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beginner solo bassist

Discussion in 'Ask Steve Lawson & Michael Manring' started by thayer182, Nov 11, 2000.


  1. thayer182

    thayer182

    Oct 1, 2000
    what does it take to be a solo bassist? does that mean just writing music on a bass that would keep an audience interested? I was just wondering, cause I can't seem to find a band, yet I can write some pretty decent music. I'm just lookin for some advice.
     
  2. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    What a great question!!

    Firstly, set aside any preconceived ideas you have about the 'role' of any instrument. All you're doing is making noises and hopefully you'll make cool ones that people want to listen to - it doesn't matter if it's with the spoons or by playing bass with your teeth, it's all just sound...

    Start with some simple melody ideas - just try writing tunes, then finding the best sound you can to play the tune with. Even the best ideas can fall flat if your sound isn't right, so work on getting an EQ that feels really comfortable to you. Reverb can help too if you've got an effects unit.

    The next thing to try is stringing a few simple chord ideas together - get two nice chord shapes and work between them, picking out the notes in different ways, strumming, slapping, tapping - whatever, but just looking for sounds that work. Don't worry about being fast or tricky - that's all show. The bottom line is being 'musical', whatever that means. try to think of a movie scene, and how you would represent that on bass - put the video in and turn the sound down and try to soundtrack it, you may find some cool sounds that you wouldn't have thought of without the film...

    but it's really important to start simple. As you progress, theory, technique etc etc become important, but just to get a feel for the idea, concentrate on melody and sound - if you get a really cool sound, two notes will sound great, you won't need to slap and tap at a million miles an hour.

    Find single chords that inspire you, that conjure up an image. Think music not bass and you won't go far wrong...

    good luck, and let me know when you've got some ideas recorded - and let me know if you've got any more questions...

    Have a listen to Blue Sticks on my website - it's a simple 1 - 6 - 2 - 5 progression with a simple tune...

    cheers

    Steve
    http://www.steve-lawson.co.uk
     
  3. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    can I add a little to my last post?

    A couple of recommendations for anyone starting solo bass - check out Michael Dimin's Book 'The Chordal Approach', available from http://www.michaeldimin.com - a great introduction to using chords on a bass, particularly in a 'jazz' context, but with applications across the board.

    And also Michael Manring's first tuition video - very little of it is about clever techniques, but his philosophical perspective is worth 10 videos full of chops building exercises... Also worth double the price on the tape is The Artists Profile video on Michael - a fascinating insight into what he does, with some great concert footage...

    Steve
    http://www.steve-lawson.co.uk
     
  4. stephanie

    stephanie

    Nov 14, 2000
    Scranton, PA
    Thanks Steve for that advice!


    I, too, am a beginner bassist. There just seems to be nobody out there to practice with,let alone join a band. And time and time again my instructor keeps telling me I need to find someone to practice with. If that never works out I guess I'm going solo. It's nice knowing that I have a chance at actually doing it all solo. But doesn't that mean more responsibility? Aren't you also doing both the bass's job and a guitar?


    Thanks again for the advice,

    ~Stephanie
     
  5. Mike Dimin

    Mike Dimin

    Dec 11, 1999
    Clinician: EA, Zon, Boomerang, TI. Author "The Art of Solo Bass"
    If I may add my two cents worth. Playing solo bass can range from original music to arrangements of others works for the solo bass. Since we have already concluded that whatever you produce must be musical, I think we can, to be a bit more specific, define the aspects of solo bass.

    First there has to be a strong melody. Being able to quote the melody while also playing both harmony and rhythm is tricky. Michael Manring is a master at doing this. Playing or intimating the harmony is next. I say that "you can intimate the harmony", as you need not play all the notes of a particular chord. Sometimes just the root & third, third & seventh, root & five or just the root can work. Your ears have the tremendous ability to fill in harmony that is not actually played, based on the things we have heard our entire lifetime. Finally, you need to play all this with a rhythmic feel that works for a particular tune.

    You can also use cool effects like the Boomerang Phrase Sampler or a lexicon jamman to set up a groove for you. If you would like some examples of my work, check out my online lessons page at http://www.michaeldimin.com or http://www.bassically.net.
    Additionally, I have a primer right here on the talkbass home page.

    I would like to thank Steve for his endorsement of my book. I wholeheartidly think anyone interested in solo bass should also get 'Nothing but the Bass" - Steve lawson's solo bass CD (recorded live, may I add)


    Mike
    http://www.michaeldimin.com
     
  6. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    Hi Stephanie,

    I think it's unhelpful for you to think in terms of 'roles' with regard to guitar and bass, as it will probably make the whole process seem like it requires monster chops to get anywhere close to that. What Michael Dimin says is very true with regards to performing melody based music, but there is a whole world of music that is more textural, ambient or just chordal, where the melody is implied in the movement of the chords. When you're exploring sounds and options, try to be aware of your preconceived ideas about what a piece of music has to have to work, and then try removing them and making each section complete in and of itself. For example, if you've come up with two chords that sound cool together, what would you need to do in terms of technique and sound to make those two chords work for 2 minutes without a tune? Instead of thinking chops, try working on the completeness of the sound, making each chord go somewhere. Don't just strum it, or pluck it, think about how to strum it to get the sound you want.

    Many players see solo bass as being at the end of a long road of tedchnique and theory learning. If you look at beginning acoustic guitarists, they are learning solo pieces straight away - there's no reason why you shouldn't start with simple ideas on bass. Experiment, allow yourself to make mistakes, have fun and find other bassists to swap ideas with. Sign up for the solo bass network mailing list, and post any questions or discoveries here for others to learn from.

    cheers

    Steve
    http://www.steve-lawson.co.uk
     
  7. Mike Dimin

    Mike Dimin

    Dec 11, 1999
    Clinician: EA, Zon, Boomerang, TI. Author "The Art of Solo Bass"
    I must apologize. My answer definitley came from a style that I am most familiar with, combining meoldy, harmony and rhythm. But Steve is right on target, when he says there is a whole world of music that is more textural, ambient or just chordal, where the melody is implied in the movement of the chords. We should not set any limitations and I should know better. In fact I've been developing a piece that is just that more textural, more concerned with the emotion than either the melody or technique. 100 lashes with a wet noodle for me.

    Mike Dimin
     
  8. stephanie

    stephanie

    Nov 14, 2000
    Scranton, PA
    I came across an amazing feeling tonite while practicing. Actually not practicing, more like 'fooling' around with the bass. I can't explain it, but it made me both feel and understand that if necessary, I can indeed make it as a solo bassist.


    I understand the above post about not putting a label on things. And I see why now. Thanks. :)


    I was playing some chords tonite and they sounded beautiful and I was trying to do weird stuff with scales (The Harmonic Minor and Classic Melodic Melodic Minor) that my instructor has been teaching me. Exploring I guess you can say.


    Although I would really love to play in the band, (I know I enjoy trying to 'cop' other bands' basslines) and have what goes along with that (like collaboration, friendships, traveling, ya know that whole 'rock n roll' dream LOL) I do realize solo bass is definately an option.


    Well, I don't know if this post made any sense to anyone, but I just wanted to share my little happiness for the day. Maybe it will give encouragement to any other beginner bassists who may be in the same boat as me.


    Keep rockin,


    ~Stephanie


    [Edited by stephanie on 11-21-2000 at 12:23 AM]
     
  9. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    That's great! Sounds like you've found a really natural snthesis of technical knowledge (the scales) and more 'out there' experimentation - it's just as it should be, and is definitely the right direction. I'm really pleased for you! :oops:)

    I think we're all in the same boat - all the solo bassists I know still love playing in bands - if you get the chance to hear Michael Manring with Sadhappy, jump at it, they're amazing. I love working with singer-songwriters, improv projects, or straight ahead pop/rock bands with great tunes. There's no need to go for one or the other. It's a different feeling, a different environment in which to play and a new expressive path to play solo.


    Well, I've been playing solo for years, and I'm encouraged by what you said! :oops:)

    cheers

    Steve
    http://www.steve-lawson.co.uk