you play a song, it is good to ask yourself what youre
trying to express. Is it beauty? Are you trying to express a feeling?
Something else? The best way to express yourself as a musician, is by telling a
story. You try to catch the attention of your listener and to take
him or her along with you so you can both embark on an interesting adventure.
If youve decided you want to tell a story, its good
to take into account the same set of principles storytellers take
into account. For instance, dont forget the climax. Dont
give everything away in the first bars. Maybe you think Well,
everybody knows this!, and really, youre right, everybody
should know. Still, people tend to forget this. How often have you
heard a soloist play the climax of his solo in the first few bars?
A lot, probably. Hes played a long intro, an everlasting arrangement,
and finally, after all this trouble, at long last hes allowed
to play a solo. Its very difficult to control yourself in
such a moment. After these opening bars, the poor soloist just keeps
on playing in a very boring way for he had already told everything
and played the climax in his first few bars
When you make music, its good to realize what direction you
want the music to take. This is not only true for solos, but
for entire pieces. Music that goes nowhere is terribly boring. A
piece that sounds like one elongated climax is just as boring, and
very tiresome for the listener. There must be tension in the music.
One of the ways to make youre music more exciting, is working
with dynamics, with the contrast between soft and loud passages.
Think about how you can make youre music stronger this way.
Its not only difficult for beginning musicians to remember
this, most musicians tend to forget this when theyre having
a good time playing. When you, a bass player, do remember this,
there is the added difficulty that youre playing with a drummer
most of the time. Its very difficult for most drummers to
play softly (even when they should). Many drummers are deeply committed
to making a lot of noise. On top of this, when everybody in the
band remembers that certain passages sound better when played softly,
and the playing is recorded, to the utter amazement of everybody
in the band, the soft passages sound practically just as loud as
the loud passages. Every musician who has experimented with playing
soft passages knows this: you have to exaggerate to hear a difference.
Another truth: when you exaggerate, it does not sound at all as if you exaggerate.
We bassist are the foundation of the music. We accompany. What is
the best way to accompany a soloist? We should listen to him very
carefully and react immediately to what hes playing of course,
but there are more ways to accommodate him or her. When youre
a jazz bass player, it is often very good to play softly at the
beginning of a solo. This way, the soloist has more room to begin
telling his story uninterrupted. When youre playing with a
drummer who makes this impossible, you can play less notes or simplify
This is not the only way to make your music more interesting and
to give it more direction, you can also do this by making your harmonies
and melodies more interesting. But it is good to always remember
dynamics. Try working more with soft and loud passages, I can assure
you that its really worth the trouble!