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«2008-04-27 Solo Techniques for Unaccompanied Pizzicato Jazz Double Bass Larry James Ousley University of Miami, ousley Follow this and ...»

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Dave Holland recorded Ones All in May of 1993. It is his second recording comprised entirely of unaccompanied bass solo pieces. With the exception of the first part of one piece, it is entirely pizzicato. Of eleven total songs, six are original compositions by Holland. He also performs “Three Step Dance” by Glen Moore, “Pork Pie Hat” by Charles Mingus, “Mr. P.C.” by John Coltrane, “Little Girl I’ll Miss You” by Bunky Green, and “God Bless the Child” by Billie Holliday and Arthur Herzog. The jazz standards are of particular interest. For instance, in his performance of “Pork Pie Hat” Holland plays a rubato melody statement, outlining the harmony with a combination of bass notes, double-stops, and single-note lines. Then for the improvisation section, Holland goes into tempo, but improvises over a much simpler harmonic structure. This particular performance was transcribed and proved to be very useful in the illustration of various techniques in the context of a jazz standard. In Holland’s over-all approach to unaccompanied solos, one of his greatest strengths is his organizational concept. He returns to themes, develops melodies, and uses tempo and rubato where appropriate. All of these musical devices are combined to form a cohesive musical performance.

Lynn Seaton recorded Solo Flights in 1996. Of the twelve unaccompanied solo bass pieces, seven are original compositions. He also performs five standards: “Moten

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“Yesterdays.” Seaton alternates so that half of the tracks are arco and half are pizzicato.

Seaton’s “Liltin’ with Milton” features an interesting combination of pizzicato chords and arco melody lines. Seaton’s pizzicato treatments of the standards are of particular interest to my topic. While the ballad “Body and Soul” is very free and rubato, “How High the Moon” contains both rubato and up-tempo swing sections. Seaton begins freely with a harmonically rich melody statement and then goes into a fast swing tempo for the improvisation section. Seaton uses double and triple stops to accompany himself throughout the improvisation. He closes the song with the up-tempo be-bop melody “Ornithology.” It is an interesting and effective arrangement. Seaton’s arrangement of “Honeysuckle Rose” also contains many relevant techniques and ideas. He stays in a moderate swing tempo and uses numerous double stops and chords specific to his

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This paper is intended to provide a pedagogical method for performing unaccompanied double bass solos in a jazz context which will be useful to advanced university students and professional bassists as well. Thus, this essay presupposes of its readers a fundamental knowledge of bass performance techniques and jazz music theory.

Those topics are not included within the scope of this paper.

This paper deals exclusively with pizzicato (plucked) techniques for a variety of reasons. First, arco (bowed) techniques are not common-practice or at a high level of proficiency for many jazz double bassists. Second, use of the bow can limit double-stop options and the polyphonic potential of the bass that requires string crossings. Third, contemporary arco techniques are well discussed in the literature for classical bassists.

While the bow can be a valid tool in the unaccompanied jazz bassist’s arsenal, these techniques are not within the scope of this paper.

Percussive and other contemporary techniques for producing non-traditional sounds with the double bass also were outside of the scope of this project. While they are certainly valid, and utilized in both classical and jazz genres, they simply did not fit into this organizational approach, which was primarily based on harmonic concepts. Some books have also been written that include these contemporary techniques, such as 25 26 Green’s Advanced Techniques of Double Bass Playing and Turetzky’s The Contemporary Contrabass.

This dissertation is not a survey or critique of all recorded unaccompanied jazz double bass solos. Illustrative examples were taken from some recorded unaccompanied bass solos, and several bassists were referenced who have made contributions in this field. This paper did not only seek to examine the playing styles, performing practices, and arrangements of specific performers and the general body of recorded works, but focused on the development of my own methodology.

Contemporary double bass performances and recordings often include amplification and various electronic sound effects. The focus of the techniques and concepts presented in this paper was limited to the unamplified double bass. While the concepts presented in this paper could be utilized in an “electronic” performance, such performance practices were not discussed directly.

Altered tunings provide a whole other realm of possibilities for solo bass performances. Some bassists such as Michael Manring have explored some of these techniques, increasing the polyphonic potential of the bass. However, due to the broad scope of altered tuning techniques, they were not included in this paper. That subject is worthy of its own independent study. Also, the use of altered tunings is not a common practice in most bassists’ range of techniques. Some examples and applications were included for use of the C-extension which is the most common means of altering the Estring’s pitch. By lengthening the string instead of retuning the string by means of the extension, the location of the stopped notes remain constant, but the harmonic series

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The ultimate goal of this paper is to instruct advanced bass students and professionals in the arrangement of unaccompanied solo performances of material of their choice utilizing the techniques and concepts presented herein. The techniques and concepts were organized as a set of chronological building blocks, one stacked on top of another, eventually leading to complete performances of songs.

It begins with techniques for polyphonic performance, using an intervallic approach, illustrated with double stops with and without open strings. Right-hand and left-hand performance practices were also addressed. That is followed by a discussion of contrapuntal techniques for self-accompaniment, including linear movement and voice leading in bass lines, linear movement and voice leading in the harmonic voices (seventh to third resolutions), arpeggiation, scales, and modes.

With the performance and conceptual aspects of polyphony and harmonic voice leading covered, these techniques are applied to specific chord progressions. First, I provided a catalogue of chords which was divided into two parts. Part one consisted of non-transposable chords using open strings that can only be played in one place on the bass and in one key. Part two consisted of transposable chords that can be played in many places on the bass and excludes open strings. Second, chords and contrapuntal techniques were applied to common chord progressions, including ii-V-I progressions, cycle-of-fifth progressions (such as in “Autumn Leaves”), and Blues progressions.

Harmonics are a special technique that can be incorporated or excluded from the other material covered in this essay, and therefore they have their own separate section.

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with pizzicato techniques. The chordal possibilities of harmonics used in conjunction with open strings and with stopped notes are also examined.

The material covered up to this point was combined in the third section, which applied these techniques to actual complete songs with existing melodies and harmonic structures, using several pieces to illustrate how specific techniques can be used in practical applications. Various song types were considered in order to illustrate as many different techniques and concepts as possible. The melody statements of unaccompanied bass solo arrangements by Ray Brown and Dave Holland were transcribed and provided.

Three original unaccompanied arrangements were composed to further illustrate the practical application of the techniques discussed in this paper. Narrative was included to discuss how to perform certain passages and explain how the arranged selfaccompaniment works to support the melody.

This paper concludes with a summary of the topics covered and offers some suggested recordings of bassists performing in unaccompanied situations. An extensive bibliography is also included.

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Due to the specialized nature of this topic, certain notation practices are not common. Also, certain notation practices are not consistent in the published repertoire, such as the notation of harmonics. While explanations of specific techniques can be found at relevant points in this paper, general notation practices are listed here.

It should be noted that all examples throughout this paper and scores in the appendix sound an octave below the written pitch. This is the standard notation practice

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(such as Example 6.6), accidentals are listed for each individual chord and do not carry over to following chords. Throughout this paper, fingerings of either hand are notated such that the index finger is indicated by a “1,” the middle finger is indicated by a “2,” the ring finger is indicated by a “3,” the pinky finger is indicated by a “4,” and the thumb is indicated by a “+.” A harmonic is indicated by an “o” above the note. In this paper, harmonics are notated by the note on the fingerboard where a particular harmonic is produced. When the resulting pitch is different than the notated pitch, the sounding pitch is indicated (such as in measure 8 of the “Tennessee Waltz” in the appendix of this paper). The intended string to be used for complex harmonic passages is indicated by the letter of the string (G,

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A key element of this study’s methodology is the full exposition of the polyphonic potential of the double bass. Performing double stops (sounding two notes simultaneously) is the most basic and practical means of approaching the bass as a polyphonic instrument. This chapter will examine the range of double stops on the bass in the context of normal hand positions, as well as double stop performance practices.

Triple stops will also be examined. These will serve as key building blocks for a selfaccompaniment vocabulary used in creating arrangements for solo bass performances.

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Before delving into the realm of pitches and intervals which are primarily “left hand” concerns, it is important to understand how to actually pluck and sound double stops with the right hand. There are several options available to the performer, based on what strings are being used and the desired sonic effect.

The first right hand technique for double stop performance is considered here “raking,” which is performed by raking a single down stroke in quick succession over two neighboring strings. This is much like a “rest-stroke,” except that instead of plucking one string then resting on the next string, one plucks two strings then rests on the third string. For instance, when performing a double stop consisting of one note on the G string and one note on the D string, the performer would pluck the G string, and in a 30 31 continuous motion, pluck the D string and then rest on the A string. Raking is also possible utilizing the thumb of the right hand in the opposite direction as described above. In this example, the thumb would first “rake” over the D string and then the G string in a continuous motion. Various effects can be achieved depending on the temporal proximity of the sounding of the two notes. The illusion can be created that the two notes are sounded simultaneously. Tremolo types of effects can also be achieved by rapidly strumming a single finger back and forth over two neighboring strings. Raking is much easier when the desired notes are located on neighboring strings.

The second right hand technique for double stop performance is hereby denoted as a “double free-stroke.” A free-stroke is performed by plucking a single note and drawing the finger into the air, rather than resting it on the next subsequent string afterwards. A “double free-stroke” utilizes two right hand fingers (typically the index and middle fingers) to simultaneously pluck two notes on two different strings. One draws the fingers slightly upwards into the air, rather than resting on other strings after the stroke. This technique is useful both for sounding notes simultaneously and also for sounding notes at different times, allowing them to ring together. Although neighboring strings are the easiest, any combination of strings may be plucked in this style.

The third right hand technique for double stop performance involves plucking two strings simultaneously with the thumb and a finger in a “pinching” motion. While utilizing the index finger in this technique is possible, the middle finger is the most anatomically balanced with the thumb. This technique allows double stop performance with any combination of strings. For instance, one could use this squeezing motion to

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finger. Triple stop techniques are possible when combining this technique with the “double free-stroke” technique above. For example, pluck the open D string with the index finger while plucking the E string with the thumb and the G string with the middle finger, as above. This is a very playable triple stop chord voicing for an E minor seventh chord.

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Non-transposable double stops utilize one or more open strings. Typically they are performed by sounding a stopped note simultaneously with an open string note (an E, A, D, or G), but one could also use a combination of two open strings. There are several advantages to utilizing open strings in this manner. First of all, open strings provide a centered pitch for good intonation, which can be a challenge in solo bass performances.

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