Friday, June 19, 2015

What Bass Players Practice

Hi All,
I forgot about this blog for a minute, sorry I haven't posted in almost a year.  I have been re-organizing, and have a list of half a dozen or so planned blog entries to start going through about various projects, pieces of music, etc...  HERE is my bandcamp link, if you haven't checked it out in awhile, there's a lot of new recordings up, from Cornelius Cardew, to Don Cherry, to a recent Ornette Coleman tribute show.

For this post I emailed some bass player friends and simply asked them what they practiced, as I feel like I've been in a rut, playing the same old things.  Here's the responses I got below, use as a resource, lots of great ideas here!  The main take away I got out of it was that I really need to work on pizz string crossing exercises, seems like everyone does it, and it never occurred to me (except back in my high school electric bass shred days).  Enjoy!


I do a lot of work with the bow, practicing scales and arpeggios. I like to run scales in odd time signatures, making my own patterns with the intervals. It's fun and more applicable to jazz playing while still working on intonation and mechanics.


The Flesch Scale book is intreresting. Rabbath books. Storch-Hrabe 57 Studies. Stokin' bow exercise books.

Then to get my left and right hand to work together more fluidly I've been working on an exercise where the metronome is set between 70 and 90 while I articulate 16 note triplets with the bow and run up and down a scale changing on different subdivisions, for example - (/ marking a blow stroke) F// G// A// etc. then F/G/A/, then F/// G/// A///. That one tends to wake up my hands and get my brain working.

Loosening up the bow hand/arm - Left hand over the harmonics two octaves above the open strings, simply with your arm hanging in thumb position and playing G, D and A with an OPEN E. Metronome anywhere between 40-120, changing subdivisions, notes slurred, etc. but essentially playing E-A-D-G (Bow change) G-D-A-E and focusing on getting everything smooth in the right hand. You cover string crossings, time, bow placement, and more stuff I cant think of because I'm a buffoon.

My jazz stuff is always changing... Currently it's transcriptions (playing along with records), time (playing along with records) and just playing (along with records, and then not, Free, in time with or with out metronome on a weird setting, blah blah blah). "Variations on a theme about playing along with records"


Lately I've been doing a lot of daily review of heads and transcriptions, then learning new tunes or refreshing old ones, playing the melody, bass line, soloing, usually with some sort of DIY playalong or Aebersold. Targeting different pitches, soloing with arpeggios, alternating melody and bass line, playing in different keys, etc.

I also like to do some sort of technique/intonation work. Start with long tones arco, ff dotted quarters on open strings, quarter=60, then playing scales slowly with some sort of pitch reference, (drone, playalong), not correcting the pitch if its off but rather doing it again and playing in tune (a Rabbath idea). Sometimes will do the same with arpeggios. Might also work on some classical rep or do Zimmerman or Rabbath exercises (esp. if I have to play some classical soon).

Will also just play through tunes, usually with another cat or two. And work on new transcriptions (I use the transcribe! software). Also I sometimes like to do this Ari Hoenig exercise where you take the first thing you play and try to develop it into a 2-3 minute composition. Oh yeah and learning tunes in different keys on the piano.
I don't do this stuff everyday, I usually just rotate it in a non-systematic way.  


Scales - arco with a drone & pizz
RH pizz w/met - different finger combinations, string crossings
Tunes - changes/melodies
Transcriptions - working up new or reviewing old
Licks - II-V's, etc.
Classical rep - working on new rep
Up tempo - a few minutes of playing an up tempo tune (300+)
Listening - just a few minutes of focused listening


I'm almost always just trying to prepare for the next thing I've got to do.
But when I DO have time, the things that have always had the most impact on my development are:
-scales over the whole register of the bass with the bow. I really like 2 strokes per note with the second stroke overlapping onto the next note to highlight my shifting.
-jim vaughn's handframe exercise. 
-my own variations on the simandl strength exercise. 
-whatever I feel like playing (tunes/free/bach)
-odd numbered groupings of two finger alternating pizz with all sorts of string crossings.
-brainsplitting (singing and playing different subdivisions against one another)
-shifting exercizes with a drone
-standing with both heels down (and other Alexander technique stuff)
-translating everything from the lower positions into thumb position
-tune learning/listening!