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bass soloing...no BS 101

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Jiles, Jan 4, 2002.

  1. Jiles

    Jiles Banned

    Nov 28, 2001
    I know the scales. I know the modes. What are the guidelines for laying down a solo? Practical, nuts and bolt suggestions needed!!!!
  2. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
    Have the melody going on in your head and a firm connection to the pulse of the tune.
  3. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    Hi Jiles,

    what are you going to use those scales and modes for? why did you learn them? (that's not to say that you shouldn't have, I'm just interested in why you learnt them) - how to you approach playing a bass line? fill us in with a bit more info about you, and maybe we can start to answer in a way that makes sense to you...


  4. Jiles

    Jiles Banned

    Nov 28, 2001
    I learned modes for this reason. Say my band is playing in the key of C major and from there they go to G and then to A. Modes tell me that the G will be a G7 and that the A will be an A minor. Without knowledge of modes I wouldn't know which chord and sub-scale (mode) to play over which part of the song. I mean, without modal knowledge I may just start playing the bassline in A major, ya know? So that's why I learned modes.

    But, it seems as though when I try to solo, it comes out as being nothing more than a walk throgh the scale/mode. My basslines in my current band (rock-a-billy, blues) require alot of walking and such, and I can handle those with no problems.

    But I don't want my soloing to sound like walking basslines. I just want to learn how to play a good rocking or blues bass solo.

    Hope that info was helpful. If not I can give ya more.
  5. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    That's great, clears up a lot...

    ...start by listening to some melodies that you really like - what is it that sets them apart? work out some fragments of stuff - what chord tones are they using, where do they start? how much repeated material is there in the phrase?

    the temptation with a lot of solos is to play stuff that 'looks' good or sounds good on paper, rather than to find out what it is that you like hearing. try singing some phrases and working out what it is that you're singing - look at the harmony that you're outlining, try moving it over different chords, adjusting the notes to fit with the position in the key that you're in.

    then mash things up rhythmically - try playing phrases in groups of 5 and 7 - you'll struggle to do it in time, and it'll get you away from playing everything on the beat. leave plenty of gaps...

    the best thing you can do for now is work on some melody lines - listen to melodies that really work for you - what is it about them that makes them work? soloing shouldn't really be about showing off your chops (unless you're in a hair metal band...), it's more about improvising a new tune - that can be fast or slow, or whatever... just make it hummable...

    hope some of that helps.

    sounds to me like you don't need to know more theory, you just need to really get inside what you already know and internalise it, making the connection between your hands and your ears...

    have fun

  6. Jiles

    Jiles Banned

    Nov 28, 2001
    Good advice Steve. I appreciate your time and knowledge to help me out.
    But as far as the nuts and bolts go....do I need to start around the 12th fret or above or below or where?
  7. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    You're completely missing the point.

    The solo starts in your HEAD. If you just think about the mechanics, like "start on the 12th fret" or "start with the 3rd" or even "play 16th notes" you're screwed already. That's the sort of thinking that gives chopmeister wankfests a bad reputation.

    A solo should have good melodic and rhythmic content. If it's harmonically hip too, great.

    Try this: put your bass down and SING a solo. Tape your singing. Learn to play what you just sang. Repeat.
  8. JazznFunk


    Mar 26, 2000
    Asheville, NC
    Lakland Basses Artist
    Soloing is all about using the vocabulary that it sounds like you already have, and listening to people other than bass players. I have always wanted my solos to sound as if they were being played by a horn player or jazz guitarist. My biggest improvement in soloing came when I began really listening intently to my favorite reedmen and jazz guitarists.... My goal is to be able to move around on the fingerboard on bass (electric and upright) like Pat Metheny does on guitar. His fluidity is second to none, and has influenced my bass playing like few others.

    My advice, for what it's worth, is to take a tune (Autumn Leaves is nice to start out with), and learn how the original melody works with the chords. Then, begin improvising new melodies over top of those original chords, with the original melody in mind. To start off, think of ways to embellish the original melody rhythmically, then try harmonic substitutions. For instance, when on the Cmin7 chord, try playing something in Eb major (a sub 3 implication), and see how you like that. The key is that you, at this stage anyway, need to resolve whatever you play logically to the next chord. NOT resolving things can lead to a lot of tension, which is great, but unreleased tension makes you sound as if you don't know where your solo is going.

    So, as suggested before, try hearing melodies in your head and play that, and to get you started, hopefully some of the suggestions I gave above will help.

    Have fun!
  9. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    A lot of great advice here. I might also recommend to check out Jamey Aebersold's, [/b]"How to Play Jazz and Improvise - Volume I."

    It's a $16 (USD) book that has an accompanying CD. Part of the reason I like it is because not only do you have play-alongs, but Jamey gives a ton of advice on improvising, along with specific examples. I use this book often for a warm-up and find it really gives me a lot of ideas. Excellent book.
  10. For what it's worth, I totally agree with the "Solo Starts in Your Head" theory. Keeping in mind that many of the ideas for those melodies you hear in your head come from somewhere (out of your head), I too think it's important to immerse yourself in all types of 'melodic' music. In my case, I enjoy listening to horn players - especially trombone and sax. Lately, I have been listening to a lot of trumpet music as well. Whatever you choose to listen to, I strongly feel that you need a 'head full of music' in order to be able to solo 'convincingly'.
  11. Murf


    Mar 28, 2001
    From personal experience I found myself in the same boat ie I learnt the theory (scales/modes etc) backwards and yet all my attempts at soloing ended up sounding like scale patterns...not terribly musical until I picked up a book by Ed Friedland called Bass improvisation where I read about something which many players tend to miss when talking about soloing and that is..PHRASING, for instance most good brass players have impeccable phrasing (they have to take breaths while playing so they tend to approach solos as phrases or chunks of dialogue/ideas in such a way as to allow them to breathe while still keeping it interesting), its something I did unconsciously when I was a trumpet player only it never occured to me to apply the same approach to my bass playing/soloing until I saw it spelled out for me and man what a difference it makes.

    Essentially think of the solo as a conversation now, when your having a conversation you dont go..<deep breath>taaaaaallllllllllllllllllllllkkkkkkkkkkkkk, you leave space/pauses, you take breaths you emphasise key points and you react to who your talking to and the topic of your conversation, this is phrasing.

    Another idea is that of "forward motion" which is essentially a neat little technique which will give your solos a starting and ending point and also will give your solos a nice flow/movement, basically when starting your solo start "off the beat" eg say in 4/4 instead of starting on the 1 of the beat start on the "and"...1,2,3,4 AND..solo... its the same as taking a breath before you speak and it gives your solos the feeling of actually going somewhere rather than sitting on top of the chords.

    Hope this makes sense (my writing skills have gone down the pan lately for some reason...stupid TV)
  12. beermonkey


    Sep 26, 2001
    Seattle, WA
    When soloing on an instrument that is not a wind instrument... ie- bass, piano, guitar, jews harp... whatever, leave room to 'breathe' like you would if you were playing a wind instrument. While it's possible to just keep playing constantly and never stop, a lot of times it's much more tasty to play ideas that are shorter. Space is a beautiful thing man. Listen to Miles Davis' cool era solos. He'd let 7 bars go by before he'd play a thing, then usually it was just one or two notes.
  13. One thing I have been trying to do a lot lately is learning how to play the vocal parts of songs on my bass. I play in my local church and what I do is after rehersal I go home and figure out the melody (the vocal parts) of the song and then try to create a bass lines that combines some elements of the melody with a firm foundation on the root of the chords. Hope that makes sense. I think I may have just repeated some of what Steve Lawson said but I wanted to give you an example of how I'm trying to put some of that into practice.

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