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!
Joe I have been watching you for a few years on YouTube.
I learn from so much from you. I am. self taught and had a lot guidance and playing experience along the way.
But the kicker for me is applying what I learn without sounding contrived or sophomoric.
I Have been thinking a lot about this.
Learning how chords and scales and substitutions and approach notes becomes overwhelming.
I just Saw this post and love how you breakdown everything down.but for me personally.i have to hear how it makes sense.as well as understanding conceptually what I’m playing
.while I am more involved in funk,rock and Blues soul.it would be nice to see a video how you would break it down .dont get me wrong learning Jazz opens your ears and how to approach what ACTUALLY makes sense.i am trying to organize a practice routine that is focused and helps me to be able you use the material in performance.i have a limited time to practice since I work full time.
Sorry to ramble on.i just need some advise from you.believe me I know my weakness and my strengths but I find my self not totally able to apply what I learn.i think your books and courses are awesome sometimes overwhelming.i do play very regularly. But in a real situation I need to take what is learned and apply it. Any good advise would be awesome.there are a few sites that are good as well but to me you are the education guru. Thx.
Interesting read Joe & always enjoy receiving new information from you!