A Different Way of Practicing…
The holidays are here! And for a lot of us, that means less time with our beloved instrument. And even though a lot of us will spend some time away from the physical instrument that doesn’t mean we should practice less or simply forget about it for a couple of weeks.
In this article, I want to suggest you another way of practicing. I want to suggest you actively listen to music. By actively listening to music you can hopefully understand what the greats were doing and develop new ideas and concepts from your playing. Today I want to suggest to you 3 iconic songs and some of the stuff you can concentrate on and hopefully understand and get into your playing.
Chaka Khan – What Cha’ Gonna Do for Me (Greg Phillenganes / Anthony Jackson)
What Cha’ Gonna Do For Me is the title track for Chaka Khan’s third album and this track features Greg Phillenganes on key bass and Anthony Jackson on bass. From the very beginning of this song, we get hit with the slightly distorted signature sound of a Moog synthesizer played by Greg Phillenganes. The synth bass line gives the track that 80’s R&B feeling and advances the song and Greg shows great proficiency and creativity adding various fills that help move the track forward.
It’s not until minute 3:12 that Anthony Jackson erupts from nothing with a blazingly fast fill that marks the change from key bass to electric bass. If you pay close attention to the sound, you’ll notice that Anthony is using some sort of chorus or phaser effect to thicken the sound of his bass to keep up with the sound of the Moog synth.
Even though Anthonys’ part in the song is pretty small, he makes sure to make himself noticed with blazingly fast and super musical fills.
The song is a great way of listening to the interaction between synth bass and electric bass and how they can be used to great effect on songs.
Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell – Ain’t No Mountain High Enough (James Jamerson)
We’re so used to listening that the bass is a support instrument, that we often forget how James Jamerson brought the bass to the forefront by using the bass not only as a support instrument but also as a melody instrument. James Jamerson was a master of playing a melody within a melody and telling a story within a story. This song illustrates that concept really well.
Jamerson’s bass line is full of chromaticism (one of Jamerson’s signatures) that gives the song a sense of moving forward but also gives it a different melodic direction that almost turns it into a second melody within the song.
Masterful work from Jamerson.
Miles Davis – All Blues (Paul Chambers)
All Blues is a blues composition from the iconic “Kind of Blue” album by Miles Davis. The bass player is Paul Chambers, and on this track, Chambers exchanges the walking bass technique for a riff-based bass line that repeats for almost 12 minutes of the entire song. This bass line supports the entire song and mesmerizes the listener putting the entire focus of the song on the soloists.
In this track, Paul Chambers shows the world that there’s space in jazz for steady, rock-solid bass lines that make a song progress without the constant need for the moving parts of a walking bass line.
And that is it… 3 suggestions for you to digest and analyze in this season. Make sure to listen to them and try to identify the details we mentioned in this article, and then move on to songs that you enjoy and try to identify specific details and concepts used in them.