Soloing Speed Skills: RH Bursts vs. Long drills

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by hdiddy, Dec 18, 2015.

  1. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    I've been thinking about this for a while when working on buidling up my soloing speed.

    In the past, I've had multiple teachers propose that I practice right hand technique, where you slowly build up the metronome while just drilling on a single pitch of 8th notes. Generally, the exercise is to even out the sound from both fingers (assuming you use a two finger technique) so that it's intelligible which finger you're using. If you do it for a while, you certainly build endurance which is certainly worthwhile, esp for walking bright tempos.

    The other exercises are to play scales at faster and faster tempos, esp using bebop scales.

    Still there seems to be a little bit of a skills gap in applying said skills to actual soloing. Wouldn't it make more sense to practice the ability to burst a short number of notes, at speed, maybe even as a phrase, accurrately and cleanly? When we talk, we don't talk in long streams of words: it's generally full of stops and starts. Soloing should mimic this, unless you're Pat Martino.

    The analogy is like a soccer player - you want to be great at sprinting, but being focusing on distance running is only important for general calisthenics.

    Thoughts? Anybogy got any good exercises that focus on this?
  2. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    It's an interesting paradigm. I realized long ago that I'm not NHØP or Bromberg or McBride, and therefore do not have a Gatling gun full of notes attached to the end of my right arm. For this reason, I very much like the idea of bursts of activity rather than long lines of shredtastic annihilation. But even there, the way I set my strings (stiff strings at 7-10mm G-->E) makes the bursts difficult.

    One thing that has helped is to objectify the situation by observing that once I pass my articulation threshold, I can generally play 3 notes with a good sharp attack and good time before my right hand needs a break; that break it needs is simply a breath, and can be as little as an 8th note. My left hand can go for much longer, so I have learned to count on it to supply the missing attack with a rake*, hammer on or pull off every 3rd or 4th note during one of these bursts that want to happen over my "gatling threshold". Practicing scales, patterns, arpeggios, licks, etc. in this way helps me use my limited right hand technique to better effect to produce longer and more accurate bursts than if I was attempting to articulate every note.

    * (Obviously, the rake is a right hand articulation, but in terms of energy expenditure, it's practically free because it simply follows gravity and no particular motion but an arm drop is required)

    Edit: the passage here in the latest TP video is a good example of this (link should start at 29:35 at the passage I'm talking about):

    In this passage, there are hammer and pulls and rakes that keep my right hand from having to articulate too many notes in a row, but the line is allowed to gain momentum because the left hand fills in the gaps. There's another very similar passage at 29:53 near the end of the excerpt that uses the same principle.
  3. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Augusta GA
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    amusicbass123 likes this.
  4. Pat Harris

    Pat Harris Supporting Member

    Nov 17, 2006
    Austin, TX
    It's been my experience that to build up speed, you have to A.) work up to it, and B.) actually play jazz vocabulary. IMO, you have to have a whole back catalog of licks/ideas/patterns ready to roll. Start with two bar phrases, then four bar, then eight bar. When playing fast, and I may be in the minority, but I'm not really thinking in terms of what's coming next. I have my bag of things worked out, and I modify a few things accordingly in the context.

    Starting slow and building up speed is great, but as the speed increases, I find the physical approach to the bass has to change. Obviously, the faster the tempo, the more the swing feel will straighten out. Similarly, the faster the tempo, the more relaxed the player has to be, and I definitely play with a lighter touch. My right hand is much closer to a bass guitar technique rather than a big meaty upright bass swing technique. For my own playing, I keep the fast playing in thumb position. It cuts through the mix easier, I can cover more ground in one position by playing across the strings, and there is physically less of the string vibrating, so there is less resistance when playing.

    I have noticed from the list of bassists that the OP mentions, that when they go into "burn mode," much of what they play is pretty idiomatic on the bass. I don't mean to cheapen or put down their abilities by saying that. Every instrument has it's own zone where things will lay well.
  5. shwashwa


    Aug 30, 2003
    id say work on actual jazz vocabulary. if you do enough of it you will eventually encounter all the moves that you need to make, and you will be learning vocabulary and developing your ear at the same time. i need to kill more than 2 birds with stones these days because my time is limited. dont separate your "exercises" from your music. make music with the exercises.
    Michael Karn and Pat Harris like this.
  6. frodebass


    Apr 11, 2004
    I used to seperate right hand from left hand, give theme seperate sets of excercises to work on, then put them together in coordination excercises, in short burst that I would graudally work up to higher and higher speeds, as well as more and more repetitions for stamina.
    Then off course it comes down to using the technique for actual musical phrases. I suggest buyng a transcription book, like the Charlie Parker omnibook, the Coltrane transcriptions or other, and work on that material after doing a segment of pure technical excercises, which will also double as a "warm up" for the speed stuff.

    Here's a little xmas video of me bursting along in Jingle bells at yesterdays gig:

  7. At a concert the other night I was playing pizz and locked in with another bassist's tremolo. Mingus did some great tremolo pizz things. Below is a quick Facebook video of the idea. I'd love to get it as quick as a flutter-tongue on a reed instrument:
  8. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    Ok coming back to this in the new year.

    From recent practicing, it seems to vary depending on the day. I have trouble with large shifts (as would most people) playing at high tempos so I've been focusing on bursting that and trying to make them smoother and more consistent. My technique is very similar to AMUSIC's technique. The weird thing is that for the past month or so I've been feeling the need to eliminate the chicken wing - something I used to do a lot. Started to feel like it was slowing me down.

    Pre-hearing lines and playing in groups of notes is critical to me. Completely agree with working on vocabulary to build speed, and even more importantly, my own vocab and being able to produce what I conjure up accurately with speed. Sorta on the thread of thought that DURRL is saying, sometimes it's also important to play repetitive figures or pauses, or hammer on/pull off just to have something in the air while the mind conjures up the next phrase.

    IOW, it seems ot be ALL the thing everybody above is mentioning, but it doesn't feel like one thing is more important than the other. Does anybody get that sense?
  9. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    When working on speed, the chicken wing is still there for me, but only for accents that provide the burst that produces the ripples that follow from it. And yes, "treading water" is something i hear most players do, each in their own way, while they seem to be waiting for a message from the muse. Nothing wrong with that at all IMO, except that I'd like to get better at Miles' approach of simply waiting patiently and enjoying the awkward silence.
  10. Anyone knows the strings AMUSIC is using in the clip above?
    Sounds like Mingus to me, wow!
    Guts maybe?
  11. massimo


    Jul 29, 2006
    Paris (France)
    Last time i saw him he used D'addario Helicore hybrids (i think medium gauge) , it was about 2 years ago
  12. Hi Francois,

    These are medium gauge Corelli's. I like them a lot, although to be fair, and in true NYC jazz musician form, I bought them without knowing anything about them because they were the cheapest strings I could find!


    Need Gigs likes this.
  13. I posted a clip on my FB page after checking out Chris's comments on the Samson CO1U Pro. Certainly not a U87 but much nicer than the internal mics on Apples. Thanks Chris. I really tried to play melodies and phrases that meant sense without resorting to a bunch of finger crap.
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2016
    Chris Fitzgerald likes this.
  14. Thanks!
    Another proof that the tone mostly comes from the hands of the player, not his gear. :)

    Best regards,
    amusicbass123 and Ed Fuqua like this.
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