THE LOW DOWN
R O G KSCH O O L
n i l
m p r o v i s a t i o
WELCOME TO ROCKSCHOOL'S NEW COLUMN, BROUGHT TO
TOU ВУ JOE HUBBARD AND NIK PRESTON. FIRST UP JOE
DISCUSSES 'THE MUSIC CONNECTION'.
ll of the really cool rollercoasters of the world require you to be a
certain height before you can experience their awesomeness. Now,
in no way is this column as cool as a rollercoaster, but nevertheless,
I'm imposing a certain restriction on those of you who are interested
in the material presented here. It doesn't matter what style you are
interested in playing, what type of bass you play or the techniques you are
drawn to. All that really matters is your determination to become a better
bass player - an improvising bass player! So before I begin to fill that brain
of yours with all sorts of smart things, let's define what an improvising bass
player actually is.
Many aspiring bass players are led to believe that if you are improvising
then you are suddenly playing jazz. This couldn't be further from the truth!
This confusion exists because in order to play jazz you have to be able to
improvise, but the action of improvisation is not limited to any specific
style of music. It's common knowledge that iconic players such as James
Jamerson, Pino Palladino and Nate Watts improvise on hit records and live
performances. If this is nothing new to you, then feel free to walk tall, but if
you haven't heard this rhetoric before, sit back and enjoy!
Before we can go any further, there are two concepts that we need
to understand. These are 'content' and 'context'. Content is comprised of
elements such as melody, rhythm, harmony, counterpoint and form, while
context is related to the style of music you are playing. The problem for
both aspiring and experienced players is trying to learn musical content by
way of learning a style. This approach doesn't always work for everyone.
So many students have approached me to learn styles such as Latin music,
only to find out that if they were well versed in syncopated rhythmic
patterns, they would have adapted very quickly to that style. The way that
many students improve the fastest is to learn musical content first and then
apply these concepts to tunes within the stylistic parameters that they are
Many bass players are also trapped inside a motor-movement reality
where they forget the larger concern for musical value: instead, they
replace this with a desire for operating the bass guitar like a machine to the
best of their technical ability. Let's take a look at this in a different context: if
you were a novelist rather than a bass player, and measured your ability as
a writer by how fast you could type while ignoring the actual content of the
novel, most people wouldn't want to read your book. So how do we practise
to prevent this from happening?
There are many ways to get there - and getting there is more than half
the fun! Every bass player I have met has dreamed of developing the skills
to play music at the speed of thought. In the following months, both Nik
Preston and I will guide you through a set of applied musical skills, which
will allow you to become an improvising bass player, regardless of your
To illustrate this concept, if you look at
that these are content-isolated exercises, outlining a C7 chord with
chromatic approach notes, scale passing tones and diatonic approach notes.
demonstrates how this could be used in a soul and
Discover more about popular music theory at www.rockschool.co.uk/theory.
Double Chromatic Approach from Below Each Chord Tone
Descending Scale Passing Tones
Diatonic Approach from Above
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