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What Is Your Approach to Soloing?

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by mattfong, Mar 17, 2008.

  1. mattfong


    Jan 14, 2008
    Toronto, Canada

    I'm fairly new to jazz, and I need to work on my soloing. It's going decently, but I was just wondering what sort of approach you take towards it.

    For example, do you think of each scale/mode that can be used on each chord? Or do you think of the bigger picture of the root scale, then start in different places depending on which chord you're on (therefore indirectly using the modes)? Something else perhaps? Obviously feel is a big part, but I'm talking more the technical aspects right now.

    So far, I do a little bit of both the things I mentioned, and they seem to work out alright, but I'm having difficulties with a fairly uptempo bop tune that has a few key changes and a lot of different chords. Any tips? :help:

    By the way, the tune is based on the changes to 'It's You Or No One", in F.

  2. Play melodies.
  3. Adam Booker

    Adam Booker Supporting Member

    May 3, 2007
    Boone, NC
    Endorsing Artist: D'Addario Strings, Remic Microphones
    Don't be afraid of the funny notes. Just play.
  4. dmperry24


    Dec 11, 2006
    Stamford, CT
    Joe Pass used to say he thought in terms of the general chord sounds. He simplified his thinking to is it major, minor, seventh or dimished/augmented. He then used those scales plus some "Blue Notes" to work his magic. That's the way I like to go myself, but then I don't improvise very much on the bass except in a jam session type of environment.
  5. uprightben


    Nov 3, 2006
    Boone, NC
    "play melodies"

    Soloing is fundamentally melodic. Of course, the harmony informs your melodic choices, this is where chord/scale theory comes in, but you should always try to make a meaningfull melodic statement. Using the tune's melody as a jumping off point is a good place to start, or finish....
  6. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    I tend to feel the same - so I like to have the sound of the current chord in my head, in context, while bearing in mind where we are going! :p
  7. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    +1. That's the ultimate goal.

    Don't overlook the simplicity of playing simple drum-like rhythms and exact placement of your notes on the measure. Starting your phrases on the 1-and and things like that. I got out of playing a Ray Brown or Paul Chambers solo. You can get a ton of mileage out of just paying attention to rhythms.
  8. mattfong


    Jan 14, 2008
    Toronto, Canada
    I agree on the melodies point. That also applies not only to soloing, but to bass lines in general. I do try to incorporate a variety of rhythms, as well as silence. What you don't say is just as powerful as what you do. I like the Joe Pass thing, thanks!

    More tips! More tips! Haha.
  9. dblbss


    Sep 20, 2007
    play simple
  10. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    Easier said than done. :crying:
  11. mattfong


    Jan 14, 2008
    Toronto, Canada
    I'm also looking for tips on navigating the chord changes in a bop tune, remember! It would be much appreciated, I have an audition at U of T in a week haha.
  12. jallenbass

    jallenbass Supporting Member Commercial User

    May 17, 2005
    Bend, Oregon
    I'm finding that arpeggiating the changes while leaving out the root has freed me up quite a bit. Play them all 3rd to 3rd, 5th to 5th and 7th to 7th.
  13. Tslicebass

    Tslicebass Supporting Member

    Jun 12, 2007
    Asking a question like this is like asking "how do you speak english". The best way to practice is to go out and do it in the context of a live situation. And practice learning melodies, phrasing, rhythmic motifs. And transcribe as much as humanly possible. Learn how to play solos note for note so you know how it feels to play solos and then analyze what you transcribed and figure out why soloists do the things they do.
  14. David1234


    Jun 1, 2004
    Sydney, Australia
    Endorsing Artist: SWR Amplifiers
    Getting the technical stuff down (modes, chords etc) is important but does not by itself lead to playing in a way that's actually melodic.

    Here's part of the approach that works for me, when I want to sound melodic on tunes that I already know the chords to.

    Use a very small number of melodic ideas (one to three) in each solo, and re-use them by playing modified versions of the same idea.

    In this case an idea is a very short melodic fragment of just a few notes, but it can sometimes be more complicated. Now develop the idea through the solo, weaving through the changes, by adding or subtracting notes, by use of melodic sequence (similar melodic fragments but higher or lower) and by ending a phrase differently at different times, by playing the melody or its rhythm backwards or even upside down.

    When this approach is working, to a listener the melodies you're making should sound a bit like somebody talking:
    - Have phrases that seem about as short as a simple sentence.
    - Leave time between phrases like a person breathing in, pausing to ponder something, or listening to the other half of a conversation.
    - Start your "story" with simple ideas then build the drama as you expand on them.
    - But try and let it sound more like a poem than a speech: rhyme your ideas [by, as above, playing a similar-but-not-identical melodic fragment] either immediately or a little later on.

    Also try letting your early phrases end on a higher note, as if asking a question, then when you recap them or finish the solo try ending on a lower note. It sounds like asking a question then answering it.

    The amount of repetition in this style of solo is high, since you're using the same idea over and over, and this means that the audience has a chance of understanding where you're going. The risk of the solo becoming stale by so much repetition is reduced by variations you're adding every time you present those same ideas. The variations are what the audience will hear, and the effect of those variations is going to let you sculpt something of a broader story out of these now-familiar ideas.
    or create a sense of drama.

    ... I hope this makes some sense!
  15. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    My cheater method to get through uptempo tunes is to focus on a melody that spans several chords. I just go by ear and play something that I hear internally over where I imagine the song will go ahead of time... but the key to getting out of the problem is to have a target note to resolve to - usually a chord tone. Like I said, it's a cheater trick. :p

    For instance, one of my tricks to memorizing tunes is to know well what chord an A or B part begins and ends with. I treat these as landmarks to get around on. Go by ear to fill in the gaps but always start strong and end strong while paying alot of attention to rhythm and dynamics the whole time. If I mess up somewhere in the middle, I know where the road ends so I can always hook up with the next beginning/end of an A or B part and get back with the rest of the band.

    It's like getting lost in the streets but always roughly knowing how to get home if all else fails.
  16. David1234


    Jun 1, 2004
    Sydney, Australia
    Endorsing Artist: SWR Amplifiers
    That's a really good point, hdiddy.
  17. Eric Hworth

    Eric Hworth

    Mar 19, 2008
    Roanoke, VA
    Good points all... I can only chime in that in my solo tool box contains the players around me, so to speak. Themes from the soloist in front of me in the tune can be a wealth of ideas for your solo.... this doesn’t lend itself to preparing for the solo during your practice sessions, but if you can pick up on the theme from the soloist directly before you, you have a great starting point. It also gives the overall ride series a sense of continuity.

    As far as solos in general... I had an instructor tell me once that you go opposite of the song... if the tune is slow to moderately slow, use a "busy" solo, lots of notes, shorter theme and variation turn arounds. If the tune is fast, slow your solo down, making it broader over the changes.....seems to work for me...:D
  18. Menacewarf


    Mar 9, 2007
    Right. Shouldn't music be more about listening and interacting and responding more than the stratagies facilititing those actions?
  19. Phil Rowan

    Phil Rowan Supporting Member

    Mar 2, 2005
    Brooklyn, NY
    Firstly, learn melodies like there's no tomorrow, and try to overcome the terrible disease known as sidemanosis. Transcribe some bass lines from Oscar Pettiford (just as one example for simplicity... Monk plays Ellington is good because you'll be learning some Duke tunes at the same time). You can do it with you bass next to you at first, but eventually just get the very first note and transcribe the rest using just your ears. Do the same for solos (not just bass solos). Also check out some Bach 2 part inventions, preferably with someone else (if possible) playing the top part as you play the bottom, and vice versa. The whole point is to make your ears bigger and bigger, so that you'll hear even more (from your band mates) while playing with others.
  20. dblbss


    Sep 20, 2007
    What I mean is , don't freak out and start playing a bunch of stuff.

    Leave space,3rds & 7ths, quote the melody, guide tones etc.......

    Lift some Chet Baker solos would help as well

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