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Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Classical_Thump, Jun 21, 2005.

  1. Classical_Thump


    Jan 26, 2005
    Lately I have been paying a lot of attention to the solos of players like Matt Garrison, Oteil Burbridge, Dominique Di Piazza, Vic Wooten, etc, and I can't help but notice how different their solos sound from my own. Their solos and improv are so melodic and jazzy they sound just like jazz piano or trumpet solos rather than the usual "bass solo" sound. So I was wondering how to make your solos more melodic and really "jazzy" like these guys. I have somewhat begun by getting/transcribing some piano and sax lines to help practice my over all sense of melody and soloing, but is very hard work, so if you guys have any tips, please lay em on me. Thanks a lot
  2. Yes, this is probably the biggest issue on my mind as well. I don't think I have any large amounts of comprehensive advise for this at the moment. What I do know is that what makes things jazzy and melodic in my opinion is playing something that feels purposely off key. The key is purposely. I think you could have come to that conclusion anyway, but it doesn't really help much. You have to know in what way to purposely change the key and I would need some examples.
  3. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I have a tip...keep doing what you're doing with studying transcribed and recorded solos from other instruments, then take what you've learned from them and incorporate them into your own playing. It's a lengthy process, but if it was easy, everyone would do it.

    Daniel, you are partially right. But you have to be able to go off key in a way that totally relates to the key. It's not enough to just go out of key. When you go off, you have to know how to yank yourself right back into it and make it sound like music.
  4. Classical_Thump


    Jan 26, 2005
    Yes, all of these concepts are what I am working on now, and hopefully they will eventually pay off. Plus I am about to start transcribing some coltrane solos so that should keep me busy for quite some time
  5. dont worry so much about what your playing, just stop with the bass for a minute. listen to the backing behind your solo, and hum something. just sing a melody, pretend your using a sax or piano or whatever you want. when you get a good melody stuck in your head that fits, play it on your bass. then you can start your solo with that as your main idea, and embellish it a bit, do some runs and change things around, then when your getting to the end of your solo section, fall back to the original idea. itll make a very clear statement, and people will get it stuck in their heads. youll also have a bit to show off your chops a little bit in the middle. once you get good at it, you dont even have to work at it, you can just play along as your humming once you know your bass well enough. good luck, God bless.
  6. WillBuckingham


    Mar 30, 2005
    When I learn a tune, I always get the melody under my fingers. When a bass solo comes around, I structure my solo around the melody, and referencing it. This helps me play much more melodically than I did when I all I had were bass lines going through my head all the time.
  7. thewanderer24


    Apr 29, 2002
    SJ, CA
    I'm gonna answer this from a totally different angle. You're already trying to transcribe different stuff. That will help a lot.

    Now, practice tapping out solos rhythmically WITHOUT YOUR BASS. Practice this. It sounds ridiculous, maybe, but it will help a lot with your phrasing. It will teach you to start with a simple idea and build a story out of it. If you can make it rhythmically interesting, the specific notes will be a lot less important in a solo. Keep in mind, a GOOD solo is not about showing off chops, it's about telling a story. Listen to any good soloist, and the rhythm will tell a story even if you play it all as one note.

    Another thing about transcribing. Getting the notes and rhythm down is only the beginning of learning a solo. If you want to play a sax solo, make your bass sound as much like a sax as you can. Figure out how to get all the sounds, feels, slurs, slides, noises, etc. that the sax does. This will again help your phrasing and your feel tremendously.

    There is no quick way to learn any of this stuff. You'll spend your whole life doing it and still have tons to learn.

    The note choices , IME, are the least important part of most solos.
  8. thewanderer24


    Apr 29, 2002
    SJ, CA
    I stand by that statement. If you can make the rhythm tell a story, you can put random notes there and it will still sound good. Of course the notes matter, but the rhythm is more important. PERIOD.
  9. Bassist4Life


    Dec 17, 2004
    Buffalo, NY
    If you have the time, and you're really serious about better improv/soloing, check this thread out:


    Prior to this thread, my solos sounded really "blah". Mike gave me some great advice in this thread. It's worth checking out. I spent several weeks on this tune. I learned the bassline, the chords, the melody, and how to solo over it. I even composed a little introduction and ending for my recording.

    I was serious about playing better and I thought that recording my playing would keep me "on task". Here is the recording that resulted from this thread:


    Right click and select, "save target as...". The file is about 3.5MB. Let me know what you think.

  10. thewanderer24


    Apr 29, 2002
    SJ, CA
    rhythmic vocabulary is every bit as important as melodic or harmonic vocabulary. Listen to ANY good solo - in any genre, and tell me the rhythmic part of it isn't damned good. I don't care if you're talking Red Mitchell, Miles Davis, Jaco, or the guitar hero guy in your local bar band.

    If you place the rhythmic content anywhere but number one on your checklist, I probably will find your solos (and playing in general) not to my liking.

    Again, I'm not saying you shouldn't care about the notes. I'm saying it STARTS from the rhythm.
  11. Sorry, I think this is obviously untrue. As but one example, you can find plenty of examples of music where the rhythmic variation is minor or nearly nonexistent--I'm thinking, for example, of a Bach prelude that is almost totally in 16th notes from measure 3 to the 3rd measure from the end--yet is still great music. I would have a harder time thinking of a great solo on a pitched instrument that is melodically and harmonically humdrum yet elevated to greatness by rhythmic invention alone. Certainly I can't think offhand of any Parker solos that are like that.

    This isn't to say that rhythm isn't vital. Just that it's not #1.
  12. thewanderer24


    Apr 29, 2002
    SJ, CA
    fair enough. Let's just say I am obsessed with rhythm these days...

    And for what it's worth, one of my projects right now is transcribing a Cannonball Adderly solo. Believe it or not, I'm putting the notes in, too!!
  13. It's not necessarily all in the note choice or all in the rhythm. Since phrasing is about the synthesis of the two, it follows reason that both would contribute in some way. In my opinion, you can make a good solo with random notes or random rhythms -- as long as the other half is well constructed -- but you can probably make a better solo if you choose both elements of your solo wisely.
  14. I dunno, for my tastes I don't think you can really depend on being able to make a great solo with random pitches on a pitched instrument. I don't think I've ever heard it done. But then, I don't think I've heard a great solo with random rhythm either. Plenty with flexible or rubato rhythm, but none I'd call random, in the sense of being completely uncontrolled or unintended. I think you need both, in varying proportions, pretty much all the time.

    I never having a problem with giving rhythm an important place. I just won't make it numero uno. I don't make anything else numero uno either.;)
  15. Bassist4Life


    Dec 17, 2004
    Buffalo, NY
    Classical Thump,

    Have you had a chance to visit that Mike Dimin thread yet? If so, what did you think? Early in the thread, Mike had us using bits of the melody to create melodic sequences. The melody of the tune we were working on is almost entirely made up of a melodic sequence.

    Have you ever noticed how some of the most beautiful melodies are so simple? It's fun to take a melody and embellish it in different ways. It's kind of like language; you can explain the same thing in several different ways. You can get right to the point with what you are saying, or you can be colorful and creative in the way you say something. I find music and language very similar.

    I hope this perspective is helpful. If you get an opportunity to visit the link, please let me know if it helped out.

  16. Chris A

    Chris A Chemo sucks! In Memoriam

    Feb 25, 2000
    Manchester NH
    Can we play nice or I'll close the thread?

    Chris A. :rolleyes: :bassist:
  17. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
    If it was done in whole notes how do you think it would be different? Additionally the instrumentation used will make a huge difference. String instruments versus brass versus reeds, they all bring a certain emotional quality to the music.

    The essence of phrasing is rhythm and though the harmonic content is a part of it, you can still create very intersting things with a single note. There are plenty of basslines that use a single note and make a song come alive primarily because of the rhythm in which it is played.

    I was at the Jazz Standard one evening and there was a Japanese Big Band playing. All of the horns fit together beautifully but he pieces were devoid of life and they had the full section there, 4 trumpets, saxes, trombones. Frank Fosters big band came on after them with half the personel and twice the sound needless to say they swang like a set of saloon doors.

    I say rhythm is #1, especially if you're playing the wrong notes.
  18. lowphatbass

    lowphatbass **** Supporting Member

    Feb 25, 2005
    west coast
    Improvising on bass, particularly UB, has it's unique set of challenges like any instrument. The melodic content of a saxaphone or trumpet solo will not have the same effect if played two or three octaves down on a Bass. While transcribing(for example)Parker can only help you in the long run and is something every jazz musician should do(even though you can go get an Omni Book now) actually puting it to application in solo form is another matter all together. Now the challenge a technical one, it is not easy to play melodic lines on a bass in a range that is particularly effective, especially in thumb position on an UB!!
    I think alot of the debating here is due to different opinions of how to solo on bass. If you listen to many of the bassists from the Bop and Cool Jazz eras you may find more bassists playing solos that include melodically simplistic lines that are rythmically clever, it is also common to hear a bassist "walk" a solo, particulary when the tempos are up. Many bassists did not do much solo work at all, but if you listen closely you can begin to hear a transition. Bassist began to take a more melodically challenging approach....fast forward to John P. blasting Giant Steps at tempo in thumb position blowing everyones mind.
    The fact is many consider what we do in the "trenches" more important than our ablility to solo, there was a time when bassists were not really expected to solo much at all, when I play I try to remind myself that I am improvising the whole night, a good walking bass line has to come from somewhere!!
    Addressing the original question, you need to keep learning your improv and theory while gaining technical ability on you instrument, don't be afraid to skip a solo or "walk" a solo or two if you are playing in front of people, it is better than scuffling, IMO.
  19. thewanderer24


    Apr 29, 2002
    SJ, CA
    If I said anything snippy, I apologize. I thought we were just having a direct, open discussion. I was enjoying the replies to my seemingly unpopular opinion. I didn't take offense to any of it.
  20. Well, for one thing, we were talking about solos, not accompanying parts. And even then, I don't know of many bass parts that use only one note or random notes and achieve their effect by rhythm alone. Not compared to the thousands and thousands that depend on intelligent note choice. So what's one great bass solo where the notes are meaningless but the rhythm makes it great? (And don't say Fieldy.;) )

    What I really don't get is the whole issue of why any one component of a solo--whether it's rhythm, melody, harmony, tone, or whatever--has to be #1 at all. To me it seems pointless to think that way. We have a bunch of ingredients; the point is simply to use them to make something good. Why even worry about ranking? Everybody already knows that you want to have all the elements happening anyway.

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