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The Blues...

Discussion in 'Ask Steve Lawson & Michael Manring' started by stephanie, Feb 15, 2001.


  1. stephanie

    stephanie

    Nov 14, 2000
    Scranton, PA
    Uh-oh!!!!

    I'm being forced (albeit gently) to write weekly small compositions (can I even call it that?) by my bass instructor! This week and last it's the 12 Bar Blues...Quarter notes only! Last week's was so dull I was only allowed to use notes in the chord (Chords Bb7, Eb7, F7). At least this week I can use passing tones.

    Any advice? This is a fun exercise, but I can't seem to make it work without going out of 'the rules'. We spent the main part of the lesson changing a lot of what I wrote. It was a very funny experience.
     
  2. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    Hi Stephanie,

    sounds like a cool exercise - setting yourself limitations like that can actually, bizarrely enough, be very creative.

    It is possible to write cool tunes just using the chord notes, even on quarter notes. what it forces you to do is think about the importance of EVERY note, rather than just play patterns. Any practice session should involve limitations, as it's those limitations that force us to play outside of what we already know and go into new areas.

    Try to get a 'feeling' in mind before you play - do you want it to be a happy blues, sad blues, shy blues?? work on saying that emotion with the first four notes of the tune. It is possible! :)

    Most of all, try not to listen to it as an exercise, try hearing it as music, as beautiful music, and enjoy it. While the limitations are on the notes and the note length, there are none on the sound, or the articulation, no the way you pick the notes... vary those things and see how they affect the way the piece sounds...

    good luck,

    Steve
    www.steve-lawson.co.uk
     
  3. stephanie

    stephanie

    Nov 14, 2000
    Scranton, PA
    Thanks so much for the advice Steve! I will definately put it to good use. :)

    It just seemed a little hard at first, because it seems like I actually have to use my brain on this one! LOL. Usually if I'm trying to write something, I kind of let the feelings flow before I do any thinking, let that take me where I want to go. And I also think there's a lot of the subconscious working as well.

    But I see how I can add feeling here too. By the way, what do you mean by 'shy blues'? Any examples?

    Thanks,

    ~Stephanie
    (flooding with inspiration right now..going to pick up the bass.LOL)
     
  4. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    What did I mean by shy blues? nothing, really, just trying to invest some sort of emotion or 'vibe' into what you are doing. The process of trying to think how the blues could possibly sound 'shy' or 'coy' or 'embarrassed' or 'upset' or any other random emotion or feeling will hopefully make you listen in a new way, and play things you wouldn't otherwise have played as you try to find that intangible combination of notes, rhythm, tone and articulation that will lead to it sounding 'shy'...

    ...have fun! :oops:)

    Steve
    www.steve-lawson.co.uk

    ps. the fact that I can't actually think of a 'shy blues' just means that it's still there to be written - good luck finding it...
     
  5. jazzbo

    jazzbo

    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    I had this exercise when I first started playing bass. Sounds like our teachers have been exchanging notes! :)

    My approach to it was very much to acknowledge that it was a drill. I wish I had had Steve's advice at that time. It was very hard just playing quarter notes within the chord. It felt limiting, and I didn't feel like I was developing rhythm at all. Of course, I really was. I was developing my time-keeping abilities, and more to the point, I was gaining an understanding of what notes are in what chords, and where those notes fall on the fretboard.

    A small piece of advice that I can give is to stretch out the fretboard. When I did this drill I stayed pretty much within the first 7 frets. Talk about bland. Try stretching the bass line along several octaves within the key, this could possibly make it more exciting. Also, play it in every key. I really think this will develop your knowledge of chords (if it's not already exceptional).

    If you really get bored and have a 4-track or other recording device, lay down your exercise as your bass line, and use another track to play a melodic line. I know this gets off the point of the exercise, so I wouldn't take time away from that to work on the melody, but it could always make it more interesting for you.

    Good luck.
     
  6. stephanie

    stephanie

    Nov 14, 2000
    Scranton, PA
    Using new key now:

    Key of G

    I can use passing tones and now my teacher has added grace notes as well. (I see things slowly getting a little spiced-up, huh?)

    It's funny. He was playing what I have written for the lesson. It actually sounds pretty neat...Although he was kinda going off into his only little funky thing...but it all sprung from what I wrote. :)

    Yeah, I am pretty glad that I'm actually doing some writing for a lesson, you know? And not just technique and what-not. It's very helpful for what I want to do. And it's very enjoyable and makes me feel that I actually CAN write decent basslines. :)

    Be well,

    ~stephanie
     
  7. jazzbo

    jazzbo

    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    That still blows me away when it happens at a lesson. I've been taking lessons so long, and since I'm really not that good, when I learn something I get all jazzed. You'd've figured it would've worn off by now. Nope! :)
     
  8. i also think going slow is the best way. there are some times i wish i spent more time with the slower stuff. sometimes its harder to go back and do things slow. as in learning a new style or way to play.