Theory for jazz open mic?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by tallguybcs, Jul 17, 2001.

  1. There is a local club that is notorius for great jazz music, 7 nights a week, and on Sunday nights, they have jazz jams. How much theory would I need to learn to be able to hold me own for a tune or two? I am totally seriosu about learning, and if so, should I necesarrily get a teacher. If I have to, I will, but the $$ will have to come out of my pocket to afford one :(
  2. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Why not go hang out and check out the jam session to find out what level those guys are playing at. You'd have to learn a couple of standard tunes that the rhythm section knows if you want to sit in. It would probably be a good idea to be able to walk lines fluently. Can you do that?
  3. I could *play* most jazz songs, its not the playing, its the theory, im a bum and know very little, I have spent 2 years goofing around on bass, and have only recently applied any time whatsoever to theory. Yes, I plan on attending the next several sunday sets and check out the level of playing.

    Oh, and its an honor to have you reply to my topic, seriously, its like a pro taking time to sign autographs for retarded kids. Well, except the retarded part, Im not, I swear :D
  4. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I don't believe you can play a Jazz walking line without knowing a fair amount of theory and also you need to have this internalised to the point where you are looking ahead and keeping the form in your head, so you have this theory at your fingertips even at fast tempos.

    So you need to know all the notes available to you and how you can form a smooth line through these notes while at the same time keeping the whole thing moving forward.

    Chris can tell you more about this than me, but as someone who went from playing rock/pop to Jazz, I can tell you that it was big shock and that the Jazz bass player takes on a lot more responsibility than in rock where the backbeat - kick/snare are making things very easy for you rhythmically.

    So not only are people looking at you for this - the drummer may even decide to "lay out" (!) but they are looking for you to outline the root motion, chord changes and signal the form. It's a big jump from any other form of music and in no way easy.
  5. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    Thanks for the props, but I'm no Jeff Berlin or anything....just a workin' Joe who teaches and plays music trying to put bread on the table. I like to encourage people to get into jazz when they're ready...the more the merrier, y'know?

    Seriously, if you can learn to walk a decent line over most standard chord changes, you're probably ready to sit in at a jam session. If not, at least you know what to focus on in the woodshed. It's not brain surgery, but it does take a lot of discipline and hard work.

    Good luck.
  6. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    Yeah, I'm with Ed on this one. I really am not trying to pick on you, it just seems like it's backwards. You learn theory, amongst other things, so that you can play jazz. You can't play jazz then just learn theory later. So, I don't understand what you mean by you can "play most jazz songs."

    Again, I highly encourage you to get involved in the local jazz scene. It will only make you a better musician.
  7. When I said I can *play* a jazz song, I mean that if someone told me to learn a song, I could learn it and play it decently. It would be very hard, however, to create a walking line on the spot if only given the chord changes.

    By goofing around on bass, I mean that I take it seriously, but most of what Ive played is punk or classic rock. I am quite skilled at most rock genres, just not jazz.

    However, now I am ready to devote a lot of my time to learning jazz, and I appreciate all the help each of you has given me. Again, you guys are the cream of the crop here, Ill take all of this very seriously.
  8. Rockinjc


    Dec 17, 1999

    You might want to pick up a book that is helping me understand all this stuff:

    Thinking In Jazz
    The Infinite Art of Improvisation
    by Paul F. Berliner
    University of Chicago Press, ISBN: 0-226-04381-9

    Another valuable but much shorter number is by Jerry Coker, Titled Improvising Jazz from Touchstone Books. This goes over the basics, but I still refer to it now and again.

    I think you have at least a fighting chance at getting into this. Especially if you listen your arse off. When I was 21, back when wheels where square, I used to sit in at a local club's jazz session without knowing much theory. I got a lot of support from the folks there and it helped me grow. If the right people are running the thing they may bring you up for the less challenging numbers at first.

    You may find a good mentor at a jam session if the right person sees that you are just willing to try. Look to those that encourage rather than discourage.

    Good luck,
  9. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    ...can you walk over a BASIC 12-bar Blues?
    IMO, that would be a decent test to see 'where' you are.

    (Ed's in rare form today, eh?) ;)
  10. Yes Mr. Fuqua, I did realize that, I should have mentioned that.

    I am willing to learn too, just in the past hour or so, Ive learned the major scale (already knew it, but now understand what intervals make it up, the minor, maj6, min6, deminished major, and the augmented major. Im taking this very seriously, and will do my best to take everyones advise.
  11. Cornbread


    Jun 20, 2000
    Lawrence, Ma
    You have to crawl before you can walk. I just bought Ed Friedland's book, Building Walking Bass Lines, and I recommend you do the same. If you get through it, you should be prepared for that jam night.
  12. Invariably, when a new student wanting to learn how to play jazz comes to his first lesson with me, I'll ask him if he can play a blues. Invariably, the kid says, "yeah," and plays me a blues shuffle in either E major or A major. Needless to say, this isn't what's expected when talking about a blues in the context of jazz and walking basslines.

    Ultimately, the only real test of one's ability is to jump in the deep end and see how well you stay afloat or how quickly you sink. My advice is if he thinks he can play, go sit in.
  13. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    To that I might add: Bring a towel, and some dry underwear. And please don't quote me out of context on that...