Ask Jeff: Musical knowledge vs musical spirit

I’m sure you’ll agree it is fun to play your bass in a free and spontaneous manner. But, if you can’t play what you hear in your head, then what does this mean? Probably it means that while you have a musician’s spirit, you may not have the musical knowledge to represent that spirit on your instrument. The good news is that there is a straight and true road toward solving
this problem. Knowledge of musical academics is that road. If possibilities in art are unlimited and infinite, learning music is actually quite predictable and easy if you learn the right music. You should learn the language of your instrument and this is an  academic undertaking. What can be more joyful than to play what you hear in your head, knowing that you have found the musical information that will teach you how to connect your mind to your hands in a musical manner? Here’s a bunch of your questions. Thanks for getting in touch and keep them coming.

Jeff BerlinWhat advice do you have about taking a solo in jazz? Jamie Kruppa

The best and most direct advice that I can offer is to learn how to represent the chords of the song you are playing. Chord tones
are the simplest and most effective method to play chord changes. If you are new to soloing, then start simply. I find that players that are new to jazz (or any academic principle) should begin with simple concepts, even as simple as one or two notes per chord. Remember, you are not performing – you are learning. So keep it simple. Let your teacher help you to learn some good methods to practise as well. They should have many methods to offer to you.

Which musician have you learned from the most? Sean Smith

My list is long. I have deeply admired Jeff Beck for a long time and hope to play with him sometime. Pete Townshend impresses me greatly. Hendrix, of course. The Beatles are at the top of my list. Paul McCartney is so important. It is as a band leader that I choose to play jazz, because of the joy I find when creating new music each time that I solo or play behind other musicians. Keith Jarrett and Gary Burton are probably my two biggest influences when it came to learning how to play. In this list are Michael Brecker, Cannonball Adderley, Pat Martino, and McCoy Tyner.

Can you advise me about building walking bass-lines? Paul White

Always start on the root of the chord all of the time. The fourth note of the bar should be a chromatic note to the very next root of the very next bar, either above or below the root in the next bar. You just have to figure out the second and third notes of each bar according to the chord that you are presently playing. If this explanation seems vague, it is because there isn’t a truly defined method for writing or playing walking lines. I might explain a blues walking line, but the rules will change when the dominant 7 blues becomes a minor blues, let’s say. Going into 3/4 changes things again. See what I am saying? You can learn five times the music in a good face-to-face lesson with a good teacher than any other way to learn that I am aware of. Go to your teacher and ask him/her to write out walking lines on different tunes and you can get your question answered in a custom designed musical manner. Good luck.

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