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Writing solo

Discussion in 'Ask Steve Lawson & Michael Manring' started by stephanie, Mar 11, 2001.


  1. stephanie

    stephanie

    Nov 14, 2000
    Scranton, PA
    When I look at sheet music to a song's bassline, usually it is the same bassline throughout the whole song or it's broken up into Intro, Verse, Chorus, etc. with sometimes only tiny variations. I have some songs that are only one line of a page! Most only take up one page and rarely do I find songs that take up more than one.


    When you are writing a song for solo bass, do you write it the same way as if it were a regular song that would be a 'band' song? How do you go about writing it?

    Being that it's 'just the bass'...I'd think there'd have to be more flavor to it and more differing lines, right? Cuz wouldn't the same line get boring played over and over again?

    Sorry if this sounds confusing. I couldn't figure out how to word my questions. LOL. But I'm sure you understand what I mean. :)

    Cheers,

    ~stephanie
     
  2. Jeff Bonny

    Jeff Bonny Supporting Member

    Nov 20, 2000
    Vancouver, BC
    The way David Friesen showed me was to record yourself playing solo for ten or fifteen minutes per day and then listen to it the next day and take the best idea(s) and write a tune. It's important to give it the of day rest so you're listening with a fresh and more objective(?) ear.

    Steve just did a gig with David and can probably confirm that if this works for him then it's working pretty well. :)
     
  3. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    There are loads of ways to approach solo writing - you can go for conventional song structure, or something more 'ambient', or something that just evolves, with no repetition at all. If you are using loops at all, the technology will dictate a lot of what happens.

    start by just playing tunes, or a few chords. keep it technically as simple as you can. For some inspiration, try and get hold of a record of Erik Satie's Gymnopedies or Gnosiemes (I can't be sure of the spelling! :oops:) - they are really simple piano pieces that focus on mood and expression and sound, rather than chops.

    If you have one nice idea, trying thinking of a contrasting but complimentary one that you can alternate between for a 'chorus'... try working in the same key, but basing it round the relative major/minor of where you started...

    ...if you were here, I could demonstrate a few things. It's a bit tricky with words! :oops:)

    Steve
    www.steve-lawson.co.uk
     
  4. stephanie

    stephanie

    Nov 14, 2000
    Scranton, PA
    Thanks guys for the advice.


    Last night I recorded (on my cheap tape recorder that makes and annoying hissing noise LOL) a few small lines I had written down. I played them back and wow they sound so different on tape. Some sounded actually good, though. :)
     
  5. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    WAHEY!!!!!

    your first solo recording - congratulations. That's great - the fact that you actually like some of it puts you ahead of almost everyone else who's ever played solo bass. My earliest experiments were rubbish... :oops:)

    keep it up - you'll have a solo album together in no time...

    steve
    www.steve-lawson.co.uk
     
  6. I've actually picked up some interesting ideas by recording myself playing licks on a 4track, and then flipping the tape over and listening to the lines in reverse- the rhythm and melody get rearanged totally, so sometimes a totally new idea emerges. (sounds weird, but it does work ,sometimes:D).
     
  7. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    definitely - backwards stuff is great! i use it all the time on the Line 6 DL4...

    cheers

    steve
    www.steve-lawson.co.uk
     
  8. bah- you use it already!:D
    I was really referring to relearning the backwards riff playing it normally...but I like that reversed "warbling" sound too.
    I'll have to look into getting one of these Line6 DL4 gizmo's........
     
  9. maxvalentino

    maxvalentino Endorsing Artist Godin Guitars/ Thomastik-Infeld

    Great to hear folks are experimenting with recording/compositional techniques!
    Here's another to try...with a four track recorder:
    Record bass line or a series of chords (let's not call it a "progression" yet).
    Then play a harmony line to that and record it on track two.
    Mute track one (it's best if you wait a day or so...so as you do not have a memory of your original part). Record another part TO the second line you recorded.
    Wait a day or so...
    Mute tracks 1 and 3....while listening to track 2, record a part to that on track four. Play that back with the original track....guess what, chances are you will have stumbled into a direction or harmony you might never have thought of before....
    you can repeat this process over and over...randomly choosing "playback" and "overdub" tracks. Each successive pass will alter the original conceptiuon of the piece and (hopefully) take you off into new uncharted musical terrain.
    "honour your mistake as a hidden intention"
    Max
     
  10. maxvalentino

    maxvalentino Endorsing Artist Godin Guitars/ Thomastik-Infeld

    another idea is to watch a sporting event on TV with the sound off (American Football is good for this)...improvise only when action is taking place. Make sure your phrases begin and end. That is the real challenge. Sometimes you have only a few seconds of "action" on screen..and only miliseconds to react and bring those to a natural and musical ending. Record those ideas and use them as "sketches" for larger compostions....or just use this technique to test yer improvisational skills.
    Max
     
  11. Jeff Bonny

    Jeff Bonny Supporting Member

    Nov 20, 2000
    Vancouver, BC
    Originally posted by maxvalentino
    "honour your mistake as a hidden intention"


    beautiful
     
  12. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    Interesting - is the mistake a hidden intention, or is it just that our intentions are not always as plesant as chance might be... I had a music teacher at school that would always tell us not to correct mistakes, that they were meant to be there, and it's meant that when I am writing or playing, I now re-evaluate a 'mistake' in terms of how it sounds, not how it relates to what I intended. I don't think I could claim them as hidden intentions, but I can be grateful for the times when my concentration slips and notes come out that I didn't intend but which do improve the music... :oops:)

    That's the lovely thing about the backwards stuff that we've been talking about recently - it's an unknown quantity. I hope I never get to the point where I can predict what a line is going to sound like once I've pitch shifted it and flipped it back to front. The pleasure of such a sound is in the surprise as much as it is in the sound itself...

    It never ceases to delight and amuse me how philosophical solo bassists are as a breed - it must come with the territory when making music that most people would dismiss before even exploring the concept. If you're the kind of person who sees past that and looks for new sounds and new ways to approach the instrument, you can't just latch onto whatever has gone before, but one needs to continually look for where your musical journey is leading...

    but within the philosophising, don't forget to have fun! :oops:)

    Steve
    www.steve-lawson.co.uk
     
  13. stephanie

    stephanie

    Nov 14, 2000
    Scranton, PA

    LOL. It's all good if I can actually hear what I recorded over the loud hiss and crackles of my lousy recorder. (I know..I know...I should have a 4-track or something)

    Actually I took the one part that I wrote that I seemed to enjoy the most and I've been working on it little by little. It's not even a whole line on a piece of sheet paper yet, but nothing should be hurried write? Trying to put some importance into every note and also trying to think up a beginning time and rhythm.

    I'll give you a little bit of what I started with, maybe you can tell me what you think:

    I started with playing a scale, just descending, palying fairly fast (most likely 16th notes..I will have to see when I figure out the temp) and then halting at a certain point and playing a some notes of a certain chord (still working on that).

    Whatcha think?

    Cheers,

    ~Stephanie

    PS: I've also written a bassline but it doesn't sound like a "solo" effort, more for if I were in a band cuz it's mainly repeating 8th notes.
     
  14. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    It's kind of difficult to tell from your description what it will sound like, as the magic of music is often in the performance as much as it is in the notes. Just try getting Band In A Box to play anything with feeling and you'll realise that the greatest tunes can be messed up by a duff performance, but conversely, the simplest material can be rendered wonderful by a considered performance. I have a bit of a fixation with making the simplest tunes sound really emotive. If you get the chance to listen to Ghost Town by Bill Frisell, especially the version that is on Marc Johnson's album 'The Sound Of Summer Running' you may see what I mean. It's the most simple melody, over really simple chords, played to perfection.

    I've just added some more real audio to my site, taken from a gig in LA, which starts very simple and gets really loop heavy in the middle! :oops:) go and have a listen, and let me know what you think...

    keep at it!

    Steve
    www.steve-lawson.co.uk
     
  15. yep, I'll have to try those 4track methods out....
    honour your mistake as a hidden intention
    when using loops of my basslines I've noticed how imperfections such as fretbuzz and even timing errors (which would sound terrible when played conventionally with a band) can actually sound good when they're repeated (as said by many musicians- "if you make a mistake, do it again and everyone will think you meant to do it")- I find it fun to sample my own lines "out of context" like hip-hop acts eg. De La Soul, only that it's me playing the lines in the first place.