A large majority of jazz improvisation courses will teach the scales or modes that fit over the chord changes and then tell you to start improvising melodies hoping that everything will eventually fall into place. That is tantamount to advising a 6-year old child to start writing meaningful poems without having first developed a working knowledge of vocabulary.
When we were all very young, we first learned to speak by listening to others and imitating what we heard. The meaning, pronunciation and how to organise words into sentences were mostly based on assumption and what level of communication we were exposed to. To really understand how to communicate properly and write with any meaning came much later in the form of studying our written language at school.
In the very same way we learned to speak, most of us first learned how to play the bass by listening to our favourite songs and then trying to imitate them. I spent hours upon hours “dropping the needle” on my record player trying to hear and understand what the notes were and how everything was organised into context, but eventually I needed to study jazz improvisation in order to categorize how I thought about playing both accompanying bass lines and/or solos regardless of any musical style or direction.
Our minds work very much in the same way that computers are structured and the way we learn effectively is by the concept of “categorization.” Being able to effectively organize chord tones, chromaticism, scale passing tones and rhythmic phrasing should be firmly organised in different folders, files and documents for you to inculcate these concepts and effectively use them within a musical line.
Thanks for reading this article and if you found it helpful and you’re thinking, “I’d like this person to help me become an even better bass player”, then please check out my books, 2-Year Bass Mastery Course, Lesson Lounge and Bass Foundation Course, which all work within this same system of organisation. I also have a YouTube Store where you can purchase mini eBook Courses that accompany my popular YouTube Videos. Please click here to see a list of downloadable PDFs, most notably my latest lesson on Triad Pairs, which is a whole other level of jazz improvisation!