[Dixielandjazz] Bass lines for early jazz

Daniel Augustine ds.augustine at mail.utexas.edu
Sat Aug 29 20:02:59 PDT 2009

Jim (c: DJML)--
     I was hoping somebody else was going to jump in to answer your  
question, but apparently not.  I used to ask the same question myself,  
and i'm not sure i know the answer.
     However, here are things to try:

1) do as i did when i was young, play tuba along with recordings of as  
many early jazz songs as you can find. Don't worry about having music  
or lead-sheets, just do it.  Eventually you'll figure out the key, and  
then try to play the notes the tuba/bass player is playing.  I don't  
have perfect pitch either, but after a while you can match the pitches  
being played.  Try slow songs with simple chord-structures at first,  
like "Saints", "Just a Closer Walk with Thee", etc.  Dave Littlefield  
has a list of Basic Dixieland tunes at http://americanmusiccaravan.com/davepage.html 
, as well as pages on Playing Dixieland, and Dixieland planalong CDs.   
He also sells one of the best dixieland fake-books available (melody  
plus chords) at http://americanmusiccaravan.com/

2) there have been some books published on bass lines, one of them by  
Joe Tarto, who played tuba with lots of bands back in the 1920s and  
afterwards.  The book may not still be available, but it is this:  
"CC3907 Basic Rhythms and the Art of Jazz Improvisation, by Joe Tarto.  
Written for tuba or bass trombone, string bass, bass guitar, an  
excellent basic method for beginning jazz playing, especially in  
traditional/Dixieland styles. Improvising, syncopation, chords,  
walking bass, breaks, blues, and Latin rhythms are among the many  
subjects covered." It used to be available at Charles Colin: http://charlescolin.com/descript.htm#CC3907 
   (but may not be in print any more; you might check some libraries  
or eBay).

3) one learns to do something by trying to do it, so try to find a  
small group of people in your town who also want to play this style of  
early jazz, and play along with them.  You'll have fun doing so, and  
you'll learn how to do it.  There are also a lot (more than you would  
think) jazz societies and magazines around.  I put together a list of  
a lot of them at http://www1.onr.com/atjs/links/USA.html

     Doing these things (all at the same time, not one after the  
other) should get you on your way.  By far the most important thing to  
do is to LISTEN, but do so actively, trying to figure out the notes  
being played, the chord being played, the chord-structure of the tune,  
groups of measures (usually 8 bars in length) that are repeated, the  
form of the tune (A-A-B-A a lot of times).  You don't learn jazz by  
reading about it, you learn it (mostly) by playing it, so go play  
some, even if (to your ears) it sucks.  Like Dave Gannett so  
eloquently said (in relation to learning how to improvise), you have  
to be willing to suck for ten years before you learn how to do it. But  
go do it, don't read about it.

From: "Jim Franz" <jfranz at triad.rr.com>
Date: August 28, 2009 10:53:18 PM CDT
To: ds.augustine at mail.utexas.edu
Cc: Dixieland Jazz Mailing List <dixielandjazz at ml.islandnet.com>
Subject: Re: [Dixielandjazz] Chord Choices - was DYKWIMTMNO, Chord  

Speaking of chords and tuba players, how does one learn the bass lines  
for early jazz? I see the fake books with chords notation over the  
melody, but from listening I hear a very different style than later  
jazz, but no discussion or print to teach someone an "early jazz"  
style of bass playing (for me-tuba). Is there any books or scholarly  
analysis of early jazz (1900-1930) bass? The closest I've come is  
piano books with the full parts. I don't have the perfect pitch to  
determine the notes played on a recording.
Jim Franz

**  Dan Augustine  --  Austin, Texas  --  ds.augustine at mail.utexas.edu
**     "ABSTAINER, n.  A weak person who yields to the temptation of  
**      himself a pleasure."   --  Ambrose Bierce in _The Devil's  

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