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Fear of soloing

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by shwan81, Oct 29, 2004.

  1. shwan81


    Feb 19, 2004
    Hi guys,
    Well, as the title suggests, I don't feel comfortable soloing. I love grooving and stuff, but I feel like soloing is not in my blood. That's not what I got into bass for. Anyways, if I sit down and play a little, I can usually put together some kind of decent solo. I'm not too concerned about improvising just yet. My big concern is that even when I get the solo down in practice, I get nervous performing it in front of people. And the adrenaline starts to rush, and that makes me lose any control of my fingers. So I can't even pull off a solo I have been working on and getting down easily in the woodshed. Is there any suggestions to help me solo well? I know some may say that I just need to do it more, but does that mean that I have to keep screwing up for the first couple times before I start to feel comfortable? I don't want to make any mistakes in my gigs, even for the sake of learning to be comfortable with soloing. Any suggestions? Anyone else experience this?
  2. Kid Charlemagne

    Kid Charlemagne

    May 29, 2002
    I have never felt the great urge to do solos either, even if an occasional break can be great fun.

    A couple of advises that comes to mind about soloing:

    In "Modern Electric Bass", Jaco stresses that the bass is a melody instrument. "Learn to play melodies!". This has helped me immensly, both in building good bass lines and playing the occasional solo. Instead of just learning the bassline of a particular song, you should also learn how to play the melody.


    In an old interview with Marcus Miller (it could have been from "Musician" magazine sometime during the 80's) I remember him saying "learn some blues guitar licks, they are great soloing tools". So true, listen to Marcus's solos, that is his basic approach (and of course a breath-taking technique and timing!).

    Of course this isn't enough if you want to learn how to play super-advanced be-bop solos, but they are some good basic guidelines.

    About your fear of screwing up: everybody does it occasionaly. Even the greats I mention above. Nothing to be embarrassed of. And it's true - keep trying, your "scew-up ratio" will drop rapidly.

    All the best
  3. nonsqtr

    nonsqtr The emperor has no clothes!

    Aug 29, 2003
    Burbank CA USA
    Bass solos can be lots of fun. A lot of people (mostly bass players) talk sh*t about how bass isn't a solo instrument, but they're the first ones to get hyper when they hear a Stanley or Victor or Jaco solo. When we're playing in club situations, I try to keep my solos "very short". For instance, we'll do the Who's "My Generation", which has a very short set of bass solos in it. The crowd goes nuts whenever they hear that stuff, especially when it sounds just like Entwhistle. And then I usually embellish the last one by doing a killer little slap ditty. People love that stuff, they really get off on it. As long as it's short, and doesn't detract from the gist of the song.

    Now, if you want to talk about "serious" solos, like a Mingus or a Stanley or Victor or Jaco, then we're in a whole different ballpark. You have to be "really good" to get someone to sit through a ten minute bass solo. People like that like to leave the show shaking their head and thinking "wow". To capture that kind of attention, you gotta have serious chops. Fast slappin' ain't gonna cut it, that stuff gets boring after about 30 seconds (or less, depending on who's doing it).

    If you're interested in developing your soloing skills, I'd suggest listening to a lot of Stanley Clarke, and a lot of Beethoven. And playing along as best you can. Seriously. Nothing will develop your solo skills faster than a little ear training. Even the radio will do, if you don't happen to have any Weather Report records nearby. And when you get out and start practicing your skills, start "short and sweet", and expand from there. You'll know it when you're losing the audience's attention, and that'll (hopefully) motivate you to make your solos more interesting. It's a skill, it takes a while to learn, but it's definitely do-able. Hang in there. :)
  4. Adam Barkley

    Adam Barkley Mayday!

    Aug 26, 2003
    Jackson, MS
    Don't turn your soloing into a pure wankfest though, make sure you have a plan on where you want to go with it.

    Switch techniques/sound often, I wouldn't mind listening a little well-conceived slap but if you are on stage slapping constantly it will get old. Try double tapping, harmonics (natural, tapped, and pinched) chords, throw in famous riffs.

    One idea for a Solo

    1. Play the intro to Marcus Miller's Power a few times
    2. Some two-handed tapping, either an original or something famous (Moonlight Sonata, Linus and Lucy)
    3. Throw in a groove with the drummer and just get down by adding fills to every bar. Only do that if you can be original without be wanky
    4. Do the riff from The Awakening
    5. The solo from Damn Blue Collared Tweekers
    6. The groove from Metallica's Orion
    7. End with an original idea that is high energy; it's actually good if you can fade with last part into the next song the band is playing.
  5. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    "even when I get the solo down in practice, I get nervous performing it in front of people"

    Mistake #1: working out solos in advance.

    I don't solo much and it's usually a surprise when the leader points at me to solo (like when the guitarist busts a string :D) so I am ALWAYS winging it. That actually helps, because when you have everything worked out every time you make a mistake it screws up your flow.
  6. Kid Charlemagne

    Kid Charlemagne

    May 29, 2002
    The technique itself doesn't make ANY solo interesting.
    This only works as a showcase of your abilities. It will always get boring.
  7. RicPlaya


    Apr 22, 2003
    Whitmoretucky MI
    It sounds like you can compose solos but it's a fear factor in playing by yourself. Maybe have a little hi hat going during your solo, or some cymbal washes or a very simple drum beat like a drum and bass solo. That way you won't be just by yourself and you can ease into playing in front of people with no other instruments playing.
  8. Passinwind

    Passinwind I Know Nothing Supporting Member Commercial User

    Dec 3, 2003
    Columbia River Gorge, WA.
    Owner/Designer &Toaster Tech Passinwind Electronics
    I like this advice. I often play in a jazz setting where I solo at least 10-15 times a night. I never can be sure which tunes I'm going to have to solo on either, anything's fair game. During practice, the leader frequently asks me "want to try a solo on this?", about ten seconds before I have to decide, since the next chorus is just about to come around. I try to avoid saying no very often, unless I'm feeling physically worn out or something.

    Anyhow, if I'm feeling a little unsure of myself, I tend to deliberately start on a "wrong" note, then somehow make it fit into the solo. Lots of blues guys do this too. You mentioned that improv isn't important to you at this time. To me, improv is the heart of a good bass solo. It's good to have stock parts worked up though, just in case. Did you know that "Smoke On The Water" fits into Ellington tunes just fine? :cool:

    A final thought: consider going to a few open mikes, and play a short set with just you and a drummer. Once I got comfortable doing that, soloing in a band was cake. IOW, make your mistakes outside of the gigs you're really concerned about.
  9. Brian S

    Brian S

    Nov 11, 2003
    Atlanta, Georgia
    I've found that practicing the scale modes (Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, etc.) in all keys has helped me play solos over the various chords in the tune. I've also learned some Charlie Parker melodies on the bass (Billie's Bounce, Donna Lee, Ornithology...) and this has really helped me with some licks and ideas. Listen to other instruments besides the bass. You can learn phrasing from horn players, because they have to stop to breath, forcing phrasing.

    And when it comes time to solo, relax. Just think that the worst that can happen is you hit some wrong notes. Compared to the world ending, wrong notes are nothing! :)
  10. Hey! and remember, (this isn't the best way to go about it but when your just starting to improvise solo's) that you can 'damage controll' any buff note you play. When I started solo'ing many's the time I accidently played a wrong note at some point, but if you make a mistake once, you can make it AGAIN on purpose an it will sound like you MEANT TO DO IT! I know, I know, I don't do it anymore but it DOES work in a non-critical setting, and if someone mentions anything afterwards, just say 'oh yeah, I thought I'd play off the b9th in phyrigian and base the solo around a dominant with a flat 5th idea using the 7th as a marking point for my 13th based noodlings...'

    I bet i've just made a load of enemies... :)
  11. Brian S

    Brian S

    Nov 11, 2003
    Atlanta, Georgia
    No you haven't! I've done the same thing. But like Miles Davis said, there are no wrong notes, you just have to know how to resolve them. (Not an exact quote, my bass teacher told me this). :eyebrow:

    Now if I can just learn how to resolve them... :meh:
  12. Cool! And thats a great quote. It's true, at a 'just starting to solo' stage you can just PLAY the bum note, and then resolve to something you know works, Ie something easy like the fith or fourth, and nine times out of ten it will work. It won't sound AMAZING but it will work for sure!

    thank you, Brian S :) !
  13. To play a prepared piece live, your ability to play it has to be well beyond the ability required merely to play it in your bedroom. Practice it until you have it stone cold, faster than the tempo you intend to play it.
    Learning theory will help, because instead of a bunch of notes, one after the other, you start to only need to remember things in bunches. YOu have one thought, and it triggers many notes to be played.

    In general though, you have to just do it. Nothing too bad happens if you make a mistake. The vast majority of "mistakes," nobody notices. You need to make mistakes to learn how to recover from mistakes, which is practically the biggest skill in music.
  14. Brian S

    Brian S

    Nov 11, 2003
    Atlanta, Georgia
    You're quite welcome, Charling :) !
  15. shwan81


    Feb 19, 2004
    Thank you everyone for your inputs, all of them make good sense. I eventually want to be able to work my way up to improvising on the spot, but I'm not there yet. When I try to, it ends up sounding like the same thing after the first bar or two. I just want to be able to execute the decent solos I make. I like the idea of going to open mike and playing with a drummer. Like c-ba55 suggested, I have to get it down cold. And I guess putting it in perspective of the world coming to and end, botching a solo is not too bad :D well, to anyone who has more to say on this subject, please let me know! Thanks guys.
  16. Jazzin'

    Jazzin' ...Bluesin' and Funkin'

    I love soloing, I wish I had a solo in every song! :hyper: but thats never gonna happen. :crying:
  17. Sonorous


    Oct 1, 2003
    Denton, TX

    I find it much easier to thrill an audience with some killer fills and not a long solo.

    However, when I (me personally) improvise a solo... it usually isn't a solo. It's more or a jam band type thing were I make up something that fits with the song and groove with it for a while and then return to the actual song.
  18. jeff schmidt

    jeff schmidt no longer red carded, but my butt is still sore.

    Aug 27, 2004
    Novato, CA
    In case of emergency - break glass - slap. ;)
  19. bmc


    Nov 15, 2003
    Interesting topic because up until a year ago, I stayed away from soloing.

    While I freelance, my main gig is with a guitarist and a drummer doing covers. The drummer does 2-3 solos a night. They now EXPECT me to do the same and just throw them at a moments notice. Nothing pre-arranged.

    Some good advice on how to construct them, on this thread. Thanks guys.