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Discussion in 'Music [DB]' started by Michael Case, Jun 9, 2002.

  1. Hello,
    I have been playing DB for two years now, and trying to learn Jazz for about 4. I used to work on my electric with chord/scale theory, Abersold play-a-longs, and transcribing. The problem I am facing is this, although I have a fairly decent understanding of the things that make up jazz bass playing I have a very difficult time making it happen on the DB. I spent a year and a half studying with Ed's teacher (and made alot of progress) but I felt there was still something missing. I feel like I don't have a BASIC understanding of the DB yet and have started studying with a teacher that has me working with Simandl and things like that. of course i will hound him to help me with jazz stuff too.

    Anyway, my question is this. Am I on the right track? Will this stuff help me? I feel my intonation has gotten better, and I am feeling a little more comfortable on the bass and can listen to other the other players in my group a little better.

    My second question is, what questions should I ask my teacher concerning jazz improv. and what work should I do on my own in this situation? I am functional, I can walk well, hear my place in tune, and on a few actually play a decent solo. This has been the result of a six months of being completely lost whenever I played with people, but thanks to a few great players/people I have come this far, but I know there is more work. The reason I ask is this, if left to my own devices I will work on EVERYTHING completely unfocused :confused: and feel like I'm going no where.

    Thanks for your time, sorry for the long post.
  2. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    It sounds like you are doing a lot of the right things. Remember that with any instrumental endeavor, there are two large-scale areas happening at once in the big picture: what you are hearing and trying to get across musically, and how much of what you are trying to say is making it out of your instrument. The first part is between your ears, and the second is in your hands, arms, and shoulders etc. The first question I would ask in this situation is, which of these areas do you feel is more lacking? Are you having all of these great ideas of things to play that just get completely ****ed up on the journey from your head to your bass, or are you often not sure about what you are really trying to play in the first place? I've made the mistake of trying to fix a lack of ideas with an obsession on technique - and vice versa - a million times, and each time it holds me back until I figure it out.

    As far as your current teacher is concerned, if he/she is a legit player you may have to focus on mainly technical things, but this isn't a bad thing: the person I take lessons from (when we can both find the time) is strictly a legit player and doesn't know jack about jazz, but he's still a great teacher. One thing that we worked on a while ago that really helped is practicing scales in 12 keys using fingerings that are as symmetrical as possible from one key to the next...I've found the work done in that area extremely helpful and practical. To this end, have you checked out Ray Parker's "Fingering" thread in the Technique Forum? It covers the subject very well. I've also found practicing melodies in various octaves in 12 keys to help me get a grip on tunes that I find difficult.

    Good luck.
  3. Joe Taylor

    Joe Taylor

    Dec 20, 2001
    Tracy CA
    What to ask a teacher about Jazz? Kind of hard to say right off. I think I would ask if he or she play's Jazz and what kind of Jazz.

    Jazz is no diffrent than anyother music. Each kind of music has it's own traditional cord changes and rythems. Good technique is good technique if your playing Jazz or Classical.

    My first teacher used to say you got to feel the music. What ever that means. What I think is you have to play enough so that you understand the music. It takes a bunch of playing. Segovia (sp?) was in his late 80's or early 90's and he said that he was starting to understand the guitar. I don't know if you have ever had a flash of insite while you are playing but it is a nice experience to be playing along and suddenly understand what the composer was trying to say, and playing is the only way to uderstand the music there is no other way.

  4. Misanthrope


    Feb 7, 2002
    hey chris i agree with u.. playing a jazz is a really big question.. i`ve read some biiiig biiiig article about playing and building a jazz bass. I must say every day when i start practicing i feel like at a first day when i picked up a bass and started looking what it is...

    in understanding a jazz i got a great help in a theory. there is a bunch of tips over internet, but if u want something more complete I can scan u some of mine stuff... there is everything explained and from my view it means.. everyone who didn`t get a talent (like me ;-))) can learn it one little black doth behing another black dot. (i hope that i understood u right because of my english suxx). go deeply into a theory and look for a context. c`ya miss. ant.
  5. The first question I would ask in this situation is, which of these areas do you feel is more lacking? Are you having all of these great ideas of things to play that just get completely ****ed up on the journey from your head to your bass, or are you often not sure about what you are really trying to play in the first place?

    Well, I'd have to say a little bit of both. When I am running through tunes in my head I can think of a million great ideas, but when I get behind the bass I choke. I too suffered from obessing on technique, half of my practise on the BG was like that.

    Yesterday I just really came to see that when it comes time to solo, I start to just reach for notes and hope they are good. And then even when I have the ideas, I can't get them out. I'm still trying to play without tension in my hand and arm, which will slow down, because I have to taylor my ideas to stiff fingers at times. But that's happening less and less now.

    Thanks, I look forward to your answers.
  6. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    When I feel like my hands can't keep up with my brain, I try to slow my brain down and focus on the essence of whatever idea it is I'm hearing. The best way I know of to do this in practice is to sing. Why? Because I've noticed that when I sing over a set of changes, I not only stop thinking about what note to hit, but I also always seem to come up with more basic, melodic material.

    Try this experiment: Instead of "reaching for notes" while improvising, just sing a simple melodic line over the changes. Then, next time through the changes, try to play in the manner in which you sang. I do this a lot, and I have most of my students do this when they seem to be overreaching. One immediate effect this has on my own playing is that it immediately cures me of the urge to overplay (because I can't sing that fast and stay anywhere near on pitch). A couple of weeks ago I was on a gig with some pretty heavy players, two of whom (at least) were way over my head in terms of both ability and experience. The leader called "All the Things You Are" at about 290 bpm (I know this because I have the recording and clocked the tune afterwards). So, the sax player blows about 5 choruses, the piano player blows about 6 choruses, and then it's my turn - and not only am I already physically tired from the tempo, but both were blowing some pretty burning stuff that would be difficult to follow even at a slower tempo. I had to make a choice at that point: try to "outburn" the two burning solos right before me (which would have resulted in some burning, but it would have been a "crash and burn"...), or try to play a very melodic line using mainly longer tones. Not wanting to look like a total idiot, I chose the second option, and it turned out to be one of the better solos I took all night because I was playing entirely within what I could easily hear and produce on the instrument.

    So how do you practice this? Start by singing out loud while practicing to try to establish a physical link between the sound you're hearing and what your hands are doing to produce that same sound. When improvising, try to do the same, only make sure that you're hearing and singing the sound before you play it. I think it's safe to say that one common goal of most improvisors is to be able to play anything that they hear, so why not practice that way? Plus, singing out loud is also a great way to check to see if you're really hearing your ideas as exactly as you think you are. In my case, I often find that flawed conception leads to flawed execution, and that if I can fix the conception first, the execution will soon follow (within technical reason, of course).

    Does any of this help, or am I just rambling incoherently again?
  7. Jeff Bollbach

    Jeff Bollbach Jeff Bollbach Luthier, Inc.

    Dec 12, 2001
    freeport, ny
    Sounds like very helpful incoherent rambling to me, Chris.

    Mike-if when you say you are taking lessons with Ed's teacher you mean Joe Solomon-lucky you! Listen to him and you'll do fine.
  8. Chris, I can see what you mean. I have always thought it to be the coolest thing when bassists sing their solos, I also know it's the ultimate way to really play the ideas you are hearing. It is something to work on and I will, in my lessons I have a certain amount of material I have to sing and play and even with that I see the difference. For the first time I actually BELIEVE that I can hear and sing the notes with or without my bass.

    Jeff, I spent a year and a half with Joe, I really liked studying with him and became a better player than I thought I could've been. But I just felt a need to try something different, I started to feel like I was constantly letting Joe down. I will return to him, but I need to get back to a more basic concept first.

    Thanks guys, you have been helpful. I am feeling much better seeing so many other people experiencing the same things (on different levels, but still the same). I guess we are always reaching for the "ideal" player that's just around the corner.

  9. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    Let's not overlook the obvious:

    a) Some of this frustration may be the natural reflection of a learning process. Artistic perfection IS an unsustainable goal. We work toward it because we enjoy the process.

    b) Four years' work on jazz often brings us near the end of the beginning of the process, not close to the end of the process.

    c) Maybe you're doing better than you think: Maybe the people you play with are so advanced that you're still not on their level or (conversely) maybe the people you play with are not strong enough to reflect your progress.

    Mike, you're doing a lot of good stuff. A year from now you'll look back and wonder what this was all about.
  10. Ed, I fully agree, about really hearing the ideas, keeping up with the joneses and everything else. It really does kill me sometimes when the other guys i play with pull off these smokin' solos and I feel like I must try to pull that off too. Silly, but I'm sure everybody has felt the same. Joe is a wonderful teacher and I want to study with him again when I am feeling I can hold up my end of the deal better. I hope that doesn't sound like a cop out, that's just how I feel. Anyway, thanks, I hope to see you at a gig soon!
    Samuel, point well taken! I go through this feeling once every six months or so. I guess that's the way it is being a life long pursuit and all.
    Well, thanks to all!
  11. In my experience, questions usually only come up at the end of a lesson regarding something the teacher said or did. My lessons usually go like this:
    I play something, I get critiqued, shown some stuff, I'm told to play it again, I'm critiqued, shown some stuff. Your question is what play and how it needs to be, or can be improved. Whatever the critique is or what the teacher shows you can then be applied in a broader sense, to everything you play where it's applicable, on your own.
  12. That's what I'm trying and believe me, I believe that my bass playing has gotten 200% better. I'm just the kind of guy who always feels like he is "missing out on something." It's stupid I know, and I need to relax and let the music in me come out. I get bummed because I am playing with these guys who are much better than me, they are great guys and always ready to show me something I might not know, but sometimes I really feel the difference in the skills.

    Just one other thing, does anybody else find it unfair that ALL the other soloists in a group get a driving bass line behind them and we are left out in the open, with no walking, maybe just some chords and a hi-hat?

  13. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    I used to get furstrated by this, but anymore when I play with someone new (be it a pianist, guitarist, or drummer), I usually tell them what I like behind the bass solos before we even play. I do this even if the person I'm speaking to is way "heavier" than me. Of course, I try to put everything in POSITIVE terms and stick to a very general couple of preferences...but so far no one - not even those who could cut my head clean off in a blowing contest - has complained. Most seem to feel relieved to know that the bass player is even listening to what they do during the bass solo. YMMV
  14. The one thing that really gets to me is drummers that think they are playing along with you, and the whole time you hear this loud tick-tock-a-tick-tock-a and maybe some extra ticks thrown in here and there. ARGH!
  15. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
  16. Nice one Samuel! I have often thought of hitting the drummer with pepper spray. But I now use an old spirocore (the E is best that way you get the full 12 volts) hooked up to a car battery when I hear the ricky-ticky thing I give him a buzz. The only problem is the car battery is almost as heavy as my polytone, oh well this way I play without an amp!

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