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This is embarrassing...

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Waspinators, Mar 22, 2009.

  1. Waspinators


    Jul 22, 2007
    South Florida
    But how do I jam the right way? When I jam with a guitarist for instance, and they say "OK let's jam in the key of A", what does that mean? I usually find myself playing random notes in the rhythm and turning the volume down. So what exactly am I supposed to play/improvise when I jam with another player?
  2. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    This means you will be using the A major scale. Learn all the major and minor scales in all keys for starters. Learn where all the notes on the fretboard are. A good site for this is:

  3. Toronto Bassist

    Toronto Bassist

    Jan 9, 2008
    Ploughing away on a single chord for the whole jam would be kind of boring...even modal jazz jams throw in a chord change here and there. Anyways, some tips (including the above advice)

    1) Try to come up with motifs and grooves that keep things interesting for the guitarist. Don't just hit any old random note, always be musical.

    2) Listen to what the guitarist is playing and try to interact with it when possible and/or appropriate

    3) Listen to (and transcribe) bassists who are good at jamming...for rock, this would be guys like Berry Oakley, Jack Bruce, Phil Lesh, etc.
  4. onlyclave


    Oct 28, 2005
    Except if the guitar player is playing in A minor. You'll sure sound bad playing all of those C#'s.
  5. Natrix


    Mar 21, 2009
    Sydney Australia
    It's worth considering that a 'Jam in A ' doesn't necessarily mean it's in the key of 'A' --- with 3 #'s .
    The same as a 3 chord blues in 'A' isn't really in the key of 'A''
    because they're all dominant chords.
    Often in a Jam situation -- 'A' is more likely to be a dominant or Minor tonality . Or just 'A' kitchen sink --- meaning that you
    just build things off of an 'A' pedal tone.
  6. Cameronj


    Jan 26, 2009
    Kaysville UT
    Well it sounds like you need to learn a little bit about keys and scales. The study bass link above is a good start. Read all the stuff on there and go through the exercises and you will know tons more than you do now.

    Another thing that might help a lot is to get a bass instructor. You can then have him work with you on what you need to do to play the way you want to play.
  7. Cameronj


    Jan 26, 2009
    Kaysville UT
    OK I think I will expound just a little bit more.

    This is stuff that can help you at least get started and can help you with simple jamming with your guitarist.

    #1- You need to know where A is on your fretboard. This will be your root note. This is going to be you safe happy note to play. You can plunk on that one the whole time, but things will get boring.

    #2- You need to understand where the 5th and Octave are. The octave is the A one octave higher.
    The octave is two strings up and two frets over.

    The 5th is an interval. If you don't know what an interval is: read this stuff http://www.studybass.com/lessons/intervals/
    The 5th is one string up and two frets over.

    The root and 5th and octave are going to be pretty safe bets. No matter if your in a major or minor mode. :)

    Now you have 3 notes that you can play around with for your rudimentary jamming.

    #3- Keep learning more about scales etc. Find out about the minor pentatonic scale. It is very handy to know for lots of stuff. Then once you get that, you just add one more note for the blues pentatonic scale.

    #4- Learn some of the music you like and pay attention to the patterns. notice the pattern of the groove. You may be able to apply this pattern to your jamming just start on the right note and try that pattern out.
  8. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    I am by no means an expert, but I was always led to believe that when someone says "the key of A" they generally mean A major ? :confused:
  9. Double Agent

    Double Agent

    Mar 10, 2006
    Lakeland, FL
    All "the key of A" means is that the A is the root. What I'll usually do is just make up a bassline in whatever key we've decided on, and repeat it. In my band, for some reason, it seems like I am always the one to start the jam. So, I'll play a very simple, and I mean VERY SIMPLE, bassline in A until the drummer catches on and throws down a rhythm. I'll then let the guitarist, or keys if they are there, decide more about whether its major, minor, 12-bar blues, etc. and let my bassline evolve to match where they are going. Since I start the jam, my initial part usually gets boring really fast so I'll change it little by little as the jam takes shape and progresses. I won't completely stray from that initial line, but I'll add variations and fills as appropriate to keep the theme going, but also keep myself from checking out mentally.

    Don't forget that in a jam, it doesn't matter who starts it. If its going to be fun for you and entertaining for whoever might be listening, it is imperative that you pay constant attention to your bandmates and move with them. Also, don't forget that as the bassist, you lay down the root. Random notes in the key of A might not sound very good. You need to provide the foundation, which often times is in the root. Stick to that root, at least initially, and have your fun with the rhythm. You can vary it later.
  10. Cameronj


    Jan 26, 2009
    Kaysville UT
    From what I have seen (and I am no expert), when someone calls it out, it doesn't necesarily mean that it is A Major. A lot of the time they are playing something bluesy or Rockish and you will find the notes fall in the minor pentatonic or a blues scale.

    For starters, the root 5th octave combination is very safe because they work in every mode that I can think of from and Ionian to a Mixolydian.

    Onlyclave will hopefully correct me if there is a mode that wouldn't fit the above statement.

    I also like how Double Agent put things.

    The root alone can be put to cool rhythmic use.
  11. Cameronj


    Jan 26, 2009
    Kaysville UT
    One last thing that may be throwing you is that they are starting in A and then going through a chord progression. When this happens, the root will change according to the progression you are playing. Then if you just keep plunking away on the A, it will sound out of place.

    If you need one of us to expound more on progressions, let us know. :)
  12. HogieWan


    Feb 4, 2008
    Lafayette, LA
    A guitarist saying he wants to jam in the key of A means that he knows how to noodle through a scale and he is basically asking you to write a song in the key of A on the spot to make his noodling sound good.

    Learning the 12 bar blues progression is a great place to start as you can play lots of styles with varying basslines against that framework
  13. fishtx

    fishtx Supporting Member

    Mar 30, 2007
    Dallas, TX
    Endorsing Artist: Genzler Amplification/Spector Basses/Mojo Hand FX
    There has been a ton of information provided for a very basic question IMO...

    When the guitar player says let's Jam in "A"...It almost always means a 12 bar blues in "A"...I-IV-V...You could probably just pedal along with the drummer's feel, hang on the root notes and get through the jam just fine...branch out as you get a better feel for where the jam is headed...

    Just remember a Jam implies a very loose musical environment anyways...so you could also take the bull by the horns and make them follow you!...lol
  14. RustyAxe


    Jul 8, 2008
    Uh ... that's exactly what it does mean. To qualify it further one might say "in A major", or in "A minor" (flatted 3rd)... but it's still in A.

    To have a hope of jamming (improvisation is a more appropriate term, I think) one needs to understand some basic theory ... chords, intervals, scales. Whether this knowledge is explicitly learned or "instinctual" one must still possess it ... otherwise it's just "wankin'" ... :)
  15. Yes, you're right. When someone refers to the key of A, C, or whatever, the working assumption, at least among more trained and/or experienced musicians, is generally that the major keys are meant, or at least that the chord serving as the tonal center is some variant or development of a major triad (like a dominant 7th). I've rarely if ever encountered a situation where someone says "key of A" and means "A minor," except by mistake.
  16. Deacon_Blues


    Feb 11, 2007
    Major or minor... whatever. Listen to the first chord the guitarist plays and move along.
  17. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    Thanks for clearing that up for me Richard. I was beginning to think that my teacher (who is a session bassist and has a doctorate in music theory ) was wrong. :eek:
  18. Stumbo

    Stumbo Wherever you go, there you are. Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 11, 2008
    the Cali Intergalctic Mind Space
    Song Surgeon slow downer software- full 4 hour demo
    Here are a few links that may help you out:

    ~Getting creative
    http://www.talkbass.com/forum/showthread.php?t=511516 Where does creativity come from?

    http://www.talkbass.com/forum/showthread.php?p=80043 Creating bass lines 1 of 3
    http://www.talkbass.com/forum/showthread.php?t=125536 2 of 3 - Target Approach
    http://www.talkbass.com/forum/showthread.php?p=6770334 3 of 3 - For a jam

    http://www.talkbass.com/forum/showthread.php?t=506691 Playing scales

    http://www.talkbass.com/forum/showthread.php?t=491679 Playing behind/ahead of the beat
    http://www.talkbass.com/forum/showthread.php?t=500896 "Feel"

    Check out the link in my sig. for more good info.

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