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What direction to take myself? Jazz? Classical? So many options, so little time!

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by CrispyDelicious, Mar 27, 2009.

  1. Having just left my band, I realize that I will now have time to get back to actual practicing and self-improvement (as opposed to rehearsing songs, writing new songs). But I'm unsure as to what direction I should take myself in.

    A little background:

    I'm 26, and have been a serious player for maybe 7 years now. I am confident in my technique - I can play fingerstyle, pick, slap, tapping, maybe not all totally equally as well, but as a player, my technique is my strongest point. I have a great ear (near-perfect pitch, I have been told, by numerous musicians) and can pick up a tune with ease by listening to it. I can also adjust to most genres, I've never felt restricted in my ability to find a certain sound or groove.

    Where I seriously lack, however, is in the formal aspect of playing. My theory knowledge is minimal, at best. I've taken a few lessons here and there (bass, vocal, and pure theory) but they never held my interest - thinking back, I remember trying to walk though a simple jazz tune thinking "man I feel like I'm in grade 3 again, and it's embarrassing!". Also, I can't read sheet music to save my life.

    I know if I could combine my techniques and natural feeling for the instrument with a solid fundamental, my musicianship as a whole would expand monumentally. But where do I direct my energies?

    Most people I talk to suggest jazz theory and preformance as the way to go.

    My roommate is an ARCT-level pianist, and I am dreadfully envious of her sight-reading skills and theory comprehension, not to mention her ability to play some of the most beautiful music ever written.

    I feel like it's always a choice between one camp or another, jazz or classical, as the two "true" ways to gain a greater understanding of music. Thing is, I respect them both equally and want to gain what I can from both of them. On top of that, I feel like there should be a way to incorporate modern approaches and musical styles into more formal methods of teaching.

    What should I do? I know most teachers are students of one school of music, but I don't want to feel confined in that way. Am I crazy? What do you think?
  2. kenlacam


    Nov 8, 2005
    akron, ohio
    Being a non-reader myself, your options for studio recording may be limited, as far as being a session musician, so I would say find a band that is on their way up and join. I wouldn't recommend starting a band, unless you know some great musicians that have their egos in check. If I was single without kids, I'd be looking for a seious band myself.
    that is my 2 cents.
  3. Oh a serious band is always going to be an option I will keep open, but for now I want to focus on building a solid fundamental.
  4. I should also mention that in reference to studying classical music, a while ago I had learned a Bach cello solo, and I loved it. I figure I could approach both cello and contrabass pieces and make it work.
  5. Mikio


    Feb 21, 2009
    Santiago de Chile
    do both, in order, go the classical way, and when you get the basics, learn jazz, then you can choose
  6. rarbass


    Jul 3, 2008
    My thoughts as well. Though I'm probably in the same position, requiring more theoretical knowledge and being fairly strong with technique...but the way I can see it, it'd be better to go classical and then jazz. Definitely be exposed to both, and that order seems to make sense.
  7. derekd


    Feb 16, 2009
    I think just the opposite. I have studied classical, and while you will definitely develop reading skills and technique, that is a pretty well defined box. I have spent the past 8 years studying jazz, and find I am a much more versatile player now.

    Nothing against classical, but I find that what I have learned from jazz applies easier to other genres than classical. Good luck.
  8. This is what most people I have talked to around town have told me as well. And it is true that pretty much every bass teacher with credentials I have talked to or heard of is trained in jazz. I'm still looking for that one who is not "just" a jazz guy, though. Something tells me I may not find him/her. I think that's why I've never really found lessons that enthralling in the past; I get this feeling of "this way is the best way, and the other ways we just won't bother with".
  9. derekd


    Feb 16, 2009
    I keep about 10 students weekly, and though I am mostly a jazz guy, I play pretty much all styles. I can find ways to teach theory and technique in just about any music students select. However, I only teach guitar. I am very much a student bassist.

    All the good players (both guitar & bass) around here play it all it seems, but have a strong jazz background. Some have both jazz and classical backgrounds.
  10. Stumbo

    Stumbo Wherever you go, there you are. Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 11, 2008
    the Cali Intergalctic Mind Space
    Song Surgeon slow downer software- full 4 hour demo
    You might want to take a look at the link in my sig. and read through some of the threads that apply.

    I suggest PM Dr. Jim (Jim Carr) or Mr. Deck (fdeck) and ask them to comment on your thread.

    Also, some of the guys on the DB side of TB play electric. They may have some good advice as well.
  11. TimXSweeney


    Nov 7, 2007
    I currently go to berklee right now and I started classical upright and electric bass (mainly rock) then I got into Jazz when I got to Berklee. If I could do it all over again... I would have learned how to read by reading Jazz melodies from the real book and learning jazz solos. From a place like that, it wouldnt be hard to learn classical solos on your own without a teacher. That is currently how I work my way through the world of Bass literature.
  12. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
    The starting point for getting into either jazz or classical is reading. I don't mean to discourage anybody by saying this, but merely to indicate where to begin. The good news is that you can learn to read as you learn to play either style of music, simply by working your way through the appropriate books. I think there will be a phase where it seems like reading slows you down, because your playing skill will be beyond the skill level of the beginning exercises. I had the same problem when a teacher forced me to radically revamp my technique, and it was a painful but finite phase that I am glad I went through.

    I started out on 'cello, taking lessons and playing classical music through high school, while I also played electric bass in the school jazz band. Classical is fun, in its own way. The enjoyment comes from the satisfaction of mastering challenging material, trying new ways of interpreting the music, and ensemble playing. I also find that there's definitely a meditative aspect to it.

    A drawback of classical for the bassist is that the bass is still an emerging instrument in the classical world, in terms of earning a level of respect and a body of literature equal to other instruments. When I sit down and play classical music, it's on the cello. I just don't have the technique to attack serious classical music on the bass. And of course it goes without saying that the electric bass has little or no presence in the classical world.

    Jazz is where it's at for me as a bassist. I am not a highly trained bassist, nor am I quailified to speak as a teacher. I enjoy the role of the bassist as "one among equals" in contemporary jazz groups, even when those groups are playing traditional styles. I also like the fact that most working jazz groups do not rehearse, so it's possible to be a part time player while also maintaining a creative day job, family life, and so forth.

    It's interesting that folks mention theory. Definitely learn theory if possible. I have to admit that I know very little theory, but I learned to play bass lines and solos, more or less by the seat of my pants, simply by having done it for almost 30 years. This has gotten me to a level where I can play gigs with good players, but I can also see where it is limiting my progress.

    Now the only problem with jazz is that it's the domain of the upright bass. I am not saying that's a good or bad thing (I play upright, so it's certainly good for me), but simply a fact of life to be aware of. The upright bass helped define jazz during its golden age. I think that a way to deal with the presence of the upright bass in jazz, if you choose to play electric, is to devote a fair amount of listening time to the great upright players. Ray Brown.

    Okay, I take it back. Reading is not the starting point. Ray Brown is the starting point. :D

    TimX makes a good point about reading melodies in the Real Book. I'm doing that right now for a couple reasons. First, I think that familiarity with the melodies and not just the changes will help my soloing -- especially given my weakness in theory. Second, I am using it to develop my sight-reading skill in treble clef.
  13. I'm going to have to agree with fdeck on the reading bit. Regardless of where you go, reading music is INVALUABLE. It's literally it's own language, and becoming fluent in it will make your life that much easier.

    However, in regards to Classical vs. Jazz, it really shouldn't be a competition. IMO/E, and as my old Jazz teacher taught me, you NEED to have that Classical training to become the best Jazz musician you can be. Study the Bach Chorales. Being a bassist, you're going to want to have that knowledge of the chord progressions, and Bach is a wonderful cat to look up for just that. Learn to read. Learn how chord progressions work, a bit of counter point, and some voicing. Believe it or not, Bach wrote some KILLER bass lines for the Bass/Baritone singers in his chorales. Beautiful stuff. The deeper you get into Jazz, the more you'll find how much theory there is going around in there; you'll be more then thankful you took the time to dig on some Classical technique.

    My .02
  14. Wow, wow, wow, thank you so much for the replies, everyone. Seriously, this is all going to be a great, great help.

    I think the only way I'm going to really be satified with a teacher is if they can help me attack both jazz and classical equally. If not, heck, one teacher for each, why not? There's just so much for me to learn, I'd feel that one or the other would leave me wanting more.

    Thanks again, this is probably the most informative bunch of responses I've had on this subject, from anyone online or in person. First step, find a teacher!
  15. What was it about your last band that couldn't deliver for you musically?

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