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using bass lines to teach other instruments

Discussion in 'Music Theory [DB]' started by jloehrke, Mar 18, 2013.


  1. jloehrke

    jloehrke

    Dec 23, 2010
    I teach a jazz band at a college in NJ, and I've found that teaching other musicians (non-bassists) to "walk" can be an effective way to get beginning improvisers started, and to improve guys who can play but really aren't making it. I have them first write and then improvise quarter note lines with chord tones on 1 & 3 and connecting or embellishing notes in between. This gets them really hearing the tune and trying to groove. When this becomes fluent, they can begin adding rhythmic embellishments etc. I think we bassists have a head start on everyone else if we really try to walk creatively. Instead of us trying to be "horn like" during our solos other cats should try to be more "bass like."
     
  2. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    I've seen it done that way a few tines but generally I've seen teachers simply teach soloing by targeting chords tones and later on developing a guide tone melody. But before you can get there, you have to be able to identify chord tones where walking a line is a good way to ingraine it in your ear.
     
  3. Tom Lane

    Tom Lane Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    It's a little like teaching to solo using guide tones but with the additional rhythmic element, no? I knew a saxophonist who was learning to solo and he decided to pick up a BG and start walking. He said that it helped him hear the chord progressions much more clearly. I believe him, but couldn't he have done the same thing by sitting at a piano or using a guitar to play through the changes? And then if they learn to solo using quarter notes, they'll have to learn to stop that at some point and start making phrases with notes other than quarter notes. I imagine it'll work for some folks but I suspect guide tones and a piano will get them there faster. And rhythmic training should be part of every musician's practice regimen, in my opinion, because even the rhythmically talented can usually refine their sense of time.
     
  4. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    Not too sure... certainly teaching someone how to walk lines improves their walking ability - not so much playing using guide tones. IMO, walking teaches you mostly about root motion, arpeggiation, a little bit about chord qualities, and the importance of the 3rd. Guide tones on the other hand can be done with any chord tone - so long as they're being strung together in a logical manner, and the concentration is on generating a melody - not so much about outlining harmony. Your sax friend is probably touching more on the aspect of learning the harmony of a tune.

    OTOH, learning how to create chord melodies on piano or guitar is an exercise where 90% of the time, you're using guide tones. I think that's far more effective as a learning tool for improvisation. Walking certainly can become the first stepping stone, but I think you can to get off of it once you get the idea of soloing in a way where chord tones are used as target notes to resolve a phrase.

    As an advanced topic, I was watching a vid (I think it was Jean Michel Pilc) where it's important for all musicians to understand and hear all of the instrumentation when transcribing a part. Basically he was saying that if you just hearing and write out just the lead voice, you're also ignoring the setting in which those lead lines are created and how it interacts with the other voices in a band. Transcribing the rest of the band gives you more information and perspective in a holistic way. Food for thought.

    So if you transcribe the soloist, you should also take a look at the bassist, drummer, and comper. Pretty deep.
     
  5. Tom Lane

    Tom Lane Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    That is pretty deep and I think an important insight. Music, when it's played well, in my opinion, is a conversation between the players and so how the band responded to each other is a important detail. Doing it would also help create some great ears! And many folks don't know that much about the other instruments. Glad you mentioned it, thanks!
     
  6. Recently I stumbled on an inverse learning tool of your idea. I have been playing around with a mandolin - which is tuned upside down from the bass: G D A E. (in 5ths going up) I have found it challenges my aural conception of chords and harmony because often the root of the chord is in the middle or on top. It's a great mind bending exercise for a bass player.
     
  7. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    Kurt Rosenwinkel has supposedly in the past tuned his guitar to arbritrary tunings for each string, as an exercise I guess. The idea was that he was getting too locked into playing particular fingering patterns and the practice forced him to stick with playing only what he hears and not what falls out of his hands.
     

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