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Sometimes I feel clueless...

Discussion in 'Ask Michael Dimin' started by DLM, Aug 30, 2004.


  1. DLM

    DLM

    May 25, 2004
    California
    Mike, I'm hoping you can provide some help.

    I play in a church gospel band. Sometimes, our songs last 10-15 minutes because we might spend some time during each song playing free form. It's during this time that I become clueless. I have no idea where our jazz keyboardist is going (I'm not too familiar with jazz progressions) and often I just stop playing because I want them to have the freedom to go where they want and I don't want to play anything that will clash with them. I often look at their left hand to see if I can discern some sort of pattern so that I can start playing along, but often, I can't see a repetitive pattern. What I see them playing with their left hand doesn't make sense to me, but the music that results is so beautiful so I know they know what they're doing.

    Is it me or would even a highly educated and musical bassist be at a loss? Any suggestions when doing improv?

    Thanks.
     
  2. wulf

    wulf

    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    Ask the guys who are leading these 'voyages'. In most cases, they'd rather you owned up about clueless (as a prelude to moving on in your playing) than remained standing like a lemon. It's hard to guess what they're throwing in but they will probably be able to unlock a few of the secrets for you.

    Also, can you get a recording of one of these sessions? Even if that exact improvisation might never happen again, working through it at home might unlock some of the secrets for you.

    Wulf
     
  3. DLM

    DLM

    May 25, 2004
    California
    That's a good suggestion. Unfortunately, every week we've had a different keyboard player with differing skill levels and I haven't had a chance to pick their brain.

    Let me ask a different question, then. Are there standard (or cliche) progressions that I could play that most guitarists or keyboards could easily follow? If so, can you provide some?

    Thanks.
     
  4. wulf

    wulf

    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    Do they all go flying in the same kind of way? I think recording some of the sessions and working on it in the comfort of home is going to be the best way to go.

    As far as progressions, at my church the spontaneous sections often turn out to be a I IV vamp (eg. C 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 F 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 C 2 3 4....) in whatever key we've been playing in. If, by gospel, you mean big choir, cool cat, Fred Hammond kind of gospel, the progressions could be significantly more varied...

    Wulf
     
  5. Mike Dimin

    Mike Dimin

    Dec 11, 1999
    Clinician: EA, Zon, Boomerang, TI. Author "The Art of Solo Bass"

    I would tend to agree with Wulf, in that there is usually and underlying chord progression to the improvisation. It is probably based on the tune that you are playing or some standard "vamp" that they have been using (like Wulf's I, IV progression). I would also bet that the vamp is in the key that the tune is in.

    There is an old saying when transcribing a tune, "it is a I.IV, V, unless it isn't". What this means is that so many tunes are based on the I, IV and V chords, that it a great place to start to look. many other tunes also have the VIminor chord. You should take the time to learn these different chords and the possibilities that lie within the different variations there.

    These are just clues. Using them will help you develop your ear. But for a definitive answer, as wulf said, just ask .

    Mike
     
  6. DLM

    DLM

    May 25, 2004
    California
    Thanks, Wulf and Mike.

    These progressions are much more sophisticated than I - IV or I, IV, V. If they were limited to these, I would have little to no problem.

    Many times it does sound like they're changing key (which I think is why it seems to throw me off so much) but somehow they always make their way back to the original key.

    So, based on what you two are saying, then, it appears that there's no way to unlock the "mystery," other than asking them. Maybe by comparing their responses I'll be able to discern patterns?

    Also, maybe one suggestion is to play higher on the neck so that any notes I play don't really "move" the chord around or if there is a clash of notes, it doesn't become real muddy.
     
  7. wulf

    wulf

    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    Without more information, it's pretty hard to go much further.

    When they start improvising, can you hear in your head what might work as a bassline? If you can, try to play that - even if you have to work out some variations at home first. If not, have you got any recordings of similar music where you can hear how another bass player has approached a similar situation?

    It certainly sounds like a set up where you're going to have to depend on your ears.

    Wulf
     
  8. Mike Dimin

    Mike Dimin

    Dec 11, 1999
    Clinician: EA, Zon, Boomerang, TI. Author "The Art of Solo Bass"
    If you're higher on the neck, you will be contrasting more. Since the intervals between your notes and the keys or guitar will not be seperated by octaves. Instead of being a Major 7th off (beautiful sound) you might be a half-step off (not so beautiful)

    Mike