the question Paul Chan asked me recently was how you can stay relaxed
when chords are fired at you rapidly. The previous two lessons were
necessary to prepare for this final lesson. I think its a
good idea to say a few things about staying relaxed while accompanying
and while soloing.
When youre accompanying, nothing complicated is going on.
Accompanying is not that difficult when chords are fired at you
rapidly. Four chords in a bar you hardly ever have to play
more chords than that. Four chords in a bar usually means four notes
in a bar, and its not that difficult to play four notes in
a bar. You can do that!. Of course, youll have to get used
to reading these chords if you see the changes for the first time.
But this is something you can train. Get used to playing walking
bass each day in 7 standards youve never seen before. There
are a lot of real books that contain 400 or 500 standards. Buy them
and train yourself this way. Fairly quickly, youll never have
to worry about this again. Make this exercise more fun to do by
using Band-in-a-box, a nice software program that enables you to
play the changes of your choice accompanied by drums and piano,
or other instruments of your choice. This also enables you to check
if youre playing in tune all in one go.
Sometimes (or many times if youre not so lucky) youll
be in a situation where youll have to play changes at first
sight that have been written down very poorly, so that its
almost impossible to play them the right way. Im saying this
because I want to stimulate you not to join the ranks of these terrible
writers. Please make sure everything you write down is readable,
preferably with four bars on each rule. This leads to much better
results, Im sure youll understand this.
There is a simple trick that enables you to stay relaxed when you
have to solo over four chords in a bar: instead of staying fixated
on the notes of each and every specific chord, you think in scales
and keys. Lets look at the first eight bars of the famous
standard Round Midnight by Thelonious Monk. Click here.
Eb minor in the first two bars, although the Bb7alt in the second
bar does provide the opportunity to play an altered scale (this
will be the subject of a future lesson). But this is not a must.
Among Dutch jazz musicians (I live in Holland), we call the harmony
in the first two bars a one-six-two-five, after the steps of the
scale these chords are built on (see the two previous lessons).
In the third bar starts a two-five-one that leads to Db major or
minor (see the previous lesson).
You can make your own choice, as the one is left out.
In the fourth and fifth bar, there are three two-five-ones in a
row. In the fourth bar, you can play A minor or major on the first
two beats. In the third and fourth bar is a two-five-one that leads
to Ab in the fifth bar. This Ab is the two of another two-five-one
without the one. Play in Gb major or minor. In the sixth bar is
a two-five-one that enables you to play Db major or minor, as you
did in the third bar. In the seventh bar is a tritone substitution
The B7 chord is a substitute for the F7 chord. So in fact in the
last two bars starts another two-five-one that leads back to the
first bar and Eb minor.
This may sound complicated at first, but its not that difficult
at all, as youll find when you dive into this matter. Instead
of playing a solo while being fixated on each and every chord (I
counted them, there are sixteen chords in these first eight bars),
you concentrate on playing a solo in five keys. This makes playing
your solo a lot easier of course, so it will also be much easier
for you to stay relaxed. If youve read some of my bass lessons
before, you know I believe this to be about the most important factor
if you want to become a great musician.
This method can help you a lot, but youll still have to study
somewhat before youre able to do this fluently.
If you're forced to play a solo over a whole lot of chords and its
impossible to the system I just described, there is another trick
that could help you to survive. Look for common notes in the chords.
Its possible to solo in such a way that just when you
have to play something over these bars with a harmony you dont
understand (dont worry, some harmonies are not understandable
at all, they just sound great) playing a few common notes
will keep you from drowning and will sound okay. The harmonies of
most standards are very understandable by the way, so you wont
have to use this last trick often. This is very nice, for this is
really a trick and not a nice method. It is sort of an escape route
actually. But it does come in very handy at times.