The role of solo bass

Discussion in 'Ask Steve Lawson & Michael Manring' started by Ezmar, Nov 27, 2012.

  1. Ezmar


    Jul 8, 2010
    So I'm a huge fan of Michael's, and I'm not as familiar with Steve, but the one quick youtube search I did yielded a very enjoyable result. Anyway, I love what you guys do with the bass, and I've been a musician essentially my whole life, starting on Cello when I was 3, and picking up guitar and bass when I was 12 or 13. I'm 18 and in college now, bass has become my favorite and primary instrument, and I'm finding myself going in a very solo bass oriented direction, at least in my exploration of technique. However, I also am in love with Rock music and that kind of ensemble performance, mostly classic and progressive rock, and I love doing the whole Rock band thing.

    So my question is, how does Solo bass playing fit into that whole band/group dynamic? I would like to play in a rock band, but I think I'll still continue to grow musically (of course). I don't know if I'm being particularly clear, but hopefully you get my gist. The dynamics of solo bass playing and the dynamics of a rock band are very different, and I guess I'm just wondering if either of you have any insight on how to reconcile the two. I'm very conscientious about taking too much of the limelight onstage, because it doesn't feel fair to the other musicians. A band is a collective and collaborative entity, and a solo performance with a backing band is not. How do I strike a balance between those two mentalities and please as many of the people for as much of the time as possible?
  2. SirMjac28

    SirMjac28 Patiently Waiting For The Next British Invasion

    Aug 25, 2010
    The Great Midwest
    I think if you want more solo bass time you definetly need to start your own band in my opinion for Rock the bass is a foundation instrument that the rest of the music builds on its strength comes from being that platform or glue that enables other peices of the band to shine just like a canvas for a painting. I know there are great songs with bass solos but they are a fraction of the number of songs with guitar solos.
  3. Ezmar


    Jul 8, 2010
    Sort of a related thought, would there be any room in the rock format for a bass solo in place of a guitar solo if the bass were held down by keys or similar? I'm envisioning this for a slower, softer dynamic type, not your typical "Slappin' and a poppin'" bass solo. Would that work to hold down the foundation some with the keys and free up the bass to do a little more for the melodic content of the song?

    Could that be a good selling angle for the band's music?! :D (Never too early to start thinking about marketing oneself if one wants to make it in music)
  4. T. Alan Smith

    T. Alan Smith Guest

    Sep 9, 2001
    To me, inviting a keysman is opening Pandoras box...and I'm a former keysman! :D
    I would much more likely have you and/or the gui**** operate a set of bass pedals[(ala Moog Tarus) think Rush]
  5. Ezmar


    Jul 8, 2010
    Yeah, that would probably be optimal, I should look into getting some bass synth pedals. But as far as the style and musical flow of the song goes, would a bass solo in place of a guitar solo work?
  6. For some(bass players primarily, I think)yes, for most probably not really. I'm talking pop/rock vs say jazz
  7. MrLenny1


    Jan 17, 2009
    Victor Wooten had comments on this.
    Why does the crowd zone out when a bass solos?
    The groove is gone when the bass is soloing.
    Victor says play a solo that is groove orientated and you wont
    lose the listeners.
  8. Ezmar


    Jul 8, 2010
    Yeah, I saw that as well. That's something I always keep in mind when I'm soloing in my Jazz combo; I leave space, and keep it grooving rather than flying off on a bunch of fast Jaco style licks. That's sort of always been my philosophy, having started on Cello, which is the bass AND drum analogue in a string quartet.
  9. Clef_de_fa


    Dec 25, 2011
    But he is more of a funky dude ... who as always that R&B feel to everything he does even his solo are somewhat an expension of a bass groove.

    I think that in rock or prog rock an Entwhistle approach will be perfect ... also any band should put the groove enterly on the shoulder of the bass player ... If the bass drop and they can't continue ... they aren't that great.
  10. lfmn16

    lfmn16 Supporting Member

    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv
    I would decide exactly what role you want, have some concrete examples to show others what you want to do and then look for a band that accepts that role.

    Although I don't do a lot of solos, when I auditioned for my current band, I was up front about wanting to be an equal member of the band, not Cinderella cleaning up for everyone else. They were totally OK with that role and it's worked out great for everyone.

    As long as you tell the band what you want, and they accept that role, you should be OK.
  11. jmverdugo


    Oct 11, 2012
    Katy TX
    Regarding the band/group dynamic relation, I have always thought that the bass is kind of always doing a solo ... a very subtle one and could be repetitive but is not actually playing chords (not so much at least), it's more like doing a riff for the whole song and you can actually change it from time to time while playing the song, as long as you hit the notes you have to hit when you have to hit them you are good. Regarding doing an actual solo, it's pretty tough to shine playing bass because it's just not a shiny instrument so you have to be really good to retain people's attention while soloing, creativity is the key - a groovy solo is actually a good way to go, start with a catchy bass line and build up the solo from there -but it doesn't hurt to be insanely fast, crowds love speed. About a Solo career, I think you have to make it as a band first to be able to go solo. JMO.
  12. Michael Manring

    Michael Manring TalkBass Pro Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    I'm a big believer in creativity and I like to think there are no unbreakable rules. Certainly there have been several successful rock bands where the bass played an up-front and/or solo-istic role. As long as it can be done sensitively at the right place and time, I like to encourage everyone to follow their muse.
  13. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK 'solo' do you mean 'playing on your own' or just a more featured role for the bass guitar than is typical in a rock band?

    Cos by definition, 'solo' requires no band :)

    ...but there are a set of techniques and approaches that seem to have grown up around the community of bassists worldwide who experiment with playing on their own that are applicable in a band situation - I've been doing a lot more exploration of duo playing of late, and find it fascinating to work out what the context is for my particular set of sounds and ideas when I'm not just playing on my own...

    The big thing for me is to try and get away from hearing any of it as 'bass', and hear it as music. or even just 'sound'. Am I the best person for the job? Not 'is this a clever thing to do on bass?' - so when I play melodies with a slide, it has to sound closer to the ideal I hear in my head than it would if I got a slide guitarist in, or it's just a gimmick...

    Gimmicks can be fun, but are generally short-lived. Taking the things you've learned about sound and the possibilities of the bass from playing solo and applying them to a group situation can be immensely rewarding for the whole band! :)