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Teaching Jazz Bass

Discussion in 'Ask Lynn Seaton' started by andJustice4all, Jan 19, 2015.


  1. andJustice4all

    andJustice4all

    Jun 25, 2013
    I'm a senior in high school, which means I'm going to be graduating out of my school's jazz band at the end of this year. I'm currently training two younger bassists, one of whom has decent form but is new to jazz, and one of whom has been playing jazz for a while but has never improvised a bassline and has questionable form. Once or twice a week, we're going to have sectionals that are pretty much set up to be bass lessons, but I'll be working with both of them at the same time. I need to cover a lot of theory, but I also want to get them to a point where they're playing in class on a regular basis. Do you have any advice as for how to handle this? I've worked with bassists before as a section leader in orchestra, but the added element of improvisation makes this a bit more difficult to tackle.

    To be a bit more specific, I need to cover:
    - improvised walking lines
    - improvised bossa/Latin lines
    - solos, eventually
    - sight reading
    - the theory behind chords, scales, and modes, and how each apply to jazz

    ...and I only have a very vague plan of what to prioritize and how to work through them.

    Sorry for the long question.
     
  2. Lynn Seaton

    Lynn Seaton Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 3, 2006
    Denton, TX
    First, let me congratulate you for your leadership ability and willingness to mentor less experienced players! That is a wonderful attribute. The beginning of my life as a teacher happened much the same way: as a teenager giving lessons to less experienced players. Bravo to you!
    Your comment about prioritizing and how to work through them will be dependent on where the students are and the rate that they grasp the information. In other words, tailoring to the needs of the students is a great thing. Have the students make a list (AND YOU TOO) of what skills they want/need to acquire.

    It is imperative to stress the importance of listening to the music one is wanting to play. Without listening, the conception will never happen.

    When I was coming up, Rufus Reid's "Evolving Bassist" was extremely influential to my conception. The book has been revised and is still relevant and one of the most important tools. There is also a DVD. Start with that and you cannot go wrong. That book has helped so many people!
    John Goldsby's "The Jazz Bass Book" has become another essential tool for bassists.


    I will make comments on your action items point by point.

    You said: "To be a bit more specific, I need to cover:"

    - improvised walking lines
    Many method books begin with or include somewhere a discussion of using lower chromatic approach tones to approach the downbeat of the next bar with a root of that chord. Using a blues is quite useful for this exercise. That is a great way to help the student understand how TO a place and think ahead about where the line is going. Transcribing easy bass lines is a great tool for understanding. Make sure the bass is well recorded. It is also helpful to look at pre-transcribed basslines and analyze how the lines work. Have them play along with recordings just for fun so they can get a feel for what a great groove is with swinging records.
    - improvised bossa/Latin lines Oscar Stagnaro has a wonderful book "The Latin Bass Book". Playing along with classic recordings and transcription are also essential here.

    - solos, eventually
    Once again, listening to and playing along with classic recordings, reading pre-transcribes solos, and doing your own transcriptions is also essential here. Start with something simple! Starting out with Charlie Parker is just too frustrating! Please see below for the answer to the theory question because they are related.

    - sight reading
    Playing melodies from books, etudes, pre-transcribed solos, and basslines is great. For electric bass, Ed Friedland's "Hal Leonard Bass book 1" is pretty universal.

    - the theory behind chords, scales, and modes, and how each apply to jazz
    At the University of North Texas, we use "Building a Jazz Vocabulary" by Mike Steinel and "The Jazz Language" by Dan Haerle.

    MANY MORE books are available from Jamey Aebersold. http://www.jazzbooks.com/

    Have them attend a summer workshop: We have two summer things for jazz bassists at the University of North Texas: a jazz double bass workshop at UNT, and a combo workshop. (I had to mention those!)
    http://jazz.unt.edu/workshops
    I also teach at Jamey Aebersold's Jazz Workshop which set the gold standard for summer jazz camps! http://www.jazzbooks.com/

    Hopefully, that helps!
     
  3. andJustice4all

    andJustice4all

    Jun 25, 2013
    Thank you so much for all of your help! I'll talk with them about making that list when I see them in class tomorrow, thanks for the tip. And I'll definitely look into the books you mentioned; I never really worked from any of them (the teacher in the school where I started out in jazz band was a bassist, so I suppose I never looked very far for outside resources) so I didn't really know what titles to look for. Summer workshops also sound like a great idea, do you know of any in the LA area that they could attend?

    And thanks again for all of your wonderful advice!
     
  4. Lynn Seaton

    Lynn Seaton Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 3, 2006
    Denton, TX
    These magazines have listings of summer workshops all over the world! : Jazz Times, Downbeat, and the Jazz Education Network magazine JazzEd.
     
  5. andJustice4all

    andJustice4all

    Jun 25, 2013
    Oh, derp : P I read Downbeat already, should have known to check. Thanks!
     
  6. PauFerro

    PauFerro

    Jun 8, 2008
    United States
    I'm a full time university teacher (business). But I have also taught bass students and have been a curriculum manager, course developer etcetera, so this question is right up my alley. I also ran a couple workshops on how to improvise jazz last year that went really well.

    You'll first have to do an assessment of where these cats are in terms of their skill level. And then consider dropping them into the appropriate place in the list below after a quick review of earlier concepts, But here is how I see it shaping up from bare basics all the way up to improvising..

    1. Get Building Walking Basslines by Ed Friedland and have them work through it. In the process, they will be learning chord structure and how to associate note with the root, third, fifth and seventh of the cord, as well as to weave through changes. Basic for any bass player. They will also learn a lot of standards.

    2. For bossas, I would get an Aebersold Book like Jazz Bossa Novas and teach them how to do the basic Bossa Beats under the simpler songs in it. You can also have them do bossa lines under simple jazz standards like Mr. P.C. etcetera.

    3. For improvisation -- that's a hard one. There are so many different approaches, and so far, no one book has ever helped me. However, I would start with the Blues so they can get through an entire song with only one scale. That way they can shine in just about any group over a basic jazz blues progression for a couple songs. Incidentally, after teaching them the major blues progressions, show them minor blues as you can show them how a single major scale can work over almost the whole song. That was how I got started into major scale improvisation.

    4. After that, expand on improvisation with the Aebersold Book on How to Play Jazz and Improvise. Teach them how to associate scales with chords, and provide them with a vocabulary of riffs they can learn at first, and quote -- as they develop their own voice. A great book with simple lines is 120 2-Bar riffs for bass by Frank Vignola -- search for it on Amazon. Great book, except there is no recording for it -- they have to be able to read quarter and eighth notes in standard notation or tab. They are riffs over the famous II-V progression used everywhere in jazz. I use that one constantly to create my own lines, which are variations of Franks.


    Hope that helps.
     
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2015
    Lionel Albert likes this.
  7. Lynn Seaton

    Lynn Seaton Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 3, 2006
    Denton, TX
    Thank you bwardmusic for your excellent suggestions in this post.
     
    PauFerro likes this.
  8. andJustice4all

    andJustice4all

    Jun 25, 2013
    Thank you, bwardmusic! Again, it's always good to have new suggestions when it comes to books and such since I didn't really learn in a traditional way, so thanks for the advice!
     
    PauFerro likes this.
  9. Just a remark, the Latin Bass Book by Oscar Stagnaro is Cuban Latin, not Brazilian Latin. So for Bossa Nova and Samba a Brazilian style book would be better.
     
  10. Lynn Seaton

    Lynn Seaton Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 3, 2006
    Denton, TX
    Thank you DoubleMidi. Yes indeed you are correct that the Stagnaro book is Cuban oriented. There is a section of Brazillian styles in it, but a more specific book would undoubtedly be helpful. Any suggestions?
     

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