The Super Summer Workshop Post

Like many musicians, I often teach at workshops during the summer. I always learn as much from the students as I hope they learn from me. It’s a teachers’ cliché, but I  learn from other musicians of all levels—students, beginners, hobbyists, semi-pros; and also from the huge breadth of talent, expertise and dedication embodied by my fellow teachers.

This summer I revisited a couple of my favorite.workshops: The Sligo Jazz Workshop in Ireland, and the Jamey Aebersold Summer Jazz Workshop in Louisville, Kentucky, USA. Both camps feature dedicated teachers, enthusiastic participants—and I did, once again, learn a lot and experience great joy through sharing music with people from all walks of life.

Chris Potter, Phil DeGreg, Carl Allen, John Goldsby, Louisville, KY, July 2016

Chris Potter, Phil DeGreg, Carl Allen, John Goldsby, Louisville, KY, July 2016

I’d like to thank all of the students who participated. Without you, these weeklong music-learning experiences wouldn’t exist, and the world would be less enlightened, less tolerant, and not as groovy. Jazz workshops focus on music, not on any kind of Olympic-style competition or pressure to be super human or fierce. Jazz is the great equalizer. A student who just recently took up saxophone can revel in the amazing energy of Chris Potter, Matthew Halpin or Eric Alexander. They’re all in the same club; they’re all musicians. The kid who just bought a bass finds the same Db on the neck (where was that again?) that Federico Malaman, Steve Rodby and Rufus Reid play. They’re all part of the bass community.

When I first started attending jazz workshops in the late ’70s, and teaching for Jamey Aebersold in 1980, his Summer Jazz Workshops were the only weeklong summer programs for small-group improvisation, with the exception of the Stanford Jazz Workshop and a few scattered college offerings. The workshop audience was very different from the audiences at the jazz clubs where I had been playing. At workshop performances, hundreds of people hang on every note, and most of them listen deeply. They want to not only be entertained by the music, but also know how and why the musicians onstage are doing what they do. They want information, along with great music, and these workshops deliver.

A few of my vivid memories from the past 40 years of workshop performances include, as a student:

  • Hearing Joe Henderson and Woody Shaw play a very fast completely burning, frighteningly aggressive tune with Rufus Reid on bass and Ed Soph on drums (Louisville, 1977). I didn’t know what they were doing at the time, but I knew I wanted to know what it was and learn how to do it myself—inspiring.
  • Watching Dave Liebman give his very first clinic/performance (Iowa, ca. 1978). Dave talked about his time with Miles Davis, and the New York “loft scene.” That made me want to move to New York, which I did two years later.
  • Having Ron McClure give me a five-minute lesson and “show me” how to play in thumb position on the bass (Louisville, 1979). He pointed out that it’s easy when you know how. I discovered, after I practiced for another few years, that he was right.

As a teacher at various workshops, I remember a few sublime moments:

  • Playing some sets with Dave Liebman with two bassists (early ’80s). I played electric, Todd Coolman played double bass. Liebman would sketch out the whole set on three or four lines on a set of staff paper . . . an intro on a certain chord progression, an odd-meter vamp, some beautiful ballad changes, something fast and crazy to end the set. Exciting stuff.
  • Playing trio with Ed Soph and Steve Erquiaga—two incredibly musical players. You can find some of those performances on YouTube now (mid-80s).
  • Playing with James Moody in quartet (Louisville, 2009). From the early years of bebop, up until the conclusion of his life in 2010, Moody was a driving force on the jazz scene. He was in a way the ultimate teacher, because when he played or talked, he filled the room with an undeniable power, joy, and love of music and life. I had played with Moody on various occasions over the years, but I was thrilled with this particular performance at the Aebersold camp. He brought the entire history of jazz to the students (and faculty) that night.
  • This summer, I played a lot of music with incredible musicians, and to pick any particular set as “the best” would be selling the others short. I would say though, that playing “So What” with Jimmy Cobb, Phil DeGreg, Randy Brecker, Eric Alexander, Jim Snidero and Steve Davis was just one of the many high points (Louisville, 2016).
  • This *is* my blog post, but it’s really not all just about me, me, me. Another highlight from this summer was sharing the stage with Liane Carroll (Sligo, Ireland, 2016). Yes, I was also playing bass, but Liane’s duet with Sara Colman was brilliant—thank you Liane and Sara.
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Liane Carroll & Sara Colman, Sligo, Ireland. Photo © 2016 Lieve Boussauw

My goal when teaching at a workshop is to show participants at all levels that they can make music now, in the moment, no matter what their level of musical development. Great musicians play within the boundaries of their technique, possibly even pushing the boundaries for a bit of risk, excitement and fun. Once students realize where they are in their development, and the work that needs to be done to get better, they can begin to make great strides towards solid musicianship. There are no magic pills for becoming a better musician, but at the Aebersold and Sligo workshops, students are shown a clear path to improvement as instrumentalists and improvisers, and given more enjoyment of music as listeners. Thanks to everyone who made the effort to come, participate, listen and play.

Here are a few of the nice folks who I encountered this summer:

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Aebersold Combo, Louisville, KY, Week 1

 

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Aebersold Combo, Louisville, KY, Week Two

 

Sligo_Combo_2016

Sligo, Ireland Combo, Photo © 2016 Lieve Boussauw

Of course, it wasn’t just all about workshops. I did a couple of nights at the NachBar in Louisville with my friends (l. to r.) Jason Tiemann, Corey Christiansen and Jacob Duncan. Extra-curricular jazz!

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I want to hear what you think!

Please comment below.

 


Fingerings for Artificial Harmonics on “Three Short Stories”

I got this email recently from Jack, a bass teacher who was looking for new material for his jazz student:

Hi John,
I just picked up the print copy of Three Short Stories. 
I have a graduate student who is pretty proficient 
with the bow, and I thought it would be a great piece 
for him to possibly play for an upcoming recital. 
Despite having listened to your 
“Tale of the Fingers” CD for years, 
it didn’t dawn on me that those are 
false harmonics in the second part?
How are you fingering those? 
Are you stopping the string below the written note? 
Any insight would be greatly appreciated.
Best, Jack

*************************************************

First of all, I assume you’ve heard the original recording on Tale Of The Fingers [Concord Jazz]. We also did a live version way back in 1993, and you can watch that here:

 

 

So, Jack —
You’re right — in part II, the first few notes are artificial harmonics. The part you’re asking about starts at about 5 minutes into the video above. The way I play them is by stopping the string with my thumb a 4th under the harmonic to be played (Actually an octave and a 4th). So, the first note is a high Bb harmonic. I stop the high F on the G string with my thumb, and then lightly touch the Bb in thumb position on the G string . . . and then hope the harmonic comes out! Then I move that up to the next harmonic C, with my thumb stopping the G.

Same thing in bar 5, except on the D string: I stop the C# on the D string and play the F# harmonic high of the D string. Then slide that up a whole step to play the stopped D# and harmonic G#.

Bar 6: Stop the F# on the A string while playing the C# harmonic, and slide it down to the stopped E and harmonic B on the A string. It’s low on the neck, and that is a big stretch.

Bar 9: Stop the high A on the G string, play the D harmonic. Slide that up a whole step.
Bar 10: stop the E on the D string, play the A harmonic. Slide that down a whole step to play the stopped D and harmonic G.

There are a couple of hard technical things about this: The stretch of a P4 is really big, so players with small hands might have to play some of the notes with a different artificial harmonic fingering (maybe on a different string, higher up). You really have to anchor the thumb hard in order for the artificial harmonics to come out. If your student absolutely can’t reach the notes, you might have him just play the part ponticello, close to the bridge, with a light, airy bow sound and a lot of overtones.

In the pizz section of Part II that follows this section, I play all of those as natural harmonics, except in bar 14, I play the C as a normal, stopped pizz note (The listener does not hear that it is not a harmonic because I play it lightly and it is followed by two harmonics). In bar 15, I play the F as a regular stopped pizzicato note. Bar 16, the C is stopped, as in bar 18. In bar 19, the F is a regular stopped note.

“Three Short Stories for Contrabass and Piano” is a three movement suite written by pianist Bill Mays. We recorded the piece on my Concord Jazz album, Tale of the Fingers.

By the way, the solo on this track is in the new edition of Jazz Bowing Techniques for the Improvising Bassist.

I hope this cleared up some of your questions . . . .

Best, John

How To Practice — Presentation Materials

Here are the supporting materials for my “60 Things To Practice Workshop.” Download and enjoy!

Click here to download the zip file:

Goldsby_Practicing_Presentation

Please check out my new online video lessons from Truefire . . .  

a great way to jump start your practice routine!

“Plant Bassed” by Marshall Gilkes (from the Grammy-nominated album “Köln”)


Marshall Gilkes “Vesper” (Grammy-nominated for Best Instrumental Composition)

Here’s the great trombonist, composer and bandleader Marshall Gilkes, leading the WDR Big Band. His composition “Vesper” is nominated for a Grammy in the category “Best Instrumental Composition.”

 


 

 

 

 

Inquiring Minds Want To Know! More Of Your Questions Answered

I receive quite a few questions from bass players, fans, and “others” from around the globe. Here is a sampling of a some recent enquiries.

  1. How to practice effectively with limited time.
  2. Your Bass Player Magazine article on “Someday My Prince Will Come” confused me! I had to re-learn the tune to play it with my wedding band.
  3. Pedro wrote with a question about Mexican/Texas Conjunto music, which I know nothing about.
  4. Hey John—Your publishing website says that your six-volume bass method will be out in 2014. Running a little behind, aren’t you?

 

Here are the questions and my responses:

 

 

(1) AJ from LA writes to ask about how he can practice more effectively with limited time.

Dear John,

I’m getting back into music after a layoff (family stuff – small child, work schedule, etc.) and am hoping for some advice on using my limited practice time efficiently. I like your articles from earlier in the year on modes (major and melodic minor) with the excercises you layed out, I have also been getting around the keyboard and trying to sing the scale as well as playing basic 3 or 4 note voicings along with it. This takes away time from the bass, but is this a good start? Secondly relates to building my tune knowledge. Within the Jazz world, I know transcription/learning by ear is the way its done . Problem is, this takes me a long time and I want to build up a solid repertoire of 30-40 jazz standards. So, in short, is it ok to use a reliable chart (sher, aebersold) as long as I continue to listen to historical recordings and focus on singing the melody? Any help would be appreciated. Thanks, AJ

My answer:

Hi AJ,

That sounds like a good approach. I always advise that we practice some “pure technique,” like scales, arpeggios and licks; then practice “technique applied to something musical” like playing arpeggios through the harmony to a song; then “pure music” where you forget about that and just play tunes or whatever your learning.

Since your time is limited, I would skip any transcription and just listen a lot in your free time — in the car, around the house — just make sure you’re listening to music.

Make a list and pick one or two small technical things to practice. You could possibly use things that you will apply to the songs you’re learning.

On your list, put three tunes that you want to learn, and play those tunes everyday.

Stick with the list for the 30 minutes or so that you set aside to practice, and do that every day for a week.

Then review the list, move on to a couple of different or related technical exercises, and switch some of the tunes you’re learning.

Example: You want to learn “In a Sentimental Mood” with the melody, bass line, solo, etc. Make your technical exercises relate to that tune. Practice D minor pentatonic and D Dorian scale. Practice Db Major scale (for the bridge) and the arpeggios in that scale. Do that for 15 minutes. Then work on the tune for 15 minutes. Do the same thing every day for a week. It’s important to practice something simple to (almost) perfection, rather than try and practice too many unrelated things.

Good luck with all of that!

All the best,

John

(2) Your Bass Player Magazine article on “Someday My Prince Will Come” confused me!

Jack wrote to me because I confused him with my article on SMPWC . . . sorry, Jack!

Mr. Goldsby ,

The version of Someday my prince will come  as proposed in your article (Bass player , August 2015) differs greatly from the bass line by Paul Chambers. I spent some time learning the one that you proposed only to have to re learn it entirely for a wedding reception .

Otherwise, your articles in bass players are awesome.

A fan.

I did my best to explain:

Hi Jack,

Thanks for checking in. The “Someday My Prince Will Come” etude was just that — an etude based on the harmony of the song. I used the original harmony to the song, which differ slightly from the “classic” version that Miles Davis played. In the last 8 bars of the original version, the changes once again repeat the BbMaj7 to D7#5 progression, moving to EbMaj7. Miles’s version inserts a ii-V: Fmin7 to Bb7 to EbMaj7 at that spot.

I also suggested in the article that you listen to several versions of the song: Scott LaFaro with Bill Evans, Norman Bates with Dave Brubeck, and—yes—Paul Chambers with Miles Davis. I gave the link to another blog site with the transcription of PC’s line, plus I gave links to videos of Chuck Israel and also Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen playing the song.

 

With all of those sources cited, I thought it was obvious that the article deals with a practice etude based on the harmony, not with any one particular historical version.

I hope you checked out several of the recordings and links, as well as working through the bass line and solo. Now that you’ve played the tune live, you probably have a good handle on how to lay down a solid bass line. I hope I helped a bit with that. You should be aware that certain players (your wedding bandleader/piano player, etc) will possibly use different changes. There’s no one “right’ way to play the tune, but there are several historical versions, which are touched on in the article, that dictate certain stylistic approaches.

Thanks for reading the column, and also for your feedback.

All the best,

John

(3) You say Conjunto, I say Conjunto . . .

I recently heard from Pedro with a question that I know absolutely nothing about. Let me know if I’m missing something here.

Dear John,

I am a bass player in a conjunto group here in Texas.  My teacher is a cat from the old school and is considered a conjunto music legend here in south Texas and knows his theory.  Recently, he showed me a song and he noticed I was not playing the right notes. The other instruments are playing major and minor but the bass is strictly major.  He kept repeating that I needed to play the first rotation of C and I didn’t understand.  So he stopped the band and said to play the first rotation of C and I did not know it.  He then told me that the first rotation of C is C then to D then to G then to E then to A then to D then finally resolving on G.  I later tried to find out what this rotation was by referring to the Circle Of Fifths but again I did not know how this “rotation” is formed.   If you can shed some light on this it would greatly be appreciated.  Thank you very much! Sincerely, Pedro

My reply to Pedro:

Hi Pedro,

Nice to hear from you. I’m really not experienced with conjunto music, so I can’t give you an informed answer about your teacher’s concept. If you say he’s an older cat, then he probably learned just by playing gigs, and he developed his own system of thinking about things—that’s a very valid way to make good music. Plus, your guy is a top player in the scene, so what he’s saying obviously carries a lot of weight. I’m not sure what he means by “rotation,” but it sounds like what I would call a “turnaround.” There’s a lot of info on turnarounds in different jazz books, and in my books.

Also check here:

Turnarounds

and here:

Jazz Turnarounds

It seems like you understand the cycle of fifths, right. If not, look here:

Cycle of Fifths

and also download this booklet:

Jamey Aebersold Free Jazz Handbook (that’s free in the sense that it costs nothing, not that it deals with free jazz 🙂

All those links deal with jazz music, but of course you can apply the theory to any style. Good luck and let me know if you figure out what your teacher is saying in different words 😉

Best,

John

(4) Some keen readers have noticed that I announced the release of the six-volume Goldsby Bass Method in, ahem, 2014. Yes, my jazz bass method is still in the works!

The Goldsby Bass Method is being prepared as you read this. Although I love to write and teach, I am first and foremost a bass player, and I’ve been working like crazy, performing and recording. This is of course, a good thing. I’ve been writing and re-writing and preparing the new method for release, and I plan to have all six volumes out on the market in 2016. Mark my words, and stay tuned.

***

Scales and Modes – a Practice Method

This video corresponds to my article in the March issue of Bass Player Magazine. But, watch and learn! Of course you can understand the material without reading the article:
 
 

 

 

 

Questions, Answers, and more stuff you might not need to know.

I receive quite a few questions from bass players, fans, and “others” from around the globe. Here is a sampling of a some recent inquiries.

  1. Am I too old to learn the bass?

  2. How Do I Hold My Bow?

  3. Gig Inquiry Fail

  4. What The Sus?

1. From Vincent the bass player

Question:

Hi John, Just wanted to drop you a line to mention how much I am enjoying The Jazz Bass Book. Ive never seen so much useful info gathered in one book. I plan to order Bass Notes real soon. I am 59 years old and returning to the electric bass after about 10 years. Just about to start lessons with a upright /electric player in my area. Hope to make some significant strides in the future. Hope my age isn’t a deterrent. I signed up for your newsletter and just wanted to mention how great your book was and how much Iam enjoying it. Thanks John! 

Answer:

Hi Vincent,

Thanks for getting in touch. I’m glad you are enjoying the Jazz Bass Book! I’m sure your teacher will be able to guide you in the right direction.

Age is no problem when learning an instrument. The main goal would be to find some other people on your level who you could hook up with and play on a casual basis. Once you have some like-minded fellow players, then you can really start to focus on material.

Good luck and let me know how things work out.

 

2.  From Eric the bass player

Question:

Hi John,

I’ve always enjoyed your playing, and my question has to do with bowing. I think my hand in the bow is similar to yours, and it doesn’t seem to fall into any stereotypes. Do you use a particular bowing grip?

Answer:

Hi Eric,

I use a version of the Ludwig Streicher grip, which I learned from Michael Moore. Streicher has a series of books on bass technique and there are some videos of him:

Ludwig Streicher

3. From Mr. XYZ, a trumpet player

Question:

Hello John Goldsby,

I’m a jazz trumpeter currently living in Brooklyn, NY. I’ve had the pleasure of working with such jazz greats as Art Blakey, Joe Henderson, Mongo Santamaria, Houston Person, Lester Bowie and Steve Turre.

I just found out I’m going to be performing in Pittsburgh, PA. in September with a big band. I’m planning on staying in the state for at least a week afterward doing clinics, workshops and concerts. Do you think it might be possible for me to do a performance with you.  Since I’ll already be in your state there will be no need for you to cover my travel expenses. I’ll just need my hotel taken care of. With the economy the way it is I try to be as flexible with my fee as possible.

I put my website link below for you to visit if you’re not familiar with my work.

Let me know what you think.

Talk with you soon.

XYZ

Answer:

Dear Mr. XYZ,

Thanks for getting in touch. I guess you used the email contact form on my website. You might have also noticed from the info on my website that I live in Germany, not Pennsylvania.

Anyway, good luck with your tour.

 

4. From Gary the bass player

Question:

Hi John, I’ve written before.  I have a question about the notes in a F7 sus7. What notes can I use? What’s the sus part? You mentioned the D & G in one of your articles. Are those notes past of a scale? I wouldn’t have associated those 2 notes with a sus7 chord. 

Answer:

Hi Gary,

Here it is in a nutshell:

There are different ways to think of a sus7 chord. Yes, the scale that fits to that sound is also just like the F7 scale:

F G A Bb C D Eb F

but the voicing on the piano is more like this:

Cmin7/F

or this

Eb triad / F

If you play those chords on the piano, or just run the arpeggios on the bass, you have these notes (from low to high)

F, C, Eb, G, Bb

That sounds like a sus7 chord, because it’s different than the F7 because of the note Bb. An F7 chord would have the note A (the 3rd) and the Fsus7 has the note Bb (the 4th, or sus 4 as it’s called).

Usually for bass lines on a sus chord, you can play anything that does not emphasize the 3rd. For example, a couple of tunes that uses the sus7 sound are “Passion Dance” by McCoy Tyner and  “Cantaloupe Island” by Herbie Hancock.

If you play a solo, you can use all of the notes of the F7 (Mixolydian) scale:

F G A Bb C D Eb F

or you can combine triads to make the sus sound, like an Eb triad and an F traid:

F A C, Eb G Bb, A C F, G Bb Eb, C F A, Bb Eb, G etc

or you can think of the Cmin7 over the F root and play a C min dorian scale:

C D Eb F G A Bb C / over the F in the bass.

I hope that clears it up for you. Let me know if it was a specific article you were talking about.

 

 

John Goldsby Interview

From the nice folks at multicoolty.com

 



 

John Goldsby – Peter Leitch Duo: ‘Solar’ (1992)

Here’s a ‘new’ old video for you. Peter Leitch and I played at William Peterson College back in 1992 for their Jazz Room concert series. I just ran across this cut, our version of “Solar.”