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Jazz Bass Lessons: Introduction to Arpeggios

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Arpeggios are some of the most challenging
things we bassists ever encounter.
A pianist plays a two-octave arpeggio and
moves their hand a few inches.
We jump through hoops and do double
back flips, just to do two octaves.
So, the reason why we work on it so
much is,
it helps develop our coordination,
our connection with the instrument.
But also in jazz,
it makes a huge difference if you have
command of basic major and
minor arpeggios.
Especially when we get
into triad combining and
playing over chords using combinations.
I'm gonna give you just
a for-instance right now.
Like a little,
fun thing that you can work towards.
And the reason why, actually.
Say we have a G7
That's the major scale with a flat 7.
If you know your F major triad and
your G major triad, this is the basic
idea behind triad combining.
And I'm offering, I'm selling
a book on this site about this.
And this is the thing that
opened up my playing a lot.
Made me sound, as an improviser,
much more like a horn player or a pianist.
If we playing in G7,
like a blues-y kind of thing,
Coltrane had a great triad
combining kind of trick,
using F major
and G major triads combined.
If you have the G major at your disposal.
First of all, F major.
If you can just do that,
[SOUND] it gives you a lot of freedom.
Now here's the G.
If you combine them,
you get sounds that are really neat.
If you toggle between the arpeggios,
and you use the inversions.
You don't always start each
arpeggio from the root.
You get really cool sounds over a G7,
that you would never stumble upon if
you just played scales through it.
So this is a good reason
why we learn arpeggios.
Check it out.
Here's a G seven
What I just did was played F [SOUND].
That's the bottom of an F
I can break it down.
[SOUND] There's a F triad.
[SOUND] There's a B triad,
with the 3rd and the bass.
Then, [SOUND] there's the F [SOUND].
and it has this kind of really cool arc to
So I couldn't do that
unless I had spent years
practicing those arpeggios.
If I hadn't done that I would never be
able to play.
So that's the goal
that we establish with
learning the arpeggios.
We don't learn them just so
we can, sort of be flashy.
I learned them, and
I wanted to learn them because I wanted
to sound more like a horn player.
And on the bass,
we have to work a little harder and
some days are better than others.
Don't be discouraged, some days I feel
like all my arpeggios just sort of
fly out of the bass, and
everything seems to be in tune.
Some days, I have to work my tail off
just to play a few of them in tune.
So, it's a process, so don't get
discouraged, but look at it like this.
The more you practice your arpeggios,
the more freedom you can buy for
yourself in terms of
improvisational power.
And now, I'd like to give you a little
idea about how you practice them.
First you do them,
I do them painfully slowly on the tutorial
that I give you on this, that you have.
And I go
really slowly, to get your hand to measure
the distances, so
you can play them in tune.
That's the first thing.
Then you gradually build
it up with the metronome.
Then maybe you do
Then as you go
a little faster
And eventually, you can get it where
you can fly around and do stuff.
But you do it slowly, I've done these for
years with a metronome.
And what you wanna, your goal is fluidity.
To where the notes just roll out of
the bass, and it doesn't sound so hard.
You want it to sound like [SOUND],
there's a different fingering I just did.
[SOUND] So I just did it, and it sounded
like a mellifluous kind of sound,
as opposed to something I labored with.
So, incrementally
Carefully and deliberately,
with a good core sound in the notes
But as you play quicker,
you can play a little lighter.
You still want to have the center to your
note, but you can play a little lighter.
Look at this.
To make it musical.
So, sometimes when you play quickly,
you don't wanna sound like you're
chopping wood, or hammering nails.
If you're just going
it's a little too much, you know?
Maybe in some kinda music,
sometimes you have to have that power and
you have to be able to do that, too.
Where you synchronize your hands and
you could do it in a small box.
Let's just do it in one octave
Then a little faster
The faster you go, you're gonna
have to lighten up a little bit,
when your down low on the bass
can you do it soft?
Notice how I picked up a little bit,
taking my right hand and moving it up
a little bit, so that it doesn't sound
that I'm slurring some things.
So, think of it,
like getting different colors.
And the different speeds that you play the
arpeggios at, give you different colors.
So you wanna work your right hand too, and
think about
can you play softly with a core?
You notice the note has a center to it,
it doesn't sound like,
if you hit it wrong [SOUND],
like that [SOUND], there's no sound.
[SOUND] There has to be a core,
even when we we play soft.
You have to hold the note down
with your left hand [SOUND], and
think about everything speaking.
The lower down you are on the bass,
the more
you have to concentrate on speaking
in a clear voice on the instrument.
The higher you go, it's easier for
people to hear you.
But down here
you have to be so precise.
You can't ever develop that,
unless you do the slow practice first.
That's the bad news,
you have to do this a lot
before you can develop this.
See, that's a light approach.
Sometimes when you play fast,
you have to play lighter to have finesse.
Sometimes you have to
play it hard [SOUND].
Watch why I do with my right hand [SOUND].
I gave it a little bit more force, and
the velocity also made it spit
out of the bass a little faster.
So, arpeggios are the ultimate
test of virtuosity in one respect.
But they're also the building blocks,
when we walk,
we're using our arpeggios all the time.
In the walking section
that we went through,
you notice that you have
to know your arpeggios,
you have to be able to start on the 3rd,
the 5th, the flat 7, the root.
If we don't know our arpeggios,
we don't have basic building blocks of
music that we'll need, not only for
walking but for improvising,
and for coloration on the base.
So, this is why we spend so
much time on arpeggios.