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Why do so many bass solos sound like guitar solos?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by edubb, May 31, 2007.


  1. edubb

    edubb

    Dec 6, 2006
    I am new to this forum and new to playing bass. However, I am not new to music, am 42 yrs old and have attended hundreds of live performances. I am curious why so many bassist's, especially ones that play 6 strings or more, spend so much time playing high notes :confused: . I am dying to see/hear the bass player that solo's in the bassment :bassist: giving me something I can feel as well as hear. I am not ragging on anybody, I have just wondered this for many, many years. This forum has given me the opportunity to ask this question.
     
  2. Notes in the upper register are clearer and easier to hear IMO . when I solo its most of the times above the 7th fret ..Also Im a bass guitarist , so my solos will sound similar to a guitar .
     
  3. Marcus Willett

    Marcus Willett

    Feb 8, 2005
    Palm Bay, FL
    Endorsing Artist: Bag End - Dean Markley - Thunderfunk
    I actually kind of agree with the OP. This is one of the primary reasons why I don't play a 6 (there's others too). Once you start playing that high, it doesn't sound like a bass anymore. It gets more guitar-like, and if that's the case, why not just have a damn guitar solo? To me, the upper limit is the high D on the G string (19th fret). Once you go above that, whether with a higher string or just more frets, it just doesn't sound like a bass anymore.


    Just IMO, but if it's not gonna sound like a bass solo (at least somewhat), if I have to try and figure out what instrument it is (gee...is that a guitar?...a baritone guitar?...wait...well, that was kinda bass-like...hmmm...jeez, what is that; a 9-string bass/guitar thing) it loses a lot of what makes it special and unique.

    This is what I try to achieve anyway, hopefully I'm somewhat successful..
     
  4. Sandwich Man

    Sandwich Man

    Apr 30, 2006
    New York
    I disagree with the fact that a player has to play to that instrument's individual traits. Music is music is music is music. An instrument is just the outlet for that. I've seen Hub from the Roots do plenty of bass solos on the low register. I've seen Flea jump back and forth between first position to the 24th fret in his solos. It's all what makes it go.

    If you want to perform and solo in the lower register be my guess. I've seen James Genus do some amazing solos on upright bass in the lower register. It's probably also that bassists play in the lower register all night long and when they have a chance to cut loose they probably want to do something different. In the end, do you like the solos? If you do, then okay. If you don't, then whatever. But the reason for not liking them shouldn't be that they don't take advantage of the instrument. It's whatever works in the context of the music.
     
  5. Brad Maestas

    Brad Maestas Sono est omnia Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 26, 2003
    Petaluma, CA, USA
    Luthier and Instrument Tech at Kala Brand Music Co.
    I think it's a matter of range. To play high just for the sake of playing high in the hopes of eliciting some kind of reaction is pretty juvenile. However, it's often hard to discern every pitch the bassist's playing if he stays in the nether-regions the whole time. Also, chords and tight groupings of notes usually sound muddy in the lower register. Abe Laboriel is a big stickler for that. He stresses the importance of proper voicing on the bass guitar so that you can really hear each pitch distinctly. In the higher range, you can play tons of cluster chords and tight voicings without problems. Allan Holdsworth is the master of that! It's all about what you're trying to do with it. If you're playing a line and it happens to take you up there, then great! But to stay there and relentlessly plod away is no fun to listen to, for sure.

    If you take a jazz theory class, they inevitably discuss upper-structure harmony and you can't play a proper 13th if you're below the accompaniment and maybe that keeps people playing high as well, from a literalist's standpoint. Also, I think people have a hangup on what other people think sounds cool so they'll play high to show off and hope they sound like so-and-so from that one record. That's obviously of no use to anyone who's serious about their instrument.

    Charlie Haden is one shining example of somebody who uses the lower range of the instrument for soloing very well. He knows how to build tension and resolve it and that leads him to play all over the instrument, high and low. I think if the line calls for it or if you feel it, it's great to go high. But camping out on the high notes can be just as bad as camping out on the low notes.

    Just like the contrasts between loud and soft, heavy and light and fast and slow, playing high or playing low is just another way to express yourself. If I need to go up there to play some notes that I know will otherwise sound muddy and not carry over the band in the lower register, then I will.

    I feel you, though. Lots of knuckleheads out there playing too fast and too high!
     
  6. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    Connecticut
    That guy doesn't listen to much jazz :D

    The reason lots of bass guitar solos sound like guitar solos is because....basses are guitars! Would you expect a tenor saxaphone solo to be completely different from an alto saxaphone in its composition? Of course not.

    Many bass solos tend to sound either guitar-like with lots of pentatonic and blues riffs or horn like with flurries of staccato passages. There's also the dreaded slap solo :D For me it's most enjoyable when players combine these styles with other melodic concepts that have more to do with music in general than any particular instrument. The reason most bassists play higher up for their solos is so they can be heard in a different context than how they are heard for the majority of a song- the same with guitarists and many other instrumentalists.
     
  7. 30hrz

    30hrz

    May 13, 2007
    Toronto
    I'm too old to learn more than 4 strings. Anyhow I like low frequencies, hence the reason I picked up the bass guitar. But to each his or her own.
     
  8. Marcus Willett

    Marcus Willett

    Feb 8, 2005
    Palm Bay, FL
    Endorsing Artist: Bag End - Dean Markley - Thunderfunk
    I understand where you are coming from, and to a large extent agree. Music is music. At the same time different timbres are what it's all about. Why are there even different instruments at all? I mean, we could all play piano (for example) and play all the musical parts, bass, melody, harmony and the music would be music. That would be pretty boring. the different timbres are what make music beautiful, and all I'm suggesting is use that beauty instead of trying to defeat it.
     
  9. Barkless Dog

    Barkless Dog Barkless to a point

    Jan 19, 2007
    Becuase 90% of the time they are boring to most people and suck. It's the time to go get a beer part of the show-

    Example of bass solo's gone wrong

     
  10. I think it depends on the person. Many time bass solos are wonderful conversation starters...but then again so are drum solos, guitar solos, etc. It all depends on the person. Some people no matter what the instrument will sound good, some....not so good, not interesting and boring.

    The "bass guitar is a guitar, so that's why it sounds like a guitar", eh, neither here nor there. BG is in the lineage of the DB, so you can go to a DB style solo or you can do a "guitar" solo, or you can mix stuff up.

    I do think that most people tend to go high on the bass when the start a solo because it "sticks out" more. But my main issue with a lot of bass solos is the rest of the band dropping out, or doing light hits. I don't drop out when you solo, nor would you like me to :) so please stay in during mine, I'll just turn up. :D
     
  11. LOL dancing bear indeed!
     
  12. im with you edubb on this, i would like to hear more solos that are nice an low. not that any other solos are bad, i would just like to hear some more low stuff aswell.
     
  13. Marcus Willett

    Marcus Willett

    Feb 8, 2005
    Palm Bay, FL
    Endorsing Artist: Bag End - Dean Markley - Thunderfunk
    AMEN BROTHER! I HATE THAT! It's amazing tho how many musicians (even good ones) don't grasp this simple concept. How about some friggin' support, ya schmuck?
     
  14. Brad Maestas

    Brad Maestas Sono est omnia Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 26, 2003
    Petaluma, CA, USA
    Luthier and Instrument Tech at Kala Brand Music Co.
    In all honesty, I think it's cool to be stumped every once in a while. When I first heard Skúli Sverrisson's solo on "Ellenville" from Ben Monder's album 'Excavation', I wasn't sure if it was a bass or not and that was cool. After repeated listenings, it's very obviously a 6-string Curbow. He uses the whole range of the instrument to his advantage. Also, check out his solo on Holdsworth's "Low Levels, High Stakes". He hops continents constantly, ending his solo with a lovely rasgueado flourish straight from Andalucía.

    In some cases I actually prefer a bass soloing in the high register than a guitar solo because of the way a bassist tends to think. For the guitarist it may just be another solo but a bassist tends to approach it differently and really savor and cherish each note instead of cramming in as many notes as possible. Of course, there are plenty of bassists that do that, too!

    Lots of bassists want to sound like a saxophone or a guitar and lots of guitarists want to sound like a horn or maybe a piano. What's common here? The common thread, I think, is the voice (and the breath). It's desirable to have that vocal quality in your playing, especially if you play a stringed instrument. Violinists have strived to sound like the voice for many ages and why not? It certainly has the most amount of expressive capabilities and seems to have been the judge of a musician's worth for many centuries.
     
  15. Brad Maestas

    Brad Maestas Sono est omnia Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 26, 2003
    Petaluma, CA, USA
    Luthier and Instrument Tech at Kala Brand Music Co.
    Me, too. I always say that I just happen to play bass! :D

    Thankyou!
     
  16. NickyBass

    NickyBass Supporting Member

    Nov 28, 2005
    Southern New Jersey
    For me, it's what I hear in my head. Whether that is high of low, it really doesn't matter to me. If I'm taking a few choruses, I'll probably end up all over the neck eventually. If I hear a line, and it's leading up to the stratosphere, then that's where I'll go. I'm not going to lead up to something, only to think, 'oh, wait, I'm going to sound like a guitarist,' and jump down an octave. Besides, I feel that you can still get a fat, warm tone even when playing higher passages.
     
  17. Eublet

    Eublet

    Jul 28, 2006
    I know what you mean. I went through a stage where I loved Patitucci, but after a while it started sounding very harsh to me and too high. Then I got into Gary Willis, as he tends to spend a lot of time in the "meat" of a 5 string for his solo's. Now I've come full circle, and have once again begun digging the higher range stuff on 6 strings.

    I still can't get into 7 string stuff, ala Dickens. It just sounds clackety to me, especially when he slaps the thing. But I certainly don't show dissrespect for it, and I hope to never take the attitude that a bass players role is to stay out of the way of the music as some "old-timers" often allude to. I think the bass has it's place both in and outside of the groove pocket.
     
  18. NickyBass

    NickyBass Supporting Member

    Nov 28, 2005
    Southern New Jersey
    Agreed.

    Also, most other instrumentalists don't even think this way. You never hear a tenor sax player talk about avoiding the range of an alto player. They use what's available to them. Why not take advantage of it?
     
  19. Amen!
     
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