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Walking and soloing and practice.

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by Michael Case, Mar 5, 2004.

  1. I'm not sure what I should practice more of, walking or soloing. It seems like one comes at the expense of the other. Any recomendations.
  2. Mike Goodbar

    Mike Goodbar Supporting Member

    Jun 6, 2001
    Charlotte, NC
    Depends on what you're going for. If you want to be a bass soloist, practice your solo concept. If you want to work, practice your walking. Given the choice between which bassist can walk better or solo better, a leader will invariably choose.... well, you guessed it.

    I think, though, you'll find that soloing and walking can feed off one another. There are harmonic concepts that I work on for soloing that end up in my walking lines. But the time, feel and endurance have to be there.
  3. junglebike


    Feb 14, 2003
    San Diego, CA
    Seems that, like parallel lines, they eventually converge...

    At least, if you are Scott LeFaro :meh:

    (I just work on my walking 95% of the time...)
  4. Good points guys, thanks!
  5. Adrian Cho

    Adrian Cho Supporting Member

    Sep 17, 2001
    Ottawa, Canada

    You should practice as much of either as you think you need to to address your weaknesses and achieve your goals. I'll say this though: bassists rarely get hired for their ability to play solos. Our number one function in the group is to walk and drive the band through our basslines. And remember that includes not just walking in four but walking in two, handling any meter (three for example), latins, ballads, etc., being able to drive the band by doing things like doubling up and halving the time or feel, etc.

    If you're playing with a drummer and are new to playing jazz and the function of the bass in a combo, just learning how to interact with the drummer and drive the band gives you a lot to practice alone and with the band before you even think about solos. There are some guys who do not or never played solos but are highly respected for their ability to play bass lines.

  6. Lovebown


    Jan 6, 2001
    Play the melodies to all the tunes you walk to.

  7. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    It's all music. If you don't work harmony, melody, composition, and feel, then you aren't going to get much of anything done.

    One doesn't subtract from the other -- I have to disagreeing with that explicitly. Each one depends upon the other.
  8. I've been playing jazz for 5 years now, I'm just getting frusturated with my soloing. Living in New York I'm surrounded by bassists who walk AND solo incredibly. The funny thing is, I enjoy playing a supportive role more than soloing. Being a part of something bigger than myself is what I like about playing music and jazz, but it would be nice to play some sweet solos.
  9. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Picture it all like a dance. To be a supportive dance partner (in Da Mook's reference) is fine and up to you. If you don't know the dance, how can you be supportive?
  10. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    I think this is the point. But I would add - I go along to my local Jazz club each week and quite often, the bass player doesn't play a walking line all night - so there will be tunes in odd times, latin feel, written ostinato parts etc. etc. as has been mentioned.

    I think the days when a Jazz DB player spent all their time playing 4 quarter notes to the bar are well in the past now and if I go to top quality "contemporary" Jazz gigs - like Wayne Shorters latest acoustic quartet, Dave Holland's Quintet or Brad Meldhau's trios - to name just a few that you might know - then walking lines are not that much in evidence....:meh:
  11. Yes I'd have to agree with you on that, but the bass players in all of those groups you mentioned can really put out some banging 4 to the bar walking when needed. One thing I've learned about this music is you can't be "modern" without a strong connection to the past. All jazz is informed by what came before as well as whats around today. I don't know what it's like anywhere else, but in NYC if you show up at a happening jam session and can't lay down a good 4/4 walking line don't expect to play more than one tune.
  12. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    Mike, your post reminds me of something that my old maestro told me long ago when I was learning guitar repair: "It takes five years to get past the beginner mistakes in everything."

    Gazes into crystal ball with snowflakes falling on moose: Given the diligence you've shown to date, it looks like the coming year will bring enormous growth for you. Have at it, man.
  13. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Try thinking of your walking lines as counterpoint to the melody. If there were nothing happening other than your line and the melody, what would you play? Think of those two elements as you would a two-part invention by J.S. Bach - where the melody has space, the bassline has room to embellish both melodically and rhythmically. Next, consider the notion of repetition. While there is quite a bit of room for variation while outlining roots on downbeats, that's just the tip of the iceberg. Try expanding your concept of what constitutes "covering the changes" to something that allows other chordtones on the downbeats, and also allows non chord tones on the downbeat that resolve later in the bar.

    Like Sam said, you're just getting started. I've been playing DB for less than that amount of time, but playing jazz for much longer, and I feel than most of what you are looking to add to your playing is in your head, heart, and ears. Try singing bass lines without thinking about the changes - just try to hear them going by. Also, as someone mentioned, learn the melodies to the tunes you want to solo over - many early soloists started with the melody and departed only after embellishing it. Have you tried transcibing any solos?
  14. junglebike


    Feb 14, 2003
    San Diego, CA
    Good thread! Again, I'd suggest listening to Scot LeFaro (try Bill Evans, "Waltz for Debbie" -- it'll blow a hole in your conception of the role of the upright bass in Jazz!

    Walking lines (in the generic sense) lend a particular feel to the music. I always like it when they're used in opposition to something else. Think of "On Green Dolphin Street" when the sort of latin-ish pedal tone gives way to swing.

    Or Ray Brown, (God love Ray Brown...) on "The Real Blues" -- he starts out with a sick funky solo, and then BAH BAH boom... boom... boom... boom... right into the fattest, juciest (and pretty simple) walking line you've ever head. Part of the fatness and juicyness is due to the contrast with the freer rhythm of the previous bars.

    Someday, I hope to be able to do it myself...
  15. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    Walking pays the bills.

    I never got hired to play bass solos.
  16. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001

    If you don't understand concepts of non-walking aspects of playing, how can you understand how walking complements (accompanies) those other aspects? To put that into more generic terms, to accompany someone, musically, is to understand what is needed to make his effort supported and offer that support.

    The statement that you make is cute, and in part true. I heard it a million times from older players while coming up, but it is by no stretch a complete truth. If a quarter note feel is all that is important, then take a cardboard box and a ladle to the gig and save yourself all the expense and neurosis of the big fiddle.

    If you choose to ignore the whole of what you are doing, you will be an incomplete musician. Yes, an incomplete musician can be hire-able for your average big band or cocktail gig; a bass player that is steady, stays out of the way, and works cheap will get hired. You'll never get called for anything else unless you understand and can communicate in the paradigm of the craft.

    Yours is the path to the human Band-in-a-Box. But, hey, if it tickles you then go for it.
    koricancowboy likes this.
  17. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    I think that this deserves repeating.
  18. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
    I think you have to do more than just play them. They need to be internalized so that you can hear them in your head and can sing them. Learning the lyrics also works well when they are available.

    To the original poster:

    I have found that you have to work on your solo game inorder to sound better when you solo. I don't see how that would hinder your walking.
  19. I really do appreciate all the answers to my post, thank you. I should've been clearer when I first posted, my problem has more to do with my hands than the music, I'm studying jazz at City College in NYC and have been given many great concepts to work on. I don't have the chops to solo on anything more than a mid tempo or ballad. Once the tempo gets fast I can't hang. I've been working on playing simple ideas I can execute well, but even with that my chops still let me down at times.
    So, what I'm looking for is advice relating to chops building. I need my hands to catch up to my head. And to answer your Chris F's question I have been doing transcribing, some full solos, as well as lines from solos. It's been a great learning experience.
  20. Wilbyman


    Sep 10, 2003
    Parkersburg, WV
    1. Pick up some Paul Chambers. Though the Miles stuff is all great, his own "Whims of Chambers" is a great place to start getting into soloing over quicker tempos...gotta get that straight eighths thing going. (Great arco and pizz). PC kills on this record and the tunes are all good. Joe Pass and Niels Henning Orsted Pedersen's "Chops" is good in a similar way...stunning straight eighths (and sixteenths!). In general, I think "Chops" is a perfect record to cut your teeth on...some bossas on there too.

    Scott LaFaro is my favorite, but I don't think he or the other Evans bassists are a good starting point.

    2. Get the Charlie Parker bass omnibook. Getting some of those heads under your fingers is a prerequisite. I heard that Dexterity is the standard head all you NYC upright bassists play!

    3. Make sure your bass is set-up well with action low enough you can get around on it and produce a good sound without expending a ton of energy. Finding your amplified sound is important as well. It's difficult to find a setup which flatters the upper registers of the upright.

    It doesn't come all at once. Learning melodies is also key, but it's difficult to learn to solo in a "theme and variations" manner at first. You'll find yourself playing too much melody or not enough.

    Anybody else?


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