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.

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