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Soloing and creating melodies

Discussion in 'Ask Steve Lawson & Michael Manring' started by LiquidMidnight, Jun 2, 2003.


  1. LiquidMidnight

    LiquidMidnight

    Dec 25, 2000
    Hey Steve and Mike, I was wondering if you could help give me some direction.

    Like most bassist, I've been trying to become proficient in soloing. Of course, I've ran up across a few problems in my attempts.

    My biggest complaint is my melodies sound to scalar. When I listen to what I'm playing, it sounds to much like I'm playing scales, rather than melodies. I'm trying to create ideas the flow over chord progressions well. I've studied the relation between melody and harmony and while this has given me the ability to play notes that fit over the harmony, it really hasn't helped to make them interesting. (I know interesting is a subjective word, but I think you know what I mean ;) )

    My 2nd complaint is I HATE my phrasing. I think this problem stems from me trying to phrase more like a double bass player, rather than an electric player. Maybe I need to listen to more electric players? While guys like Adam Nitti and Victor Wooten are amazing in there soloing, right now, I'm trying to concentrate more on guys like Stanley Clarke, and Michael Dimin. Guys that just have a very good ear for melody.

    Anyways, hope my question aren't to vauge. I was wondering what some of your approaches are to soloing and creating interesting melodies and what advice you could possibly give me. I did study under a berklee trained musician for a while, but a lot of what we discussed was harmony, rather than melody. Right now, I'm trying to solo over simple bebop forms and 2 chord vamps.

    edit: Oh by the way, forgot to add, I'm talking more about melodic soloing rather than groove based soloing. Though adding tasteful melodic ideas I find can really help a groove based solo come alive.
     
  2. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    LM,

    first thing to do is start breaking up the harmonic material into less obvious chunks - sooo many player practice running up and down scales, and then can't work out why they can't play anything else. You are what you eat, and practice is lunch. So start exploring the notes in a particular key in none linear ways, breaking the notes up using larger intervals, switching direction more often, playing interval sequences - heading up through each mode of a key playing a third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and then back down fourth, sixth, third fifth etc... however you do it, just don't play scales in sequence! ;)

    Another one to try is just singing tunes - really simple tunes, sing them, then play them.

    How about not listening to bassists at all? Not that those guys can't play tunes, but just that if you're listening to bass, you're going to be listening to 'how' as well as 'what'. And as a general rule, bassists aren't the greatest melody players. Here's something to try - get hold of a copy of Paul Simon's greatest hits, and try and play his vocal lines, note and phrasing-perfect, every last inflection, every note ahead or behind the beat where he sings it. You'll suddenly see how much detail goes into a REALLY GREAT tune. Paul Simon is, IMHO one of the finest phrasing musicians I've ever come across. He makes a line work, makes it speak. Try it, it'll floor you.

    Then, take some of that phrasing and inflection and try applying it to a really really simple phrase. Make it speak. Don't add more notes, add more soul, try making what you have work. Truth is, most things can be made to fit, if you phrase it right...

    hope that helps - as always, come back with more if none of that makes sense... ;)

    Steve
    www.stevelawson.net
     
  3. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    On this theme, I've just added an MP3 to my site - it's a duet track with a saxophonist from London called Theo Travis. It was completely improvised - he had no idea what I was going to play til I played it, and he just listened and reacted. The tune he plays is just exquisite.

    find it on the MP3s page on my site

    cheers

    Steve
    www.stevelawson.net
     
  4. LiquidMidnight

    LiquidMidnight

    Dec 25, 2000
    Many thanks Steve.

    I'm going to take the non-scalar approach to my playing and see what comes about. Listening to Paul Simon sounds like an interesting idea. I always did notice his unique singing style, but never really thought of it in terms of phrasing.
     
  5. Fan-flippin'-tastic. Exquisite. Delicate: Hand-wash-only. Emotional. Nice.... :D VERY nice. Can we expect a(nother) duet CD anytime soon?

    No really. Love it.

    PS. Must get back into fiddling with loops and stuff again soon. Been playing too much "bass". Stay tuned for some looped, DL4-ed, Fruity-ised nonsense.
     
  6. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    LM - let me know how you get on...

    MKS - really glad you like it - there should be a new duet CD out soonish - watch this space, you'll know about it as soon as I do...

    cheers

    Steve
    www.stevelawson.net
     
  7. Michael Manring

    Michael Manring TalkBass Pro Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Once again Steve has offered great advice. I'd just like to second the suggestion to sing melodies. Thinking melodically is a little different bass line thinking, so you'll need practice. Sing as much as you can, especially melodies you like. It sounds like you have a concept for how you want to play; try to really listen to the sound in your head and slowly start working on getting it to come out of your bass.