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A Private Lesson with John Patitucci

John Patitucci's groundbreaking 6-string electric bass work has inspired a generation of
wide-neckers-and his virtuosic acoustic playing has put him in the company of history's
greatest jazz musicians. Two years ago he moved back to his hometown of Brooklyn,
leaving behind an active Los Angeles career. John hit the New York scene in full force
both as a leader and a sideman-but he's never lost sight of the bassist's credo: to groove
and support.

In addition to new playing opportunities, Patitucci is enjoying an academic role as


Artistic Director of New York's Bass Collective. As a member of a faculty that includes
Victor Wooten, Jeff Andrews, Victor Bailey, Lincoln Goines, and a host of other top
players, John is at the leading edge of bass education. But he's also become a student
himself again. He's been studying with Juilliard-trained John Schaefer, former Principal
Bassist for the New York Philharmonic. "He's an incredible teacher," says Patitucci. "I
wish I had met him when I was a kid. I've learned so much in a relatively short time."

Patitucci's studies have no doubt put him more in touch with the needs of his own
students. "They don't know the neck well enough," he asserts. "A good exercise is to take
a major or minor scale and play it from the lowest available note to the highest. For
instance, on a 20-fret 4-string, play a C major scale from the low E up to the high D ."
Ex. 1 shows this particular scale, using the open A string as a "bounce point" for shifting
to higher and lower positions. "Find three or four ways to finger the scale," John
continues. "Choose fingerings that make sense; don't just play them catch as catch can.
Call out each note as you play it. Know the bass. Then work your way through all the
scales."

Patitucci also recommends setting your metronome to about 52 bpm and playing all the E
's on the bass, and then all the F 's, etc., as shown in Ex. 2. (This exercise was introduced
by Joe Hubbard in July/Aug '93.) If you have a 5- or 6-string bass-or a 24-fret neck-be
sure to extend the range of this exercise. You can go up chromatically or use the Circle of
Fifths until you've played every note on the instrument.
"If you want to get slick with this exercise," says John, "take any arpeggio-Fm7, for
example-and during each beat play the entire arpeggio in a different place on the neck."
Ex. 3 shows all the in-position Fm7 arpeggios on the neck. (There are out-of-position
possibilities as well.) Start very slowly; consider shutting off the metronome until you
can shift from one position to the next. Once you have your shifts down, find a tempo at
which you can play comfortably, and then gradually increase the tempo.

Patitucci's other pet peeve doesn't involve practicing. "Most cats haven't listened enough.
If you're interested in a certain style, you'd better saturate yourself with that music; not
only is it good for your ears, it's how you learn to develop bass lines. If you go to play a
shuffle or a blues or a funk tune and have no cultural context to work in, you won't play
things that sound direct. I'd like to see students transcribe 100 bass lines from records of
all different styles and learn what a groove in a particular style means."

Overall, Patitucci sees poor musicianship in students. "Electric bass is still a new
instrument, and most bassists haven't been told they should be a whole musician. They
think all they have to be is a bass player, so they transcribe a solo from some guy they
like and think that'll do it. But I say forget that-learn some piano. Of course you should
transcribe, but don't always transcribe bass. For solos, listen to tenor players." As a final
thought, John asserts that your study of bass should go much deeper than the notes
themselves. "Emotional connection with the music is the big deal. It's bigger than the
knowledge."