody do? For the first two bars of the TA, it outlines a G Major triad, then lowers the B. This gives you a lot to go on already.

    2)Assuming you want to go with the changes as written above, I'd analyze the chord scales and create a "flow chart" of scales which focuses on what notes stay in common between adjacent implied chord scales. If we use the "common default" version of the scales "implied" by these chords, it would go something like the following:

    C D E F# G A B C

    C D Eb F G A B C

    C D E F G G#/Ab Bb C

    C C#/Db Eb F G A Bb C

    C D Eb F G A Bb C

    (I took the liberty of altering the A7 chord, since this is the more common notation of the chord IME)

    All of the scales are written from C to C for ease of comparison, and in this case the song is in the key of Cmi anyway. When you look at the turnaround in this way, it's pretty easy to see that you have several choices for common tones between one chord and the next, which is always handy.

    If you want to woodshed navigating through these changes, I'd suggest a "Continuous Scale Exercise" in which you play linearly roughly within a 2 octave range without breaking motion or changing your line when each new chord comes. For instance, if you were playing quarter notes with "F#" as a random starting point, you'd get:

    F# G A

    B C D

    E F G

    A Bb C


    Try this exercise from different starting points, ascending descending, using patterns, etc. After a while, the progression starts to feel more like home, and at that point you can focus on making melodies with a bit more confidence. Good luck.
    BobDeRosa and Jason Hollar like this.
  10. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    The preceeding post has been edited to remove several late-night brain farts. :rolleyes:
    BobDeRosa likes this.
  11. B]For this reason, Sam's advice is best - play what you hear at the moment based on the context the band creates.[/B]

    When I first learned this tune 15 years ago, I played the incorrect changes that are in the old illegal Real Book (D13 for 2 bars, Db13 for 2 bars). This collection of standards and jazz tunes is so riddled with mistakes not only in the changes, but also the melody, rhythm, form, even tiles and composers of tunes, that it should be called the Wrong Book. However, for many years it was the only book of its kind that managed to be widely circulated, so countless young musicians would learn these tunes incorrectly to the point where the mistakes became the norm. So it is possible you will play with others who use those changes, in which case it is probably best to just go along with it, not try to force the issue with what you think is the correct way.

    There are many improved fake books out now, which are legal, and much more accurate. The New Real Book series from Sher Music is one. In any case, when learning a new tune your first reference should be a definitive recording of it, in this case by the composer. The first one I'm aware of is on Adam's Apple, from 1966. It's also on Miles Smiles from later that same year. In both versions they use the sequence starting on F#.

    Now for some theory. Chris's suggestion is valid, and one of many. Just remember you're in 3/4 or 6/4, so you'd actually be playing 4 quarters in the space of 3. Another way to delve into the harmony is by using what can be called guide tones, or 3rds and 7ths. Start with one note and see how it moves when the chord changes.

    For example, E (7th of F#) to Eb (7th of F) to D (7th of E) to C# (3rd of A) to C (root).

    Or, A (3rd of F#), stay on A (3rd of F) to G# (3rd of E) to G (7th of A) to F (11th of C).

    When you are able to use these notes as focal points of your lines, you will succeed literally in "making the changes" because these are the notes which define the quality of the chord and have the strongest tendencies to resolve when the chord changes.

    In voice leading, one of the most basic principles is as follows: when a chord changes, each note in the chord will a) stay put because it is a note common to both chords, or b) move to the note closest to it which is a member of the next chord.

    The only thing not conventional here is the resolution of A7 to C-7, but that is one reason Wayne Shorter tunes are interesting. They challenge us to find a way to navigate through unusual harmonies.

    Sorry to be so long-winded. Good Luck!
    Jason Hollar likes this.
  12. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    True. But if you alter the A7 chord, it becomes remarkably similar to the Cmi7 chord, the only difference being the C#/Db in the A7 chord scale versus the "D" in the Cmi. Still, agreed that unusual harmonic motion is one of the many things that make Shorter tunes so interesting and challenging.
  13. There is a common myth about improvising, IMHO, that to improvise means to play something completely new, that you or noone else has ever played before. In fact, one of the main components of an improviser's art is his collection of "pre-planned ideas" - patterns or licks that he has amassed into his vocabulary through creative practice, transcription, or absorbed from general listening. The better players have more interesting pre-planned ideas, more of them (a more extensive vocabulary, if you will) and can "cut and paste" them together in such a way so that one idea leads logically to the next. It is the way in which these ideas are pieced together which is going to be different each time, and therein lies the improvisation.

    To cite an example, there are two different live recordings of the Ray Brown trio playing "The Days of Wine and Roses". If you compared Ray's solos from each version, you would find many similarities, including large portions that are identical, note for note. It is obvious that he had most if not all of his ideas worked out in advance, and yet I still consider these to be very satisfying improvisations.

    All the greats used and use pre-planned ideas - from Louis Armstrong all the way to Michael Brecker, and everyone in between.

    That being said, 1)you shouldn't be made to feel as if your playing is worthless for any reason, 2) You don't have to cram a lot of notes into your ideas, 3) Your ideas don't have to sound like anyone else's, 4) You don't have to cram all of your ideas into every solo, and 5) If you want to try and improvise without any vocabulary, that's your perogative too.
  14. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    I can appreaciate what you're saying - but I think especially for people new to Jazz working out your solo in advance can give you problems - like... what the other musicians do!!

    I think that while Jazz musicians generally, as you say have a large vocabulary - the improvising is in the way they play with other people - how they react to different players with different feels and ideas.

    So I have often seen players pick up on ideas they have heard from a previous soloist, who they may not play with regularly and this sounds natural and gives the piece a cohesion it would not have had if each player had simply come to the table with pre-planned ideas about what they were going to play and didn't react to the other musicians.

    So - the difficulty is to be relaxed and confident enough to throw out any pre-planned ideas if you hear something more interesting happening and to be able to react to other players - and I think this only comes with experience of playing with other people - you just have to get out there and do it as much as possible.

    So - I went to Jazz Summerschool a few weeks ago
    and this is a great opportunity to spend all week playing with different people - jamming and performing at the nightly Jazz club.

    But I noticed the same thing happens to the tutors - so there are about 20 or so UK Jazz pros on all instruments, who also get to play in the eveinings in different combinations that they wouldn't throughout the rest of the year, when they may be restricted to a few regular quartets etc.

    So I noticed how often a soloist would change his/her own style completely from what they tend to play in their regular groups, that I have heard at gigs throughout the year or on CD - depending on who they were playing with at the time.
  15. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    After all that I forgot one of the central points about how you do this! ;)

    So - we have discussed this at my regular Jazz classes and the tutor has borrowed an idea from the Jazz Summerschool I mentioned.

    So - it is often difficult for students to react to what is going on - they are focused on their pre-planned ideas and the changes and maybe the rhythm -so they are not always listening to what everybody else is doing.

    So - as I say the tutor borrowed this idea of doing some free playing in small groupings - so maybe duos or trios - or stand around in a circle and one person starts and another joins in - but when a third starts the first must drop out and so on round the circle - so everybody get sto play in differnet combinations, but there are never too many people playing at one time so you can't hear clearly.

    So - the idea is no time, no changes - no egos, trying to impress or get pre-planned ideas in. The big idea is to listen to what other people are doing and react to them - leading, supporting - no matter what instrument you are playing. Most people hate the idea to start with (although not all) - what do I do? - but after a while find it very 'liberating' and enjoyable! :)
  16. First of all, I agree completely that a big part of improvising involoves interacting with other members of the group. However, you can't be conversant in a language until you have learned some of that language and the basic rules which govern it. Then, you can expand your vocabulary in a number of ways, including picking up on ideas from others in the group.

    Second, I was in no way recommending that entire solos be worked out. Rather, I am suggesting that a beginner level player have a number of basic phrases for any given harmonic sequence, generally 1,2, or 4 bars in length, which can be inserted into his solo at the appropriate time. For an inexperienced player, this can alleviate the problem of station-to-station decision making, like choosing which scale to play over this chord, then the next, then how do I resolve this note, etc. When one is not preoccupied with these details, he is more likely to be able to focus on what else is happening in the group, and engage in interplay.
  17. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    But how is it "interplay" - if you are just trotting out something that you worked out before, regardless of what the other musicians play.

    So - Footprints has quite a simple structure and a soloist might give you a motif and attempt to pass it on - even give you a look or nod. If you then come back with some pre-worked phrase that bears no relation to what that person was doing, then they are going to feel pretty miffed and think you weren't listening to them or didn't appreciate what they were doing - bad feeling all round. :(
  18. You are missing my point, which is this: you have to start somewhere. You can't just pick up your instrument, and say "Now I am going to have intelligent musical dialogue with another instrumentalist." You must first develop some tools to bring to the table.

    The term interplay does not necessarily mean "You play something, and I will mimic it". This will always sound trite. Use spoken language as an analogy. Someone comes up to you on the street and says "Which way to the nearest pub?" You do not reply, "Which way to the nearest bar?". You do not reply, "Where can I get a drink around here?" You say, Two blocks West, at the corner of 12th and Vine." Or, "I don't know, I'm three sheets to the wind myself." Either way, the answer is a direct result of the question, yet uses none of the same words.

    Most of the time, bassists play the role of accompanists, and as such serve to compliment and enhance what the soloist is doing. Usually, these things are subtle. For example, the soloist leaves a space between phrases, and you respond by embellishing your bass line with a "spickety-boom". This is like punctuation. Or, there is some tension building, so you decide to add to it by employing a pedal point or ostinato figure. Perhaps you find it appropriate to lighten or thin out the texture, so you venture briefly into the upper register. How about this: in the three A sections of Caravan, the soloist is using three different sounds on the C7 chord. First whole tone, then diminished, and finally altered dominant. You recognize this, and cater your bass line to each scale. These are all examples of interplay as it relates to accompaniment.

    Now, if you are in a situation where there is collective improvisation, or more than one person soloing simultaneously, this is a different kind of challenge. But listen to even early examples of this polyphony in dixieland shout choruses, and you will note that each instrument assumes a specific role - trumpet with the melody, trombone under it with longer notes on guide tones, and clarinet on top with a more ornate part. Individually, the three parts may seem to have little in common, but together they fit like pieces of a puzzle to make a complete picture.

    Jumping back to the notion of "pre-planned". Everything that you play is pre-planned, whether you realize it or not. Any good soloist will tell you that he knows what he is going to play before he plays it. It may be only a nanosecond beforehand, but he will always hear the idea in his head first, then transfer it to his instrument. And the material that is used for thes ideas is stuff that has been practiced and played before. Each phrase may be constructed of fragments of licks or patterns which already exist in the player's head and fingers. You can't just start making up new words in a language. You must use words that are known, and you must string them together in a way that follows the rules of grammer and syntax.

    Lastly, it is a good thing to copy others. This is how we learn. Imitation is the highest form of flattery. So you may begin by learning some Paul Chambers licks, then Ray Brown, then Scott LaFaro, then Eddie Gomez, then licks of other instrumentalists, and you are on your way to learning the lexicon that is jazz.
  19. Don Higdon

    Don Higdon In Memoriam

    Dec 11, 1999
    Princeton Junction, NJ
    And this brings up my absolute favorite moment in playing bass lines: when I, playing a line of quarter notes, hear and see that I have made the pianist or soloist change the harmony, or feel a different scale behind the triad. On a ballad, it can happen instantly; on an up tempo, you hear it at the same spot in the next chorus.
    I love it. Totally love it. People vastly underestimate the power of a walking line and think they have to overplay to be harmonically creative. It's all in your head.
  20. True. In fact, it may be easier for the pianist or other chordal instrument to adjust to a bass line than vice versa. A good comper can rest for a few beats, then anticipate the changes you are implying by noting the direction of your line (assuming that you are constructing a good line). Wheras a walking line is generally continuous, and the bassist may be less apt to switch direction midstream.