"Take a solo...." Now f'ing what?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Richard_N, Sep 17, 2021.

  1. Richard_N


    Jan 5, 2020
    On a fretless electric playing in a trio doing Chitlins Con Carne, Kenny Burrell. Nice dynamics, vamps going on, wasn't sure it was ever going to end -- guy on guitar (his gig/he pulled me in for this) looks to me, tells me to "take a solo."

    Not at all prepared for that, been running the groove for what seemed like the last decade, and jumped in to fiddle around, make stuff up as I go for a run of the 12 bars. Drummer locks in perfectly, guitarist wants more .... great, what the f did I just do? More fiddling and vamping, right notes, wrong notes, no idea. It was strange, awkward, and fun as hell. No doubt, I felt like I was on an runaway roller coaster.

    Here's the thing, until this trio scenario I got into (and really love), there was never a need or desire for me to take many solos, I am just a side guy laying in a groove most of the time. Ironically, the closest and more recent I've come to this soloing business is when I am doing Blues; the dynamic drops down, it is me and the drummer -- running together on the progression, guitar or keys accent 1s, that sort of thing -- but they are almost always the same lines as the tune.

    So ... yes, I feel the need to bone up on possible "take a solo, man" directives, and that's where you come in.

    Can you please point me in the right direction for building "pull out of your back pocket" phrases and ideas so that I can hang, but I know that what I did was right? In other words, as exciting as a runaway roller coaster may be, I'd rather have some idea when the next drop is coming.

    Thanks, in advance, for any thoughts here.
  2. Best advice I ever got for this was to learn the head (melody) of every song. You can just play that and people will go nuts, but more importantly it will put most of the notes for that melodic structure under your fingers for something more interesting that you can riff off of.
  3. Richard_N


    Jan 5, 2020
    That's a great idea! I can definitely work on this. Thank you so much for your feedback.
  4. Bob_Ross

    Bob_Ross Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 29, 2012
    LOL! Sorry, but that reminds me of an old Smothers Brothers routine*...Dickey is playing upright bass, Tommy is playing guitar, they're playing/singing a song, after a chorus Tommy turns to Dickey and yells "take it" and Dickey ...well, Dickey doesn't "take a solo" iirc, but he sings a verse solo.
    They resume their duet, and after the next chorus Dickey turns to Tommy and yells "take it" and Tommy just shakes his head and says "no"
    This eventually turns into an all-out argument, the tune has grinded to a halt, Tommy keeps saying "no! I don't want to 'take it'!"

    I have always wanted to do that on the bandstand.
    There have been a number of times when I've just shook my head when the bandleader gives me the "take a solo" stinkeye, and mercifully none of them ever forced the issue. If they had, I'd have taken a solo, what the hell... But there are definitely some tunes where I just know I've got nothing to say in the Spontaneously Improvised Melody of Interest department, and I like to think I'm doing everybody a favor by not filling the room with the sound of me being half-assed. I contend it should be every musician's right to wave off a solo if they're not feeling it; nobody should be obligated to improvise.

    *Edit: found a version of them doing that schtick. This isn't the version I remember seeing on TV way back in the 1970s, but same general idea:
  5. SteveC

    SteveC Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Nov 12, 2004
    NE ND
    I almost always play some portion of the head in my solo. You can do all kinds of stuff based on the head. I wish I could find a sheet I had that suggested how to build a solo, starting with the head.
    Richard_N likes this.
  6. bigdaddybass12


    Feb 26, 2021
    1. bass is not exactly a solo instrument
    2. Mix a little root with a little melody
  7. Jazzkuma


    Sep 12, 2008
    I dont have any short term advice but if this is something you wish to keep working on then I would suggest to start transcribing simple solos you like. Can be any instrument really.

    But most importantly, listening. Listen to a solo or a bass part to the point you could just sing or hum to it totally alone. Its the best way to learn the language.
  8. SteveC

    SteveC Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Nov 12, 2004
    NE ND
    I would disagree. any instrument can be a "solo" instrument if played like one. I've played a few good solos in my day.
  9. Esteban Garcia

    Esteban Garcia bassist, arranger, aelurophile Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2018
    Portland, OR
    Head and variations, that's been working for millennia. I'm a terrible soloist, and rarely get beyond that, but it works.
    DJ Bebop, Richard_N and LBS-bass like this.
  10. Chris Breese

    Chris Breese Supporting Member

    Dec 12, 1999
    Middle of IL USA
    Fake a heart attack.
  11. Richard_N


    Jan 5, 2020
    The skit is great, as are your remarks. I may use, "Spontaneously Improvised Melody of Interest department." Thank you for taking the time to share this all.
    DRBP, Bob_Ross and The Owl like this.
  12. Richard_N


    Jan 5, 2020

    Thank you!
  13. mrcbass


    Jan 14, 2016
    Sacramento, CA
    Trio work will definitely expose you to more solo opportunities than larger groups.

    If you really want to build solo chops, listen to solos of other instruments and try to cop a few licks. I'm not at all familiar with the genre you referenced, so can't provide better details on who to listen to, but this advise is given to those working jazz groups: "Steal some sax or trumpet licks from the masters." I suck at soloing more than a fill, but I have been schooled in the concepts. Working out improv stuff is all about building a library of licks that you can implement with ease and then tying them together. It just takes time to build the repertoire, and practice to know when to employ them.
    Ketbass, Autonomous and Richard_N like this.
  14. micguy


    May 17, 2011
    The problem with taking a solo on bass is that you don't have a bass player backing you up with a great groove. I recommend that you start a solo with just playing the groove, and add little bits to it incrementally to "spice" it up - that way, the feel of the song carries through, and people will hopefully appreciate that you're the one providing the bulk of the groove.
  15. lfmn16

    lfmn16 Inactive

    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv
    Know your pentatonic major and minor scales. They always work. They might not be flashy and innovative, but they always see you through.
  16. MisterUbu


    Feb 25, 2020
    Toronto, Canada
    if all else fails take a cue from the Gene Simmon's school of coughing up "blood" when asked to. :D
    kobass, svlilioukalani and DJ Bebop like this.
  17. Killing Floor

    Killing Floor Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2020
    Austin, TX
    Help is on the way! Before you criticize, ever had that much applause while holding a bass?
    Tugg, Mushroo, HolmeBass and 3 others like this.
  18. Richard_N


    Jan 5, 2020

    You should check out Kenny Burrell if you are not familiar with his work. He is one of the most amazing jazz guitarists -- maybe ever. I am a huge fan of his work so it is an honor to play some of his tunes in this unit.

    Thanks for your feedback. I am going to work out some of the parts out of head and see how to make it work. Ideally, I will be able to TASTEFULLY take a solo for 24 bars and "give it back" to them.
    JTE likes this.
  19. Richard_N


    Jan 5, 2020
    Your comment is surprisingly validating. If I was to really identify what I think I did most during that "solo," it was more or less just running lines within the minor pentatonics. I appreciate this!
    lfmn16 likes this.
  20. Richard_N


    Jan 5, 2020
    Really sound advice. Thank you so much!