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Question for players in blues bands...

Discussion in 'Bassists [BG]' started by Pat C., May 3, 2010.


  1. Pat C.

    Pat C. Supporting Member

    Jan 1, 2005
    Tuscaloosa, AL, USA
    ...do you get opportunities to take solos and do collaborative improvisations & extended jams on your gigs? I'm looking at joining a blues band, and I think that I would like to use this project to stretch out a little. It's going to be a mix of traditional blues, plus some SRV, some Allmans, a few classic rock tunes, etc. Of course I don't expect to solo every tune (or even every ten tunes) but a couple of solos per two or three set gig would be kind of cool. It's a five piece with lead guitar, harmonica, drums, bass and vocals.

    I am just curious to see how other blues bands are structured, and what potentially expanded role the bass might play in a modern-day blues band. All input is welcome.
     
  2. acubass

    acubass

    Oct 10, 2007
    Albuquerque, NM
    For me it depends on how many people are playing. I get many times more the opportunity to solo with the 3 piece (mostly broken strings). The more people that get added to the stage the less likely I am to solo.

    However I improvise my lines much more when I have someone helping out to hold down the rythm. So I guess to me the manner in which I solo changes as well
     
  3. Daveomd

    Daveomd

    Feb 28, 2010
    Listen to some early 70s Grateful Dead with Pig Pen on vocals. They did some really cool versions of R&B and blues standards and Phil Lesh took the bass part for a ride! A little looser than the Allmans for sure but along the same line. Phil is a great example of how to play melodically but not noodle (for the most part) and his humbucker/ flats tone was pretty sweet.
     
  4. NickBass81

    NickBass81

    Jul 4, 2008
    Rovigo(Italy)
    Endorsing Bulkmusic Strings
    I play in a blues band, from traditional blues classics (Muddy Waters, BB King) to rock blues (Hendrix, Vaughan) and jazzy/funky blues (our original tunes, Robben Ford, Joey De Francesco, a couple of jazz/blues standards)....I'll take solos sometimes, quite simple if I'm playing blues classics and more complicated or "jazzy" if it's something else...we like to stretch the songs as far as we can, but i'm happy also when I play straight walkin'bass or simple riffs if it comes to play blues!
     
  5. My walking blues lines are so contrapuntal that they're pretty much solos anyways. The only difference is whether someone else is playing at the same time.
     
  6. RexNFX79

    RexNFX79

    Jan 12, 2009
    TENNESSEE
    I play in with a four piece group and we all solo. Usually the drummer and I will get off into different grooves during jam sessions in various tunes as well. We do a lot of improv in this group which I think is the best way to play blues.
     
  7. snyderz

    snyderz

    Aug 20, 2000
    AZ mountains
    I'm in a 4 piece (bass/guitar/drums/harp) and I never solo. I get to really stretch on the jams, which is plenty for me.
     
  8. bobwhite

    bobwhite

    Mar 11, 2010
    My 3 piece band plays some blues and I get to do small solos with some regularity. I think it really depends on the number of folks in the band, style, etc. I doubt you can really say one way or the other; however, I do suspect as a genre there are fewer solos in blues than in funk or jazz, for example, just because that is how the tradition has evolved, for whatever reason. Perhaps since blues is so riff oriented, if the bass drops the riff to solo, the song flounders.
     
  9. same with me when i was in a blues band.

    The one thing I'd say to the OP though, if you want to take more solos, or at least make this a project where you get to stretch out, why not bring that up with the band? more than likely they'll be ok with it...if not, do it anyways lol
     
  10. Pat C.

    Pat C. Supporting Member

    Jan 1, 2005
    Tuscaloosa, AL, USA
    Thanks for all the replies guys, lotta good insight. I'm viewing this band as a 3 piece - guitar, bass, drums. Since there is only one chordal instrument I plan to have to hold down the harmony and rhythm while the guitar is soloing. I may be able to stretch more in a supporting role while the harmonica is soloing and the guitar is comping, but that'll depend on the tune. Any actual solo spots will have to be carefully chosen.

    It's interesting, because I don't consider myself a good jazz player, but when it comes to soloing over a blues I tend to be a little "jazzy", straying from conventional blues licks/scales and venturing outside the harmony (brief modulations, tritone subs, etc.). I'll have to see if that works in this context.

    I played in a 3-piece blues/rock band (guitar, bass, drums) a long while back (12-15 years ago) and we did a lot material that we probably didn't have instrumental coverage for: Allmans, Dead, etc. I took a lot of solos in that band, but it definitely was a sparse sound at times. My playing is a lot better know, and hopefully more tasteful, so I'm guessing I'll make better choices as to when to stray from the bassics.

    @Daveomd: Got any specific GD tunes I should check out? I've played some Dead in the past, but I'll be honest, I was never able to fully cop Lesh's vibe. He's so bouncy and flighty, which is cool and works in that context, but I never felt I could pull it off quite properly, maybe because of a deficiency in my playing, or just because I wasn't in a large enough band (or maybe because I wasn't totally stoned :D ). I'd love to see how he interprets any of the traditional material.

    @billyfalconer: Got any clips of your playing online? I'd like to hear how you deviate from a standard walking blues or boogie bassline.
     
  11. JTE

    JTE Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    The moniker "blues" is pretty stretched, and so it's hard to say what is "appropriate". If you're trying to do a traditional blues band gig where it's staying pretty true to Howlin' Wolf, Muddy, et. al. there's probably not going to be any soloing. But once you talk about the Allman Bros. and Hendrix, it's moved to something else. Still very much rooted in the blues, but not a blues band exactly. The original ABB were in many ways more related to the Dead and to traditional jazz bands than they were to almost all of the "southern rock" progeny that followed. The ABB was about collective improvisation, not a vapid stagnant rhythm section for the guitarist to noodle over.

    That's why real blues bands don't have long guitar solos. A traditional blues band is about the SONG, not the instrumental prowess. But if you're coming it at from the perspective of Coltrane, Miles Davis, Duane Allman, Jimi Hendrix (especially after Billy Cox replaced Noel Redding), then you're going to have more opportunity to open things up both in ensemble playing and soloing. As billyfalconer said, there's a lot of place (especially in a three-piece) for the bass to be active and melodic without any actual solos per-see.

    Regarding the Dead's covers of R&B stuff however- if you listen to it thinking it's blues or R&B, it's not very good. If you listen to it as them using these classic tunes as a springboard for them to explore the music and how it causes them to interact, it's very good. I had a live album once that included "It Hurts Me Too", "C C Rider", "Good Lovin'", and some other stuff. As a blues purists (or blues Nazi) at the time, I thought it was awful and putrid. It was only later when I listened to it with their perspective that I found it interesting and inspirational.

    John
     
  12. reno88

    reno88 Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2008
    Atlanta
    i play in a blues/rock trio and also in a 3-chord punk band, and i don't take solos. i've never been a fan of them. i liken bass solos to having an harmonica player or sax player in the group - infinitely uninteresting.

    different strokes...
     
  13. dougjwray

    dougjwray

    Jul 20, 2005
    Very intelligent post.
    I'll add that in the mid-'60s, you also had the Paul Butterfield Blues Band starting out as a *very* orthodox Chicago blues band, and then adding jazz and Indian raga influences, on things like "East/West" and "The Work Song." They were hugely influential.
    You also had the Yardbirds doing their "rave-ups"--wild jams tacked onto the ends of blues covers, when they played live. I'm always surprised that more people don't recognize how that led easily into Cream's live approach.
    And, as you alluded to, the Dead started out as folkies in the jugband, "old-timey" mold, and added the rock elements later. Garcia was certainly aware of blues of the Rev. Gary Davis variety, but came late to the electrified R&B angle. Jorma Kaukonen of Jefferson Airplane had almost exactly the same history. I remember a Rolling Stone interview with Clapton from around '67, right after Cream played San Francisco for the first time; as a blues purist, he was appalled by what he felt was the low quality of the San Francisco bands. "They sound like they've been listening to the wrong records."
    Lots of things in the air at the time.
    Ah... the '60s... :crying:
     
  14. The Chess Records stuff. Then Les Dudek and Tommy Castro. Also Paul Butterfield on the "Keep on Movin'" album.

    A word to the wise- Blues is about the groove and the feel, not about the solos. Go listen to the original "Hootchie Cootchie Man" and learn how to lay down that pocket - big, lazy and fat. You need to learn how to play behind the beat, the different feels of blues (Chicago, Delta MS, New Orleans, Texas, etc.), the different ways to swing the blues, before you think about solos.
     
  15. Easy8

    Easy8

    Sep 5, 2007
    Austin, Tx
    I usually hate to solo in blues bands and always give the singer the stink eye when he calls one.

    I like this one, though, Larry Taylor, Canned Heat. Solo starts around 2:30:

     
  16. Thor

    Thor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    I am with Easy8 here. I have no problem soloing in general, but I have waved off plenty when I felt the song did not call for it and the groove would be lost.

    I wouldn't ever consider a solo in songs like I'm a Man (Mannish Boy), Little Red Rooster, Seventh Son, Born in Chicago or Dust My Broom.

    In My Own Dream wouldn't phase me at all to pop a solo into.
     
  17. Easy8

    Easy8

    Sep 5, 2007
    Austin, Tx
    I can solo over a one chord boogie, like the one I linked above or a funky blues thang, but if I have to solo over 1/4/5 changes, it just sounds bad and loses the groove. Probably my own limitations as a player,
     
  18. Thor

    Thor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    The 1/4/5 form doesn't lend itself well to solos on bass IMO.
    Especially if you are a bit of a blues purist, (like me) and like
    the classic tunes and forms.
     
  19. jerry

    jerry Doesn't know BDO Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 13, 1999
    +1, I always amazed given how much they gave to early blues-rock, that they are treated no more than a footnote in music history. [in the U.S. anyway]
     

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