Walking on electric.

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Alan Vorse, Oct 20, 2005.

  1. I am an eletric bass player with a passion for jazz. However, it seems that jazz players that play double bass (including many DBTB'ers) consistently like to make the statement that you cannot swing properly while walking on electric. That the attack and decay that is "built into" an acoustic bass lends itself to the swing feel.

    I've heard a few electric players swing pretty well (Anthony Jackson, Tom Kennedy, Jaco, Gary Willis) but it is pretty damn hard to swing a walking line on electric. Any advice on what and/or how to practice this?
  2. seanm

    seanm I'd kill for a Nobel Peace Prize! Supporting Member

    Feb 19, 2004
    Ottawa, Canada
    flatwound strings would probably help to start ;)

    Try spending some time just playing quarter note roots. Ignore the walk, just try to get them to swing. You are only working on the timing. If you find you are concentrating at all on the chord sequence, then drop to a simpler one or go to one chord.
  3. transcribe a couple of chorus' of a good walking line that feels like its swingin. turn your bass down so you can only just hear it and play it over and over and over...

    this is something i picked up from my lecturer, by turning your bass down and playing along, you seem to pick up more of the playing nuances and feel of an upright bass.

    hope this helps,
  4. AGCurry


    Jun 29, 2005
    Kansas City
    I play both, and I have to say I never swing as well on Fender bass as on upright. It has little to do with the lines themselves, as you can play the same lines and they will swing differently. As you say, it's really a function of attack and decay - and the fact that the sound of an upright is more transparent, allowing the other instruments to show through more.

    Things you can do on a Fender to swing better: Pluck nearer the neck; play no more notes than you would on an upright; use foam or felt mute on your bass; frowny-face EQ.

    Oh, and the most important thing: Play with people who can swing!
  5. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I agree entirely - I tried to play Jazz walking lines on BG for about 4 - 5 years but gave up and bought an EUB and DB!! ;)

    I keep BG for funky, groove-based tunes only!
  6. WillBuckingham


    Mar 30, 2005
    I'm with Joshua 100%, and I play both. John Patitucci agrees with us too, this is a quote from a review by a tber of a master class that he gave:

    'He also mentioned that when electric was used in playing walking lines, it was often too loud. That is, reduce the volume of the electric and the band has a tendency to swing more. And as to you "cant use electric for jazz" players, he had this to say: "Simple answer to that question. Did you see Steve Swallow last night? That cat could swing, AND he was using a pick!"'

    Further, Harmelodic's original post reflects a skewed view of jazz and swing in general: "you can't swing properly on electric . . . " Swing properly?! If you're trying to swing properly my guess is you're not swinging at all.
  7. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    So why does he play DB do much nowadays and for all of his gigs with Wayne Shorter...:meh:

    And Steve Swallow is a case in point for me , I really don't like his electric playing and find he sounds very "jarring" next to acoustic instruments - much better when he played DB!! ;)
  8. WillBuckingham


    Mar 30, 2005
    I wasn't suggesting that electric is better for swing or anything like that, just that you can swing and play jazz on electric too.

    I prefer the sound of an upright and the feel of it (from my own playing) in jazz settings, but I'm not going to dismiss a great bass player just because he's playing electric bass in a jazz setting.
  9. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I'm not dismissing anybody - I'm just saying that it's much easier to get a Jazz sound, with the instrument that's been used for that pupose for the last 60 - 70 years!! :)

    Some people can do it - but why swim against the tide...? ;)
  10. WillBuckingham


    Mar 30, 2005
    Yeah you're right, in fact, I think we should all switch to tuba and start playing in 2, that would be a real authentic jazz sound.

    I think we're actually in agreement on this, though electric bass does have a tradition in jazz going back at least 40 years.
  11. AGCurry


    Jun 29, 2005
    Kansas City
    I CAN and DO swing on bass guitar. I just swing BETTER on an upright.

    It might also have to do with the movements and effort involved.
  12. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Well I would disgree with this - so the Bass Guitar has great tradition over 40 years in Rock, Funk, Fusion etc. etc.

    But there are very few straight ahead Jazz records with BG and if you were to look at any list of the top 100 Jazz records - 99% will have Double Bass!!
  13. JohnBarr


    Mar 19, 2004
    Central NY
    I think about this issue quite a bit.
    Much as I'd love to support the BG crowd on this one (I'm trying to learn jazz on BG too), I have to side with the double bass crowd. I grew up listening to both instruments in both genre's and there really isn't a good substitute for URB in jazz. I'm convinced that the reason isn't musical, it's cultural. The roots are too deep, straight back to the begining, in fact. When you remove one element (and one at the foundation to boot) you've fundamentally changed how the music is perceived.

    Good jazz is played every day on bass guitars. God knows I'm in over my head, but it's clear even to me that close attention to technique can help a BG player swing, walk and thump, (and it's fun, too!) but the sound doesn't spring from the roots of the music, there's just no getting around that. A similar argument can be made for blue grass--if anything I'm discovering that some folks in that area may be more militant on the issue than the jazzers :)

    FWIW this works the other way too, I recently heard double bassist Jay Anderson sub for Jimmy Haslip in a Yellowjackets set. Great player, fit right in, fine solos. But I spent most of the time missing the sound of Haslip's electric.

  14. Dan1099

    Dan1099 Dumbing My Process Down

    Aug 7, 2004
    Swing on electric is doable, it's just not as fun, or as natural. Keep your volume down, further than you think you need to. Play nearer to the neck. IMO, this forces you to play harder, which better estimates the attack used on DB.

    That said, if you plan on doing a lot of swing stuff, you really can't beat a DB in terms of tone, sound, and feel. Also, there's just something about seeing the guy in the back dancin with the big bass. :)
  15. Davehenning


    Aug 9, 2001
    Los Angeles
    Ya took the words right out of my mouth....

    Two more words:
    Monk Montgomery.

    It's the player that makes the music swing.

    That being said, I do prefer the sound of the DB in most acoustic settings.... but not all.

    Purist is such an oxymoron with regards to music..... no music is pure. Especially American music.

    But in the end, different strokes......
  16. jeff schmidt

    jeff schmidt no longer red carded, but my butt is still sore.

    Aug 27, 2004
    Novato, CA
    37 years after Miles electricified his 'jazz" we're still getting caught up in taking "sides" about what jazz "should" and "shouldn't" be?

    It's jazz - it's not SUPPOSED to be about "SHOULD" and "SHOULDN'T - CAN or CAN'T"

    Save that **** for country music. :smug:
  17. WillBuckingham


    Mar 30, 2005
    Thanks Jeff, I think this thread needed a smack in the face.

    Dave, I actually took those words straight outta Jim Markway's mouth.
  18. Jazzin'

    Jazzin' ...Bluesin' and Funkin'

    I walk on my electric, doesn't sound like an URB, but it still works.
  19. AGCurry


    Jun 29, 2005
    Kansas City
    :bag: Bluegrass has never sounded good to me with a bass guitar.
  20. emjazz

    emjazz Supporting Member

    Feb 23, 2003
    Boston, MA

    Acoustic jazz purists can continue to walk a bass line and play music up untill 1965. I'd rather understand that Jazz is improvised music and it continues to grow and reshape itself everyday. It's in the jazz tradition that we continue to push the boundries of music as a whole.