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Bass Solo vs. Guitar Solo

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by LowDown Hal, Mar 18, 2009.

  1. I'm a relatively new guy looking to gain comfort with playing the occasional solo.

    For my simple brain let's limit the discussion just a little. Let's focus on the Blues as a general genre. Even more specifically let's just start with our reliable old minor pentatonic scale(s).

    So far, a lot of what I've been noodling in practice, i.e. private :), really sounds more to me like a "fancy" bass line than an actual solo. While driving in the car things pop into my head but once I pick up the Bass I seem to resort to what I have drilled into myself. I did just pick up the Liebman "Blues Bass" Book, which is great! I have also ordered the Friedland "Blues Bass" Book


    1 ) What are some of your favorite Blues Bass Solo's ? I'd like to listen to a few just to get my brain working outside the norm.

    2 ) If we characterize the "normal" roles in the Band as the Bass = support and the Guitar = spotlight. How would you characterize the difference, if there is any, between a Bass Solo and a Guitar Solo? What if, for fun, I transposed an Albert King Solo to Bass. Should it work?

    THANKS in advance for the upcoming discussion :)
  2. JTE

    JTE Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    Yeah, it should work, especially if you're able to pull off those Albert King bends on a regular bass!!! And remember that the "traditional" role of the guitar used to be support only too. The whole guitar solo thing dates from maybe the 1920s, and only got to be the focal point of bands in the '60s really. So now 40 years later what's wrong with the bass' role progressing too?

    Having said that, in a typical blues band, whether real blues bands or the SRV induced "hats 'n' Strats" type of "blues" where gratuitous guitar wanking is considered authentic blues, the a bass solo is generally a shorter bit just to introduce the bassist. I've done everything from a simple boogie walk to a melodic solo, and whether it worked or not depended largely on my own taste (or utter lack thereof...) and the way the rest of the band played during the solo.

    A key point is that soloing pretty much requires a huge mind-set change unless you're doing a simple boogie line (like the bass "solo" in Charlie Daniels' "South's Gonna Do It"). You need to have some melodic ideas and the both the ears and the physical skills to execute them. But the key factor is having some good ideas first. That's why stealing from Albert King, Freddie, BB, Miles Davis, Freddie Hubbard, Wayne Shorter, Maceo Parker, Cassandra Wilson, Ella Fitzgerald, etc. is a good idea for learning solos. But don't limit your experience in idea gathering to guitarists!!
  3. Dogbertday

    Dogbertday Commercial User

    Jul 10, 2007
    SE Wisconsin
    Blaine Music LLC
    I think the hardest challenge for most bass players (through conversation and listening to playing) is figuring out the balance between grove and melody in solos. What I've heard a lot of guys do when it's there turn is one of two things. The player either plays what you described as an embellished bass line leaving a hole where a melody should go in the music and the audience courtesy claps, or drops the bassline role completely and goes into showoff mode. In the last scenario the dancers all stop and give you a courtesy clap if they didn't go to the bathroom.

    Now my personal approach to soloing goes something like this

    - Never Drop the Groove. You don't have to play constantly but every note you DO play has to be in the pocket rhythmically.

    -Play melodically out of your head. To keep yourself from falling into my first example from above play a melody in your head. An easy way to start doing this is sitting down with your bass, singing a short lick, and trying to replicate it in your playing exactly how you sang it/heard it in your head. One way I like to develop ideas mid solo is to start with only a couple notes to get those in my head then embellish those. If I go beyond what my mind is thinking and I just return to those notes.

    -Don't try to impress anyone. No one likes wanking... not on bass... not on guitar... if you can't sing it don't play it

    The most important part about this is to stay in the pocket and let the drummer (real or imaginary... yes sometimes the drummer that's there plays so little that you have to add to what he's playing in your head to keep a good groove) set the groove so you can slide intot hat pocket and develop your ideas.
  4. Safari


    Feb 6, 2009
    Coming to bass as a guitar player (been playing bass solely now for about six months, but have always noodled for 15 years) I've found that transposing blues and jazz riffs work pretty well most of the time. And I've found what I like to think of as my own sound by borrowing from my guitar style. But trying to play the bass like a guitar is silly. String bending and such doesn't really pay off, so try "bass-ing" it up with slides instead of bends and other techniques that emulate a sound rather than directly copy it.

    Your roll is still going to be to drive the rest of the band to the destination, so try and keep the theme going as much as possible while you noodle.

    A lot depends on the other members and how good they are at comping.
  5. cowsgomoo

    cowsgomoo gone to Longstanton Spice Museum

    Feb 8, 2003
    I play guitar and bass, so i'll give my perspective

    usually when you play a guitar solo, you have the full band behind you.. when you have a bass solo, everything seems to drop out except the drums and the tiniest amount of rudimentary comping from the guitar or keys...

    so with bass, you're often needed to give more inication of the changes to stop the whole thing floating away... and you don't get the benefit of interplay with the other guys in the band to anywhere near the same extent than when you play guitar...

    on bass, you can't leave notes hanging, crying & melting into feedback... and you can't do so much in the way of string bending or vibrato to the same extent...

    yes you can do all of those things, but there'll never quite be a bass equivalent of the famous lead from Parisienne Walkways...

    on bass you generally have to keep the plates spinning a lot more consistently.. you can't usually mangle & strangle one long feeding back note for 4 bars so you have to give your line more in the way of rhythmic 'bubble', and use your ability to go between high notes to deep swooping seismic low stuff

    it is great to put some guitaristic things into bass such as the occasional big string bend, but it's a good way to hurt your fingers if you're not careful

    must go, my lift is here... interesting topic tho
  6. What would be appropriate for a guitar solo or a bass solo changes depending on the style of song you're playing. There's probably a wider spectrum of possible bass solo types than guitar solo types out there, being that the role of bass guitar in music ranges from that of the traditional bass role (like a double bass) as well as newer more guitarish roles developed since the bass guitar was adopted by musicians.

    Having said that, even within genres like "blues", there are so many styles within that broad term that an appropriate bass solo could be a walking four-to-a-bar muted fingerstyle swing solo in one type of old school jump blues tune, and a more-aggressive Entwistlish solo played with a pick in a maximum R&B-style electrified Bo Diddleyesque tune.

    No matter what genre or subgenre or hybrid genre, it all depends on what the bass's role throughout the song is... You want to play the type of solo that doesn't neglect that role, because the it will likely derail the song..

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