1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  

understanding jazz

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by txhawaii, Dec 3, 2020.

  1. txhawaii


    Feb 22, 2020
    I am smitten by this song by the seatbelts called adieu. link below.

    its mostly a vocal and piano song but the double bass is there and fills in the chords nicely.

    I'm having a problem understanding how to play it. I used an app to roughly map out the chords and can play the root notes easily with the song but there are many notes I just can't seem to grasp.

    How do I learn this?

  2. In jazz the bass not only playes chored tones, but also scale tones and chromatic tones. Wich means any tone even outside the acrual key.
    The topic ist called walking bass. There are plenty of articles and video tutorials available about the topic.

    I never found the result of chored mappers helpful. Especially for jazz, where playing even outside the key is common.

    The problem is, that these programs always produce a result, even If they have no clue whats going on.
    31HZ and eJake like this.
  3. Malcolm35


    Aug 7, 2018
    Jazz is normally a ii-V7-i progression and you play the chord's notes. I let Google find me the chord progression to any song. Use these search words. Chords, name of the song. Once you have the chord names then you play the notes of that chord.

    So you need to get the chord "spellings" to memory. The Cmaj7 has this spelling R-3-5-7. See or hear a Cmaj7 chord and you know what notes make that chord. The following will go into detail.

    Chord tones is what we play 95% of the time. Here is another cut and paste paper for your reference file.

    My old standby chart of generic bass lines using the major scale box as a Rosetta stone.

    Major Scale Box.
    G~~|---2---|-------|---3---|---4---| 1st string
    E~~|-------|-R/T---|-------|---2---|4th string
    You may recognize this pattern with dots.
    Adding the numbers lets the pattern come alive.

    Cmaj7 chord coming up in the song. Find a C note on the 3rd or 4th string and put this box's R over that C note. Then play the "spelling" for the Cmaj7 chord. That spelling is listed below and it is R-3-5-7. If you wanted to play the C major scale, that spelling is T-2-3-4-5-6-7.

    Basic Chord Spellings
    • Major Triad = R-3-5 for the C chord.
    • Minor Triad = R-b3-5 for the Cm chord.
    • Diminished Chord = R-b3-b5 for the Cdim chord.
    7th Chord Spellings
    • Maj7 = R-3-5-7 for the Cmaj7 chord.
    • Minor 7 = R-b3-5-b7 for the Cm7 chord.
    • Dominant 7 = R-3-5-b7 for the C7 chord.
    • ½ diminished = R-b3-b5-b7 for the Cm7b5 chord.
    • Full diminished = R-b3-b5-bb7 for the C with the little o - no strike through.
    See a chord and play it's chord tones. As every key will have three major, three minor and one diminished chord it's a good idea to get your major, minor and diminished bass line chord tones into muscle memory so when you see a chord your fingers just know what will work. Now the song may only give you enough room for the root, or root five - adapt and get as many chord tones into your bass line as needed. Root on 1 and a steady groove from the other chord tones plus something to call attention to the chord change is what we do.

    Scale Spellings Yep, gotta do our scales so our fingers know where the notes are and our ears get used to the good and bad sounds. Scales are a right of passage thing. Got to know them, however, chord tones is what we get paid to play. Put another way scales are for the melody and chord tones are for the harmony - comping.
    • Major Scale = T-2-3-4-5-6-7 Home base
    • Major Pentatonic = T-2-3-5-6 Leave out the 4 & 7
    • Natural Minor Scale = T-2-b3-4-5-b6-b7 Major scale with the 3, 6 & 7 flatted.
    • Minor Pentatonic = T-b3-4-5-b7 Leave out the 2 & 6.
    • Blues = T-b3-4-b5-5-b7 Minor pentatonic with the blue note b5 added.
    • Harmonic Minor Scale = T-2-b3-4-5-b6-7 Natural minor with a natural 7.
    • Melodic Minor Scale = T-2-b3-4-5-6-7 Major scale with a b3.
    Let the major scale pattern be your home base then change a few notes and you have something different. No need to memorize a zillion patterns. Let the major scale pattern be your go to pattern - then adapt/adjust from there.

    Generic Notes - for your bass line.
    • The root, five and eight are generic (R-5-8-5) and fit most any chord. Remember the diminished has a flatted 5.
    • The 3 is generic to all major chords. So R-3-5-3 will fit under any major chord.
    • The b3 is generic to all minor chords. And R-b3-5-8 will fit under any minor chord. Why the 8? Well the 8 is just another root in the next octave.
    • The 7 is generic to all maj7 chords. Yep, R-3-5-7 fits nicely.
    • The b7 is generic to all dominant seventh and minor seventh chords. G7 = R-3-5-b7 or Gm7 = R-b3-5-b7.
    • The 6 is neutral and adds color, help yourself to 6’s. Love the sound of R-3-5-6 with a major chord.
    • The 2 and 4 make good passing notes. Don’t linger on them or stop on them, keep them passing.
    • In making your bass line help yourself to those notes, just use them correctly.
    • Roots, fives, eights and the correct 3 & 7 will play a lot of bass.
    OK fine, how to use all that I know is the question. Jazz, follow the chords and play notes of the chord. Rock, Pop, etc. be happy with roots and 5's.

    Start, as you have, with pounding roots, then add the 5 and get as many chord tones into your bass line as your skill level will allow.

    I just gave you enough to keep you busy for several months.

    Good Luck.
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2020
  4. txhawaii


    Feb 22, 2020
    love it!
  5. jallenbass

    jallenbass Supporting Member Commercial User

    May 17, 2005
    Bend, Oregon
    I don't hear much in the way of notes outside the chords with the exception of some chromaticism that resolves to a chord tone. Learn the exact bass line measure-by-measure and figure out what the other notes are doing for the chord progression.
    Quinn Roberts, Ed Fuqua and lfmn16 like this.
  6. Malcolm35


    Aug 7, 2018
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2020
    txhawaii and Tim Craig like this.
  7. This is an interesting and frankly quite a huge question. I play jazz on a regular basis and I'm realizing that right now, I don't have a good answer for it. For now, I'd say you're asking the right question, meaning, you are asking, "how does this work"? Honestly, it's a question that takes literal years to answer. Nothing about it is instant and you approach it the same way you build a house - brick by brick.

    A good starting point is to do a lot of listening and find things that excite you and make you want to explore. Jazz is nothing, if not constant exploration.
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2020
    GastonD, 31HZ, knight of ni and 6 others like this.
  8. ClusterFlux

    ClusterFlux Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2018

    Now, can you explain the harmonic structure of Scott LaFaro's solos? :D
  9. dalkowski

    dalkowski Supporting Member

    May 20, 2009
    Massachusetts USofA
    Careful you might break TB.
  10. LOL, funny you mention Scott. I was listening to Sunday at the Village Vanguard just last night, and I'm like, how the hell does Scott LaFaro play like this? And at age 21 or something like that... He just floored me, all over again.
    Low Crow and REV like this.
  11. lfmn16

    lfmn16 Supporting Member

    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv

    It's equivalent of saying, "I've been a couch potato my entire life, how do I run a marathon?"

    If you want to understand jazz, you need to know all your scales, all your arpeggios/chords and then you can start to transcribe bass lines and more importantly, STUDY your transcriptions. What is played over a I to IV, I - V, ii-V-I, I-vi-ii-V. Start with some easy tunes - Blue Monk, C-Jam Blues, Cool Blues, Tenor Madness, etc. Listen to Ray Brown, Ron Carter, and a host of other great jazz players.

    And learn to read music and learn theory.

    You have to walk before you run, or you'll run like a spazz.
    31HZ, knight of ni, Bob_Ross and 7 others like this.
  12. dalkowski

    dalkowski Supporting Member

    May 20, 2009
    Massachusetts USofA
    You say that like it's a bad thing.

    But seriously, all of what's been said here is true. OP, you're embarking on the journey of a lifetime. Take your time, because with jazz you have no choice.
    Low Crow and lfmn16 like this.
  13. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Augusta GA
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    A friend asked me how I would explain jazz to someone who wasn't a musician, analogy was pretty much the only way to approach it, for me. I said to her that most rock music, Western classical music, etc. was very much akin to a play - the various actors do the same lines and the same action with the same sets and costumes every time that play is performed and they try to communicate meaning and emotion to their audience with their interpretation of character, invoking the feelings and emotions of each character in such a way that the audience feels it in a very real and visceral way. and if you send a copy of that play to another group of actors, they can put their own "spin" on it , but the words and the actions are the same, they don't change.

    Blues, and some of the rock and country music that has at its base the blues, bluegrass and a few other forms of music in this country are akin to telling stories - the basic plot and characters remain the same, but the details, perambulations, digressions, etc. all depend on the skill, life experience, and the ability of the storyteller to speak to his/her specific audience; some audiences want long, detailed stories, some just want to hear how it all worked out.

    But jazz, particularly post-bop jazz, is much more akin to a conversation, a deep conversation, in which the direction of the conversation can twist and turn and embrace a multiplicity of subjects and directions all surrounding and relating to, and ancillary to whatever the original topic of conversation happened to be. All contingent on the depth of knowledge, breadth of vocabulary, and most importantly the intent of those who are involved in the conversation.

    The basic premise for playing is this - you have a melody. That melody is supported by a harmonic framework (the chord progression), that the composer chose. When you hear those two things, what do YOU hear that you want to play in response? Yes, the bass is there to supply the foundation for the other instruments, but your line should be a melodic response that defines the harmony AND propels it forward to the next chord. And the next and the next. My former teacher described it with the analogy of learning to drive; when you start out, you aren't really looking much past the windshield and the car in front of you. When you get some experience, you're not looking at anything, you're seeing the whole picture - the car in front of you, the cars ahead, the intersections, what's behind you, etc.

    So, sure, scales, arpeggios, yada, yada. That's not vocabulary, that's getting some familiarity with the instrument and working out solutions to fingering and position shifts. The skill set that really means something is to be able to HEAR those things with enough clarity that when you hear that song that you can play the roots to, you can hear not only what the chord quality is (what those other notes are), but you can hear internally what notes you want to play as a response and where those notes are on your instrument. As I've said before countless times, the 3 legs of the tripod are TECHNIQUE (physical approach to the instrument, how to play without tension) UNDERSTANDING (music theory, how functional harmony works) and HEARING ( ear training, being able to identify, sing, and play the intervals, triads, chords with tension etc.).
  14. And some people just naturally know what they are doing and write symphonies at the age of eight. ;)

    It all comes down to pattern recognition - just like chess, software, creative writing, etc. Some folks just intrinsically know the patterns and some have to work harder to recognize them.

    But while "the more you know the better" is generally good advice, you don't have to know everything in order to start understanding.
    Guitalia, Robscott and Mr Cheese like this.
  15. ugly_bassplayer


    Jan 21, 2009
    bassbully, 12BitSlab, obieito and 2 others like this.
  16. lfmn16

    lfmn16 Supporting Member

    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv
    No, they don't. That's a ridiculous statement. NOBODY just starts writing symphonies. This is a classic example of a little knowledge being a dangerous thing. Mozart's father was a teacher and composer and taught him music. He started out composing smaller pieces, he didn't wake up one morning on his eighth birthday and write a symphony.
    Generally? When is it NOT better to know more?
  17. It looks like you may have read a lot into my reply that was neither meant nor said.
  18. pickaxe


    May 20, 2015
    My second bass teacher was a jazz guitarist,we worked through Rufus Reid's The evolving Bassist (I found it very helpfull for ear training intervals within scales)
    Ever week I would get given 4 cords to write a bass line and 16 bar solo for the following week
    He was disapionted that I went on to play rock and roll not jazz, but the knowlage is still there.
    Go to a teacher too many distractions for me leaning on line.
    Cheers! Dave
  19. bass12

    bass12 Say "Ahhh"... Supporting Member

    Jun 8, 2008
    Montreal, Canada
    This is important to keep in mind. You don’t have to “know everything” to start understanding jazz. Get ahold of some good resources (including, ideally, a teacher) and start exploring. Developing enough of an understanding to be able to play working walking lines is perfectly doable for anyone willing to put in some solid work.

    OP, if you want suggestions for books or other materials just ask and I’m sure you’ll receive lots of good recommendations.
  20. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

    Jan 27, 2021

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.