Psst... Ready to join TalkBass and start posting, make new friends, sell your gear, and more?  Register your free account in 30 seconds.

Starting off as a soloist.

Discussion in 'Ask Steve Lawson & Michael Manring' started by Not Mark Westlake, Feb 6, 2004.

  1. Hey Steve/Michael,
    Since I heard my first few Jaco Pastorius pieces a while back I've been interested in solo bass, but now I've got the Bass Day 98 DVD, I'm even more interested after seeing your (Michael) section. Sugar blew me away!
    Anyway, I'm trying to get some kind of set together to play at an open mic night, but I've basically got no idea where to begin.
    I like the chordal kinda stuff like Sugar as opposed to just setting up a looping back-beat and so on (mainly 'cos I don't have any kind of looping majigger or effects box...), so are there any pointers you could give? What sorta chords sound good together (not just "Anyones in the same scale", but different types of chords)? How can I make it hold people's attention?
    I know it's a load of questions there, but really any info would be great!
    Thanks for your time :)

  2. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    Hi Mark,

    welcome to the path... it's a fun one, but not an easy one from which to find gigs... ;)

    Where to start? Well, if you're wanting to play chord melody stuff, there are two or three things that are going to help - concept wise, guitarists have taken this approach to solo performance a heck of a lot further than bassists, so don't limit yourself to listening to bassists - check out guys like Jim Hall, Pat Metheny, Ralph Towner... Metheny's new album, 'One Quiet Night' is a good place to start - lots of solo arranges of tunes for Baritone acoustic guitar.

    Secondly, a technical issue for building vocab, in order to get a handle on how to play any chord type with any possible melody note, you need to be working on inversions of chords - how do you play a major chord with the root, 3rd, 5th or 7th on the top, and conversely, each of them in the bass, with each of the others on the top. Then do the same with other chord types - maj, min, maj7, dom7, min7, sus4, sus2, etc. etc.... in chasing the shapes, you'll probably start writing some music, just by doing the exercise. If you get a musical idea, chase it and come back to the exercise later - it's not going anywhere.

    And finally, check out bassists who are doing similar things - Michael and I both have elements of that in what we do ( though most of my tunes get into loop-land fairly quickly, there are bits you can work with). The king of chord melody on bass, IMHO, is Todd Johnson - an amazing player from LA - - check him out. He'll have a new CD out later this year, that will be very very useful. He's also writing a book, that will come in very handy.

    Other players to check out for cool solo bass work - Matt Garrisson, Victor Wooten, John Patitucci, Dominique De Piazza, Trip Wamsley, Seth Horan... and others.

    as for what chords go well together - just start with some simple tunes. I've been toying with a solo arrangment of 'People Get Ready' for a couple of years now, and that's pretty basic. there are loads of others.

    have fun!

  3. Hey Steve,
    Thanks very much! Some food for thought there.
    Thanks for your time,
    (Hopefully be seeing you two in Reading this year!)
  4. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    Hope you can make it to the Reading gig - last time we played there it sold out, so best get your ticket soon... if they don't know what you're talking about when you try to book, tell them it's a 'Delicatessen' event... :D

    Come and say hi, if you're there, and bring a car-full!!

  5. Ever the salesman!
    Yeah, I hope to go there - money's getting a bit tight (Behringer head, strings, Peavey cab, brother's b-day present, mother's day present... *violins*), but I've got to keep some money spare to go to this!
    No fear Steve, it'll be as much of a car-full as I can muster.
  6. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK

    not sure where in Wales Llandrinod is, but there may well be other people from near you going anyway, so it might be worth posting a 'car sharing' message in the everything else section of the 'interact' forums on my website - could make it a bit easier... :)

  7. Hey Steve,
    I showed the lead guitarist in my band the Bass Day 98 DVD, and he was super impressed with Michael's playing, so he's definitely up for coming down to see you guys play. He's got a car himself, so I'd be going with him, but I'll pimp out his car on your forum to :)


    PS. It's about as much in the middle as is possible :p
  8. Michael Manring

    Michael Manring TalkBass Pro Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Thanks so much for the very nice comments about my arrangement of "Sugar," Mark! For me, that kind of playing came about from a desire to be able to play complete tunes on the bass with melody, harmony, improv, etc., similar to what jazz guitarists or pianists can do. While listening to great soloists on those instruments is very inspiring, I've always hoped to develop a style of playing that kind of music that feels "native" to the bass. What Steve said is absolutely right – you need to understand how chords work, have a feel for the repertoire and a sense for how to put everything together on the instrument. It's something that I've enjoyed working on for many, many years and I hope to continue for many more.