Tips for writing bass solos

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Tommygun_ted, Nov 21, 2017.

  1. So the singer/ songwriter in our band has written a new song and is insistent on me doing a bass solo. I' new to writing music and playing covers hasn' taught me squat about the theory behind playing the bass. Where can I go to learn the tools I need to write bass lines, and do you guys have any tips for writing simple bass solos?
  2. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    In my opinion, the best way to learn how to solo is to study other people's solos. You mention that you've played mostly cover songs? That's good; it means you probably have a good ear and a large musical vocabulary, two very important skills to becoming a good soloist. Have you ever learned to cover any famous songs with bass solos? For example: "Brown Eyed Girl," "The Chain," or "My Generation"? What is your favorite recorded bass solo of all time, and can you describe what you like about it?
  3. But you have been getting by playing some kind of a bass lines to those covers. So lets talk about solos first.

    Sounds like you will be playing a bass solo to a published song. That means that the tune has already been written - so you do not have to compose a tune. All you have to do is solo around the tune.

    Most cases its just easier to learn the tune and then play 12 to 24 bars of the tune. Some other things you might do .......

    .... If its a song it has a key and scale. Play notes of the song's pentatonic scale - no not in order, listen to the tune and try and get - with the pentatonic scale - close to the tune as you can. Probably going to be easier to learn 12 bars of the actual tune. Call up Ed Friedland's Pentatonic scales for bass

    If it is a cover song it already has some sheet music written for it. Ask Google for a lead sheet. That will give you the treble clef with lyrics. From that you can pick out the tune -- Don't read standard notation -- call up a video of the tune and listen to it while picking out the melody.

    Good luck. Now to the bass line. Bass line are made from the notes of the active chord. If the Cmaj7 chord is coming up in the song it's notes will be the root, the 3rd scale degree, plus the 5th scale degree and then the 7th scale degree or R-3-5-7. We refer to that as the chord spelling. Yep, you need to get the spelling to the chords you normally have in your songs. The 3 is up a string and back a fret from the root. The 5 is up a string and over two frets, or down a string same fret. The 7 is up two strings and over one fret. Yep you need to think in A, B, C's and 1, 2, 3's.

    Back to the Cmaj7 chord. Those notes will make a bass line for the Cmaj7 chord. While the Cmaj7 chord is active play any of those notes...... What we mortals normally do, however, is play the root and the 5 and if more is needed we add an octave, or R-5-8-5. As that is generic and an easy pattern to use. Roots and fives have played a bunch of songs.

    Books have been written on making bass lines. Go to the getting started sticky and it will go into detail about bass lines. Ed Friedland also has a great book on how to write bass lines. Amazon will have it.

    Again, good luck.
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2017
    Mushroo likes this.
  4. Thanks, good advice. It' one of our original songs so I have a lot of freedom, I've just never written anything before so it' a little intimidating when the guitarist can rip stuff off the top of his head and I feel like a deer in the headlights. I used to noodle a bit playing born to be wild, but I ran into the same issues, I never really know where to go with it. So it sounded good but not great.
  5. lfmn16

    lfmn16 Supporting Member

    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv
    Go listen to The Real Me by The Who. It really shows you what can be played on the bass in the context of a song.
    Whousedtoplay likes this.
  6. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    you could start with your imagination! and then couple that with the knowledge that there is no 'right or wrong' for the most part. and then add adequate amounts of fearlessness until you are satisfied with the results! self-consciousness is not your friend!

    good luck! :thumbsup:
    Whousedtoplay likes this.
  7. Noodle away at home till you get comfortable, then cut loose at the gig.

    First time out of the shoot it's not going to be great, but, keep at it.
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2017
    Whousedtoplay likes this.
  8. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    How does your guitarist approach soloing, and is he willing to spend some time with you and give you a few pointers? :)
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2017
  9. Dbassmon


    Oct 2, 2004
    Rutherford, NJ
    Learning the melody of the tune is a good place to start. Write out the chord progression and see where you have shared chord tones... study Bach and Charlie Parker, become familiar with voice leading and chromatic substitution, and you should be well on your way.... or just play the same pentatonic box that everyone else plays.
    Whousedtoplay likes this.
  10. This is such a hard question to answer, because for most soloists, a lot of learning and experience has gone into their solo skills.

    For most, it is either being blessed with a really great ear, a superb knowledge of theory, or—for the lucky few—both. A good ear let’s you create the lines in your head and immediately translate them to your fingers; theoretical knowledge allows you to know ahead of time which notes sound right with any particular chord. Either will get you there. Together you’ll be unstoppable.
  11. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    Something to keep in mind when soloing on bass:

    Tommygun_ted and DeltaTango like this.
  12. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

    Jun 22, 2021

Share This Page