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The Jazz Gym by Todd Johnson: Part 1 of the Improvisers Workout Program | Melodic Reps

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Meet Todd Johnson –

Hi Friends, my name is Todd Johnson and I’m excited to have this opportunity to work with you all here at Bass Musician Magazine.

I’m a bass player and instructor from Los Angeles. I’ve been blessed to have worked with some of the worlds finest musicians like Mike Stern, Dave Weckl, Poncho Sanchez, Mundell Lowe and Frank Gambale in addition to being a member of the Ron Eschete trio since 1991.

As an instructor, I’ve been on staff at B.I.T. (1991 – 1999) and Cal Arts (1997 – 2003) in addition to performing at clinics and festivals throughout the country. I’m currently adjunct faculty at The Master’s College in Newhall, CA.

It’s been my experience that the greatest bass players all have certain skills in common. They are, in no particular order; technique, reading, bass line creation, theory and improvisation. A working knowledge of these skills is a must if you want play with the big boys.

The first of these skills we’ll focus on in this column will be improvising.

As an educator, the best way for me to teach you about improvisation is through jazz. Please don’t let the “j” word scare you. My goal is not necessarily to turn you into jazz musicians. I would encourage you all to give this a shot regardless of your musical background. Jazz is just the gym we’re going to work out in. Fair enough?

Once you learn to play jazz then everything else will be a lot easier. It’s like having plenty of money in the bank. You’ll never regret having a little extra currency in your harmony account. A good friend of mine refers to this as musical headroom. So, welcome to The Jazz Gym. Here’s some simple common sense solutions to get you started improvising.

Your first assignment is to download the song we’re going to learn.

Download the MP3 below, Autumn Leaves from the Miles Davis, Cannonball Adderley cd Somethin’ Else and give it a serious listen. This version is a classic and it’s played at a learnable tempo.

Too many people try to learn how to play jazz from a book with their eyes without ever really listening to it. You wouldn’t try to learn to speak Japanese out of a book, would you? Of course you wouldn’t. You’d use the book, but you’d also hang out with Japanese speaking people, watch Japanese TV and basically immerse yourself in the language. Learning to improvise requires the same thing. You have to listen to what you’re tying to learn. Now, click below for a quick preview of my Autumn Leaves video. It might give you some ideas for later on.

Your second assignment is to learn the melody to Autumn Leaves. Learn it by ear or from a chart, but learn it. The easiest way to sound melodic is to learn melodies. It seems obvious, but as bass players we don’t do it. We spend most of our time practicing scales, arpeggios and bass lines. The reason most bass solos sound like a doubled up bass line up an octave is because that’s what we practice!

Play the melody straight, without embellishments. Be sure to listen for the holes. Basically, holes are where the rests are.  Pay close attention to what you hear in those holes. This will come in handy for our next assignment.

Practice playing the melody along with Miles. This may sound extreme, but try playing the melody 100 times. Remember this is a language, so if you have to stop and think about it too much you won’t be an effective communicator. This stuff needs to be internalized. The only way to achieve this is through repetition.

Your third assignment is to practice playing the melody with embellishments. I want you to start dressing up the melody. Start filling in those holes we listened for in our second assignment. Play something simple and build from there. Make sure that if you hear an idea and miss it, that you go back and figure it out. Practice it a few times, then go back and play it in context several times. Repetition is critical.

Improvising is often referred to as playing the melodies you hear in your head. By going back and figuring them out, you’ll strengthen and develop your ability to transcribe yourself. I realize this seems obvious, but if you don’t practice playing what you hear then you’ll never get good at it. Don’t make the mistake of just learning a scale and thinking you’ll be able to solo. It doesn’t work like that. Scales are great, but they’re just an alphabet. An alphabet doesn’t say anything by itself. You can’t just learn the alphabet and think well now I’m going to learn a new language. We use combinations of letters to form words and then sentences. Melodies are the words and sentences that scales form.

FIGURE 1 shows you the chord progression and chord structures to the first 8 bars of Autumn Leaves. Here are some chord structure formula reminders; All minor-seventh chords are (1 mi3 P5 mi7), all dominant-seventh chords are (1 ma3 P5 mi7), all major-seventh chords are (1 ma3 P5 ma7) and all minor-seven-flat 5 chords are (1 mi3 dim5 mi7). I’ve provided some of the possible fingerings. These will work fine, but I would encourage you to explore other possibilities as well.

FIGURE 2 shows you the scales that fit the chords for our progression. Except for the D and G Spanish-dominant scales, everything is a mode of the Bb major scale.

So download and listen to Autumn Leaves, learn the melody, then practice embellishing and filling in the holes around the melody. Study and memorize figures one and two and next month I’ll show you how to add this information to our melodic workout.

Jazz_Gym_1_Figures

Bass Videos

Interview With By the Thousands Bassist Adam Sullivan

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Interview With By the Thousands Bassist Adam Sullivan

Bassist Adam Sullivan…

Hailing from Minnesota since 2012, By the Thousands has produced some serious Technical Metal/Deathcore music. Following their recent EP “The Decent”s release, I have the great opportunity to chat with bassist Adam Sullivan.

Join me as we hear about Adam’s musical Journey, his Influences, how he gets his sound, and the band’s plans for the future

Photo, Laura Baker

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Bass CDs

Album Review: Mark Egan, Cross Currents

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Album Review: Mark Egan, Cross Currents

Mark Egan, Cross Currents…

It is exciting every time I get a new album from Mark Egan as he is such an amazingly versatile player and I never know what to expect (except for excellent artistry!) In his latest release, Mark has teamed up with Shawn Peyton on drums and Shane Theriot on guitar to bring us “Cross Currents”.

This collection of eleven tracks transports me to the Gulf Coast (New Orleans specifically). Mark’s fretless basses lay down a solid groove and lots of juicy solo work for this rootsy collection of funk, ambient, swamp-rock, second line, ballads, Cajun and even Indian Raga.

This trio is super-tight and the musicianship is flawless as each member has ample opportunity to shine. Even though each player is very talented in their own right, I feel that the collective energy is greater than just the sum of the players on this album. Each musician contributed to composing music for this project but the lion’s share are Mark’s original pieces.

I spent the summer of 1981 in New Orleans and this wonderful music takes me back to those fond memories. I participated in a wacky raft race on Lake Ponchatrain and this opening track elicits images of fun, sunshine, music, and great food.

This is another superb album that everyone will enjoy. Get your copy today! Cross Currents is available online at Amazon.com. Visit Mark online at markegan.com.

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Gear Reviews

Review: Joyo Tidal Wave Preamp

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Review: Joyo Tidal Wave Preamp

Joyo Tidal Wave Preamp: A Tribute to 90’s Iconic Sounds

Disclaimer: This pedal was kindly provided by Joyo for the purpose of this review. However, this does not influence our opinion or the content of our review. We strive to provide honest, unbiased, and accurate assessments to ensure that our readers receive truthful and helpful information.

In the realm of bass preamp/DI pedals, capturing the essence of iconic tones from the 90s can often feel like an elusive pursuit. However, the Joyo Tidal Wave Preamp emerges as a great option for bass players seeking to replicate the signature sounds of that era, particularly the revered tech21 SansAmp. With its robust feature set and compact design, the Tidal Wave offers a faithful homage to classic rock tones and low-gain distortions, all while providing modern conveniences for today’s bassist. Let’s delve into why the Joyo Tidal Wave stands out as a versatile and budget-friendly tool for both stage and studio.

Specs:

Measuring at 130 * 110 * 50 mm and weighing 442g, the Joyo Tidal Wave strikes a balance between portability and durability, making it ideal for gigging musicians and studio enthusiasts alike. With a power consumption of just 100 mA and a working voltage of DC 9V, the Tidal Wave ensures reliable performance in a variety of settings.

Controls:

At the heart of the Tidal Wave’s versatility lies its comprehensive control set, allowing bass players to sculpt their tone with precision. Key features include:

– Level: Sets the overall output volume of the pedal.

– Blend: Blends the dry signal with the cab-emulated signal, offering seamless integration of the pedal into any setup.

– Presence: Controls the dynamics of the high upper-mids, crucial for shaping drive tones.

– Drive: Introduces low-gain distortions and classic rock sounds into the clean tone.

– Treble, Middle, and Bass: Provides a 3-band EQ with frequency selectors for bass (40Hz – 80Hz) and mids (500Hz – 1KHz), offering ample control over tonal shaping.

– Middle Shift and Bass Shift: Allows for further fine-tuning of midrange and bass frequencies.

– Ground Lift: Helps eliminate ground loop noise in certain setups.

– DI Attenuation Switch: Adjusts the level of the DI output signal.

– LED Light Switch Control: Allows users to customize the ambient lighting of the pedal.

Performance:

True to its inspiration, the Joyo Tidal Wave excels in delivering classic rock tones and low-gain distortions reminiscent of the tech21 SansAmp. Whether you’re seeking gritty overdriven sounds or pristine clean tones, the Tidal Wave offers unparalleled flexibility and sonic versatility. The inclusion of a headphone out, XLR DI out with cab simulation, and throughout for the original bass sound make the Tidal Wave a versatile tool for both stage and studio applications. From practicing silently with headphones to crafting quality recordings in an ampless setup, the Tidal Wave delivers on all fronts with clarity, definition, and unmistakable character.

Pros:

The Tidal Wave boasts an array of advantages that set it apart from its direct competitors:

– Headphone Out: Transforms the pedal into a convenient practice tool.

– Size and Weight: Compact and lightweight design for easy transportation and setup.

– Rugged Construction: Durable build quality ensures longevity and reliability.

– DI and CabSim: Offers professional-grade direct recording capabilities with authentic cab simulation.

– Familiar Tones: Faithfully replicates the classic rock sounds of the tech21 SansAmp.

Cons:

While the Tidal Wave excels in many aspects, it does have a few drawbacks:

– Plastic Knobs: Knobs may feel less premium compared to pedals with metal controls.

– Cab Simulation Only on XLR Output: Limited cab simulation functionality may require additional routing for certain setups.

Conclusion:

In conclusion, the Joyo Tidal Wave Preamp stands as a testament to the enduring legacy of classic rock tones from the 90s. With its faithful homage to the tech21 SansAmp, comprehensive control set, and modern conveniences like headphone out and XLR DI with cab simulation, the Tidal Wave offers bassists a versatile  tool for sculpting their sound with precision and finesse. Whether you’re seeking to replicate iconic tones from the past or forge new sonic territories, the Joyo Tidal Wave Preamp is sure to inspire creativity and elevate your playing to new heights.

Available online at Amazon.com

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This Week’s Top 10 Basses on Instagram

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TOP 10 Basses of the week

Check out our top 10 favorite basses on Instagram this week…

Click to follow Bass Musician on Instagram @bassmusicianmag

FEATURED @cb_basses @alesvychodilbasses @odiengcustom @ramabass.ok @mauriziouberbasses @mgbassguitars @capursoguitars @thebassplace @adamovicbasses @ishguitars

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Bass CDs

New Project: NEMESIS CALL Announce “Kingdom of Shred” Album

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New Project: NEMESIS CALL Announce "Kingdom of Shred" Album

ALBERTO RIGONI’s New Project NEMESIS CALL Announce “Kingdom of Shred” Album, Feat. Super Talented Guests Such as Mike Terrana, Alexandra Zerner + Many Others

Worldwide known Italian bassist and composer ALBERTO RIGONI (soloist, BAD As, Kim Bingham, Vivaldi Metal Project, etc.) announces the new album “Kingdom of Shred” of his new project NEMESIS CALL. 

Alberto says: 
“Even if my latest album “Unexpected Lullabies”, dedicated to my newborn Vittoria Parini Rigoni, was released on June 4th 2024, I felt the need to compose new music (yes, I really can’t stop!). This time will be quite challenging because I’m willing to release an instrumental shred/prog/rock/metal/melodic album, that will feature many talented top-notch musicians such as drummer Mike Terrana, Alexandra Zerner, Alexandra Lioness, Aanika Pai (11 years old!), Keiji by Zero (19 years old!), SAKI and many others TBA/TBC). It won’t be easy to manage all such great musicians but I will make it! Are you ready to face a new prog experience? The album will be released in Digipack CD and in high-quality digital format approximately at the beginning of 2025 or maybe for Christmas!.”

As an independent artist, Alberto Rigoni has launched a fundraising campaign to support the project. Support at www.albertorigoni.net/nemesiscall. 20% of the income will be donated to Lega del Filo d’Oro (www.legadelfilodoro.it/it), an Italian association that helps deaf and blind children!

Visit online at www.albertorigoni.net | albertorigoni.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/albertorigonimusic | www.badas.rocks

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