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Bass lines underneath solos

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by Maraki, Jun 4, 2014.

  1. Maraki


    May 2, 2012
    I hope this is in the right section! I was playing with a metal group, and the guitarist got upset after a rehearsal because I did a fill at the end of a phrase. Since then, I've been pondering over this sort of schism of playing styles.

    I like to play busier lines under a solo guitar because, as far as I can tell, a lot of sonic space opens up when a guitarist goes from chordal riffing, to above the 12th fret shredding. Now, I've noticed that many folk think you should simply 'hold down the fort' when someone is soloing.

    Am I wrong in wanting to do a little fill every now and again when these opportunity presents itself?
  2. GENERALLY when someone is soloing you normally don't play busy lines so you don't step on their solo, which is the center of attention at the moment.

    When to play a fill or not to play a fill is a matter of 'taste' - some players have it, some don't.
  3. tangentmusic

    tangentmusic A figment of our exaggeration

    Aug 17, 2007
    Two words - Geezer Butler

    When Iommi takes his leads, Geezer goes insane. Hold down the fort - yes - but dynamics and fills are sometimes needed during guitar solo's if there's no 2nd guitarist.
    Listen to just about any tune off the first several Black Sabbath LP's and you'll see what I mean.
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2014
  4. mrmills


    Jun 22, 2009
    Kent, UK
    You are not wrong to do that, fills show off your chops as well as add a bit of variation to the song.

    You might need to manage the situation with the guitarist and maybe tone down what you do. Just because it is 'not the done thing' does not mean you need to feel you have to keep it simple and 'hold the fort'.
  5. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    IMO, your job is to do what highlights the solo. If it takes poundng 8th, you do that. If you can find something that works, like a unison line or an answering line, great.

    No easy answer. It's not about egos. Listen to bands in the same vein.
    ccbass71 and KingKrabb like this.
  6. theclashkid


    Nov 3, 2012
    Provided there is plenty of support, so the song doesn't drastically thin out, during a solo, a bit of movement is fine, surely.
  7. Seanto


    Dec 29, 2005
    You aren't necessarily doing anything wrong. While he is soloing rule number 1 should be to keep good time and highlight the progression(if there is one). This helps keep the guitarist grounded while he solos. Fills are fine, and in good taste, as long as you don't mess up the pulse or drastically stray from the harmony. If your fill causes you to miss a beat on the next measure then i consider it a fail.
    BillD5String likes this.
  8. INTP


    Nov 28, 2003
    Dallas, TX
    Perhaps the real problem is that during the solo, they can hear the bass. When they stop the "chordal riffing" and/or play above the 12th fret, it's much harder to drown the bass out.

    Sarcasm aside, embellishing the bass line can enhance the energy of a solo, if it's done right. I wouldn't say that you should always do one thing or another ALL THE TIME, but you should play something that makes the band sound good. Record the next practice so you can listen to what is working and what is not working.
    tangentmusic likes this.
  9. I look at a bass part and the solo as part of the same piece of music rather than two separate parts. I try to understand the solo and where it is going to build a part around it.
  10. Phalex

    Phalex Semper Gumby Supporting Member

    Oct 3, 2006
    G.R. MI
    Don't step on the soloists toes and try to make where you are obvious and provide ample opportunity for him to find his way back out.

    At least that's my philosophy. Ymmv.
  11. kcole4001


    Oct 7, 2009
    Nova Scotia
    In a three piece: you gotta fill up the mid area where the guitar would be otherwise while keeping the low end full, and not be distracting from the solo (center of attention).
    Naturally, there's more room for fills as long as they complement the solo phrases.
    And as Phalex said, you gotta make it clear where you're at so the soloist doesn't lose his/her place.
    Basically, be the glue holding the song together, but you don't need to just bang away at root notes either.

    With more pieces in the band (second guitar, keys, horns), you're more limited, but still need to complement the solo without upstaging it.
    Dynamics can really help in accentuating the song's arrangement.
  12. WashburnAB95


    Nov 18, 2013
    It can be complex IF it is very very repetive. The goal is to play something so repteative that the listeners don't really pay attention to you and listen to the solo. If you start changing things imediatly you jump to center stange and take the attention way. If that works for the solo so be but it is unlikely.
  13. IPYF


    Mar 31, 2011
    Situational. More information required. If you played something crap that put the band out of kilter with the potential to chuck the person soloing off their game the you shouldn't have done that and deserve a bollocking. If youre in the type of metal band that needs to be tight as a tiger you also need to appreciate that or get with a different crowd. Alternately your guitar player might be your garden variety attention hog who wants everyone to be watching him. As I said, not enough information.

    When I ran with metal bands I always took the unplanned plan approach. My fills would be improvised but they would always be in the same place for the same duration. That gave me freedom to do different stuff without stepping outside of the song we had composed.
  14. mellowinman

    mellowinman Free Man

    Oct 19, 2011
    We effectively play as a three piece a lot of the time. With no rhythm guitar, when Arthur takes a solo, often times I will play more aggressively. This does not necessarily mean "busier," note-wise. I will almost always drop my hand, or pick, down nearer the bridge for a more aggressive tone. I may make my attack more aggressive. I may play more notes, but generally, more of the SAME notes, and not explore new sonic territory. I work with my guitar player and drummer to make sure what I am playing enhances the music during the solo.

    I do not do this every single time. Sometimes it's a GOOD thing for some sonic space to open up. You want to provide contrasts, no matter how heavy your band is. Even the heaviest metal band won't sound heavy if there is no open space to contrast with. I am often amazed how dynamic-free bands think they ROCK, when the plain truth is they do NOT.
    pebo, kcole4001 and BayStateBass like this.
  15. It depends on the song, the band, a lot of things. I play 99% covers, and try not to take too many liberties with the basslines, so I'm not really in the same position as the OP. But, like a lot of people, my band is a 4 piece, one being a stand-alone vocalist, so we don't have a lot of instruments to work with. When Pete goes into a solo, it's easy to lose the whole middle of the song. What do I do? Well, like Mellowinman I might attack harder, maybe play some more notes, but ultimately I like to use my FX pedals to add some sound. Tastefully placed overdrive, maybe a chorus, possibly an envelope filter, bass synth, whatever might work well in the song. If used in the right place, they can add that "something something" that is just enough to fill out the sound without drawing a ton of attention from the guitar solo.

    Might be the "cheater's route", but it works for me.
  16. Jarrett


    Jan 19, 2004
    Waxahachie, Tx
    When playing with good players, I like to add more melodic content to my lines when the soloist breaks out. To give them more to work from/play off of. I also make sure to give them ample notice and suggestion as I'm moving from chord to chord in the progression so they can transition their lines smoothly.

    When the players are weak to so so, I just become the glue and hold it all together.
    Darchyboy likes this.
  17. Pork_Chop


    May 11, 2012
    Boulder, CO USA
    I don’t play in a metal band, so take my advice with a grain of salt. I approach things differently depending on the music and who I am playing for. When I am with my band, we work out what is going to sound the best, but I’m also a hired hand with some local blues and funk acts so I approach things differently with them. When they hire me, they are hiring me to support them. One of the things I keep in mind is that I want them to think they sound the best when they play with me so they want to hire me in the future. If I try and upstage them, or they get lost when they solo, they ain’t gonna call me back, so I actually do the opposite and dumb things down. Usually, I’ll either play sixteenth note root notes, or I’ll slide up and play half note triads or root/three double stops on the three and four. That helps highlight them as the soloist, and lays down a rock solid foundation for them to work. On a side note, I don’t like it when I am soloing, and the drummer is going crazy on his kit, or the guitarist is drowning me out. I want the drummer to just lay down a simple groove, and I’m fine if the guitarist stops playing all together.
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2014
    Joe Louvar likes this.
  18. sometimes i "solo" underneath the guitars, sometimes i just hold a groove. i guess it more depends on the song. if the guitar is the primary solo instrument, then really as long as you dont cover them up or overshadow them then i think its fine to wander around or play fills ect under a solo.

    the example of black sabbath is a great one. give a good listen to "sweet leaf", that solo section is just ridiculous! and it works becuase they are both going nuts and soloing - but - the bass is never in the way of the guitar. its clear its a guitar solo with a busy bass part.

    another good example i think would be tool's "jambi" - during the talkbox solo, the bass is holding a groove, but every single bar is different. hes accenting all the same spots but is playing different fills. hes doing all that without stepping all over the primary part, which in that section is the talkbox guitar solo.
  19. morgansterne

    morgansterne Geek U.S.A.

    Oct 25, 2011
    Cleveland Ohio
    Or consider "freewill" where the bass and the guitar are both super busy during the solos. When I played in a three piece, I very often would add in extra thirds and fifths during a guitar solo to fill it out. Not chords, just different notes. A big fill at the end may or may not be called for. If it's tight and keeps the groove going, great.
  20. Well, if no one holds down the fort it just turns into noise - its the bass players job to support a solo and help make it sound better, and depending on the song and band that can very from simple root notes to busy bass lines.
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2014

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