[Dixielandjazz] Bass lines for early jazz

tubaman at tubatoast.com tubaman at tubatoast.com
Sun Aug 30 12:48:12 PDT 2009

There is a 6 part lesson in walking bass line I downloaded a few years ago (cost a few dollars) but I am not at my home computer to remember the URL. 

There is a lot available on the subject (mostly focused on rock and blues bass guitar) but really there is not much difference between an OKOM jazz  bass line and a standard rock bass line when you break it down. 
 (Through _12.shtml ) has a lot to say on the subject. Navigation is not great - I have to change the URL for each page. 
You may have to copy and paste the link to make the thing work. 
Dave Richoux
-----Original Message-----
From: hsalotti at aol.com

Date: Sun, 30 Aug 2009 14:33:28 
To: David Richoux \(main\)<tubaman at tubatoast.com>
Cc: Dixieland Jazz Mailing List<dixielandjazz at ml.islandnet.com>
Subject: Re: [Dixielandjazz] Bass lines for early jazz

Jim,  I agree with everything that Dan has said.  I can relate to where you are.  I began playing Dixieland on the tuba when I first started college in 1978.  I went to school with clarinet great Joe Midiri.  Joe stuck a fake book in front of me and said, "Here, let's play Avalon."  I struggled to play the roots and fifths of the chords and not get lost in the progression.
1.  If you want to learn to play bass lines there are several skills that need to be developed.  The first is to develop your technique on the tuba. Learn to play the arpeggios for all major and minor chords, especially G, C, F, Bb, Eb, Ab and Db.  These are the building blocks for creating a bass line. Practice playing the chords following the cycle of fifths. (G,C,F,Bb,Eb,Ab,Db etc) Most chord progressions follow the cycle of fifths. The root and fifth are the most important notes if you are playing in a "two beat feel".

Most early tuba players mainly played with this two beat feel. To create a walking bass line, try to place the chord tones on beats one and three, and fill in beats two and four with other notes from the scale that relates to the chord you are playing.

    As swing replaced dixieland in popularity, many tuba players switched to bass to remain employed.  The bass lines moved from two to four beats.  I often wonder if tuba players had developed the chops to keep up a four beat bass line they would have remained a part of the rhythm section
 in big bands. Rich Matteson proved that this could be done on tuba in the Dukes of Dixieland.

2.  As far as reading out of fake books, make sure you understand what all of the chord symbols mean.

(C, C7, Cm7, Cdim)  Most songs written in the 20's did not use 9ths, 11ths, or 13ths.

3. This part relates to what Dan stressed, which is listening.

www.redhotjazz.com is the site to listen to (for free) and learn the tunes that are most played.  Go listen to local jazz bands and find out what songs are played in your area.  I have mainly played in Atlantic City, NJ, where there is a list of tunes you are excepted to know on a gig.  In Philly and NYC the list of tunes is very different.  As you listen, try to sing the root of each chord and follow the movement of the chord progression.  Listen for patterns in the progression.  The last eight bars of "Bill Bailey" is one of the most common patterns you will hear in many songs.

4. The best advice I ever got was from a piano player. (George Abrahms).  He said, "Don't think of a chord progression as F,Bb,C7,F.  Think I,IV,V7,I. This will train your ear and you can then play the song in any key."

I have been playing this music for over thirty years.  I just returned home from a two week tour of Italy with the Atlantic City Jazz Band.  We played songs like "Panama," "Shine," "On the Alamo" and "Baby Won't You Please Come Home."  We played to huge crowds th
at cheered us on like rock stars.   

Go for it.

-----Original Message-----
From: Daniel Augustine <ds.augustine at mail.utexas.edu>
To: Harry Salotti <hsalotti at aol.com>
Cc: Dixieland Jazz Mailing List <dixielandjazz at ml.islandnet.com>
Sent: Sat, Aug 29, 2009 11:02 pm
Subject: Re: [Dixielandjazz] Bass lines for early jazz

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 192
0s 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,=2
0even 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 Decisions 

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 denying 

**      himself a pleasure."   --  Ambrose Bierce in _The Devil's Dictionary_ 



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