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Questions on improvisation/solo

Discussion in 'Music Theory [DB]' started by learnintowalk, Mar 8, 2014.

  1. learnintowalk


    Feb 27, 2014
    Hey guys! I posted about two weeks ago needing help on the head of "Out of Nowhere", luckily i was able to learn it the time I had. Now my bass teacher wants me to solo/improv over it. I have no clue how do to that. Any good place to start? (and yes i made my own walking bass line to it and i played the chord arpeggios.
  2. I looked up the chords:
    And then played along with:

    I'm not great with jazz, nor soloing, but this is the easy process I do it:
    I play the standard blues scale and move it around depending on the chord.
    So if it's a Gmaj7, I play the Am-jazz scale (A C D E G), or Em-jazz scale (E G A B D). I know I can add an F# note also.

    When I see the Bbm7, I just play the Bbm-jazz scale (Bb Db Eb F Ab). And so forth.

    Basically, I play the jazz scale a whole step up if it's a Major Chord, or play the jazz scale associated with a Minor Chord.

    I can add off-note flourishes, as long as I resolve the note-run quickly enough to the chord. For example during the Gmaj7 chord, I could do a quick G B C# D# C# B A G note run then settle with Bb during Bbmin7 chord. It'll sound really off, the trick is to, again, resolve your run to the correct chord before it just sounds like a bunch of mistakes.

    Another trick is perhaps start with a quick arpeggio, G B D F# then add a flourish at the end ... G A B C B G.

    Listen to other soloists on the song, copy some of their licks and get an idea of what notes they're playing during each chord.
  3. Wally Malone

    Wally Malone

    Mar 9, 2001
    Boulder Creek, CA
    AFM International Representative Endorsing Artist: Accugroove Cabinets & MJC Ironworks Strings
  4. Tom Lane

    Tom Lane Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 28, 2011
    Torrance, CA
    How much time do you have before you need to show your teacher what you've accomplished?
    The best way is to learn the tune inside out, transcribe a bunch of brilliant solos and learn to play them verbatim. Don't have time for that? The get-by way, that works for me, is be to memorize the melody, sing a solo over the changes, many times, then try soloing against it on your bass. Solo over it 100 times or so and you should have internalized the harmony such that you know where it's going and won't hit any quote-unquote wrong notes, but your solos are likely to be pedestrian and not very sophisticated.
    Actually, your teacher should be telling you all this, not some random guy on the web.
  5. mtto

    mtto Supporting Member

    May 25, 2008
    Los Angeles, CA
    Listen to A LOT of soloists, a lot of versions of the song, so you start to develop your personal tastes. Lennie Tristanto wrote a head on Out of Nowhere called "317 East 32nd Street" so check out versions of that, too. If you find someone you like, listen to multiple versions of them playing over the changes.

    If you know the arpeggios for each chord, then you should be able to play a simple melody of half notes, just using chord tones. Pay attention to the way the notes from one chord lead to the notes in the next chord. For instance, D, the 5th of the Gmaj7 chord, can lead to Db, the 3rd of the Bbm7. Or G, the root of the Gmaj7 to Ab, the 7th of Bbm7. That is a pretty good place to start.

    There are two kinds of melody notes you can play over a chord in a chord progression: 1) chord tones, and 2) non-chord tones. Once you're comfortable with chord tones, you can start adding non-chord tones, and keeping growing from there. Start with the simple thing that you can do accurately and beautifully.
  6. skwee


    Apr 2, 2010
    Also, don't forget the cardinal rule of improv: it is composing in real time--so, play a melody and don't get too caught up in scales, arpeggios, etc. make up a really solid tune with a beginning, middle, and end.
  7. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    I'm a little concerned about your teacher's approach; what other work on improvisational approach have they worked on with you? This, to me, is a little like teaching someone to swim by throwing them in the deep end of the pool.
  8. ToR-Tu-Ra


    Oct 15, 2005
    Mexico City
    Eventhough that was my first aproach to swimming and I turned out an OK swimmer (I'm able to move about in a pool without drowning), I wouldn't advice it on Bass.

    From what you tell us (OP), seems you already know the melody to this tune, I'd start improvising by rephrasing it. Look up a bunch of singers, they're great doing this.
  9. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts

    I fall into the scale/arpeggio trap all the time when I have to wing a solo.

    Have you tried just singing some solos? Record your singing and transcribe it!

    Don't feel obligated to play lots of notes. I love how Charlie Haden can be walking at a fast tempo and then slows down to a crawl for his solo.
  10. MrLenny1


    Jan 17, 2009
    Learn the melody, play around with that until you can spin off some ideas.
  11. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Yes, but if you do that with most bands, they will be completely stuck about where to come back in! :p
  12. RShew


    Mar 11, 2004
    Los Angeles
    As an active teacher I have seen the rule learning aspect of improv a little over zealous and even constraining the creative process. We teach so many scales, rules, patterns that when a student starts to solo or make an improvised bass line they are over analyzing themselves. If you know how to walk and can spell the chords as arpeggios (which you said you could do), I think you are ready to try and make little melodies from that information alone! It's the same philosophy as walking bass lines you just now can improvise the rhythms too. Make little solos using roots and thirds or triads. Slide in a couple leading/passing tones here and there and you are on your way. Once you get over the fear of it then the door opens of wanting to learn more of the techniques/scales etc. Again this also falls under the umbrella of listening (which you said you were doing as well).
  13. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    RShewexperienced - that's not the only way to approach teaching improvisation in the jazz idiom. In fact, I am of the opinion that it's the worst possible approach.
    But there are ways to approach teaching it that are more focused than "here's the arpeggios, go listen to some music".
  14. RShew


    Mar 11, 2004
    Los Angeles
    Hi Ed,

    I agree it is not a great approach or even a method at all! I simply want the student to try and improvise with the VERY basics. Maybe I'm not being clear either. For learning to walk for example I will have the student play the roots only for a while. To get them familiar with the chords. Then add thirds triads etc. Just to get them playing and getting used to the chord tones. Once they are in, then we go through the chord scale theory.
  15. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Sorry to not be clear, what I was referring to as "worst possible approach" IS chord/scale.
    I just saw in your profile that you play some with Tim Pleasant; I don't know if he'd remember but we did a few gigs with Charles Sibirsky and Bob Keller some years back. Please tell him I said hello.
  16. RShew


    Mar 11, 2004
    Los Angeles
    I see Tim often. One of my favorites. Will pass on the hello. Sorry we can't seem to agree on what we are talking about. BTW, if it clears up anything in this conversation, I use your book in my teaching. So if we call that chord scales or chord tones or whatever, it involves knowing the chords, how they function and how to deal with them in a melodic fashion both with walking and soloing. Peace.
  17. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Yeah, typing leaves a lot to be desired. No worries, life goes on.
  18. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    It's funny how nobody (save for maybe Lee Konitz, Joe Solomon, Ed, and the like) ever espouse the idea that all one needs to do is create variations based on the melody. Simple diatonic variations can go a long way.

    Instead they get sucked into thinking that modes, scales, triad pairs, and pentatonics are required to make good melodies. As if they're a shortcut.

    I just went to see a big name player this week that I've liked a lot in the past only to see past the flash and spark to find that there isn't much melody underneath. Lotsa noise, not that much signal. Disappointing.

    OTOH, I think that's partly why Brazilians have such a good handle on great music. They don't care so much about the rules, the theory, and what not. That's my impression at least.

    If you want to learn how to start improvising, take the melody - learn it inside out and start mutating it. Everything else should come from that, IMO.
  19. Stick_Player

    Stick_Player Banned

    Nov 13, 2009
    Somewhere on the Alaska Panhandle (Juneau)
    Endorser: Plants vs. Zombies Pea Shooters
    This is SO TRUE!!!

    Especially for bass players that OFTEN cannot or don't know (i.e., familiar enough) the melody!

    If a bass player were to simply play the melody for his solo, the audience (and the group) wouldn't know what hit them.

    Because, this is so rarely done, people dread having the bass player take a solo.
  20. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    Well I think people dread the bass solo because they keep hearing guys trying to pull of a whole bunch of fancy scales and **** thinking that it sounds great (maybe to them?). It's so low, the notes speak slower, so all of it just sounds like muffled noise.

    I think that's what makes guys like Prez and Scott LaFaro so great - it's not that their playing is better than a technique freak but they do it with so much clarity and Imagination. Hip **** is not a replacement for the latter. With LaFaro his lines are so clear they're almost palpable and he makes the drawbacks of the instrument irrelevant. Prez's lines (like his language) is crazy imaginative - like Van Gogh's paintings without needing to resort to extremes.