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  • Playing without a Chordal Instrument

    Playing without a Chordal Instrument

    Q: I was curious about your approach to playing jazz without a piano player or guitarist. I lead a secret, soon to be a quintet because our piano player is moving away. I respect the kind of stuff presented by Charlie Haden in his work with Ornette Coleman, but aside from the free really “out... »

  • Turning Exercises into Real Music

    Turning Exercises into Real Music

    Q: I’ve been studying for a while now, and I’ve been practicing my scales and modes as much as possible over changes. I’ve also been working through arpeggios, including the methods you talk about in your Improvisor’s Path book. For example, I’ll work arpeggios through tunes in different inversions and so on. However, when I... »

  • Practicing vs. Performing for Musical Growth

    Practicing vs. Performing for Musical Growth

    Q: I’ve been playing the bass in a blues band for two years. Then we started playing rock and funk songs, and my practicing has always been based on what I hear and what I feel. I don’t really count in my head, and I’ve hardly worked my scales but my band keeps telling me... »

  • Making Theory Work

    Making Theory Work

    Q: I’ve tried to learn music theory many times. I’ve studied it in a classroom setting, private lessons and on my own, but it just doesn’t click with me for some reason. I’m classically trained, so I can read bass music just fine, but when I play anything that relies heavily on memory or improvisation,... »

  • The Lightbulb Moment: A Quarter Note For Your Thoughts

    The Lightbulb Moment: A Quarter Note For Your Thoughts

    Here we are, smack dab in the middle of the college admission process — the worst part about being in high school. Clearly, a full day of classes followed by extra-curricular activities and homework isn’t enough to deal with; there are standardized tests to study for, essays to write, schools to visit, interviews to prepare... »

  • Challenges to Good Intonation in a Live Situation

    Challenges to Good Intonation in a Live Situation

    Good intonation is a lifelong concern for every double bassist. We train our ears, we work constantly to match pitch, and we devote large sections of our individual practice sessions to improving it. Among other things, the sheer size of the instrument demands our constant attention to pitch. Sometimes though, even players who normally have... »

  • From the Shed to the Stage: Translating Practice to Performance

    From the Shed to the Stage: Translating Practice to Performance

    Q: I’m having a difficult applying what I’ve learned into playing. When I play, my fingers can’t seem to do what they did when I practiced. Is there any suggestion to making things stick? A: The first word that pops into my head is repetition. Lines, licks and harmonic devices – such as arpeggios, scales... »

  • Secrets of Playing Great in a Group Setting: Listen, Acknowledge and Respond

    Secrets of Playing Great in a Group Setting: Listen, Acknowledge and Respond

    Be it on the bandstand, the concert stage, or the corner of a bad club, most musicians yearn for great musical communication in an ensemble. Great musical communication between players leads to great ensemble playing. If you have experienced it once, you will want it again. To have the shot at this, we need to:... »

  • When to Play with the Harmony: A Discussion for Bass Players

    When to Play with the Harmony: A Discussion for Bass Players

    Q: The (new) guitarist in my band has mentioned a few times that I’m not “holding it down” because I don’t always play the root, and he finds it “detracts from the song.” He is an extremely good musician and I respect his opinion. However the chords in our songs are super vanilla. Our vocalist... »

  • Playing Music with an Open Mind

    Playing Music with an Open Mind

    Playing music is a curious thing. We excite at the opportunity to play with and for other people. We look forward to it, prepare for it, take pleasure in it, and enjoy the feeling of making music together. Sounds perfect, right? Well, the funny thing is that the more you play in a “formal” scenario... »