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Q&A - How does the IFR method apply to the bass?

Hi David,

I am a bass player with about 15 years of rock band experience whose first love has always been smooth jazz. I am working to move in that direction but my improvising skills are weak at best. I want to know if your book would help this bass player realize his goals of being able to improvise at will and gather a much better musical understanding.

Thanks for taking the time to respond.


David's response:

Hi Michael,

Thanks for writing. The IFR method is totally applicable to the bass, and actually I think the bass is one of the most ideal instruments for studying harmony because you're always so connected to the chords that are being played.

First, I think the main thing you need to understand is that harmony is the same for all of us. The knowledge and understanding that you need to freely improvise beautiful bass lines is the exact same knowledge that a sax player needs to improvise melodic solos, or a guitar player needs to improvise chord-melody arrangements. It's just that each instrument has a unique voice and a special role in a musical group, so we end up focusing our ideas and energy in different ways. But what enables all of these musicians to enjoy creating music on their instrument is an understanding of our musical system, which is the same musical system shared by all instruments.

So what you can develop through IFR is a deep understanding of music and the ability to improvise melodies freely. If you buy my book and work through the exercises, essentially you'll be studying music in the exact same way that a sax player or a trumpet player would. The only difference is that because the bass is such a visual instrument, you will learn some things in the beginning that will allow you to use the fretboard itself to visualize and understand all of these musical concepts. But other than that, you will be practicing just like a horn player. One way to think about it is that you will be taking an intensive course on soloing. Through your own melodic improvisations (which you could think of as extended bass solos), you will be learning all about our musical system and developing the same knowledge that every great improviser has.

So here's what I think you need to decide. Are you interested in exploring the world of harmony and learning to develop your musical creativity in general? And does the idea of creating your own bass riffs with these ideas sound interesting and appealing to you? If so, then you will love the IFR method because that's what we do.

On the other hand, if what you really need are concrete examples of riffs and walking lines for bass, and you would prefer to be learning all of this under the guidance of a bass teacher who gives you the exact lines and riffs to play, then I think you would do better with a different method.

Whatever you decide, I encourage you to believe in yourself and seek out the learning that will enable you to realize your dreams. Music only looks confusing from the outside. Once you get your bearings, you will have a lifetime of enjoyment ahead of you. So don't get frustrated along the way! Just keep searching for the information that will provide the missing puzzle pieces, and eventually you'll put it all together for yourself.