UPDATE: This file is now available here -
Victor Wooten talks about how music is a language, so do Branford and Wynton Marsalis, so does Pat Metheny (if you have ever heard his infamous guitar lesson mp3). They all talk about how there is a grammar-like structure to learning how to play over chord changes. How you develop that vocabulary is just like how you develop speech, you imitate, you hear a word you like and if you don't understand it, you look it up and then you file it away for when you want to use it again. Improv works the same way on some levels. You learn some basic phrases, you build your vocabulary by imitating others and copying words you don't know yet until you know how to use them. The absolute best, hands down, fastest way to get this vocabulary is to transcribe off of records the solos you like. Now we live in an era where we have books and DVD's and other things that the people that came before us did not have, so to that end, here are some phrases and new words in the language of improv for the electrified bass guitar, translated from treble clef from David Baker's How To Play Bebop Vol. 2. If this book exists in bass clef...I haven't found it, I only have a treble clef version so I converted 25 of his 101 ii-v patterns into bass clef and analyzed what notes the licks use and put the scale degree under each note of the lick. Yea, you are welcome.
No way man, you read how the jazz cats can channel consciousness and get so in the zone that pure spontaneous music erupts from the bowels of ones true karmic energy center when it is at oneness with the vibrations of the universal chi and it all just, like, happens, man.
Everybody has licks they play and phrases that they have spent time working up to play over chord changes. It's part of the myth that improv just happens, everyone works on phrases. Everyone. No matter how heavy they were or are.
To go with the language analogy, the licks below are "sentences" for use over a ii-v progression, so in the key of c, from Dmin7 to G7 each chord for one measure.
Now, are these music sentences the kind that sound like "The burnished mahogany chest sat regally on its column like legs, with its dark, hand hewn contours accenting its orthogonal placement to the intersecting walls of the library chamber."
They sound more like "There was a dark wooden box in the corner of the book room." But that is okay, they are still good and solid phrases to learn and explore and use as vehicles to figure out why you like certain ones. Some things you might want to ask yourself when you look at them:
- Wait, what's with all the wrong notes? How come some have an F# on the Dmin? How come some have an Ab on the G7? What the hell!?
- What beats are the chord tones on?
- What is the starting note of the lick? Is it always the root? spoiler: no.
- How many non-chord tones are there in the lick?
- What is the range, or how wide is the distance between the highest note in the lick and the lowest note in the lick?