“Embraceable Red” Bass Player Magazine Example, June 2016

“Embraceable Red”

Here’s the audio example from my Bass Player Magazine article “Play Like Red,” from the June issue of BP. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

“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 about scales & modes — March ’14 Bass Player Mag

SmilinSteve wrote to me after reading my Woodshed column in the March issue of Bass Player Magazine with a question about my use of the chord symbol Esus7b9. Chime in if you have thoughts about this.

SmilinSteve writes:

Phrygian Is Minor!

I noticed that youve listed the Phrygian mode on pg 54 of Bass Payer Mag as Esus7flat9
Wouldnt it be E min sus7 flat9?
Isnt Phrygian Minor?

My answer:

Thanks for your email. Yes, Phrygian is indeed minor, and you’re right that I used a nebulous chord symbol to describe it. It could have been more clear if I had written Emin7susb9.
But, I have a reason that I didn’t write it that way — I don’t often see Emin7susb9, but I often see this chord symbol:
Esus7b9, or E7susb9, which emphasize the suss  and b9 as defining sounds rather than the minor 3rd as the defining sound. 
Sus chords can be major or minor, but the defining notes would be found in a typical voicing like:
(bottom to top) Bass note: E, chord voicing: F A B D
So when I’m playing bass lines or solos, the defining notes to me are: E F A B. Whether there’s a G or G# in there is up to the context.
That’s a sound that I hear a lot, and it could indicate an E Phrygian (with the note G), or the 5th mode of A harmonic minor (with the note G#).
The absolute clearest way to indicate the mode is just to write:
E (Phrygian)
and there are some other ways, which I also see, that make the specific voicing and the use of the Phrygian scale even more clear, like:
Esusb2
Dmin9/E
Dmin11/E
F/E
Since there are so many ways to indicate a Phrygian mode with a chord symbol, I opted for the most nebulous. That’s always a choice in writing chord symbols—whether to try and give a long chord symbol with a specific voicing, or just give the bare minimum and let the improvisors use their ears.
I appreciate knowing that guys like you are reading the columns and holding me to a (hopefully) high standard.

Charlie Haden: Wayfaring Stranger

The sound of a string orchestra blossoms, ascending to a melody that floats, suspended in time. The wayfarer’s path starts on a poignant Bb major sound. Strings begin a slow, aching journey, wandering through harmony that becomes progressively darker. The orchestra settles on an ominous D minor. Charlie Haden sings,

I am a poor wayfaring stranger . . .”

A low pedal tone broods like the dark thoughts of a wayfarer, lost in an unending valley.

“. . . a-wanderin’ through this world of woe . . .”

The low D pedal remains while strings sway through searing recollections of things the wayfarer has witnessed on his journey.

And there’s no sickness, toil, or danger / In that bright world to which I go . . .”

The strings swell out of the shadows. The wayfaring stranger steps into the light.

“I’m going home to see my father . . .”

On the word “home,” a single, beautifully placed pizzicato bass note—a Bb on the G string—rings out, changing the wayfarer’s world to a place of promise.

“I’m going there no more to roam / I’m only going over Jordan / I’m only going over home.”

A solo cello punctuates the story, climbing from the depths toward a beacon in the sky. Haden sings about life—and death. His path had taken him around the world, through bright moments and gloomy times.

Charles Edward “Charlie” Haden passed away on July 11, 2014, at the age of 76. He will be remembered as a singular, defining voice in the world of modern bass playing.

Read more …

 

 

Introducing . . . 3 Classic Intros

In the beginning,

there was an intro. A bass player played an introduction and set the mood for an entire song. Without the intro, there wouldn’t have been a song, because we would never have gotten that far.

An intro sets up and frames a song by introducing the rhythmic and harmonic vibe carried forward through the entire performance. Intros matter a great deal, and bassists are often charged with laying them down. Over the years, some specific intros have become integral parts of certain jazz standards. Let’s take three of these tunes and look at the classic intro bass lines that you absolutely must know.

READ MORE …

Killer Grooves — Bass Player Magazine

“WE’D LIKE YOU TO MEET A FRIEND OF OURS WHO GOES BY THE NAME of Killer Joe. Picture a so-called hippie or hip cat, standing on a corner in a neatly pressed, double-breasted, form-fitted pinstriped suit.” Saxophonist and composer Benny Golson describes his fictitious, street-savvy character in a spoken intro to his tune “Killer Joe” [Meet the Jazztet, Argo, 1960]. The tune was written for the Jazztet, a supergroup that’s not often given its due by critics and historians. Featuring Art Farmer and Benny Golson with Addison Farmer (Art’s twin brother) on bass, the Jazztet premiered many tunes that are still considered standards. Says Golson in an interview with blogger Marc Meyers, “When the song came out in 1960, Art Farmer and I went all over Manhattan putting up posters that said, HAS ANYONE SEEN KILLER JOE? We wanted to give Killer Joe a mystique from the beginning. One night the police caught me, and I almost got arrested.”

A hit at jazz camps around the globe, “Killer Joe” is generally considered an improvising vehicle for beginner-to-intermediate players . . .

 

Read more . . .

 

 

 

Triad Architecture — Bass Player Magazine

“I CALL ARCHITECTURE FROZEN music,” said the German writer and philosopher Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. He was commenting on the relationships of form and function that both architecture and music share.

A beautiful building stands only because all of its structural elements are silently working together. Music also contains many fundamental elements that underpin the architecture of a song. Without the underlying structure, there is no beauty, no groove, no funk, no blues. In the next few Woodsheds, we’ll look at how triads form the foundation of bass lines and melodies.

Read more . . .

 

From my Woodshed column, Bass Player Magazine, March 2010

Bass Player Magazine