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Soloing to changes - what can I do to improve?

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by nathanmcnathan, Sep 1, 2008.

  1. nathanmcnathan

    nathanmcnathan Banned

    Jan 25, 2008
    Barrie, Ontario
    Hey everybody!
    Lately, I've been practicing soloing to changes, but I'm finding that I'm still staying a bit too close to the roots of chords. Anybody have any tips to help me get away from it? Thanks!
  2. namraj


    Feb 7, 2008
    are you talking chords changes or key changes?

    I'm assuming you mean key as chord changes are very simple to solo over (just stick to the main key + passing notes/ornamentation).

    key changes you just have to have the confidence to not worry about dissonance and think musicly about what a nice modulating note would be e.g. Am to Gm a D works nicely. FM to GM an Fsharp works nicely.
  3. nathanmcnathan

    nathanmcnathan Banned

    Jan 25, 2008
    Barrie, Ontario
    No, I'm definately talking about chord changes...
  4. nickbass


    Apr 29, 2005
    Northants, UK
    Try lines that join up the thirds and/or the fifths of the chords

    Ps very good for walking lines as well as solos!
  5. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    Wow. :eek: that scared me.

    Nathan... aside from continuous study of harmony/theory/chord construction, which will probably last your lifetime.... here are a couple of ideas that have helped me over the years.

    1.) I've found that taking soloing inspiration from instruments other than bass have helped me to get away from the "just more basslines" approach to soloing. For me, that has been people like Billie Holiday, Dexter Gordon, Miles Davis. I try to emulate the phrasing and the sound of these masters (and many others) every time I solo. Breathing is important; try to phrase as if you were singing the line. That can impart a nice sense of space.

    2.) Learn the head. If you know the melody, and even the lyrics in some cases, it can add depth and freshness to your improvisations. Knowing the form and the melody of a tune can give you great insight into how to solo over the changes when your turn comes around.

    There's lots more; I'm sure others will come along with more ideas. It's a lifetime pursuit, but it's fun when you start to find your voice.
  6. nathanmcnathan

    nathanmcnathan Banned

    Jan 25, 2008
    Barrie, Ontario
    I've been doing something along those lines already, and it's been helping. I've experimented with quoting pieces of the melody and expnding on them, as well as trying to get more lyrical lines, as well as trying to play with a hron-like phrasing. Does anybody have any tips to get me away from staying so close to the root? I'm trying to build on my phrases and extend them more, but I'm having trouble doing that because I tend to stay so close to the root.
  7. Playing well; soloing and playing great bass lines is of course, a lifetime pursuit. There are no quick fixes. However, if your truly interested in expanding your soloing vocabulary, I suggest "Concepts for Bass Soloing" by Chuck Sher & Marc Johnson. There is also a great book of Scott La Faro bass solos transcribed by Phil Palombi. In addition, you can find wonderful pieces with Christian McBride, John Pattatucci, Ray Brown, NHOP, Dave Holland et.al on UTube. Since your getting visual information as well as audio, you may be able to figure out fingerings and positions as well as the notes that are being played. There's a wealth of material out there. Best of luck, don't get discouraged or try not to go to fast. There's years and years of work to look forward to. It's the journey not the destination!

  8. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    1) See what happens when you don't play any roots. Seriously. "Just say no." Leave a hole every time you're about to play a root -- your lines will sound a lot different. Or (dare we say it) play a different note.

    2) Listen to what the people you play with are feeding you while you solo. It's not going to be just roots, guaranteed.

    3) Hey, if what you hear is roots play roots, but stretch your ears in the meantime.

    It's a long process. Take your time and report back.
  9. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

    Jun 14, 2004
    All good stuff. The only thing I'd add is to keep phrasing in mind. The least interesting things can sound interesting when said in an interesting way.
  10. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    Yeah, +1. That's a great rut-bustin' book and CD.
  11. Theborough


    Aug 23, 2008
    This is what I have learned from a couple of my instructors. First of all, Play all your modes with their extensions. For example, Dorian

    1 b3 5 b7 9 11 13 and back down
    13 11 9 b7 5 b3 1

    But for all modes. And know which modes fit which chord symbols/changes. Then try getting used to hearing those upper extensions in relation to the chord, and then maybe write guide tone lines, starting on the 3rd and 7th. I'm just starting to solo more using less "obvious" chord tones and for me its just a matter of getting used to hearing, oh thats 13, or la if you use solfege. Try seeing how much tension you can create and handle and then resolve iono. Just my 2 cents.
  12. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

    Jun 14, 2004
    I'm not a fan at all of thinking modes when soloing. It is a good practice tool and rut breaker I suppose but becomes a mathematical exercise rather than creative. That said the statement above is the crux of the biscuit. Every phrase or idea needs to have a beginning and end. Just like a great speech, painting, poem, story, etc there is usually something that ties it together no matter how obtuse.
  13. Uncletoad


    May 6, 2003
    Columbus Ohio
    Proprietor Fifth Avenue Fret Shop. Technical Editor Bass Gear Magazine
    I try to sing when I solo. It forces me to breathe and phrase. It gets me out of my bass player head and into my vocalist head. I tend to sing quite a bit, in the car, in the shower, around the house. It keeps me in the melody. I think there is a point in development where your fingers can do whatever your head tells them to for the most part. I spend more time training my head to hear and my voice to sing than my hands to work these days.
  14. gre107


    Dec 25, 2005
    This is the best method for creating original solos and finding your "voice". Practice singing a simple line and then playing it on your bass. If you can't play a specific line make a practice out of it so you can get it internalized.

  15. christ andronis

    christ andronis

    Nov 14, 2001
    Avoid pattern playing as you won't really be "hearing" what you're playing. Better to start simple and really hear it than learn a lick that's complicated and not really understand how it's relating to the changes you're playing over. You're just wanking then....Like everyone else has said, it's a long, slow process. There are no shortcuts...
  16. A lot of great advice, but if you could use a jump start (not a shortcut), Michael Moore wrote a method designed specifically to get you thinking away from roots. It is Melodic Playing in the Thumb Position, though the ideas apply to the entire instrument, not just thumb position.
    mtto likes this.
  17. nathanmcnathan

    nathanmcnathan Banned

    Jan 25, 2008
    Barrie, Ontario
    I've been writing some voice-leading exercises for chord tones to land on, other than the root. I'm going to start experimenting with that tomorrow, and see where it takes me.
  18. i am in the same case and my jazz teacher says he has been battling bass solos for about 30 something years
    once you get off roots you have to get off 5ths and 3rds then you have to quit following those patterns and it is just a vicious cycle
    the best advice if you have a considerable amount of time to practice soloing, just find common tones
    remember as bassists we are used to emphasizing chord changes and keeping time
    soloing is one of the only instances where we don't have to emphasize any chords or keep a constant walking/repetitive time
    in most jazz we just don't want dissonance created by emphasis on non chord tones (unless free form)
    nothing is off limits!
    good luck
  19. nathanmcnathan

    nathanmcnathan Banned

    Jan 25, 2008
    Barrie, Ontario
    Yeah, us bassists have it the toughest when it comes to solos - we play a physically challenging instrument, have a more limited range than the horns, and we're expected to go from playing straight quarter notes for 10 minutes to interesting, offset rhythms and stop outlining the rchanges on the strong beats!
  20. LouisV


    May 19, 2006
    mill valley, CA
    Yes, lots of good ideas. My experience: learn to play the head & see how it relates to the changes & then mess around with both! & it takes a lifetime, too. Good luck!

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