Back in the mid-'60s, I had some time with Ron Carter on some summer clinics that were held at the Wilmington Music School, in Wilmington, Delaware. We spent quite a bit of time getting me not to pull so hard on my strings, and on the formation of walking lines. Because the clinics happened after some of the most brutal final exams of my academic career (much worse than anything I saw in college), I was generally dead from the neck up, but a fair amount of what I got from him sank in (we'll save the acid comments for later).
First of all, he passed along what he'd learned from Percy Heath and others about walking lines being melodic in their own right. To that, I'd add that ideally, they should mix things up from chorus to chorus (although I'm as guilty as any in not doing this), and repeated notes should not be in the same octave, at least until well into the tune.
He also expounded at some length about playing everything in a chorus (or part of a chorus) in the same position, using the open strings to fill in the missing scale steps.
As for what gets played, think in terms of a solo in quarter notes, which can be made up of scales and chord tones and 4ths or 5ths, appropriate to the harmonic motion. None of this 1151|1151|etc. stuff that gets tiresome within 4 bars!
Thank you Lea!That's what I'm talking about!Great comment,lets keep the ball rolling with some more comments bass player's about the passing note half steps above and below chords the "bump note"etc...cool jazz jam progressions and what not-I'm basically a blues/rock guitarist who just has gotten into jazz the last few years and I'm trying to get a grasp on jazz improvision.
OK, let me through a bump in the road of your learning improvisation (or possibly 2).
One of the things that Herb Pomeroy was teaching in his last years at Berklee was motivic development. It's something that's been around classical music for years that helps allow symphonic pieces to be as long as they sometimes get, but it's not gotten a lot of traction in jazz improvisation. Part of the reason for it is that it forces you to think about what you're doing, instead of just rattling off a bunch of licks and calling it good. Notable people whose solos are related to this include Thelonious Monk and Sonny Rollins. Ray Santisi, the Boston pianist, also does it (and if you can find any of his records as a leader or sideman, you'll hear how his solos turn into tunes, instead of just a collection of licks).
I never studied this with Herb (he wasn't doing that back in the mid-'60s when I was attending summer clinics that he was a part of). I've been trying to re-integrate it into the compositional process (did it all the time when I was writing legit music when I was in college).
The concept actually also goes back to some of George Russell's and Dave Baker's teachings, where you start a solo with one musical idea, and you develop it by a mixture of adding notes, transposing, reversing the sequence of notes and melodically inverting the line. It's not as easy as it sounds, but the results can be staggering.
The other thing to be looking out for is, it's got to fit the context in which you're playing it. It's got to be something you feel, and it's got to swing. Again, easier said than done; at least at first.
Unfortunately, Herb is no longer around to defend himself, so we need to apply our own spin to this. He is greatly missed.
Having studied legit Composition during my checkered academic career, I learned it as a writing tool. It really had its beginnings earlier, but came into its own with Beethoven, where a piece (e.g.: the 5th Symphony) starts with a melodic fragment which then gets bent, folded, mutilated, stapled and spindled into longer and longer lines. It carries through to such 20th century stalwarts as Arnold Schoenberg and Anton Webern, where the entire structure of the piece is a result of motivic development (where the motive in question is 12 notes long, each note with a different pitch). Knowing Herb's musically conservative streaks, I'm not sure he intended to go in that particular direction, but I last saw him 40 years before he died. People change.
My knowledge of Herb's application comes from the blog of one of his Berklee students and details as given were quite sketchy. What I learned in school, lo these many years ago, was that a motive can be developed through several means: It can be repeated, transposed, augmented (slower time values), diminished (faster time values), melodically inverted, reversed, melodically inverted and reversed, and notes can be added to it that complement the original idea or dropped out. That's just the melodic development. If the motive has a strong rhythmic character to it, that can also be developed.
The thought crosses my mind that we've pulled this discussion way off course, which was about developing walking bass lines. While there's some cross-pollination, I'm thinking that if we're going to continue this thread, somebody'd do well to start another group for it, or move it to one of the groups that is more geared to composition or improvisation.
Jaijai, what a wonderful mission you've undertaken to create such a place for artistic minds to meet and share their hearts. A place to renew faded determinations, and revive lessened momentums. A place to display our wares and reconfirm to one another that we actually are on the right track.
I commend you, Jaijai, for caring so much that you created this castle of the heart for all of us. I want to share my praise for all of the new friends as well as old friends that I've met and will meet here in our castle. Here we can garnish the where-with-all, the strength, the conviction, and the selflessness through our symbiosis, to share our gift to the world with an unbiased agenda.
My mentor, Daisaku Ikeda says of art: "A beautiful flower delights and refreshes the hearts of all people equally, no matter what soil it grows in. That is the power of beauty. The same is true of great art. It is this spirit that the German poet Heinrich Heine sang of when he wrote that once the peapod bursts open, the sugar peas inside are for everyone to enjoy."