«2008-04-27 Solo Techniques for Unaccompanied Pizzicato Jazz Double Bass Larry James Ousley University of Miami, ousley Follow this and ...»
Adam Novick’s Harmonics for Electric Bass was the most complete and exhaustive reference for bass harmonics found in my research. He includes scientific explanations as well as practical techniques and performance applications. First, he diagrams every harmonic found on every string of the electric bass. Then he applies these harmonics in two main areas: playing chords with harmonics and playing melodies with harmonics. While some of the upper harmonics and techniques were not practically applicable to the acoustic double bass, the majority of the information presented was very useful. Novick includes an entire chord book which covers every key and many chord qualities including: various major chord voicings, dominant chord voicings, minor chord voicings, and diminished chord voicings. He also includes chord substitutions for certain chord qualities that are absent from certain keys. Overall, this was a valuable reference source.
Dean Peer’s article “Bass Harmonics: the Natural way” was published in Guitar
harmonics on the electric bass guitar. He also discusses the application of combining harmonics with fretted notes to play chords and chord progressions. He includes a fingerboard chart illustrating locations of harmonics both mathematically and in terms of chord tones. This information was expanded upon in my chapter covering harmonic techniques for the double bass.
Scott Reed’s article “An Examination of Jazz Pizzicato Technique” was published in the International Society of Bassists Newsletter in 1983. He states that “while much has been written on proper bowing technique, pizzicato is a somewhat neglected topic.” Specifically, he deals with pizzicato and right-hand technique in a jazz context. He also lists various ways of plucking double stops with the right hand but does not develop this subject at length. This subject was expanded upon in this paper since some unconventional right-hand pizzicato techniques must be utilized to perform various double stops in order to achieve specific timbres.
Dana Roth’s Mel Bay’s Complete Book of Bass Chords is a 254-page reference guide with over 1200 different chord positions based on thirty-six chords. These thirtysix chord qualities are applied to the diatonic notes of C-Major and fingerboard diagrams illustrate positions all over the neck of the bass. While the information presented is not necessarily intended to be used to actually play polyphonic chords, it could be applied that way. The most useful information for this paper is found on a single page in the appendix where thirty-six qualities of chords (major, minor, alterations, etc.) are
Michael E. Taylor’s James Blanton, Raymond Brown, and Charles Mingus: a Study of the Development of the Double Bass in Modern Jazz is a dissertation completed at the University of Pittsburg in 2002. Taylor analyzes the individual styles of these grand masters of the bass and studies their individual approaches. He also discusses the relationship of the blues to each of the three bassists in the context of their different periods in jazz history. Other topics include: the interaction of the bass with various ensemble settings, solo playing, walking patterns, and other accompaniment techniques.
While this paper did not directly address my topic, all three of the bassists that he covered are represented in this study.
Dan Towey’s Jaco Pastorius: [a step-by-step breakdown of the styles and techniques of the world's greatest electric bassist] is a collection of transcriptions of Jaco’s improvised bass parts on fifteen songs. Towey also provides background information, analysis, and performance techniques for each of the songs. While every transcription is of an electric bass guitar performance, many techniques were adaptable for the double bass. The use of tablature was also particularly useful in deciphering how certain harmonics were performed. Towey’s explanation of specific techniques was also extremely useful and relevant, especially concerning harmonics and artificial “harp harmonics” that provide pitches which are often not otherwise available in the natural harmonic series of the open strings of the bass. Most of the transcriptions are of Jaco’s bass parts within a full band context, but a complete transcription of Jaco’s solo piece
Lynn Seaton’s Jazz Solos for Bass is a collection of written bass solos in jazz styles. He grades each solo based on difficulty, ranging from grade 2 to grade 6. Grade 2 pieces feature single-note lines consisting of eighth-notes and quarter-notes. Grade 6 pieces include more complex rhythms, as well as double and triple stops. Most pieces are designed with the option to be played either pizzicato or arco. Seaton’s solo bass
arrangements are original compositions and illustrate many relevant subjects, including:
double and triple stop chord voicings, use of open strings, and notational practices.
Chuck Sher’s The Improviser’s Bass Method covers a broad area of music and bass playing, beginning at a very basic level. Topics included are: physical aspects of playing, basic theory, scale studies, chord studies, rhythm studies, interval studies, creating bass lines, chord voicings, analyzing tunes, chord extensions, soloing, developing musicianship, Latin bass lines, and transcribed bass lines and solos. There is one section of particular interest to my topic where Sher illustrates thumb-position voicings for chords on the acoustic bass. He uses fingerboard charts to show various inversion and finger-positioning possibilities. My project went much further in this area than his brief example, but his fingerboard charts were a useful guide as to how to organize and illustrate these concepts. Also of interest are two of the transcribed solos in the appendix by David Friesen and Rob Wasserman. Friesen’s “Autumn Ballet” is not unaccompanied, but it does contain the use of several double-stop intervals, including tenths, fifths, and open strings. Wasserman’s “Bass Space” is unaccompanied and uses
Chuck Sher states that the purpose of Concepts for Bass Soloing is to “help both aspiring and professional bassists expand their ability to create coherent and meaningful solos” (Sher i). The book is organized in a series of exercises that combine written essays of concepts for soloing with short musical examples that illustrate the concept.
Marc Johnson performs the musical examples on an accompanying cassette tape. Topics covered include: choice of notes in a modality, phrasing exercises, choice of notes on a given chord, practicing soloing on tunes, and transcribed bass solos. The focus of this book is on developing the bass player as a soloist and as such is relevant. However, it has little to do specifically with the challenges and techniques of playing an unaccompanied solo. There is however one specific exercise (number 9) which utilizes and explains double stops very effectively in a modal setting that was useful.
Donald Wilner’s doctoral essay Interactive Jazz Improvisation in the Bill Evans Trio (1959-61): A Stylistic Study for Advanced Double Bass Performance was completed in 1995 at the University of Miami. He describes the purpose of his essay as “to identify and observe the attributes of overall performance style and the interactive improvisational style of the Bill Evans Trio, and to identify musical concepts based on these observations to facilitate learning and performance of the style as related to double bass performance” (Wilner 5). Wilner’s dissertation incorporates a review of related literature, a background of selected jazz eras and jazz bass performers (including George “Pops” Foster, Jimmy Blanton, Oscar Pettiford, Ray Brown, Charles Mingus, Keith “Red” Mitchell, and Scott LaFaro), performance characteristics of the Bill Evans trio, and a summary and
bass in a jazz trio setting. While there is nothing directly related to unaccompanied performance, there is a strong focus on the bass as an equal melodic voice in a trio. The extensive bibliography is useful as well.
Victor Wooten’s article “Freshness Guaranteed: ‘Amazing Grace’ in Harmonics” was published in Bass Player magazine in August of 1998. Wooten states the influence of Jaco Pastorius’ use of harmonics in “Portrait of Tracy” as profound for Wooten’s own playing. Wooten documents his electric bass guitar performance of “Amazing Grace” with the melody played completely as harmonics, with fretted bass notes underneath. He explains the harmonic notation very clearly. While this was difficult to fully adapt for acoustic bass, it was very useful to see how Wooten uses the harmonic series to voice a complete “folk” melody, while accompanying himself with natural bass notes.
Michael DiLiddo’s doctoral essay Classic Guitar Performance Techniques for the Jazz Guitarist Including Applications to the Jazz Style comprises two parts. The first part “defines basic classic guitar techniques and presents them to college jazz guitarists.” The second part applies these techniques to the jazz style. DiLiddo includes examples for “finger-style” right-hand technique that cover single-note improvisation, two- and threepart accompaniment practices, and for unaccompanied solo performance. While a virtuoso technique would be required to literally translate most of these concepts to the double bass, some simplified concepts from the chapter on “Broken Chords” are insightful in a polyphonic context. Concepts such as sustaining bass notes while playing
Terence Stark Gunderson’s doctoral dissertation A Pedagogical Approach to Solo Jazz Vibraphone Developed through an Analysis of Common Performance Practice (Piano) was completed in 1992 at the University of Northern Colorado. The purpose of Gunderson’s study was to “develop a method book for solo (i.e. unaccompanied) jazz vibraphone.” He studied fifteen jazz piano method books in order to draw from techniques that jazz piano players were expected to master. Selected unaccompanied jazz vibraphone solos were transcribed and analyzed, as well as published solos. Gunderson discovered that the accompaniment techniques found in those vibraphone solos corresponded to the techniques in the jazz piano method books. This study is relevant in several aspects: limited polyphonic practice (at least in 4-mallet technique), designing a method for unaccompanied jazz solos, and self-accompaniment techniques.
John Thomas’ Voice Leading for Guitar is a large volume intended for intermediate to advanced jazz guitarists. A basic understanding of musical notation, chord symbols, scales, modes, jazz harmony, and chord voicing techniques are prerequisite. Topics covered include: harmony review, introduction to voice leading, major “ii-V-I” progressions, minor “ii-V-i” progressions, practice tunes, practice rhythms, advanced progressions, and turnarounds. Adaptation of this material for the double bass is possible, but much simplification is needed for practical application. The basic voice-leading information presented at the beginning was the most useful to my topic. Thomas illustrates the changing notes in functional harmonic chord progressions and shows how the seventh resolves to the third in practical voicings on the guitar fret
voicing resolutions in chord progressions that define the qualities of the harmonic structure. Also useful throughout the book are the wide-interval guitar voicings that are much more applicable to bass than typical piano close voicings.
Ray Brown recorded Black Orpheus live in Tokyo in 1989 and 1991. His trio includes Gene Harris on piano and Jeff Hamilton on drums. While Brown doesn’t play an entire unaccompanied solo, he does begin “Things Ain’t What They Used to Be” with an unaccompanied introduction and melody statement. The introduction is played freely, but he goes into a swinging blues tempo for the melody statement. The primary interest for this topic is Brown’s use of double-stops to outline the dominant seventh chords in the blues progression. He uses the interval of a tritone to provide harmonic information between the phrases of the melody. This specific device was useful to as an example.
Dave Holland recorded Emerald Tears in 1977, and it contains eight tracks of solo unaccompanied double bass. Holland composed six of the songs: “Spheres,” “Emerald Tears,” “Combination,” “Under Redwoods,” “Flurries,” and “Hooveling.” He also performs the songs “B-40/M23-6K/RS-4-W,” by Anthony Braxton, and “Solar,” by Miles Davis. The tracks run from four to six-and-half minutes. Six of the tracks feature predominantly pizzicato techniques, and two feature arco techniques. Holland utilizes double-stops and some nontraditional techniques, but plays mostly single-note lines. He goes into tempo periodically, but most of this recording is rubato. A very relevant contribution this thirty-year-old recording makes to my topic is to provide a justification
double-stops with open strings on the song “Emerald Tears” is directly related to this paper and shows great use of a pedal point with a melody that outlines a changing harmony. Another interesting aspect of this performance is how Holland organizes the piece so that he continually returns to a theme, similar to rondo form.