Walking bass line...left hand principle? What does he mean?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by callmejs, Mar 31, 2017.

  1. callmejs


    Mar 2, 2009
    I stumbled on this video of Jeff Berlin and I'd like to understand what he means by "walking bass line is a left hand principle" and how he does it, time mark 8:40...starting with short passage of right hand and then switching to left hand... sounds different...

    Any suggestions?

    Last edited: Mar 31, 2017
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  2. Grumry


    Jul 6, 2016
    That you're walking up and down the neck with your left(fretting) hand?
  3. callmejs


    Mar 2, 2009
    No, it's something else I think... he says that and then proceeds to show right hand approach and then right after "left hand principle". Very brief, but clearly sounds different...
  4. 5thsand4ths


    Mar 16, 2014
    The left hand should do more quick slurs and ties, that sort of thing. Often bassists use the right hand to pluck the notes when the left should just move on its own.
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  5. I took it to say; "Walk with the fretting hand." Of course both hands are involved to make the sound.
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  6. BassChuck

    BassChuck Supporting Member

    Nov 15, 2005
    He's talking about articulation... length of the note. When thinking about staccato, short punchy notes, the emphasis is on the right hand. Concentrating on length, one becomes more attuned to pitch and melody... a left hand job more than right.

    Jeff has a very interesting way of talking and it often is important to understand exactly what he means by certain words. Earlier in the clip he talks about "learning" and "performing" as different things. For most people they are intertwined, but for Jeff they have their own territory. He's a interesting person and well worth the time it takes to get behind his statements.
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  7. jallenbass

    jallenbass Supporting Member Commercial User

    May 17, 2005
    Bend, Oregon
    What I hear in that clip is Jeff's definition of right hand walking is staccato whereas left hand walking is legato.
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  8. inanimate_carb


    Aug 11, 2016
    Jeff is a strong proponent of finding your own sound and style, and has repeatedly said that iconic styles like Jaco's should be respected but left alone.

    He'll occasionally mention that certain electric bassists sound very "right handed", which is when someone plays with force in a staccato manner and might not give the notes a full value of length. Jaco didn't always do this, but players trying to cop his sound often do. Part of Jeff's legato soloing thing is actually getting the string to speak with slurs and pull offs with no right hand involvement at all. It's a Holdsworth thing that most bassists are simply not connected with and it makes his sound more "left handed", meaning smooth and legato.

    In the clip, I think he's getting at the idea that some players walk in a "right handed" manner, where the attack is the primary focus. A more authentic walking part is more about giving each note a full value and allowing them to flow into each other in a more fluid way, which is a more left hand dominant process.
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2017
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  9. SanDiegoHarry

    SanDiegoHarry Inactive Supporting Member

    Aug 11, 2008
    San Diego, CA
    I actually think his point is very interesting. Makes me think about how I spend a great deal of time being highly articulate with my individual notes and maybe need to spend more time thinking about the overall sound.
  10. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    May 24, 2006
    Yep. I'm getting that too. Legato as opposed to staccato.

    I think what he's basically saying here (and in other articles and videos I've seen ) is that not every note needs to be plucked. Or plucked exactly on the beat. There are slides and hammer-ons, etc. where the articulation comes as much from the left hand as the right. If you play string bass you'll learn to do that early on. It's more a "pluck & slide & pluck" (in places) rather than "stop the note then pluck." That and allow note bloom where it's appropriate.

    At least that's my read if I get Jeff right here. Because that can sometimes be a challenge. Jeff has very definite...ideas...about a lot of things. And he has a somewhat...unusual...(or maybe to be fair to Jeff, a very precise) way of talking about things. You can't take many of his statements out of context without a little deeper understanding of his core musical philosophy, or "vision" as he calls it.

    Taken in isolation, a lot of what he says can come across as either being deliberately obscure or insufferably arrogant at times.

    I've got a friend (a big admirer of Jeff) who told me that in order to understand anything Jeff says you really need to understand about 70% of what he's saying before any of it will start making sense - and not get you pissed off.

    Although that sounds paradoxical, any of you who have done computer programming or systems work will understand exactly what my buddy is saying. With programming and systems analysis (which is very similar to music), you have to learn enough about the language and it's syntax - as well as the underlying design principles of that language (in this case Jeff Berlin's) - before you can really start learning it at all.

    Best bet with Jeff Berlin is to just keep listening to all the stuff he's ranting about until it finally sinks in what he's actually saying. I found him to be right more often than not - or at least 'right' from my own musical perspective. ;)

    But that was only after I got past wanting to punch him half the time for his...um...unique way of putting things. :laugh:

    BUt that's me. YMMV.
  11. callmejs


    Mar 2, 2009
    Thank you all for sharing your thoughts on this.
  12. Clef_de_fa

    Clef_de_fa Guest

    Dec 25, 2011
    to me it is obvious that he was talking about how many bass player play actually few notes they are very active rythmicaly which is not very important when play walking bass in a jazz setting. In a jazz setting, the notes are the most important thing and in the articulation you don't want to cut them short at all. You want them as long as they should to make that strong pulse.
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  13. Clef_de_fa

    Clef_de_fa Guest

    Dec 25, 2011
    his view on "learning" and "performing" is directly linked to the way someone is taught in the classical music world. I've been one for a short it and this is how learning music was.

    You take the sheet and take notes on it, you break it down into smaller section and learn the notes first out of order, you focus of having the right notes. Then once you have that, you learn the rythm, then apply the rythm to the notes you learned earlier.

    After that comes the performance part were you reharse the piece to add the little articulation info ... like P, F, crescendo and rit. to make the piece alive and eventually put your spin on it.
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  14. Whousedtoplay


    May 18, 2013
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  15. callmejs


    Mar 2, 2009
  16. Orion1985

    Orion1985 Supporting Member

    May 4, 2010
    Grass Valley, CA
    I thought of this exact video, I'm glad you posted it because I wouldn't have remembered where I'd seen it. I had a hard time understanding the differentiation he was making in the master class video. I would say he is expressing that function should come before style and that a lot of bass players come at it from the wrong direction.
  17. Rhythmman535

    Rhythmman535 Supporting Member

    May 9, 2007
    Rochester, NY
    In the video Jeff was also trying to get the student to distill his approach by putting constraints on his phrasing and limiting his note selection to 8th notes which would force him to think more melodically. A walking jazz bass is basically quarter notes where the plucking (right) hand is primarily responsible for maintaining a pulse of consistent attack. This leaves the emphasis on melodic note selection to the left hand which is the meat and potatoes of the line itself. Everything else is just gravy. Think about that when the next theoretically sound keyboard player steals a bass gig with their left hand.
  18. Jeff Bonny

    Jeff Bonny Inactive

    Nov 20, 2000
    Harrison Mills
    This is something Ray Brown used to talk about too. At master classes he'd ask the students, "Where does the sound come from?" Then he'd play a little and with that question in your mind it became obvious that his left hand articulation was the key to what he was doing. Definitely a pivotal "ah hah!" moment for me. Even for electric bass players Ray is always worth studying for that massive sound he gets.
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