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Hey everyone.

 

I’m currently planning a Greg’s Bass Shed video course to help electric bass players to start playing Jazz.

 

I’m going to focus on the theory side of things including how to build walking bass lines using chord tones/arpeggios, understanding the main song forms and what who to listen to. 

 

It would be great to hear from any of you beginner Jazz players or any of you who are interested in starting to play Jazz.  

 

What are you biggest challenges or hurdles when it comes to playing Jazz?

Edited by greghagger
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Ok, I’ll bite. My back story is I’ve been working on learning jazz walking bass for quite a while now following an online series of tuition videos based around 3 main modules: arpeggios, scales/modes (Ionian, Dorian, mixolydian, Locrian corresponding to the 4 basic chord types), chromatics and applying them to various jazz standards (autumn leaves, satin doll and take the A train so far). (I have programmed the standards into iReal on my iPad so I can work on different keys and tempos easily)

 

The biggest challenge for me so far is combining all the options on a bar-by-bar basis to create a convincing walking line through the changes that doesn’t sound like an exercise. Basically applying the theory.

 

Suggestions of which version of a standard to listen to would be useful if they were supported by a complete and accurate transcription of the bass with an analysis. Expecting a beginner to be able to transcribe a line by one of the DB playing legends is nuts. If the beginner could do that then by definition they wouldn’t be a beginner!

 

(Plenty of challenges coming up beyond that one if I crack it - playing at some of the fearsome tempos, learning some of the huge repertoire, finding anyone to play with at my skill level etc.)

 

 

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11 hours ago, nilebodgers said:

Ok, I’ll bite. My back story is I’ve been working on learning jazz walking bass for quite a while now following an online series of tuition videos based around 3 main modules: arpeggios, scales/modes (Ionian, Dorian, mixolydian, Locrian corresponding to the 4 basic chord types), chromatics and applying them to various jazz standards (autumn leaves, satin doll and take the A train so far). (I have programmed the standards into iReal on my iPad so I can work on different keys and tempos easily)

 

The biggest challenge for me so far is combining all the options on a bar-by-bar basis to create a convincing walking line through the changes that doesn’t sound like an exercise. Basically applying the theory.

 

Suggestions of which version of a standard to listen to would be useful if they were supported by a complete and accurate transcription of the bass with an analysis. Expecting a beginner to be able to transcribe a line by one of the DB playing legends is nuts. If the beginner could do that then by definition they wouldn’t be a beginner!

 

(Plenty of challenges coming up beyond that one if I crack it - playing at some of the fearsome tempos, learning some of the huge repertoire, finding anyone to play with at my skill level etc.)

 

 

Thanks @nilebodgers your detailed reply is very useful. 
 

it reiterates what I find when teaching Jazz to my students. 
 

Firstly it sounds like you are working on exactly what you need to.  Persist with those three areas and you’ll find that your lines start to sound less like exercises.  Bear in mind that your lines might sound contrived to you currently, but if you mix in chord tones and chromatic and sometimes start bars on notes other than the root, you might be surprised to hear how good they sound if you were playing with other musicians and not a backing track. 
 

Secondly, finding musicians your level can be a challenge but you might find a pianist or guitarist at the same level who is happy to jam some standards. 
 

I agree that transcribing sone of the great’s bass lines can just be too difficult initially.  I’m still astounded by the variation that different players got over a simply Blues on these classic bass lines.  I definitely intend to pull out some of these lines and ideas and use them in the course. 
 

Thanks again and good luck with your Jazz journey. 

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Thanks for your reply Greg.

 

I find the simple jazzy blues progressions hardest to sound good playing over oddly enough. The multiple bars staying on a single chord are tough. A tune that changes every bar is a lot easier as by the time you have outlined the chord it's time to move on.

 

One thing that I found when I started working through exercises was I realised that there were areas of the neck where I didn't know the notes without thinking about it or doing a visual octave reference off another string. I stopped what I was doing and spent several weeks on note recognition drills around the cycle of 4ths to make the entire neck automatic. I can now jump around and play in different registers easily and it made a big difference as I'm not wasting thinking time finding a note.

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4 hours ago, nilebodgers said:

Thanks for your reply Greg.

 

I find the simple jazzy blues progressions hardest to sound good playing over oddly enough. The multiple bars staying on a single chord are tough. A tune that changes every bar is a lot easier as by the time you have outlined the chord it's time to move on.

 

One thing that I found when I started working through exercises was I realised that there were areas of the neck where I didn't know the notes without thinking about it or doing a visual octave reference off another string. I stopped what I was doing and spent several weeks on note recognition drills around the cycle of 4ths to make the entire neck automatic. I can now jump around and play in different registers easily and it made a big difference as I'm not wasting thinking time finding a note.

 

you’re not wrong there. Static chords for two are more bars are harder to play interesting walking lines on. 
 

You might do this already, but you can add extra 2-5-1’s into these bars to give you more to play over. 
 

your feedback is really useful as it helps to ensures I include things that beginners jazzers need. 
 

I might need a volunteer or two to have free access to the course and give me feedback.  That’s when I start making it towards the end of this year. 

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I got Ed Friedland's Walking Bass Lines book and found that really fantastic to get started, so would recommend any similar topics covered in that book for beginners Greg. I've been playing bass for just over 2 years now, and the concepts covered in the book gave enough of an outline which allowed me to start doing the odd jazz gig on electric bass, and playing with a jazz orchestra weekly. I plan to just stick to working on those walking fundamentals for quite a while, then maybe get into transcribing a bit more in future to work out some better ways of playing things. For now, that method is plenty to be working with, and I'm not too fussed about soloing just yet - I'll get to that later, and don't mind blagging solos with barely any vocabulary for now. Sound is also something I need to work on, that's a bit of a hurdle and might be good to talk about.

 

Thanks,

Caroline

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I count myself as a relatively inexperienced beginner with a limited repertoire and a rudimentary understanding of musical theory. I think that the biggest help to get started would be to have a simple framework such as a backing track with a tab chart along with an explanation of the concepts being applied which allows me play along and quickly achieve some meaningful results, and then build on that with incremental increases in complexity, explaining the theory along the way. 

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9 hours ago, greghagger said:

 

you’re not wrong there. Static chords for two are more bars are harder to play interesting walking lines on. 
 

You might do this already, but you can add extra 2-5-1’s into these bars to give you more to play over. 
 

your feedback is really useful as it helps to ensures I include things that beginners jazzers need. 
 

I might need a volunteer or two to have free access to the course and give me feedback.  That’s when I start making it towards the end of this year. 

When you say adding extra 2-5-1s do you mean while other chordal instruments are sticking to the unmodified chord? Eg. In 4 bars of Cmaj7 you could treat it as a bar each of Cmaj7, Dmin7, G7 and Cmaj7?

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13 hours ago, Caz said:

I got Ed Friedland's Walking Bass Lines book and found that really fantastic to get started, so would recommend any similar topics covered in that book for beginners Greg. I've been playing bass for just over 2 years now, and the concepts covered in the book gave enough of an outline which allowed me to start doing the odd jazz gig on electric bass, and playing with a jazz orchestra weekly. I plan to just stick to working on those walking fundamentals for quite a while, then maybe get into transcribing a bit more in future to work out some better ways of playing things. For now, that method is plenty to be working with, and I'm not too fussed about soloing just yet - I'll get to that later, and don't mind blagging solos with barely any vocabulary for now. Sound is also something I need to work on, that's a bit of a hurdle and might be good to talk about.

 

Thanks,

Caroline


Thanks Caroline.  I used one of Ed Friedland’s Jazz books years ago and really liked it. He’s really great for Jazz teaching.  Good idea to reference one of his book. 
 

Sounds like you’ve got yourself up and running with Jazz. 
 

So when you mentioned working on your sound, do you mean on the electric or upright or both? 

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10 hours ago, Velarian said:

I count myself as a relatively inexperienced beginner with a limited repertoire and a rudimentary understanding of musical theory. I think that the biggest help to get started would be to have a simple framework such as a backing track with a tab chart along with an explanation of the concepts being applied which allows me play along and quickly achieve some meaningful results, and then build on that with incremental increases in complexity, explaining the theory along the way. 

Nice idea.  I get that it’s important to get some meaningful results quite quickly. 
 

I am currently planning the backing tracks with a Jazz drummer and guitarist.  Like my Blues course, I think it’s important to have good quality backing tracks for enjoyment and to get as near as possible to playing with a live band. 

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13 hours ago, Caz said:

I got Ed Friedland's Walking Bass Lines book and found that really fantastic to get started, so would recommend any similar topics covered in that book for beginners Greg. I've been playing bass for just over 2 years now, and the concepts covered in the book gave enough of an outline which allowed me to start doing the odd jazz gig on electric bass, and playing with a jazz orchestra weekly. I plan to just stick to working on those walking fundamentals for quite a while, then maybe get into transcribing a bit more in future to work out some better ways of playing things. For now, that method is plenty to be working with, and I'm not too fussed about soloing just yet - I'll get to that later, and don't mind blagging solos with barely any vocabulary for now. Sound is also something I need to work on, that's a bit of a hurdle and might be good to talk about.

 

Thanks,

Caroline

I have this book also 👍

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Or you could just pick the most random discordant notes possible and make it up as you go along … then tip your straw hat at anyone who questions it saying “well, it is jazz you know “

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2 hours ago, Geek99 said:

Or you could just pick the most random discordant notes possible and make it up as you go along … then tip your straw hat at anyone who questions it saying “well, it is jazz you know “

…and not tune up before you play just for added ‘favour’. 
 

There won’t be anyone watching anyway! 

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21 hours ago, nilebodgers said:

When you say adding extra 2-5-1s do you mean while other chordal instruments are sticking to the unmodified chord? Eg. In 4 bars of Cmaj7 you could treat it as a bar each of Cmaj7, Dmin7, G7 and Cmaj7?

Say you are playing a Jazz Blues in Bb, you could change the Bb7 in bar 4 to
| F-7  Bb7  | for example as that would be a 2-5 leading to 1 (Eb7) in bar 5. 
 

The rest of the rhythm section wouldn’t necessarily have to play these changes as your new walking line would still work under Bb7. 
 

There are loads of substitutions that you can use.  
 

Hope this helps? 

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On 09/10/2021 at 08:40, greghagger said:

So when you mentioned working on your sound, do you mean on the electric or upright or both? 

 

Electric sound. I'm new to bass but studied jazz drums so have a bit of a head start. I think beat placement is important but also getting a good sound. Been trying to get a nice swingy sound with thinking about how to play the notes, note length, tone etc but it's not there yet.

 

Cheers,

Caroline

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Swing is the number one reason the bass line exists in jazz. It’s there to provide a constant pulse and to drive the band forward. Fact is jazz evolved on acoustic instruments so it’s generally a good idea to think how you can emulate that deep, rich sound an upright bass makes, and to capture the essence of that tone. There are some jazz musicians that maintain that jazz must have upright bass, but ignore them. You can swing perfectly well on electric but sensitivity of tone and touch are paramount. Honestly, a bass line that swings and drives the band playing only root notes (or even questionable note choices) is better than a great line played with poor time and feel.
The best advice I was given when starting was just play quarter notes. No triplets, skips or anything else. You need to establish that quarter note pulse and there’s so much else going on when you start learning.

Harmonically a blues is the ideal starting point (many jazz standards are based on a blues) and as per posts above the scope to add additional chords etc. can make it quite sophisticated.

Finally, your music collection contains all the answers. More than probably any other genre, listening is key. It’s a wide genre with an evolution of close to 100 years, so plenty of excellent music to mine for ideas :)

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This. 4 to a bar. Always.

 

The sound of an upright can be faked (to a degree) by muting the strings with your hand at the bridge, and plucking with the side of your thumb - really gives a 'thunk' sound.

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My teacher started with the simplest lines: chord notes. For two-beat I needed to use half notes, and only first and fifth. Then four-beat consists of 1-1-5-3. Simple and functional.

Walking was far easier after mastering these two in the first phase. Walking in its simplest form is simply going up and down the chord notes: 1-3-5-6 for 6th and maj7 and 1-3-5-7 for 7th. This was the start and helped substantially to understand the form. Additives, like passing notes are just ingredients to the basic formula.

My favourite book is Mike Richmond's Modern Walking Bass Technique. Nice exercises, reasonable start, and lots of challenges, if needed.

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