Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Bass, how low can you get?

Bass, how low can you get?

This one's for pianists in the main, but other instruments keep on reading as you will see where we as the pianists fit in to jazz!

Still with us? Great!

This is where I blow the pianist's trumpet (if that's possible!) by saying that we keyboard players when playing a solo piece (i.e. on our own, not as a solo in an ensemble) are doing not one, not two but three things simultaneously!

What a feat I hear you cry - but what are those three things?

First is the melody (or improvisation/solo in jazz), second is the bass line and third is filling the middle bit with chords!

How is this possible? Well the right bit of the right hand usually plays the melody, the left bit of the left hand plays the bass line and the middle bits of the left and right hand fill in with the chords, and sometimes a countermelody!

I ought here to bow to the guitarist who does the same but effectively using one hand supporting the other - I've no idea at all how you do that - perhaps you have ten fingers on each hand? (See Martin Taylor's Youtube video on how he plays 'I Got Rhythm')

Now with my pupils I get them to understand what a bass line is, and how  bass players work. To me, the bass is king - its the fundamental for all jazz and in fact pretty much all music - without the bass, you ain't got a band!

Back to pianists. When a pupil wants to learn a new piece, instead of getting them to play a melody line in the right hand with chords in the left (Oh, how amateur that can sound!) I get them to play the melody in the right, and the bass line only in the left. The idea is , once they can make that sound good, add the chords as above (the voicing of the chord is very important here) and voila, you have a great solo jazz piece for piano!

All of this, I must say, will take new pianists quite a little time to master, but one way to progress things is to go on a jazz workshop where you will find tutors and players all very eager to help the new pianist along, and help them to get to grips with bass lines.

Happy Jazzing

Butlers Jazz Workshop, France August 13th -17th 2012

Ring 01323 833770 (UK)
+44 1323 833770 (International)

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