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  • 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... »

  • 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,... »

  • Quickly Figuring Out Available Notes For Given Chord Types

    Quickly Figuring Out Available Notes For Given Chord Types

    Q: I’ve been trying to learn how to figure out what notes are available for any given chord type. I’ve read columns here (yours are very helpful), Googled it, bought books… I just seem to get more confused at every turn. Once I think I’ve got it, I’ve lost it. Do you have any quick... »

  • Breaking Down Harmonic Substitutions: Part 3 – Practice Material

    Breaking Down Harmonic Substitutions: Part 3 – Practice Material

    As a follow up to this series on harmonic substitutions, I thought that I would include a few choice pages from my book, The Improvisor’s Path, related directly to what we’ve been discussing. First, here are the pages that relate to my breakdown of some available scaler substitutions. Next is the Wayne Shorter tune, “Nefertiti”... »

  • Breaking Down Harmonic Substitutions: Part 2

    Breaking Down Harmonic Substitutions: Part 2

    In part 1 of this series, we were experimenting with using substitutions that allowed us to play familiar major and minor scale shapes over various basic chord types. Now, let’s move on to melodic and harmonic minor mode choices. First, let’s make sure that we’re all familiar with these two scales: Harmonic minor = Aeolian... »

  • Breaking Down Harmonic Substitutions: Part 1

    Breaking Down Harmonic Substitutions: Part 1

    Q: What are substitutions and how can I make use of them? A: The first answer is easy: a substitution is using one chord in the place of another. For example: We might assume that a C Major chord symbol (CMaj7 or C∆7) would imply a C major scale: C D E F G A... »

  • Playing Bass without Sheet Music: Time, Feel & Harmony

    Playing Bass without Sheet Music: Time, Feel & Harmony

    Q: I’ve been playing bass for about 7 years. Before bass I was a very good tuba player and a halfway decent cellist. My problem is I never learned to play without music notation. I can’t even play tabs. I either need the notation or the chord progression. What’s the best way for me to... »

  • Connecting Chords: A Guide to Playing Fluid Bass Lines

    Connecting Chords: A Guide to Playing Fluid Bass Lines

    Q: I would like to ask about voicing/phrases on bass when it comes to chord progressions. How should I step into the next chord when I’m phrasing the actual one? Should I try walking lines? Are there any standard licks that can bring the feel of translating to a next chord? Or they are all... »

  • Getting the Most Out of Music Books

    Getting the Most Out of Music Books

    Q: Do you think you could run through / give some examples of how to make use of rhythm books like Modern Reading Text In 4/4, and theory books like Jazz Theory by Mark Levine or Thesaurus of Scales and Melodic Patterns by Nicolas Slominsky? A: Nice selection of books! Generally speaking, my approach is... »

  • Learning to Transpose: A Lesson for Playing Bass Lines in Every Key

    Learning to Transpose: A Lesson for Playing Bass Lines in Every Key

    I’ve found many bass players have difficulty with transposing bass lines, so here’s a lesson that should help. Transposing on bass isn’t terribly difficult, since we can rely on shapes and patterns up and down the neck, to play a line in several keys. In the video below I demonstrate how to navigate the neck,... »