Fear of playing high when soloing

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Peter McFerrin, Feb 18, 2002.

  1. My jazz teacher has been getting me on soloing for the past few sessions. Today, I almost made it through a chorus of "Take the A Train" without too many clams, but I'm still very uncomfortable doing it.

    One of the things that really freaks me out is that my teacher wants me to spend a lot of time in the upper register, because the notes come out more cleanly up there. I realize that everything's the same past the twelfth fret, but it just doesn't feel right; compound this with the fact that I've always been of the opinion that the "money notes" are below the 12th fret, and you'll begin to understand this particular problem.

    Jazzers, how did you get around this problem? I'm really having a difficult time learning to solo in the first place--all the more irritating because I have a really extensive scalar vocabulary for a guy who's mainly played rock since he's started--and this is practically driving me to tears.
  2. john turner

    john turner You don't want to do that. Trust me. Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    well, if you think of yourself as a bass player, you might have a hard time conceptualizing a solo - after all, not much in the way of "foundation" in a solo.

    if you think of yourself as a musician who just happens to play bass, then all the notes seem the same.

    i know it seems like a trite answer, but it seems that your issue is mainly one of perspective, imo. change your perspective and the issue won't be one anymore.

    some of the mechanics of the bass may also be getting in the way of your enjoying the higher registers - are your strings all properly intonated? up above the 12th fret is were slight deviations in intonation begin to show up more prominently.

    do you have an extra bass? if so, set it up with lighter gauge strings than you are used to. the higher register notes won't sound so round and fat on lighter strings - they'll have more of the tonal characteristics your used to. perhaps the fat, round tone of the higher notes is putting you off.

    also, you could be suffering from deep rooted repression from guitarists and other non-bassists (and even some other bassists) who feel that "the only good bass line is felt and not heard" - the cult of "root on one, four-on-the-floor, simple solid" bass lines sometimes needs some pretty advanced psychological methods for deprogramming :D

    lastly, there's nothing wrong with a bass-range solo.
  3. Hmm--that's definitely a different way to go about it.

    To answer that question, I've always thought of myself as a contrapuntalist; my mother always had Bach and Rachmaninov going when I was little, so it kinda forced its way into my head. My adolescent Rush phase reawakened that part of my brain and got me into playing bass in the first place :D

    That's an idea, although I can barely stand to play my old Dean 5 these days, since the neck is so thin.

    I don't think the tone is really an issue. My FBB's got amazing clarity in the upper register, thanks to the bubinga fretboard and my preferred Fodera strings.

    Check my profile, man--no deprogramming will be necessary. I hate to deal with "musicians" who think like that anyway.

    Oh, certainly not. I'm just being encouraged to play high so I don't have to make as many position shifts.
  4. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    I started a Jazz course a few years ago - on Saturdays at the local University, but I always found no problem with soloing in the higher register - in fact some of the other musicians complained (jokingly!) that I had too many note choices compared with them - I started on the course with a 24 fret Yamaha TRB6P!

    Of course I had loads of problems when I started the course, but what I have always done,where I have struggled with a tune, is to programme it into my Microcomposer - just put in piano chords and a drum/metronome track and play along with that. So I just loop the chord sequence forever and keep playing solos over it - finding as many tunes/riffs, nice transitions etc as I can. (You can also do this with things like the Aebersold play-along CDs)

    I think there is a sort of mental block about the 12th fret that is to do with seeing chords/scales as "patterns" on the fingerboard - the way to break this barrier is to stop playing the patterns you are familiar with. So the classic exercise is to play solos just on one string and to go all the way up and down that string. Then when you are happy that you can play a satisfying solo just on that string , you go on to the next one - etc.

    The other problem I have found in Jazz is that you play dozens and dozens of choruses where you as bass player are keeping the rhythm going an everything swinging - then it's your turn to solo and everything stops - all momentum is lost and you have to say something that not only outlines the changes but keeps the piece going - all those great ideas you practised are out of the window as you have to keep the thing going at all costs! ;) This "effect" is much more pronounced if you decide to start in the higher register as all the bottom end is suddenly absent!

    I think the only answer there is to have a word with the piano player and drummer and say something like - let's have more support - don't worry, I can go as loud as necessary - you won't drown me out! :D
  5. I know what you mean. I leap around plenty--if anything, one of my tripups right now is that I've always had a very angular playing style, which already gives my solos an "outside" flavor that's really not what I should be doing at this early in my development.

    That makes a lot of sense.
  6. eli

    eli Mad showoff 7-stringer and Wish lover

    Dec 12, 1999
    NW suburban Chicago
    When I feel myself running out of ideas soloing, one of my favorite devices is to pretend I'm playing some other instrument, like a saxophone or a trumpet. Listen to some guitar players. Listen to a trombone solo (especially cool for fretless). Of course, when I say "listen", I mean try to get inside the soloist's head. What was he trying to say? How did he construct the solo, both on a micro and a macro level? I agree these are new areas for someone who has played the support role for so long, but that's precisely why I find it so much fun.

    It certainly sounds like musicianship is not your difficulty -- it seems like more one of attitude, specifically self-confidence. Being the shameless showoff I am (why ELSE would a bassist buy a 7-string?!?), I guess I've never had the problem of not wanting to be in the spotlight. The soloist's JOB is to take control of the thing and make it sound like HE wants it to. C'mon -- there must be SOMETHING you want to communicate! Let it out -- and play it like you MEAN it!
  7. Intrepid


    Oct 15, 2001
    Just remind yourself that it sounds good....I don't like upper register too and I'm a jazz guy...buddies are always like, bass solo, bass solo and I really hate bass solos...I do um anyways, but never felt like the bass was meant to solo...I hate drums solos too, I'm a piano player and celloist, so I do believe I am a musician that happens to play bass, so I don't know...just keep playing up there and listen to music that has bass players playing in the upper register...it will begin to grow on you. Also maybe you should start small....offer to play something like Freddie Freeloader, which in the head, has like a miniture one measure bass solo in it...very fun song...also trading 2s with somebody is a good way to start out...thats especially fun with drummers, don't know why...especially since I hate both drum solos and bass solos...I guess I like them when they are short...

    Oh yeah have fun with your solos...do goofy stuff....my guitarist always sticks Inspector Gadget in a solo and I always stick either Higher Ground or Come Together in a bass solo...
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