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IMPROVISATION I've learned hundreds of standards to work on improvising. Memorizing them is an important part of developing a soloing vocabulary.

Here are some to start: -All of You -Alone Together -All the Things You Are -Autumn Leaves -April In Paris -Alice In Wonderland and that's just a few of the "A's" Like a said, there's hundreds, but as soon as you learn to play over--let's say-- five standards, you'll have learned probably 90% of the information that you'll need to know in order to play over every thing else.
What is it that most helped you with your abiblity to improvise (Mastery of the fretboard)?
- The connection between the geometry of the neck and what it sounds like is the most direct thing. I "see" sounds and "hear" shapes. - make music, anything you can't execute becomes an exercise Starting solo ideas on the tonic is a very common "sypmtom" of bass players learning to solo. A quick way to adjust is to start your ideas from the 5th of the chord. A triad from there will get you the 5-7-9 of the chord. If you think of the correct scale frrom there, you'll avoid the 4th, which in this case is the root of the chord. Also, learn to play as many melodies as you can get your hands on. That'll help you develop a sense of the hamony going on "underneath" what you're playing, instead of the other way around where you're always playing bass notes underneath the harmony. It is important for bass players to get away from starting and ending ideas with the root. Especially in the bass register, it destroys the sense of separation that the melody should have with the supporting harmony. Just the simple trick of moving your hand down a string works. It puts you on the 5th. If you build a triad from the 5th, you're playing the 5th, 7th and 9th of the chord. That'll immediately get you away from root oriented ideas. Also, learn to play as many melodies as you can and that'll get you used to no t playing the root to remind yourself of where you are in the tune. The bass fingerboard is symmetric. 'You learn a shape and anywhere you go on the neck that shape will have the same sound (interval relationships). Learn what different sounds "look" like and learn what different shapes "sound" like. Your singing voice is valuable as a "ruler" to measure if you're playing and seeing what you hear. Don't ignore it. Connect your ears to the fingerboard and you'll be able to play whatever you hear or imagine. 'Hope that makes sense Just like a language, you can't communicate freely if you're thinking about grammar, spelling, conjugation etc. One thing that helps is that I've memorized and learned to play over hundreds of tunes, a lot of them standards. Always try to practice playing over changes without the paper in front of you. To answer your question about soloing. The most important thing I try to do in soloing is develop ideas (a rhythm & a shape). I'm only free to chase those ideas when I don't have to think about the chord progression or the neck. I've already mentioned memorizing progressions, the other thing is the neck. No matter where I am on the neck I can "see" the shapes that make up the key center and related sounds.

Here's what happens when I'm soloing, either I hear the idea and then I can see it, or I see the idea and then I hear it. If I have to think about anything else: the next chord change, key center, scale, F#, Ab, whatever.... then I'm in trouble. Do all your 'thinking' when you practice, then eventually, things like progressions, key centers, pitches, scales etc., will become subconscious. Then you'll be able to concentrate on your ideas. (sorry 'bout the long answer) When you're playing the bass and the chords change, you want the fingerboard to "look" different. The book takes advantage of the geometry of the neck, so that you can "see" your options harmonically. It applies to soloing, walking, fills, grooves-anytime you get to choose the notes. Dale's a great guy, but as far as who's available locally, I don't have a clue. The main thing to look for is someone who can teach you how to teach yourself. It's one thing to show you what they know, it's another to give you the tools to develop yourself. When I'm working on progressions, I try to treat the top voice of the harmony like a melody. That'll usually give some direction to the progression and holds everything together better. The solo progression in Speak is mostly mi7 chords except for 1 sus7 chord and a maj7 chord. (you can figure those out, right?;-) get ready for the commercial: the whole tune with chords, solo & all is in my composition book, The Gary Willis Collection. The solo progression in the Everlasting Night is the same as the melody progression. Fingerboard Harmony for Bass is what you need to understand the fingerboard. The idea is to learn to "see" your way around the neck. When the chord changes, the neck looks different to me, top to bottom. That's what this book does. As far soloing in general, it should be thought of as a language. A fraction of that language is contained in Donna Lee, and that's a good head to know how to play. But, what communicates in music is "ideas". An idea is a rhythm and a shape. Here comes the other (suspicious) plug. I did a chapter in the humbly titled: Bass Lessons With the Greats. It's exactly about "idea" oriented improvisation. When you learn another language, at first, you have to think about each word and how to put it together with other words to create ideas. Eventually, you don't think about the words & grammar & spelling, etc, so that all you concentrate on are the ideas. When I'm playing well, the fingerboard & the chords & the notes are all mostly subconscious. When you practice, you have to be very conscious of all the elements. (fingerboard, chords, notes) Eventually, the more you work at it, those things become subconscious so that you can focus on the ideas you want use to communicate I've learned the most about composition from transcribing-I mean transcribing everything about a tune or composition-drum parts, voicings, melodies, lines-everything. By transcribing stuff yourself, in a way, you internalize the decisions that composers make and that that adds to your ability to imagine what can happen when you're writing on your own. (instead of making your decisions based on a description or theory in a book) I can't say that learning from a book won't work, but it's a lot more of an indirect approach. Of course, you'll have to develop a really great "ear", but that's what you need to have a great imagination anyway.

I probably use pentatonics the most. It's possible to get a lot of energy going with the 4ths and 2nds in pentatonics. I hate scales. Basically, when I'm playing well, I'm just reacting to the idea I just played. An idea to me is a rhythm and a shape. The only thing that could possibly occupy my brain and ears is the

the last idea I played and the next one I'm going to play. If I start thinking about more than that, then I'm in trouble.

PRACTICE The best advice I can offer (especially if your practice time is limited) is to make sure that you apply mental energy to your practicing. Make sure that you're very attentive to your own playing and that you're practicing is geared towards solving problems that you want to solve. I've always had the best results by being creative. To me that means more than just creating music, although that's what I'll use to get started. Let's say you start with a groove. Within that groove you need to develop a vocabulary for how to vary it, play fills, whatever. In the course of trying to play what I hear, I would always run across an idea I couldn't execute, boom,--there's an exercise. It could be a right hand exercise, left hand exercise or both. Most of the exercises I've ever come up with were the result of trying to execute a musical idea. I know there's all these things you want to learn, but the thing to keep in mind is to learn how to teach yourself.

The idea is to "think" so much when you practice that the things you're working on become subconscious so you don't have to think about them when you're playing. There are a number of ways you can force yourself to apply more theory (imagination) to your playing when you practice. Try playing a walking blues bass line with no roots on beat one of every bar, for instance. Or include a correct extension (9th, 11th or 13th) on a strong beat (1 or 3) of every bar of a blues. The more you get comfortable with these as practice concepts, then throwing them in on a gig (where appropriate) will become easier. It's great that you're using the "less is more" approach as far as thinking when you play. But, the more you get connected with the results of "thinking" when you practice, the more creative and imaginative you can be when you play.
Try to be creative when you practice. Learn to solve your own problems, create your own exercises. Try to create music (grooves, lines, etc.) and you'll discover plenty of things to work on that directly relate to making music, not just somebody else's routine. Do it all with a metronome, but leave out the downbeats (put the metronome on 2 & 4, or upbeats). I'd recommend recording your practicing and listen back. You need to become more familiar with your own vocabulary. The more you listen to your soloing, the more you'll be able to edit and improve your vocabulary. You'll decide about phrases you play that you like and some that you never want to play ever again. You'll eventually learn to recognize when you're about to finish a short phrase and add more to it that makes it more interesting or connects it better to the next idea. Mainly get your ear and imagination more involved by actively "listening" when you're practicing.

The system I use for memorizing tunes is in my fingerboard harmony book. It involves the function of the chords instead of the letter names. It allows you to memorize tunes and be able to play them in any key

Hey Willis I think that not practicing scales and modes and stuff like that is a good approach. But what do you suggest to build up technique? - You can start by getting a lot of melodies, especially the more difficult bebop melodies under your fingers: Donna Lee, Joy Spring, Oleo, Billie's Bounce, any of the old Parker stuff. Once you get a few under your fingers, try to really get inside them technically. Play Donna Lee with only one finger with the right hand. Attack the first note and play the rest of the notes if they're on that string with nothing but hammer-on's and pull-off's. Then play it with your right hand attacking every note (no hammer-on's or pull-off's ). Then start scoping out how to play (exactly) Rocco Prestia, Jaco, Marcus or whoever you dig. A big part of my technique came from just practicing over changes, grooving or soloing. In trying to create something musical (not scales or arps, ect) I'd always find something I couldn't execute and so I'd create an exercise out of it.
As far as getting back into a learning situation, the most important thing is how much playing you'll be able to do. All the lessons and study in the world don't add up to "hands on" experience you can get, especially if it's playing with other players that are better than you. That kind of playing experience probably accounted for 70% of what I got out of college. Try to find a situation where the most good players are and where you'll get the most playing opportunities. If that's a school, fine, if not, start jammming with as many players as you can while taking privately.Your sight-reading now is probably better than mine ever was although my theory was passable, the most important thing is what translates to the fingerboard and what you want to do on the instrument.

Whenever I do a clinic, I usually ask if everybody there can sing or whistle a better solo than they can actually play. I always get an overwhelming Yes. There's your solution, practice connecting your imagination to the fingerboard. Practice only over 2 chords. (try Cmi7 and Fmi7, two bars each). Play a simple 2 note idea at the beginning of the first bar (Eb descending to Bb, both half notes) . Don't play anything else for the nex t three bars and just listen for what your ear wants to hear when it goes to Fmi7. Practice this way with up to 3 or 4-note ideas but keep the rhythims exactly the same for both 2 bar phrases and leave the 2nd bar empty. This allows your ear to hear and anticipate what should happen next. The main thing is to get your ear involved in the improvising process. The best place to start is take 2 different chords (Bbmi7 and Gbmi7 for example) 2 bars each. A simple bossa nova groove will do. Isolate a part of the neck say from the 12th to the 17th fret. Now start with a 2 or 3 note idea observing its geometry. Then observe the geometry necessary to adapt that idea to the next chord. Youll probably notice that sometimes you hear the answer but cant find it stop and find it. Sometimes youll find yourself gravitating to the correct notes of an idea without hearing it in advance. These are the first steps that I would recommend to start creating and editing your own vocabulary. Eventually youll start seeing more and faster as well as hearing more and faster. I've always opted to work on controlling the differences in the volumes of notes instead of the balance. If you get to where you can really control alternating between loud and soft, then it becomes very easy to make things the same volume. Try octaves, 4 notes each on the lower and uppper. 1-2-1-2 on the lower, 3-2-3-2 on the upper ocave. Try to get *drastic* differences alternating loud-soft. Don't play the "loud" loud, just play the "soft" extremely soft. Then switch to soft-loud. Master this exercise and I bet getting everything the same volume will be easy Hey Toru, Actually, I don't warm up. I've worked really hard at learning to relax when I play. Usually, a "warm up" is to get your tendons and muscles to relax and feel loose. Since I've kind of trained myself to do that all the time, I'm pretty much ready to play anytime.

As for composing, the first thing that will get me interested in staying with an idea is the groove. I'll work with drum & percussion sounds on my sequencer to get something going. Once I have a strong, interesting groove, then that usually defines what should happen over it-whether it should have a slow melody or lots of chords or no chords or whatever. The three that you mentioned all started with the groove first. They each had a slightly different approach to composing, but the groove was first. I knew that I'd have to live with my decision to work on other stuff besides reading so for that reason I never really pusued situations that were "reading-only". Almost all the bands I've played in had demo material that I could listen to and learn from, or I'd make sure and get the charts ahead of time. It's probably a little harder to sight-read on bass but what's hard for some people is a piece of cake for others, I don't know. Actually, because I 've written mostly at the keyboard, I'm guilty of coming up some pretty ridiculous bass linest to play, but they worked for the tune, so I had to learn 'em. As far as other situtaions, I've never had a problem telling people up front that I'm an awful "lines" reader, but I feel like I've done my homework in other areas so that I can learn and memorize lines and tunes by ear really fast. And, a lot of times that's more valuable in a creative situation, anyway. It's one thing to play whatever you want, it's another to want to play good ideas. Thats always a work in progress. 'Don't mean to be too simplistic, but to get any line (quarter notes to 32nd triplets) to suggest harmony means getting the right note on the right beat. Part of it is focusing on the keys, but that's just to get your hand in the best place to have access to your vocabulary. Your vocabulary is built up by internalizing (making subconscious) the decisions about what note goes on what beat. Definitely check out Paul Jackson on Herbie's Thrust, Flood (import) and a few cuts of Man Child. I wrote a whole book on walking. I know you don't want to work on walking, but smooth walking lines guarantee that you know the neck well enought to create whatever kind of lines/grooves/solos you want. As far as the discipline/creativity goes. The best advice I ever got was "you end up doing what you want to do". If your creativity is focused on beaner (i suspect you mean Latin) grooves, then go for it, knock yourself out. Eventually, you might find that you want to know more about the neck in order to connect your lines better. That's where the walking comes in. There's all kinds of ways to be creative, 1 string like you're doing, 2 strings. Try walking with every note higher than the next until you're out of room ,then descend the same way. Try keeping everything on 2 strings and 5 frets. I could go on, but you'll get into it, once you're into it. On bass lines, I just instinctively put chord tones in particular places to make the changes sound like they're happening. I wrote a whole bass book on it, but you can also work on it for guitar . Practice soloing without any harmonic accompaniment. Work on soloing so that anyone listening would be able to clearly hear the changes. Eventually, you'll learn to make more critical note-choices that point the harmony in the right direction. As far as backing a soloist, it depends on the situation, but I try to make the time and the changes feel like they're there (when necessary) but I also try to make the soloist feel like they're being listened to. The hardest thing to do on bass is to cross strings going up. I'd recommend switching to 3 to solve this problem. I've had students switch in 2 weeks and other people take 6 months. The main thing is to completely focus (that means visually, too) on you're right hand when you work on it. Otherwise, don't worry about it. As you work on it, over a period of time, it'll eventually become subconscious to the point that some things will be as natural to play with 3 as 2. When you do make the decision to stick with 3, you're skill will drop a bit but then after a while, you'll be farther along than if you had stuck with 2.

You have to have command of the duration of the notes (I assume you're talking about a walking feel not soloing). They all have to be completely legato (connected). In a more subtle way, you should have control over the dynamics of the notes. You can slightly make the notes on 1 and 3 a little softer than the notes on 2 and 4. In a shuffle feel, you have to have command of the "and" notes. I assume you're aware of the triplet subdivision and the basic quarter/eighth way the pulse is divided. That second note, the 8th, can be played as a regular note or sometimes as a dead note. Either way, its placement is crucial to the feel. To get a handle on this concept, put the metronome on 2 and 4 at a tempo of mm=100. ( mm=50 for the sound of the clicks). Alternate strict 8th notes for a couple of bars and then switch your 8ths to a swing feel. First, do the exercise as legato as possible, then make the notes short. The next thing to do is to apply the same variations to a walking blues bass line. Once you get control of all these subdivisions, you'll start to get the "feel" under your fingers. As far as walking up.... I made it a habit of always turning anything I couldn't do into an exercise. So pick a couple of changes (Dmi7 to G7, for instance) and start as low as you can and make every note higher than the next. Once you have a handle on that, then try a longer progression or maybe a whole tune. In order to keep it continuous, once you reach your highest note, treat descending the same way. Of course, the ultimate guide IMHO to gettting around on the neck is my Fingerboard Hamony For Bass book

Hey Willis, How do you practice your bass playing when you're not playing with a band? Do you have any good tips on that? Thanks! Since your question arrived via the Internet then that means you have a computer - use it! Sequencing, midi, sampling, signal processing, chord voicings, drum patterns, looping - all these elements will help you develop a good, modern practice environment. Plus they're all valuable tools that you can use to create your own music. A good place to start is to learn how to use sequencing software to create grooves. Choose a drum groove that you would like to play over and re-create it in the software.

ACOUSTICS/SOUND Room acoustics are kind of hard to dial in. You have to figure out a way to adjust your sound if things are too boomy. Basically, if you can find the control on your amp, locate somewhere around 50 hz (a really low frequency) and turn it down. You don't want to weaken the bass sound so much as eliminating all the "boom" associated with the low notes. Another problem sometimes is that the "boominess" comes from the PA and not your amp. Isolate your signal so that it's still going through the PA but not your speaker. You might have the soundman (person) roll off the 50-100 Hz off the bass and kick drum out of the PA and that should clean up the bottom end in the room. Turning up the mids or treble on you instrument usually makes the sound unbearable to play with so make sure

that that option is eliminated in the PA as well. Just subtract the boomy ultra-lows and that'll make it more manageable.

About Eden WT800 From left to right: The Enhance control basically scoops out the mids while boosting the highs and lows. I recommend leaving it all the way off. The Bass control , as expected, gives you general control over the low end. The next three controls, Low, Mid and High work in pairs (with each corresponding knob above) and give you more specific control on which frequencies you want to control. With the upper knob, you basically select the frequency that you want to boost or cut and adjust that frequency's volume (boost or cut it) with the corresponding knob below it. Just remember that the boost and cut adjustments on Eden gear are VERY sensitive. You can get dramatic results with a very small turn of the knob. Also, just because they're there, doesn't mean you have to use them. Odd's are that 75 Jazz will sound great with the 3 semi-parametric contols set "flat" (not in use, like the picture above). Of course, that's assuming you're using an Eden cabinet as well. As expected, the Treble control gives you general control over the high end. Also, if you're cabinet has a tweeter, leave the adjustment in the rear of the cabinet "flat" and use the Treble control to reduce the highs. Turning down the tweeter too much with the control on the cabinet reduces the amount of coils the crossover uses and can lead to over-heating. The Treble control on the amp will give you the same results with more personal safety. When you're working on EQ, always start from "flat" (as pictured). Like I said, if you've got an Eden cabinet, then that '75 Jazz should sound great without too much tweaking.

As far as the sound for the solos in ballads. I try record as direct as possible - no EQ, compression, limiting, anything. Then for a solo I'll add some reverb but I'll roll off frequencies below 500 so that the reverb doesn't get muddy. Hey, I never went to a conservatory so I don't really know what a "semiquaver" is. 8-( But to play as fast as possible is to teach yourself to relax, use as little effort as possible and to have the most efficient use of your technique.

GARY's TIPS Something musical must have inspired you to invest in all that great gear and become a bass player. 'Cause I know it wasn't to get the chicks..otherwise you'd be a guitar player. So whatever music inspires you, learn it...get some similarly inspired players together and play it. Write stuff like it. I'm a product of everything I've ever liked. Imitate freely, the more of other players' styles & ideas you internalize, the more you can put different things together and create on your own. If you're in a rut, don't Get on the phone and put together a jam session. As soon as you put yourself in a creative musical situation, you'll know immediately what you need to work on and you'll be more motivated to do that work.

There is a difference in developing the skills necessary to be a good bass player and the skills involved in being an overall good musician. A good musician has together some of the other things you mentioned, like knowing the names of the notes on the neck, understanding chord progressions and key centers and basic theory thing and being able to sight-read some doesn't hurt. All these things make you more valuable to any group you're playing with and make for a more fulfilling experience as a musician. A lot of what you mentioned about learning harmony and chord progressions should take place on the keyboard. Bass is an awful instrument to study harmony on. Start figuring out how to make chords, understanding scales, key-centers, transcribe or at least be able to play chord voicings and the progressions of tunes. That'll go a long way towards getting an understanding of what's going on besides your bass notes. Initially, theory is simply the use of the English language to communicate what happens in music. Theory is the use of labels that enable you to discuss (in English) what's going on-a scale-a mode-a key-a chordan interval-a tempo- a sharp or a flat-etc. I never had a "plan" or a list of essentials to start with. I think that once you start this period of discovery of what's beyond the bass you'll come across different aspects that you don't know about and you'll develop a way to add to your knowlege on an "as needed" basis. For instance, if a book starts out and assumes you need to know the notes of the track and get that together first. I believe it's better sometimes to not have a "plan" and just start learning/discovering and let your enthusiasm and inspiration guide you. You'll end up eventually filling in all the holes in your knowlege but it'll be a more personal journey instead of a cookie cutter A to B to C to D process. Music is simply expression and communication... and it shouldn't always have to be "serious" and to me, most of the time it should be fun. If you're playing and studying music for the right reasons then your self esteem can come from your dedication and love of doing "it" and not necessarily where people think you are as a player and technician at a given moment. As far as fundamental training, I'd have to say the best composition lessons I ever had were transcribing the things that communicated to me. You already have that experience with transcribing solos so you know what's involved there. I'd have to say the only thing there is to "get back" is the willingness to learn and improve. I have to remind myself of this a lot. Everything else will fall into place if that's your starting point 1. A keyboard is the answer. Sorry, but it's integral to an overall understanding of music. The bass is an awful instrument to study harmony on. Whether you're studying harmony on keys right now or not, the more facility you develop on keys the more it'll help you when you do start the harmony thing. 2. I never could stick to a schedule. This was strictly a personal decision based on what works for me. Practicing always had to be something creative for me. Creating means creating grooves, soloing, fills, lines or creating technical exercises to solve problems that come up from trying to create the other things. Make sure that a big portion of your practice time is spent tapping into the creative side of your brain. Of course, you have to have discipline but if you balance that discipline and apply it to something that's based on creativity, practicing will become a more intense personal exploration instead of a "checking things off a list" as you do them.

The main way that I've learned to make things swing has to do with dynamics. Try playing a c major scale from C up to the 9th and back down again. That'll make it in 4/4 (1/8th notes). Play the downbeats very soft and long and play the 'ands' short and louder. Make

sure the notes are legato (no gaps in between). I've found that the difference in dynamics accounts for more "feel" than just the exact placement of the "swung" eight notes. That could be a good start. The left hand/right hand thing will work itself out over time just fine as long as you're aware of it.

No tricks or illusions will get you playing fast. Although I do like the phrase "tempo headroom".The first thing to focus on is efficiency. Your right hand is pretty much always on autopilot so you have to break it down to get control and eliminate wasted motion. Do some motion studies of your right hand and analyze exactly what your fingers are doing and make sure that every movement has a purpose.The next thing to do is to create the instinct to relax. Everyone's natural reaction to playing fast is that it's hard and so the tendency is to tense up and "muscle" your way through. The phrase "tempo headroom" in interesting in that "headroom" is usually associated with volume and in this case volume becomes very important for relaxation. If you normally play "hard" with your right hand then speed will always be a problem. You can create tempo headroom by giving yourself more volume headroom. On an intensity scale of 1 to 10, you need to reeducate your right hand to be playing all the time at around 5. Then when things get fast, you do not have to fight the tension that used to slow you down. By creating this awareness of relaxation and efficiency you'll probably find that it will carry over to your left hand as well. Another thing to remember is that a more relaxed intensity will allow you to lower your strings and your bass will be easier to play.
Short answer is that increasing your knowledge does very little to help you put it all together. Now for the long answer: More knowledge just results in a bigger dictionary you carry around to check with when you want to play something, or worse - categorize it. Knowlege tends to weigh down the process. Of the things that you mentioned - modes, notation, shapes, circle of 5ths, circle of 4ths - the only thing that to me really directly helps is shapes. Shapes have a direct relationship to the fingerboard. The rest of the elements you're studying or have studied are fairly non-intuitive and introduce a non-musical languange (English or some other spoken language) that stands between you and your intuitive musical language. Developing the ability to write and play smooth catchy bass lines has to be intuitive. Intuition is subconscious. Sure, people say that knowlege eventually will have an affect on your subconscious but the comparison I always fall back on is this: In any conversation (anytime in your whole life) did you find yourself mentally thinking, "OK, now I'm going to use a really clever adverb after this participle clause"? Of course not - so how do you really learn to speak? By listening and associating sounds with ideas. The musical analogy is to listen to catchy bass lines, associate those lines and fragments of lines with their fingerboard shapes and you will have reinforced a direct link from what something sounds like to what it looks like to play it and subsequently create it. No spoken language reference has to be involved. Eventually this will happen when you imagine a bass line - you'll hear (or imagine) the line and see the shapes involved in creating it - usually as you're creating. A musical result won't come from thinking of a mode, or imagining notation or referencing your knowledge of the circle of 15ths. . .or whatever. Start dedicating a bigger part of your practice time to intuitive playing, something that requires your imagination, something where you can experiment and make mistakes. This should go a long way towards putting it all together much faster.

First of all, congratulations on finding gigs where you get to solo. It appears you're soloing more even more than once per set. So on behalf of the large percentage of bassists out there who are not so lucky we salute you! Of all the elements you included in your question, believe it or not, you left out the most important thing . . . the end. Seriously, one of the biggest challenges bass soloists have, and most other solosts don't, is that we have to make the transition from soloing back to our support role. It doesn't matter if you play an outrageously good solo, if you mess up the transition - the audience (not to mention the rest of the band) is just going to end up confused. You (we/us) should work as much on the transitions as much as we work on everything else. Every solo has to stop, right? Try practicing one chorus solos. Add a few bars of the next chorus just to complete the transition. As to the micro to macro elements. (from 2 bar phrases to gig-to-gig) Those are definitely things to be aware of, but they're totally dependent on your vocabulary. It's very important to have that micro to macro awareness, but while you're playing don't try to think too much. For me, the more I think, the worse I play. With enough time practicing and enough experience on stage all these elements will become subconscious. Eventually you want your phrasing to be fluid and independent of those symmetric 2,4,8 bar phrases. Everybody's ideal is to have a big enough vocabulary that they can make each solo unique. It also requires a big vocabulary to contrast the final elements you mention: tension/release, register, rhythm but you're off to a great start now that you have the awareness. Speaking of awareness, you probably do this already, but record your gigs and record yourself soloing when you practice. When you listen back without the bass, you can get into an editing mindset that will let you evaluate what's good or bad or what's missing in your vocabulary. One of the principles of my system is to learn what's under your hand first before you start moving around. One thing I didn't include in the book but work on a lot with students is confining yourself to 2 strings and a few adjacent positions or sometimes 2 strings and the whole neck. This is done shifting with positions in mind, even if it implies one based on a string you're not using. It helps you to start to visualize a bigger picture than just what's currently under your hand. I don't really follow any rules for shifting when it comes time to create. Sometimes the direction or intervals in the line I want to hear will cause a shift. Other times it's the preference of the sound of certain notes in one register versus what they sound like in another part of the bass. When I'm using pentatonics (which is a lot of the time) the main rule I follow is to never stay in one place too long - the more you shift, the better. My philosophy is that you have to travel "through" influences to arrive at your own voice. The concept of avoidance just won't cut it. If you avoid playing thumb, avoid playing fretless, avoid using harmonics avoid using a 5-string, etc. Eventually, you're not going to have many tools left to express yourself. Learning what great players have done on the instrument is part of learning the vocabulary of the instrument. Develop a big enough vocabulary and eventually you'll have several choices for how you

want to express yourself musically. How you uniquely combine those choices could eventually become your own "voice". The other side of the aviodance issue is: how can you truly choose to not sound like someone unless you know their playing intimately? That's what I mean by traveling "through" an influence. Once you know exactly how to imitatie someone, it becomes much, much easier to make the choice to NOT sound like that player. The more influences you go through, the more options you'll have at your disposal for how to express yourself. As far as how much copying you have to do - I have to ask: How good do you want to be? There's two things that will help prevent wear and tear on the fingerboard. First is that you should never achieve vibrato by pushing and pulling the string across the fingerboard. I had to learn that one myself. Your vibrato should come from "rolling" your finger parallel to the string. The other thing is that you should use as little pressure as necessary to play a note without it buzzing. Any extra pressure will only result in fatigue, lack of mobility, tension and a greater chance that you'll wear the strings down into the fingerboard. Another thing that helps is to turn up the amp and play softer. Playing softer will allow you to set up the action closer - so you'll require less pressure to hold the string down on the neck and reduce the likelyhood of grinding.

Hey Willis, I have a question. First of all I'm a HUGE fan of your music and your bass playing. I just notice though, looking through the book of transcriptions of yours as well as many that I've done on my own, that it seems like you play almost exclusively pentatonic scales in your improvisations. On Dominant chords like C7(#9#5) I don't hear much of the Altered Dominant Scale (C-Db-Eb-F#Ab-Bb-C) or the Symmetric Diminished ( C-Db-Eb-E-F#-G-A-Bb-C) for a chord like C13(b9) . Do you purposely avoid or not like the sound of those scales?And I also don't hear much chromaticism in your single note lines. Is that a conscious choice? I mean what you do play is killing, without doubt, I guess I'm just kind of surprised that you don't use other scales more. Anyway, just thought I'd ask. Thanks, Lucas Pickford Hey Lucas, Thanks for the kind words and your observations. I will definitely plead guilty to pentatonics, no lo contendre (no contest) They provide a very open sound and a great way to create energy, obviously. As far as the diminished scales (or actually scale sequences in general) true, you're not going to find me playing them in any obvious way because, they don't readily lend themselves to an efficient way of visualizing harmony and communicating ideas. With those diminished groupings, no matter how I reorganize the notes - most of the time, they still sound like an insertion or intrusion when I try to use them. Finally, without taking offense, I'll have to take exception to being characterized as not using much chromaticism. Maybe it's a function of which solo is being scrutinized
It's true that I turn up and play very light. Most people that pick up my bass when it's plugged in are surprised at
how loud the volume is.

The first thing I'd recommend is that if your strings are hitting the fingerboard, you're still playing too hard. A couple of things are at work here. One is that because you play too hard, you have to keep the action of the bass higher. When the strings are higher, they require more left hand pressure. This left hand pressure becomes apparent when shifting - as well as cutting down on mobility. Another thing I've discovered an almost direct relationship between playing hard with the right hand and squeezing hard with the left. If you squeeze hard with the left, then you're pretty much guaranteed to make more sound when you move your hand around. Another element at work is my right hand 3-finger technique. I keep my thumb and 3rd finger on the strings at all times. This give me an "anchor" (although that's a bad word choice since it implies pressure) for feeling my way around the right hand duties. Since I try to keep fingers on strings at all times, it's much easier for me to keep strings and noises quiet. Finally, the ramp on my basses (that I'm starting to see a lot of other players use) also serves to keep your fingers ready to play with exactly the amount of finger necessary to get the sound you want, but prevents playing to hard. Finally, the elimination of hand sounds comes from my playing style. The loud volume of the bass (relative to how others approach volume) does have the benefit of a really fat sound and low action but definitely requires a some kind of system from the right hand to keep things quiet. In taht respect, I suppose I was lucky to not have a bass teacher. Curiously, the very first thing I did with my right hand when I got a bass (13 years old) was to put thumb, 1,2 & 3 on the string to keep them quiet. i would hold of on the soloing a little longer and first spend a good bit of time learning melodies. First of all, melodies help "glue" a song together for memorizing and for associating ideas with harmony. After you've learned to play a dozen or so melodies, go back and start learning how to interpret them. Learn how to make them different that what's on the page. Learn how to make variations (changes in rhythm, pickup notes, phrasing) and carry those through so each succesive idea so that playing the melody becomes more personal. Melodies are great target ideas for development. Learning how to interpret melodies will give you a great head start on how to interpret your own ideas when you start to work on soloing. (big emphasis on the "idea" part of soloing) To me, interpreting and developing an idea is the key to communicating when your soloing.

Thanks for the kind words and observations. It's true that I turn up and play very light. Most people that pick up my bass when it's plugged in are surprised at
how loud the volume is. The first thing I'd recommend is that if your strings are hitting the fingerboard, you're still playing too hard. A couple of things are at work here. One is that because you play too hard, you have to keep the action of the bass higher. When the strings are higher, they require more left hand pressure. This left hand pressure becomes apparent when shifting - as well as cutting down on mobility. Another thing I've discovered an almost direct relationship between playing hard with the right hand and squeezing hard with the left. If you squeeze hard with the left, then you're pretty much guaranteed to make more sound when you move your hand around. Another element at work is my right hand 3-finger technique. I keep my thumb and 3rd finger on the strings at all times. This give me an "anchor" (although that's a bad word choice since it implies pressure) for feeling my way around the right hand duties. Since I try to keep fingers on strings at all times, it's much easier for me to keep strings and noises quiet. Finally, the ramp on my basses (that I'm starting to see a lot of other players use) also serves to keep your fingers ready to play with exactly the amount of finger necessary to get the sound you want, but prevents playing to hard.

My vocabulary for bass is built on how I look at the fingerboard. Which is explained in glorious detail in my Fingerboard Harmony for Bass book. So how I visually organize the fingerboard influences the possibilities for the ideas I have access to. So, I have been able to maximize what's available under my hand but moving to different positions is what helps to keep things from feeling static. One important aspect of this visualization is to develop the ability to immediately "see" what's in the next position up or down the fingerboard. One of the most obvious ways I try to get people to work on this is to limit yourself to 2 strings. Even if I'm only using 2 strings, my hand is "seeing" the underlying harmony as it moves. So there's a method to arriving at these positions but getting to where you can use them fluently involves more than just a few exercises.

What is the decision process for using extensions like a 9th, #11, or a 13th instead of a regular 7th chord? Is there voice leading involved or is it more a matter of a "denser" chord? I know "because It sounds good" is a legit answer but I was hoping for some insight on the subject of using chord extensions. Thanks, Kevin

On a regular, functioning (means it's part of chords that are in the same key) 7th chord, the decision process goes something like this: Do I want to keep my job and play with this band again? If yes, go on to next question, if no, then play whatever you want. Are there "style" constraints that, if ignored, would get me fired (or at least not called for the next gig)? If yes, then go on to the next question, if no, then play whatever you want. Does the context of this song allow me to be creative with my note choices while still fulfilling my role in the group? If yes go on to the next question, if no, then in the famous words of Ron Carter "just play the letters, not the numbers". If you've got this far, then the answer depends on your role: soloing or reinforcing the harmony. In either case, the natural 9 and 13 are safe bets to work while still allowing you some degree of creativity in soloing or a support role. The #11 you mentioned is not diatonic and should be reserved for soloing - It's often necessary in soloing to use non diatonic chord tones to create interest and tension. The natural 11 is an obvious bad choice because if its conflict with the major 3rd sounding an interval of a minor ninth below. All circumstances require an understanding of voice leading since often your extensions need to be resolved by your successive note choices. Some situations even allow you to alter the 7th chord's extension (b9, #9, #5, etc) and so you have to be even more conscious of voice leading and how your extensions should resolve Hey Srgio, Eventually, the book will give you a global approach to harmony that will let you create really smooth, efficient walking bass lines (as well as smooth solo lines, fills, etc). Remember that the "feel" that you're trying to create has very little do to with the physicality of the acoustic vibrations of a acoustic bass (big wooden box). Upright players in a jazz setting actually have it easier (harmonically) since the pitches are less discernible and the notes decay rapidly. Effectively walking over jazz changes involves a few different skills that you may not be able to develop in a short period of time. First, you need to be able to analyze the harmony immediately. Once you're able to diagnose the different kinds of chord sequences and key changes then it makes it easier to connect your lines to become more efficient. Having a subconscious vocabulary for what happens in a given key and putting your hand in the best position to play in that key is another goal of the book that, of course, takes time. Another thing that really helps is memorization. The quicker you are at memorizing and not having your eyes glued to the paper, the more you'll be able to listen and interact musically with the band. Other things like having a good sense of time, tone, form (the structure of the song) and style are also very important but are still difficult to improve rapidly.

The way that I learned music was by ear first. I learned how toplay and create on bass and guitar (without a teacher) before I ever learned what the notes were. Then, eventually, the theory was just the "label" for what I understood that worked musically. Reading & Theory are OK, but they're not as important to me as the immediate connection between what you hear and what you play. If you have that connection going, then you can always be learning and creating, independently of paper or books or even teachers. In order to "stay happy" I'd say learn about whatever inspires you. Take your favorite piece of music and figure it out. I mean, everything about it. The melody, bass lines, harmony, even drum grooves. The stronger your ear gets, the more you can learn about music on your own.

Bass/Gear Setup It's true that how your bass setup definitely influences technique. A fretless setup like mine is optimized for getting that characteristic "buzz" out of the notes but still allowing them to breathe and not choke from too much buzz. A perfectly straight neck won't allow that. A string vibrates with a slight curve and the neck has to be adjusted to compliment that curve. Lowering your strings will reveal if your neck is adjusted properly. Buzz only in the first few frets means that it's too straight. While buzzing only on the heel (last 5-10 frets) means that there's too much bow. If it buzzes top to bottom then your neck is great - you just need to raise the string at the saddle. A combination of careful adjustment and appropriate right hand intensity will determine how low you can get the strings without buzzing too much but just enough for the right amount of fretless "buzz". The most important element is the setup. On any fretless, when you get the string height and truss rod adjustment just right, there's kind of a sweet spot where the notes have enough room to "breathe" but there's still enough of that characteristic buzz that makes it sound like a fretless and sustain longer. The next two things are how hard you play and where you play. Playing softer while turning up the amp will let the string vibrate at a volume closer to its natural vibrating resonance with more sustain. Playing softer will also allow you a lower setup which will help this as well. Properly adjusting the ramp height and angle will help you to maintain this lighter touch. It also gives you a consistent sensation when you play further away from the bridge (where you play) which also increases the sustain

For recording, I never use a microphone. I always record direct to the converter. For Slaughterhouse 3 is was Apogee's Mini-Me. For Actual Fiction is was the Apogee Ensemble and I used TC Electronic's Studio Konnekt 48 for Triphasic's Shaman. Always having the direct sound recorded as well as a separate track for effects gives you the option to go back and make changes - either in what I played or the sound of the effect. I'll listen to the effects to monitor when I'm tracking but I'm not stuck with a particular effect mix since the dry track is still available. I've used a really wide range of effects for recording, starting with Roland's V-Bass, all the processing available in Logic Studio, as well as sometimes TC's G-System and Native Instrument's Guitar Rig 2.

For video I use Grand VJ by Arkaos running off a Mac Mini. Onstage I use Ableton's Live 8 on my MacBook Pro. A dedicated midi track in Live gets sent through an Ethernet connection to the Mini. I use Logic Studio and Final Cut Studio at home for Audio/Midi and Video production. At home and on stage I use TC Electronic's Studio 48.