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Suggestions for half-step progressions?

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by Danny Adair, Oct 15, 2002.

  1. Warm greetings to all,

    I would appreciate any ideas, thoughts, or experiences that you can offer regarding how you approach walking half-step progressions. By half-step progressions I mean sections of tunes that alternate within a half-step range. Examples include sections of A Night In Tunisia, Well You Needen't, So What, Black Nile, etc.,etc.

    My specific challenge is approaching these progressions in a linear fashion. Right now I tend to hang out strictly in root-5-octave land with some thirds thrown in. At other times, I'll just punt and pedal octaves until I get to another section - not the most imaginative thing, but it can create a nice pocket and set the table for the next section. If anyone has any thoughts on ways to improve the linearity of these lines, I would greatly appreciate them.

  2. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Learn to play some solo lines over these chords, playing vertically (using the actually harmony, instead of skating over the harmony -- which would be horizontally), and then playing horizontally as well. Bass lines is just the same thing that horn players are doing, with a slightly more restrictive role...
  3. Also think about the composer's intention with the chords. If you are playing two chords a half step apart and just playing root/V/octave, you aren't demonstrating the relation of the two chords to one another...find the commonality/difference and make sure to acknowledge it...for intance if it is a V7 then up a half step to a minor, you've got the third for example in common...I always regard something like this as a 'clue' to somewhere I could take the bassline. It may or may not work with the melody, that's the next thing to take into account...
  4. Thanks very much for the input, gentlemen! Very helpful, indeed.

    Samuel - thanks for the link; I fruitlessly searched around, but you and Ray's posts in that thread provide the type of ideas I was after.

    Ed - I like the idea of shedding on these changes with someone; it would probably be very helpful for us both.
  5. mje


    Aug 1, 2002
    Southeast Michigan
    I love using "Band in a Box" for this sort of practice. You can't alwasy find a pianist or guitarist who wants to practice endless II-V-Is or just runs M7s though the cycle of 5ths over and over, but the computer never complains. I have a few hundred standards in mine along with various practice regimens. Helps me to play in tune, too.
  6. MJE - I've heard some interesting things about this tool, but I don't understand how it is set up and what is required. For the benefit of us cavemen (who are confused and frightened by this...), could you give us a quick run-down of the type of hardware, keyboard, software, and money required by this tool?
  7. mje


    Aug 1, 2002
    Southeast Michigan
    Sure. You need a Mac or a PC with a sound card- there are versions for each- and just about any machine made in the last 5 years will do. The program itself is pretty cheap- $88 for the basic program and a starter set of accomaniment styles, or $250 for a package with all the styles. (They also have a multitrack recording/editing program for under $50.)

    B-in-a-B lets you enter a chord progression, select an accompaniment style, select a tempo and it automatically generates a very impressive accompaniment you can play along with. This takes about 5 minutes to learn to do. Chords are just typed in like "Bbm7" or "A7b5". If you don't like the canned styles- and there are hundreds from the maker, outside vendors and an active user group- you can make your own.

    It can even generate solos and new melodies- click on "generate a solo", select your preferred artist, and you get some pretty impressive results. The ltest versions let you record on track of your own on top of the machine-made tracks.

    You can have it output MIDI files, too, that you can then import into a multi-track recording program- A friend used to use this in his high-end studio to make guide tracks that he'd replace with real instruments.

    It also can produce lead sheets and scores.

    Check out http://pgmusic.com/. They have downloadable demos that are pretty full featured and just have the save functions disabled. I've been using this program for about 5-6 years now and I think it's absolutely invaluable.
  8. James S

    James S

    Apr 17, 2002
    New Hampshire

    I respectfully disagree.
    Although this type of concept is prevalent it does not sound like the great players I listened to and transcribed.

    This results in a two melodic voice fugue style sound. I hear a bass line and melody in most songs with the chord progressions in question. (Well You Needn't, Tunisia, Syeeda's Song Flute, Amhad's Blues, etc.)

    I have a very specific way of teaching how to play over parallel chord progressions. However I cannot type long enough to explain it here. Ed's suggestion is best for your situation. I also recommed try writing out a chorus and rewrite it several times until you discover some things you hadn't thought of before.
  9. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    I think the disagreement could be a misunderstanding. By this I meant that you are using the same harmony and melodic tools.

    At this point, perhaps we do disagree to some point. There are three types of bass lines, as far as I see it. The ostinato type, the counter-melodic type, and boring.

    To my ears, a lot of the classic approach to playing bass strikes as 'melodically challenged', which is understandable. Until the advent of better strings and amplification, most of a bassist's energy was spent on trying to produce enough volume to keep up with the band, plus it's hard to put a bottom on a band when the notes aren't clear, plus the historical baggage of playing "roots 'n fifths" in the traditional 2/4 manner.

    Now, in saying what I've said, take into account what I said before as far as the role of the bass melody being more restrictive in its nature. By this I mean that we are ultimately responsible for the harmonic foundation of the tune, with the added role of supporting a groove.
  10. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001

    I listened through all of your sound clips to see if I could see where you are coming from in terms of melodic playing, but the clips were pretty short.
  11. James S

    James S

    Apr 17, 2002
    New Hampshire
    Hi Ed,

    Hope you are well.

    I think you understand my previous point.

    Yes, I have heard that recording. Hell, I hear Ron's lines as melodies.

    I also have nearly finished a new book titled "The Quarter Note Melody". I have been teaching this material for years.

    I think my challenge comes from hearing too many bassists / teachers say "you gotta think more like a horn player man". Resulting in students (who don't listen and transcribe enough) playing bass lines WAY TOO scalar and with too much range.
  12. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    I haven't listened to much of him.

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