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Discussion in 'Ask Todd Johnson [Archived]' started by bassandbeyond, Apr 29, 2009.

  1. bassandbeyond


    Aug 28, 2004
    Rockville MD
    Affiliated with Tune Guitar Maniac
    Hi Todd,

    I just had yet another humbling reminder of my own limitations! :crying: I was playing today with a great guitarist, and having a ball until he called a bass solo on "Have You Met Miss Jones" at about 250bpm. :eek:

    Now, I don't mind playing at those kinds of tempos, and I don't think that I'm particularly lacking in facility generally, but there just seems to be a limit (around 225 or so) beyond which my fingers simply can't execute 8th note bebop lines smoothly. The alternative, of course, is to play a walking solo, but I've always felt that walking solos are kind of lame. This has always been a frustrating dilemma for me when these situations come up.

    Obviously, I need to practice more at fast tempos. But I was wondering if you have any suggestions for keeping some 8th note action going enough to make a solo swing at those tempos?
  2. SmittyG


    Dec 24, 2003
    Texarkana, Texas
    I have the same problem, but my limit is a LOT lower than yours. In my case, I just don't have a lot of manual dexterity and playing anything other than quarter notes at anything above 190 bpm just ain't gonna happen. So, my options are to open things up and go more melodic with my solos. Of course, a lot of folks don't get what I'm about when I do this. Even other musicians hold the idea that a solo should always hold some form of technical/speed excitement factor. I've had several guitar players just jump in and start wailing on top of me and then say how it was not problem for them to come to my rescue when they realized I was in over my head with the solo thing.
  3. bassandbeyond


    Aug 28, 2004
    Rockville MD
    Affiliated with Tune Guitar Maniac
    I agree that it's silly to define a solo as being "faster notes than comping", although in the case of swing style, it really does seem necessary to use some 8th notes to make it swing. Maybe I just need to get over my aversion to walking solos. I have actually tried it in the past and gotten a good response if I come up with a clever walking line. Or I suppose another alternative would be to play only whole and half notes for contrast....that would get people's attention!
  4. Todd Johnson

    Todd Johnson

    Sep 27, 2005
    Anthem, AZ


    I feel your pain my friend....absolutely.:help:

    Like you said, we can ALL work on tempos etc....BUT....

    The melody of "Miss Jones" is A LOT of 1/4 notes...Try that melodic sequence with different notes attached. Make sense??

    There are a bunch of other things you can do with just a "few" notes and a "little bit" of rhythm...but it's hard to "type" about...I could show you this in a minute...then a "light bulb" would go off over your head :).....and then you'd say " ah, I got it now...thanks".

    Feel free to give me a call....my home number is 661-296-5588. Or better yet give me a call and then come by and lets play!!

    Cool?? Cool....

    Hope this helps!!
  5. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Not to unduly step since Todd hasn't chimed in, but it's a false dichotomy between "soloing in 8th notes" and "steady stream of quarter notes". Rich Perry says something very amusing when he talks to students about improvising; when he's asked what to do when soloing he says "Avoid playing 8th notes for as long as possible". I'm pretty convinced that playing cogently uptempo is more about hearing/conception at uptempo than it is a physical/technical issue. You can play stuff that you've worked out (melodies, exercises etc.) at higher tempo ranges than you can solo at. And there's so much stuff that if you're hearing it, you go through whatever convoluted awkward **** to get the idea out. You'd do the same thing, fumble the idea out at that tempo. With me, I just don't hear **** that fast.
    But as Bird said, when asked about playing uptempo, "I just pretend I'm playing a ballad." Listen for a longer line, bigger note values etc. Playing a solo isn't about regurgitating a million notes, it's about playing something melodically cogent and communicative over/through an harmonic framework. Like I said, I don't hear **** that fast and one of the great things about starting to work with the bow is that 1. I can try to bring out these long singing lines and 2. my right hand (with the bow) doesn't care if my left hand is playing whole notes or 16th notes.

    If what's happening is that you have all of these really great ideas but you can't get them out at tempo, then you need to break down what's happening - is it position shifts, is it left hand fingering issues, is it lack of independence in right hand fingering (like do you always have to start an idea with the same finger etc.) are you not really hearing the changes, are you not clearly hearing the idea etc etc. Once you have the "problem areas" isolated, then you hit the shed.
    You listen to Prez on some of those JATP recordings and he's playing these really wonderful lines of blistering rhythm changes, but it's not these constant streams of 8th notes....

    Oh Todd came back!
  6. bassandbeyond


    Aug 28, 2004
    Rockville MD
    Affiliated with Tune Guitar Maniac
    Gentlemen, thank you so much for your counseling....I feel much better now! :) And of course, you are both right. What it comes down to is that I just need to do more uptempo practicing, and not try to force my medium tempo licks into places where they don't belong! ;)

    Todd, a bass hang with you would be great! Thanks for the invitation. I will give you a call soon...

    Bass wishes,

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