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Deciding to play solo bass.

Discussion in 'Ask Steve Lawson & Michael Manring' started by ironmaidenisgod, Jul 11, 2004.

  1. ironmaidenisgod


    May 20, 2004
    Hey guys,

    How did you guys decide that you wanted to be soloists and not play in a band type setting?When did the you guys realise you had the talent for solo bass?

    This is my fourth month on bass.What abilities do soloists have which differenciate them from background musicians?How do I realise whether I can be a soloist or not?

  2. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    Hi IMIG,

    The decision to be a soloist? It was just a natural extension of my experimenting with the instrument. I guess I never asked 'why', I just got on and tried as many different things on it as I could. I love the sound of the bass, and ever since I started playing it, have heard music channelled through it.

    However, It's certainly not to the exclusion of playing in a band - it fulfils a different space with my musical wish-list, exploration and development than playing in a band, but I still love the interaction with other musicians that comes from playing in a band. I'm as happy to lay down the bass parts for a singer or in a jazz quartet as I am getting up on stage playing solo.

    Specific abilities that a soloist has? I think it's about how you think about the sound of what you - playing in a band is about filling your role within a team, covering the parts of the arrangement that are assigned to your instrument. If you're playing solo, there's no such distinction, so the ballpark is wide open in terms of what you do to get the sound you want. In general, soloists are more varied in their deployment of so-called 'extended' techniques, as a way of accessing other colours, sounds, rhythms and possible not combinations, and by and large a much more highly developed facility with chordal playing is a huge advantage.

    As for whether or not you can become a soloist - anyone can. It takes a fair amount of thought and work and dedication to come up with an approach to the instrument that produces interesting music with no other players involved, but that's the same on any instrument. If you feel drawn to it, now's the time to start. The elemental skills of a musician - control and awareness, physical dexterity and variety coupled with a sense of form,function and 'musicality' - are the same whether you're hammering roots in a punk band or playing chord melody arrangements of Bartok's folk songs for solo violin. but you will have to do a lot more thinking for yourself as there's very little in the way of resources guiding you in that direction.

    Except, that is, this forum! :)

    So any further questions you have, ask away... ;)

  3. ironmaidenisgod


    May 20, 2004
    Thanks Steve.

    Caoming from a bass player of your calibre that was very inspiring. :)
  4. Michael Manring

    Michael Manring TalkBass Pro Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    My experience is very similar to Steve’s and I agree very much with his advice. I got interested in playing solo shows because I just love the sound of the bass. I love playing in bands and do so often, but once in a while it’s just great to hear unaccompanied bass so that you can really enjoy its enormous expressive range.
  5. ironmaidenisgod


    May 20, 2004
    Thanks Mike.You rock BTW.
  6. Michael Manring

    Michael Manring TalkBass Pro Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Thanks! Please let us know how things go.
  7. ironmaidenisgod


    May 20, 2004
    No problem,I'll post my recordings(attempts at solo bass) in the near future for you guys to review,if it's not a problem with you.
  8. I was wondering what your first time playing solo was like, and how the crowd regarded it. I have the opertunity maybee to play an art show, and it would be my first solo show. I was thinking if i was to play it was just to play a few Jaco songs and a stevie wodnder tune unaccompanied.
  9. Widener


    Nov 21, 2004
    Aptos, CA
    I can't imagine how nervewracking a live solo show must be. I can barely coax sounds from the instrument when I'm alone.

    Ironmaidenisgod...if you feel like playing solo bass, just go for it. It's never to early to start. Your skills will develop along with your understanding of the instrument in a larger sense and music as a whole. It's one of the best ways, without learning piano or guitar (which you should do), to understand chords and harmony, voice leading, song craft, etc. You'll probably latch on to some flashy techniques at first--that's why you hear all the young bassists in Guitar Showcase slapping up a storm--but you'll settle into something a bit more refined and mature, in my opinion (I'm a horrible slap player...I learned to Rocco Prestia fingerfunk instead when I first started, and never got around to learning slap style...which I should probably start learning after 15 years of playing...oops).
  10. Michael Manring

    Michael Manring TalkBass Pro Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    My first solo shows were a bit nerve-wracking, as Widener suggests. It took a bit of getting used to being the only one on stage after standing in the back by the drummer for so long, but eventually it began to feel more like home. I was actually pleasantly surprised at how receptive the audiences were to my first solo shows. After years of being told that no one would actually want to hear the bass played by itself, I guess I had pretty low expectations! I definitely advise you to play solo shows any time you get the chance, if you’re so inclined, FreeSpirit. We can offer advice, but there’s no substitute for actually getting out there and doing it. Have fun!
  11. Robertillo


    Mar 10, 2005
    I share the interest of ironmaidenisgod in the solo bass...my bass years are still in an infant stage, and as novice and self-learning, I feel a little lost. Glad I've found this forum!!
    I wanted to ask: how do you guys became aware that bass playing (solo or in a band) was an important part of your life? So important as to determine the course of your learnings and thoughts?
    I'm asking this because there are so many things to be interested in, and the process of discerning which one is more important is at the same time demanding, painful and necessary in the course of a given life...
    Hope that I didn't get boring :p
  12. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002
    I personally love solo bass, I spend much of my time experimenting with how I can voice what I have to say on my bass in a solo setting. However, there is still that nagging part of me that actually wants to make a living off of my music. When that little guy pops up it can be difficult to actually take something like solo bass seriously, since, let's face it, it's not exactly a big market. So, I can't say the decision to do solo bass is a financially wise one, but, if that's what speaks to you, then go for it. I'm personally always very interested to hear what people are doing with this fun little instrument of ours.

    I have only played one real solo show(with a substantial audience), and it was only half solo. I made some mistakes, and the material wasn't all that great, but I think one of the most important things I learned that night. A mistake is only a mistake in so far as the performer allows it to be a mistake.

    Kind of a tricky concept I suppose, and it's definitely a slippery slope if you try and apply it to EVERYTHING, but as far as solo performing goes, you really do have free reign over the music, and what's more, it's an intimately personal expression of who and what you are. Since I've started to get that concept, I have felt less and less anxiety about performing in general, solo or otherwise.

    Going alongside with that, I think improv is incredibly important for any form of solo performance. Yes, you'll have your 'pieces' and your songs that you know and you play and they are awesome and everyone loves them, but there is something to be said about the ability to be spontaneous, and to still come out with something that can pass as a performance. :)
  13. Michael Manring

    Michael Manring TalkBass Pro Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    I can sympathize with your dilemma, Robertillo. Making the decision about how seriously to pursue music is tough. I can tell you that when I was a kid the idea of being a professional musician was very appealing to me but I didn’t like the idea of having such an insecure lifestyle so I looked for other career avenues. Little by little though, music just took over my life and when it came time to think about college I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. Like you wrote, it’s all part of the challenging process of self-reflection. Good luck!