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Improvising Archives

Learning to Improvise
Ask Damian Erskine

Learning to Improvise

A reader, who started on piano, reached out to Damian mentioning that while he’s educated in the areas of reading, there was never a focus on improvising. He said he feels “robotic” and asked for some pointers. That’s the subject of this week’s “Ask” column.

Fighting The Urge To Improvise
Ask Damian Erskine

Fighting The Urge To Improvise

Q: I’ve been a bassist for 14 years now, when I started out (much like everyone, I assume) I played what we know as “bass lines”, the notes that the bassist played on the recording to the song. As I developed and learned more about chord construction and harmony I started to understand how these lines were built. I got...

Finding the Groove Vs. Letting the Groove Find You
Ask Damian Erskine

Finding the Groove Vs. Letting the Groove Find You

Q: When making music, i.e. improvising, making a song, creating a groove, etc., I find myself sometimes approaching it from what I hear while fiddling around, and at other times approaching it more cerebral, as in “let’s create a groove that has a flat nine in it.” I like to call these the bottom up (let the sounds guide me)...

Advanced Bass: Creative Chordal Connections
Advanced Bass

Advanced Bass: Creative Chordal Connections

This challenging bass lesson highlights Creative Chordal Connections, enabling you to understand complex jazz concepts while revealing how learning to play chords on the bass will help you to hear different chord qualities with greater clarity and ease. Follow along with the transcription and the video below.

Melodic Minor vs. Diminished Scales Over Dominant Chords
Ask Damian Erskine

Melodic Minor vs. Diminished Scales Over Dominant Chords

Q: You know, jazz theory can be really, really confusing! I know that you can use a melodic minor a half step above a dominant chord as a substitution before resolving to the I-chord to emphasize tension notes (creating an out-sound). But, apparently, you can also use a whole-half diminished scale a half step up from the same dominant chord....

Creative Bass Lines: The Chameleon Variations
Creative Bass Lines

Creative Bass Lines: The Chameleon Variations

In this lesson, I’ve taken a pretty classic and fairly easy to play bass part from Herbie Hancock’s “Chameleon” and given you a few examples of how to use that as a springboard for creating other bass lines around that core groove. This can be really useful when playing under multiple soloists on the same tune. It’s not always enough...

Thinking Fast When Improvising
Ask Damian Erskine

Thinking Fast When Improvising

Q: I have been practicing with some jazz musicians who are more experienced than I am. For the most part, everything is fine, but I’m having trouble keeping up with the more up tempo numbers – walking and especially soloing. I just feel like my brain and fingers can’t keep up with the music. How can I think faster in...

Making Walking Bass Lines Come Naturally
Ask Damian Erskine

Making Walking Bass Lines Come Naturally

Q: I would like to ask you about improvising bass lines. Could it be unconscious? I recognized that when I play walking bass, I’m always think about how to reach the next chord. I sometimes have great ideas that I hear in my mind’s ear, but most of the time it’s a really conscious procedure. It’s really interesting because during...

Advanced Bass: Increasing Technical Development
Advanced Bass

Advanced Bass: Increasing Technical Development

Playing with good time, develop sensitive dynamics, produce a solid tone and have the confidence to express interesting musical ideas on your bass is essential. It only makes common sense that developing a deeper bass guitar specific technical understanding and prowess is the essential path as an improvising bass player. In this lesson, we will cover some ground to gain...

Getting Started: A Beginner’s Guide to Improvising a Bass Line
The Lowdown with Dr. D

Getting Started: A Beginner’s Guide to Improvising a Bass Line

Whether you are a beginning bassist, or an accomplished musician who is simply accustomed to reading written music, it can be daunting when first asked to improvise a bass line. Some people stumble, others freeze. Some think they need to be well versed in college level theory. However, there is no reason to fear even if you know only a...