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Technical exercises for jazz?

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by project_c, Jun 7, 2019.


  1. project_c

    project_c

    May 8, 2008
    London, UK
    Are there any strictly technical exercises / drills that have been really beneficial for improving your jazz playing and technique?

    I'm not talking about learning solos etc - I spend most of my practice time working on language by transcribing and learning tunes, which involves lots of studying, listening, analysis, slow repetitive playing, internalisation etc, but I really need some practice ideas for times when I just want to give my brain a rest and focus on the physical aspects of playing.

    Let's say you've just spent 8 hours working, and your brain is tired, you don't feel like either dissecting a 270bpm Coltrane solo or working on the artistic side of your playing, but you still want to practice and have a bass workout.

    So apart from scale runs, is there anything else that you run on a regular basis which has helped you become a better jazz musician? Is it even possible to switch off the creative side of your brain and focus purely on the physical aspects of playing?
     
  2. LaFaro01

    LaFaro01

    Aug 27, 2018
    I'm a big fan of the exercises of Henk Haverhoek... scales, but not only... and it works... for me...
     
    Eric Hochberg, project_c and knirirr like this.
  3. Tom Lane

    Tom Lane Gold Supporting Member

    John Goldsby is the first guy I think of for practicing and perfecting rudiments. His Jazz Bass Book is a great resource for that, and now, also his video course on Geoff Chalmer's Discovery Double Bass website. Neither are exclusively about rudiments, but there's a clear emphasis and I found it easy to adopt his practice method to any new situation involving obtaining a controlled, effective physicality. The rudiments guru! ;) The other resource might be Rufus Reid's book but it's been a while since I've worked with it and I can't remember how much is there. When you take a lesson with Rufus, he spends much of the time stressing how important rudiments are, and how to practice them; so much so, that I find myself thinking about my couple of sessions with him years later.
     
    Koala of Doom, LaFaro01 and project_c like this.
  4. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    NYC
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Well, think about that for a minute. Exercises to help the physical aspects of playing. What are the physical aspects of playing? That's pretty much physical approach, right? So what exercises do you do to work on the various aspects of physical approach? How do you approach scalar work? Arpeggio work? Pizz hand independence and dexterity?

    Are the physical aspects of approaching the instrument the only interface with connecting the instrument to vocabulary? Is vocabulary the most important part of the equation in developing an individual improvising voice? Is acquiring vocabulary from other players the best approach to developing an individual improvising voice?
     
    Joshua and Silevesq like this.
  5. damonsmith

    damonsmith

    May 10, 2006
    Quincy, MA
    I would say just chromatic walking with the metronome as well just walking, maybe with the mute on, with a podcast or TV show on.
     
    Jason Hollar and Seanto like this.
  6. project_c

    project_c

    May 8, 2008
    London, UK
    By physical aspects I mean dexterity and speed, I guess. I’m not sure if building vocabulary from transcribing is the best approach, but it seems to work well as a starting point. There are definitely gaps in my learning though, I probably don’t spend enough time on scales, certainly not on scalar stuff that goes beyond the obvious up/down runs.
     
  7. LaFaro01

    LaFaro01

    Aug 27, 2018
    John Goldsby and his Jazz Bass Book , but also the mentioned videos on Discover Double Bass are really good and helpful. But there a lots and lots of other helpful materials. For example the Jazz Bass Compendium, written by Sigi Busch, is an impressive resource of exercises and helpful ideas.
    Some time ago I got some exercises for the right hand, written down by Detlev Beier, an excellent german bassist and teacher, who died unfortunately some years ago, which are really really good and very helpful (for me). I converted them to pdf files and if you are interested, I can send them to you...
    Just two little examples ;)
     
    Sebastian Owens. and Tom Lane like this.
  8. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Any technical exercise you can make up practiced daily is good. The ones I've been doing for the past 18 months are described here. I wouldn't recommend multitasking and watching TV at the same time, though!
     
  9. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    NYC
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Dexterity and speed while improvising aren't just a function of technique/physical approach, you have to hear the line at tempo. I'd spend more time on ear training; the basics, not just relying on transcription to build your ear. Once you start trying to execute your ideas at tempo, you'll discover what you need to work on with physical approach.

    I'd also suggest abandoning the idea that "scalar runs" have anything to do with jazz improvisation. You work on scales and arpeggios to iron out fingering, position shifts, pizz hand/fingerboard and coordination, etc. How are you working on scales, etc. now? Are you working with a teacher?
     
    longfinger likes this.
  10. The open string exercises at the beginning Rufus' book are deceptively challenging. At 50bpm getting all the notes to ring evenly is not as sinple as it may seem.
     
    Tom Lane likes this.
  11. project_c

    project_c

    May 8, 2008
    London, UK
    No, I'm teaching myself, my practice routine is pretty much as follows: pick a standard, learn the melody, learn the changes, find a solo I like, analyse it and memorise it, learn to play it at least at the speed it was played at, and then combine that with existing knowledge to improvise over the tune. Then when I feel ready to play it, it gets added to the stuff we play live. The only scale stuff I do these days is usually dictated by the song I'm learning, so I'll run through the scales and chords and arpeggios of the tune, but I don't go further than that (even though I should). I'm learning Alone Together right now, and I found a nice solo by Paulo Cardoso on Mal Waldron's version which works really nicely as a study piece.

    The only reason I thought of scales is because after a long day at work, my brain can't always handle the amount of focus that all this stuff needs, so I need something less 'intellectually' engaging that I can just treat as a workout, purely to increase things like agility and speed. So as an analogy, let's say you're into riding bikes: some days you want to jump on, go somewhere new and explore the city. Then there are rainy days when you can't do that, but you still want to stay in shape, so you just go to the gym and ride an exercise bike and stare at a wall. It's not a memorable experience, it's just a workout which helps you with the stuff you love doing when it's not raining. (Hope that makes sense..)
     
  12. damonsmith

    damonsmith

    May 10, 2006
    Quincy, MA
    Sorry, in general I wouldn't either! I wouldn't even recommend calling most pizzicato playing "practice". The podcast/TV thing is good only for working physical endurance.
    I do when I've had gaps between concerts and I am about have a concert that calls for more intense playing. I also do it AFTER a more focused and rigorous warm up and practice routine with the bow.
    Speaking of which, the early Simandl exercises in Book 1 as well as the first 2 or 3 out of the 30 Etudes really build the strength needed for jazz gigs.
     
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2019
    project_c likes this.
  13. shwashwa

    shwashwa

    Aug 30, 2003
    NJ
    take any part of any of the solos you're working on and put it through the keys. make it a small part. only one or 2 measures. play it in keys that are far from the key you learned it in. play it in lower and upper octaves. play it with no open strings. focus on only a few other keys at first if its too hard. play it in areas of the instrument that you're not comfortable with. play the chord that it goes with in the background so you hear how it lays against the chord and so you can check intonation. any group of notes can be an exercise. as i get older, i realize that this, and arpeggio practice are really all you need.
     
    project_c likes this.
  14. damonsmith

    damonsmith

    May 10, 2006
    Quincy, MA
    Not bad advice, but the OP is asking about things to do when pretty fried after a long workday.
     
    Jason Hollar likes this.
  15. vedi

    vedi

    Sep 16, 2008
    Luxembourg, EU
    I would warmly recommend Hein vd Geyn and his Comprehensive Bass Method. for anything. a lifetime of knowledge and experience for a lifetime of study.
     
    Chris Fitzgerald and project_c like this.
  16. project_c

    project_c

    May 8, 2008
    London, UK
    No I quite like that, as long as I have that stuff internalised already, I think that’s an exercise that could work well, maybe I could increase the metronome speed incrementally as part of the exercise too. If it’s just a couple of measures then it might be ok even with a fried brain. I have a big work day tomorrow, I’ll give it a shot after work and report back!
     
  17. shwashwa

    shwashwa

    Aug 30, 2003
    NJ
    Even one measure is a good place to start. I find that small bites are the best as I get older also.
     
  18. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    NYC
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Teaching myself - you are, of course, more than welcome to do any damn thing you want. But even though one might be able to eventually figure out a way to get through the Impenetrable Forest, having a guide who has thoroughly explored that forest and knows, not one, but a multiplicity of ways to help YOU navigate it.

    ...I'll run through the scales and chords and arpeggios of the tune, but I don't go further than that (even though I should).
    I don't know if you play any sports, but an analogy I find useful (and may be of some familiarity) is football (although in the US I like to use basketball, don't know if that resonates in Perfidious Albion). You don't see football players ONLY working on plays or goalies ONLY blocking the box. You train for actual play in a a variety of ways that don't relate to specific performance. By only working on things that relate to a specific set of harmonies and a specific melody you are, in effect, building a little box. Working generally on 2 octave scales, arpeggios of traits and 4 part chords in all inversions and in open and closed positions AND working on an ear training program that helps get the SOUND of these in your ear while you work on getting fingering, positional and string crossing issues worked out on the instrument broadens your possibility for developing an aural response that's YOURS. Not just regurgitating or rearranging and regurgitating vocabulary from someone else.
    Your original question was for technical work to do, that means going further. Let intent become act.

    So as an analogy, let's say you're into riding bikes: some days you want to jump on, go somewhere new and explore the city. Then there are rainy days when you can't do that, but you still want to stay in shape, so you just go to the gym and ride an exercise bike and stare at a wall.
    In your analogy, are you riding a bike to sight see or for exercise? Are you training for time trails, velodrome racing, triathlons? Are you trying for speed or distance? Your goal is going to determine what direction you take.


    Really, you've got to work on stuff that isn't just playing tunes or parts of tunes. Or not, no skin off my nose.
     
    Treyzer likes this.
  19. Sean Riddle

    Sean Riddle Supporting Member

    Aug 11, 2013
    Ventura, California
    Most of my practice time now is about 75%, I would guess, with the bow and focused a lot on classical etudes, even though most of the music I play involves improvisation. Pizz wise something I have been doing recently though is playing etudes from Zimmerman’s bowing book using 2 finger pizz, alongside arco. Ken Filiano told me that Dave Holland uses that as one of his practice routines. Otherwise with pizz I’ll usually run through scales/arpeggios in either the circle of 5ths or 4ths, play a scale exercise that shift from playing notes in groupings of 4 to 3 to 2 to 1, and work on pizz long tones.
     
  20. project_c

    project_c

    May 8, 2008
    London, UK
    I totally agree with all of that, and getting away from rearranging / regurgitation is definitely the goal. The reason I practice that way is because it seems to be the ‘accepted’ general route to absorbing language, but I get that focusing solely on that is flawed.

    I have a crazy work schedule so getting a teacher is not practical, I either have to design my own exercises or work from books / online material. But I do need structure so I’m not just practicing random stuff. The ‘Calibration’ thread above has some good exercise suggestions, but do you have any recommendations for a book that I can work through, which focuses on exercises around the stuff you refer to? (2 octave scales, arpeggios / inversions etc) I know I could probably work on this without a book but having the structure of a book or set of exercises helps a lot.
     

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