View Full Version : JonR this one is for you......

08-25-2009, 12:47 AM
Did not know you were also into bass. Need some advice.

We play this nursing home once a month and our bass plays the organ at this same home every Monday afternoon. The organ died and the home is not going to have it fixed. So Tom (the bass) and I have been going down on Monday afternoons he plays acoustic and sings, I back him up on bass. We've been doing this for a couple of months. Understand that is the extent of my bass playing.

Tom wings his chord progressions, and his timing ---well it's all over the board. You would think an old bass playing acoustic would keep the beat, not the case. I'm playing from fake chord sheet music and he and I are not even close to being on the same page as far as the chord progression is concerned. I've started just making sure I'm in the same key and then jamming a I IV V progression using R-3-5-3 or a R-5, trying to hit most of his chord changes. When he takes of on a run (a flourish better describes it) I just keep the same beat going and we meet somewhere in the middle of the next measure. Tom is not going to change that's just Tom. He has been playing like that for over 50 years, yep, he's 78. It's up to me to adjust and make this work.

I do better scrapping the fake chord sheet music and winging (jamming) a progression to match his. We get pretty close if you discount this meeting in the middle after a flourish.

The more we play together the more I can anticipate his chord changes, but, there must be a better way.......

The residents love Tom and appreciate the attention he gives them, so everyone is kind and are overlooking our struggles. But, our little band is not ready for prime time. Open for suggestions. Talk to me about using the tonic pentatonic through out the entire song as a repeating riff or bass line. Using the pentatonic the beat is a snap and the notes will harmonize. I have not found anything on using the pentatonic as a repeating bass line, have you tried this. Or perhaps a tonic pentatonic - V pentatonic repetitive bass line, i.e take off on R-5.

:confused: Help.

08-25-2009, 04:04 AM
it sounds to me like this guy is hard to play with. it soundsa little like he is off beat sometimes, or plays in loops that aren't divisible by four. maybe that's not the case, but for me i find that really difficult and don't much like playing with people like that.

but i have before, bass is kind of the easy one for that appart from drums. during a flourish it's fine to just stop. attention goes on the flourish, and then hit some nice harmony or root note on the start of the barr after his flourish is done, or a little diddy on re-entry, maybe just a slide at the quarter note introducing the next bar after his flourish.

other than that, when i play with people like this my focus is one hundred percent on listening. i pay very little attention to what i'm doing and try to keep it simple, and in a way that i can easily repair or fix errors, because they are bound to happen, and so you need to be open and spend alot of time fixing those rather than playing a groove.

I also prefer to close my eyes in such cases also because that helps focus you completely on listening.

another way to go would be to have rigorous practice sessions where you have him stick to the gameplan throughout, that way you're fine.

but idk, maybe i misinterpreted the dilemma.

as for what notes you should play, i can't give any ideas since basically all of the information that is music is missing. i know the chord structure, but that's like reading a movie's synopsis and then asking what someone's dialogue should be like in a particular scene.

08-25-2009, 11:30 AM
I really agree with fingerpikingood. I'd be as lost as you in such circumstances. I don't think I've ever played with someone as off the beat as Tom sounds, but I have worked with people who don't feel bars the same way I do. IOW, they don't count even 4s, but they do generally keep the beat - so the problem is not keeping in time with them, but knowing when they're going to change chord. (You've probably seen bands struggle like this with John Lee Hooker... ;) )

All I can suggest is you maybe don't play bass with him, but work on second guitar - responding to fills, etc.
The problem - as I see it - is that bass needs to be the foundation; and he is ignoring that (your) role. He should be following you, not you him.

How did it work with the organ? (As I understand it, Tom used to play the organ providing his own bass?) I'm guessing he was used to leading things that way.
Couldn't he play the bass, and you back him up with guitar?

Personally I think you need to explain the problem (diplomatically) and try and work it out in practice, using different combinations of instruments, perhaps. Get him to just play rhythm - even if it is out of time - while you add fills when you can. But if you think that ain't gonna happen (he's too fixed in his ways), I can't offer any other advice. Sorry!

08-25-2009, 01:25 PM
Thanks to you both. Our Daughter went with us to a session and afterwards her comments were something to the effect; "How do you keep up with him?" So, yes I have a unique opportunity. Tom will give you the shirt off his back, after some of my surgeries he drove me to all the gigs and made sure my stuff got in. You have to love Tom and he has asked me for help so it's my time now.

I do not enjoy, and my voice is not lead vocalist material so anything beyond backup is best left alone. A year ago when the organ died that time we tried the two acoustic guitars I do a better job of following him on the bass.

As to the organ, Tom is self taught on everything except for some band instruments he played back in the 40's. On the organ he plays the black keys by ear like a lot of self taught people do. Does a great job with the organ, course holding a bass note is a little easier on the organ than it would be on the keyboard. Unique opportunity.

I'm going to throw away the fake chord sheet music and jamm along with him, concentrating on providing a steady beat. I do a much better job of that if I'm just moving with what I'm hearing instead of moving with what I'm reading. I'll stick with the R-5 and R-3-5-3 riffs and moving with the chord changes, but, I'm going to start reading up on using pentatonic there may lie an answer.....

O'h, is all Country, the old stuff.

Appreciate your comments.


08-25-2009, 01:43 PM
The Arpeggio approach is probably the best way to blag it. If you want a bit more variety, perhaps extend things up to 7th arpeggios. Also, as you say, pentatonic is usually safe ground, especially if it is country music.

One thing that kept occuring to me, reading through the above posts is:
You can play guitar as well as bass!
If I were in your situation I would be watching his fretting hand like crazy. You will probably be able to identify the chord shape he is playing at any given time and chose arpeggios to suit it.

I know it seems a bit like cheating. I notice fingerpicking even suggested you "close your eyes". There is deffinitely a lot to be said for closing your eyes. In practice and improvisation it forces you to focus on your ears, which is great, but I wouldn't always condone it in a live performance. I often play a whole set with my eyes closed at rehearsal and it sounds great, because I am relaxed. If I am on a gig, I will deffinitely sometimes look at the fretboard. Sometimes you can't hear yourself properly at a gig. Sometimes you need to do a long slide and might miss. But even on a gig I will try to close my eyes as much as possible (or look at the girls... whatever). Ultimately, I always say, in a gig, play it safe rather than sorry.

Once anyone loses the progression, all is lost. Use whatever means you have at your disposal to keep your place (even if this involves causing a diversion by kicking Tom in the shin to get him to slow down! :D)

08-25-2009, 01:56 PM
Thanks, yep, I've been known to take a peek at the singers fretting hand to see what he is doing. Do that quite a lot in a jamm circle. Yes, I think I'll be better off jamming.

08-25-2009, 04:26 PM
ya good plan, except i'm not sure how much i'd be sticking to keeping a steady rhythm.

if tom were listening to you and using you for guidance and would compensate to fit with you then, i would agree keeping your best rhythm is the way to go. you could serve as training wheels for him.

but i have found that players like this as far as i can tell, don't work that way. so the result of you keeping steady rhythm would end up just pointing out how off rhythm the other guy is.

if you always compensate and follow them you can disguise it better.

or you do the practice thing, but that could be tough, i think you'd be better playing cover up. which also isn't easy, but i think the best option.

08-28-2009, 08:03 PM
Over lunch today we decided to do the Grateful Dead thing, i.e. wing everything. Just jamm out and have fun.

09-05-2009, 03:56 PM
[Thumbs Up]

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10-10-2009, 07:34 PM
Maybe try just stopping deliberately and let him do his "flourish" solo-style.
Then coeme back in when he is through.

It might sound smoother or more intentional that way, as though you are intentionally spotlighting his flourishes.

just a thought :cool:

10-20-2009, 01:47 PM
Update. We've been playing together now for about two months and have pretty well worked out all the kinks. I just ignore his flourishes and then make sure we pull back together once he settles back down. Seems to be working. ;)

10-24-2009, 05:10 AM
Miles Davis once said "There are no wrong notes in jazz: only notes in the wrong places." He also said "It's not the note you play that's the wrong note - it's the note you play afterwards that makes it right or wrong."

I don't know if this has any relevance to your playing but it sounds good.

10-24-2009, 03:55 PM
ya i like that second one, i find it really true. sometimes if i'm kind of drawing a blank i might just hit some random note, and then "rescue" it whatever it is. or sometimes too funnily enough i'll just start thinking of something completely different and somehow my playing sometimes improves because i'm not thinking about it, which i still don't understand really. i think thinking of the theory and what frets you're hitting and stuff really hurts you at the time you're playing, but is a necessary step along the way so you gcan get to the point where you don't think of it at all.

you need to know it well enough so that you can forget it... if that makes any sense.

10-29-2009, 01:43 PM
That is what all those hours spent on scales were for, it does pay off. Problem is it takes so long for automatic to come in that many have given up from the boredom.