Gees, Bass have got to be the hardest instrument to improvise!

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by kiwlm, May 23, 2004.

  1. Just yesterday, during my band's jam session, we were trying to improvise on the middle part of the song "Cissy Strut", this is the first time where both me (bass) and the guitarist attempts to improvise together, attempting to copy's Jaco's work in Live in NYC on the same song.

    There were occasions where I played some other patterns, and the drummer got a bit lost, attempted to follow my bass, and the guitarist got completely lost. That's just like 20 seconds into the solo part!

    For guitarist improvisation, he can just play-stop-think-play-stop-think, since most of the molodies have rest bars, and it won't sound weird, but for the bass, once I stop playing (trying to get more ideas), everyone seemed to be lost!

    So many times I read newbies ( I was one of them ) coming up to TB saying Bass is easy or Bass is boring, and all the while, I was trying to convince myself Bass is not easy and bass is not boring. But yesterday, after that session, it really hits me why the pros have mentioned that Bass is one of the hardest instrument to master!
  2. ironmaidenisgod


    May 20, 2004
    Listen I've been playing bass only for a month,so I'm no pro.But I find it easier to improvise on it than on guitars which I've played for nearly two years.

    Ours is an original band.We play mostly on pentatonic and diminished scales(A or E).If you play on the same scale as the guitarist,not necessarily doubling him,the craziest bassline still sounds good.
  3. ZZMorgan


    Sep 6, 2002
    Los Angeles
    Here's a tip, if you like:

    I believe it was Keith Richards who said that changing bass players is like changing your engine room (it's in the sig. block of one of the TB'ers). He was right. You are laying the foundation of the piece. When you stop. It all goes away unless somebody picks up the slack.

    For you to have the freedom to improvise (and by all means you should be able to take your time and say what you have to say) somebody else has to lay down the groove without getting in your way.

    Talk it over with your bandmates. Maybe the guitar player can lay down a simple riff that keeps the tune going so your drummer doesn't get lost. A good keyboardist usualy does this, if you have one.

    Good luck.

  4. ironmaidenisgod


    May 20, 2004
    Good advice,ZZ.
  5. Coutts_is_god

    Coutts_is_god Guest

    Dec 29, 2003
    Windsor, Ont, Canada
    Maybe you're not good at bass.
  6. wulf


    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    Yep - that's pretty much it. In many forms of popular music, the soloist gets to play over the other instruments as they keep the song motoring along. If you're laying down the foundation, things can sound weak when you start ripping it up - not to mention that it can be hard to put on the 'icing' when you've spent most of the evening ensuring that the 'cake' is tasty!

    I don't know the song in question but, as a general rule, a approaches that tend to work well include:

    - keep the bassline going but with lots of variations and fills
    - imply the bassline (playing parts of it but leaving gaps to add different musical ideas)
    - treat the solo like the bridge... a piece of music that works as a self accompanied bass solo but which stands in contrast to the changes of the rest of the song.

  7. ironmaidenisgod


    May 20, 2004
    You guys might think I'm crazy,but this might be a good comment.I faced the same problem on guitar and hence I switched to bass.
  8. Yup, that's the MAIN reason, and I mean it. But my main point here is about improvising, and not getting in the way of the soloist. I think (might be wrong though) that to solo when everyone else is accompanying you, would be not so hard compared to, to improvise together with the soloist, and not get in the way of the soloist.

    I refer to Jaco's work in improvising Cissy Strut in Live in NYC, and also The Chicken.

    I don't think you are crazy at all. Bass is easier if we play the same thing over and over again.
  9. ironmaidenisgod


    May 20, 2004
    Yeah,riffers play bass.We provide the platform.We rule.
  10. Matthew Bryson

    Matthew Bryson Guest

    Jul 30, 2001
    I don't think that type of comment is very helpful. Good is relative. We're all striving to improve. Whether the poster is or isn't "good" is irrelevant to the questions asked.
  11. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    ...that's why EVERYONE involved needs to be 'time conscious' & aware.
    Everyone needs to be responsible enough to know 'where' they are.

    I've had the rug pulled out from me enough to know how hard it hurts when you land.
  12. Coutts_is_god

    Coutts_is_god Guest

    Dec 29, 2003
    Windsor, Ont, Canada
    I don't know sometimes people have problems and get vary stressed out when the answer is simple.

    I didn't mean to insult you.
  13. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    It's amazing to me how many players are dependent on the bass in order to play THEIR part. There's really no reason they should get lost if the bass drops out.

    As far as improvising the bass line underneath them, as long as you still provide a few references to the basic rhythm and harmony it should work fine. I improvise my lines all the time, especially during someone else's solo.

    Cissy Strut is so basic, it's easy (and fun) to improvise on.