Really Suck at Playing Solos

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by RMCBass, Jul 24, 2009.

  1. RMCBass


    Jul 4, 2009
    I’m really starting to feel frustrated with my playing. For a few years I learned several techniques, lines, songs and grooves. I devoted no less than 3 hours daily to my bass playing but the real thing is that I can’t play a solo. I want to focus on fusion, jazz rock and latin styles, but again, when it’s my turn of soloing I end up doing scales without any melody or feel. I want to be able to express myself with my playing and due to the styles that I’m into, I actually need to know what to play. In my area there are no teachers that can teach me how to solo (I’ve already tried with 4 of them) . So, what should I do?
  2. Foamy


    Jun 26, 2006
    Sac Area
    Remember - at some level EVERYONE sucks! So you just suck at some level. Practice practice practice and you'll get better and suck at yet another level.

    So......just don't worry about it.
  3. Asher S

    Asher S

    Jan 31, 2008
  4. DrBass

    DrBass Inactive Commercial User

    Oct 20, 2003
    Myrtle Beach, SC USA
    Owner, Dr Bass LLC
    I feel your pain. I was brought up as a "Groove bassist" Forget all the scales and just play what is in your heart. Some of my solo's are good and some........well........ Not so good. The good ones come from feeding off of the other band members. And one trick I learned is to tell the other players to keep playing, I mean we don't stop when there is a guitar solo, and just let the groove shine through, and you will find your soloing improving by just feeling the groove.

    Dr. Bass

    "We are the music-makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams."
    (Arthur O'Shaughnessy. 1844-1881)
  5. I suck at solos too. Sometimes, it's expected of me. I try to keep the number of solos to a minimum; playing one only when it is absolutely necessary for the song. I also keep them SHORT, and practice them 10,000 times. Then, I'm glad when it's over.
    My mentor on the bass is an old-school country and R&B player. He emphasized these things:
    the bass is the platter on which the music is served - you are there to keep the rhythm and support the harmonic structure.
    never play chords
    never play solos
    always use flatwounds

    You're screwed if you want to play fusion without solos - it's sooooo expected.
    How about a quick solo that hands off to the next player, you know, outline the melody once and end on a leading tone to the next phrase.
    I dunno. I hate everyone who solo's well and easily, because I can't.
  6. jnuts1


    Nov 13, 2007
    never play chords? insanity.
  7. I'm not into soloing and don't do it.

    The Jamey Abersold series of instructional books are popular amongst jazz players.
  8. Haruni


    Jul 6, 2009
    Hey, stay calm, Rome wasn’t build in a day. I know that you already heard this too many times to count, but it is necessary to repeat it. Yes, soloing can be very frustrating, several players can’t play a solo because they don’t know how to do it, and that’s for sure a huge weak area for many bassists. Try with DVDs, if you can’t find a teacher, the DVD allows you to pick what you want to learn and repeat it as many times as you want to. I’ve found this one and it has some really cool examples and great licks. I highly recommend you.
  9. Ed Goode

    Ed Goode Jersey to Georgia

    Nov 4, 2004
    Acworth, GA
    You need to change your mindset .... as bassists we're very used to keeping time and laying a groove, so when solo time comes we often continue to keep time and groove in motion.

    Listen to other soloing instruments, you'll quickly realize that they aren't doing everything "in time". Their syncopation is dramatically different that which you are likely playing right now. They "breathe" with the solo, inserting pauses, quick riffs and slow lines.

    Additionally, you need to be comfortable with chord structures so you can play through the changes without making it sound like a walking line or just playing the roots. You didn't say if you have any formal background in reading or theory .... if you don't, some fundamental chord structure studies will help as a starting point.

    Also, as someone stated above, learn to play the melody of the tune. This will help to loosen the "time/groove" mindset during your solos ........ :cool:
  10. Get a real book and start learning the melody to any standard. Your solo starts with melody. If you can groove than have all the rhythm you need. Just keep learning melodies and develope them as you get more familiar with them and you're on your way! Make it tell a story.
  11. Asher S

    Asher S

    Jan 31, 2008
    FYI- this guy still refers to Marc's book for exercises & ideas:

    (solo starts about 45 seconds in)

  12. DrBass

    DrBass Inactive Commercial User

    Oct 20, 2003
    Myrtle Beach, SC USA
    Owner, Dr Bass LLC
    Chords, we don't need no stinking chords!
  13. DrBass

    DrBass Inactive Commercial User

    Oct 20, 2003
    Myrtle Beach, SC USA
    Owner, Dr Bass LLC
    Great point, but it still needs to come from the soul.
  14. jwbassman

    jwbassman Supporting Member

    Aug 9, 2006
    Pick some solos on recordings that speak to you. They don't have to be bass solos. They could be guitar, sax, whatever. Sit down with the recordings and transcribe these. Obviously if you actually tran"scribe" them you would be writing them out which would actually be optimal, because not only would you be working on you ear, technique, feel, but you also improve you writing and reading of notation. If you don't want to do that portion, at least learn the solos by ear as close as you can. Get the feel down, etc. Great for ear training. If you do this you'll absorb some of feel and licks. But also break down the chord progression and see how the "licks" apply. This is about the best way to learn to solo that I can think of. Emulate and then add you own soul. Just my opinion.
  15. Hookus


    Oct 2, 2005
    Austin, TX
    +1, playing the melody is the number one easy solo technique.

    A longer term solution will be for you to learn how to construct a bass line over chords, then you can solo over any chord structure freely, since you will know what scale works.
  16. NormM


    Jun 26, 2009
    +1 again to the melody approach - It's quite something to see the positive reaction you get when you just move to the melody when soloing, as if we aren't supposed to be able to do that! Then you can begin to embellish in small ways, with scale and arpeggio fill, and play with the timing, maybe picking parts of the melody or harmony to play around with.

    My three guidelines for becoming better at soloing (and general playing, for that matter...) seem to line up with what most here are saying:

    1. Listen a lot! Listen to many different players and styles, and try to listen underneath the solo, to see how what they are doing relates to the chords and groove that are established. Try to imitate some things you like, and some things you might not think you like. There are big differences between someone like John P. on the six-string and B.B. King but different players like that are all amazing, and worth studying.
    2. Understand as much as you can. Look at chord structures and how they relate to and move to subsequent chords.
    3. Play, Play, Play and play some more - also, playing with others is so much different than going this alone. The environment set up in the group will feed you. Don't be afraid to expose yourself ;-) If you hit a nasty lick, you probably will not play that one again. I really like to work with the drummer and keys or guitar chords to help my solos -I get a little too far out of the box when I don't. Lay out some really simple solos to give yourself some rhythmic freedom (how 'bout a one-note-solo?). If you go in simple, almost restricting yourself, you're desire to fill it in and dress it up will take over, and you can bloom!
  17. JTE

    JTE Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    Analyze the problem. Is it that you can't play a solo, or that you can't create one? Two very different things. Bottom line is to solo well, you gotta have good ideas, and only then do you have to figure out how to execute those ideas.

    So, first of all, ignore bass solos. Why? Because most bass players aren't very good soloists! Learn solos from master soloists. Now if you're talking about improvised solos, that means get into jazz. Learn from Miles, Satchmo, Dizzy, Oscar Peterson, Coltrane, Dexter Gordon, Joe Henderson, Roy Elderidge, Ella Fitzgerald, etc. Avoid blues guitarists (as much as I love them, they ain't good ways to learn to improvise solos because they're much more about licks and a limited sonic pallet). The only really great soloing guitarists I know of who you can really learn a lot from (note- I'm not say these are the only great soloing guitarists!!) are Duane Allman, Jeff Beck, Joe Pass, Mike Stern, Barney Kessel, Larry Carlton, and John Scofield. Also, learn melodies. Learn the head to standards, learn the melodies to Broadway tunes, learn folk songs, learn Lennon/McCartney melodies. Listen to classical music.

    Let all that stuff simmer around in your head and your ears. Now, the mechanics of this on bass... Record yourself SINGING a solo over a progression. DO NOT even hold a bass in your hands when you do this. The point is to get the music you HEAR in your head recorded.

    Then do the hard work of sitting down and learning to play exactly what you sang. That's the music in you, and its not based on bass licks and where your hands want to go. That's how Otiel does those things with ARU, and how Mike Gordon knows how to steer Phish. It's also how Jamerson came up with those classic lines, and how McCartney comes up with those melodies under those great vocal melodies. It's all the same process- have great ideas first, then learn to execute them.

    And you get great ideas by exposing your ears to a huge range of musics.

  18. NormM


    Jun 26, 2009
    Good stuff, John.

    Also, as I look back on what has limited me technically, which may not be RMCs issue, is the need to be comfortable around the whole fingerboard of the instrument. A lot of bass work is too often spent in the lower positions, but to allow for lots of possibilities we need to know the whole bass very well.

    I think my point in including a blues guitarist as a style contrast is that the good ones are able to inject a lot of feeling and soul into their playing, while I agree there are limitations to the "pallet". Variety of influence is extremely valuable.
  19. dougjwray


    Jul 20, 2005
    Really great post.
    I just wanted to focus for a second on your mention of Duane Allman, who is, to me, the most brilliant improviser in the history of blues/rock/jazz guitar. I've learned a lot from him, particularly the way he often constructed his solos in 4-bar-chunks, employing plenty of call & response. It made his solos really "tell a story." Actually, Dickey Betts was (is) very adept at this too. Putting some conscious thought into this can result in solos that connect with an audience, rather than solos that are just unbroken streams of notes with no actual content.
  20. +1 to all that. Great post!

    I've also found that transcribing stuff speeds up the process of getting some music inside my head. Transcribing is very hard at first, but it gets easier as you go (like anything, I guess :cool:).

    And in order to work on the second part (execution), I've found ear training exercises to be very helpful, especially those who deal with interval recognition. In my opinion, being able to recognize intervals is an important part of the skill set that allows you to turn a musical idea that you hear in your head into fingerings that you can execute on the bass. There are lots of free tools available, i.e.: Interval Ear Trainer, GNU Solfege, etc.