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Your opinion on bass soloes?

Discussion in 'Bassists [BG]' started by AZNBassist, Mar 19, 2005.

  1. AZNBassist


    Jan 14, 2004
    Well, yesterday I was talking to my guitarist in my band (my band's a trio, guitar, bass, and drums, we play a a fusion (pun intended) of jazz, rock, funk, and reggae) and we were discussing the role of each instrument in each group. Then when we came to the role of the bass, my guitarist had a strong opinion that the bass was definitely an important instrument, but it was primarily a rhythm instrument and that it wasn't meant for soloes.

    Well I kind of made this thread just to discuss and see what other bassists thought about this issue, so yea.

    In my opinion, I think the bass is just as much a lead instrument as it is a rhythm instrument. I mean, the guitar was originally just a rhythm instrument, until T-Bone WAlker and Charlie Christian turned it into a lead instrument. I think any instrument (including drums) can be a lead instrument, its being a rhythm instrument thats unique. Now my guitarist's argument was that it sounds empty and boring when the bassist soloes and thats because it has a low frequency and duznt sound good compared to a guitarist or horn soloing. Well, i think the reason why bass soloes sound so empty and boring is because no one else even bothers trying to play rhythm behind the bass except for the drums. If you listen to some Return to Forever, Slam Stewart, Paul Chambers, or Stanley Clarke records, you see that when each of those guys starts soloing, the keyboard OR guitar immediately takes the bass's role and starts playing a solid rhythm, which is what most guitarists and keyboardists neglect to do, and just sit there and watch like the lazy bastards they are (just kidding :D).

    He also argued that if that was the case, how come there are a lack of bass soloist nowadays if it does have potential, well if you really think about it, in the 1900's when jazz just started with dixieland, the bassists just werent that good because most of them werent actually bassists, they were just coverted tubists or trombones. and the during the swing era (despite jimmy blanton and slam stewart) bassists still werent soloing because you cant play over a big band. and in rock, the bassist tends to be the roadie who hangs around the band or the person who is worst at guitar, which is probably the reason for the lack bass soloists, becasue the majority of bassists back then and still nowadays barely know how to play their instrument.

    But now, i think it really depends on what kind of band and music you are producing that determines the kinds of soloes, but in this case, which is just a small group of ppl like 7-3 ppl, i think if the other rhythm players just kno how to back up the bassist like we all back them up, then bass soloes can become very exciting, which means that the bass deserves to be in the front just as much as every other instrument does because the bass can and should be a lead instrument as well as a rhythm instrument.

    Your thoughts/opinions?
  2. nonsqtr

    nonsqtr The emperor has no clothes!

    Aug 29, 2003
    Burbank CA USA
    Good question. I think bass solos are best if they're short and tasty, and they sound like they fit "naturally" into the song. I can cite a few examples, for instance some of Entwhistle's stuff with the Who, like on "My Generation" there's those little solo-ish fills in the middle of the song somewhere. That kinda thing is really cool.

    Now, for "real" solos, like the Stanley Clarke kinda thing, using the bass as a "lead instrument", my take is, that stuff is pretty esoteric, not many people will really appreciate the talent that's involved. Also, it's hard to listen to it for very long, it gets pretty boring pretty quick. Although, the same could be said for any other instrument, in other words, think of Richie Blackmore taking a 20 minute guitar solo, I've seen a lot of people walk out of the hall to go get beers when that happens. The short guitar solo in the middle of a song is "cool", 'cause it's the flashy part that adds a little spice to the "gestalt" of the song.

    Another funny thing is, if you ask the chics, they don't hear the solos "at all", they just listen to the lyrics. Chics can recite song lyrics word for word, that I can't even "hear". It's the guys that usually hear the guitar solos and say "wow, that was really cool".

    So, I suppose what I'm trying to say is, "it depends on your audience". If you're doing avant garde fusion stuff, your audience will probably be small but very appreciative. If you're doing cover tunes in a club setting, I'd say, "nix the solos", 'cause they're not going to be appreciated, and in fact they'll probably turn a lot of people off. A short and sweet "fill-type" solo is probably good, like the Entwhistle thing, it might add a little "spice" to an otherwise repetitive song. But using the bass as a lead instrument in that kind of setting, is just going to turn people off.

    All IMO of course. And IME. :)

    GSPLBASSDC Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 25, 2005
    Des Moines, IA
    I agree...it depends on your audience. That said, I firmly believe you can toss in a solo with cover tunes!! While it may not necessarily mesh with country, metal, or other types of rock...I'd still say a short and tastfully done solo adds a ton to the overall performance.

    For the music I play, NOBODY in the audience walks out on a bass solo for r&b, jazz, or funk!!!

    GSPLBASSDC Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 25, 2005
    Des Moines, IA
    ... not for my solos, I'm talking about the music genre!!
  5. Tnavis


    Feb 25, 2003
    Minneapolis, MN
    There's a time and a place for everything. If I'm working with a cover band, I'm not going to rip into a 10 minute jazz oddysey during "Vertigo" by U2. But if I'm doing jazz, or funk, my band's original music, I'll step right up and throw down for a chorus or two.

    One of the problems that exists with bass solos is that if you're not careful, you can lose a lot of the songs energy. I'm geussing this carries over from the unamplified big band days, but during bass solos, every one in the band feels that they need to stop playing to be heard. Think about it. Would guitar solos be interesting if the drummer and bassist walked off the stage? Probably not.

    I agree with nonsqtr, it all depends on the audience as well. It does seem that with more "jam" type bands out there, audiences are a bit more used to extended solos, so sneaking in 8 bars of bass shouldn't phase them too much. :cool:
  6. jongor

    jongor Supporting Member

    Jan 11, 2003
    Isn't it just like a guitarist to say that?!? :rolleyes:

    I'll bet this guy is a pain in the arse to work with.

    It's all about me...me,me,me. "Spotlight please!"

    I disagree with him. If you have the chops, and the desire, you should be given space to do your thing too.
  7. Personally, I can't abide them, with two exceptions - John Entwistle and Jim Lea..

  8. NOLA Bass

    NOLA Bass Mr. Worst Case Scenario Man Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 3, 2005
    New Orleans LA
    I am not a big fan of the bass solo. "My Generation" was the first, and I don't know if it has ever been topped. I think tasty licks thrown into a song at the right spot are a lot better 9 times out of 10. Hell, I'm a bass player and I don't want to hear most bassists play a solo. I think the comment about losing a song's energy for a long bass solo is really valid too. It just works best in really short bursts, like Geddy Lee in YYZ. There is a long instrumental, and his bass solo is just little short stops. Above all, to each his own.
  9. I don't mind them at all, they have to be not wuite a solo though. Like not a hey look at what i can do, but a look what i can do while not showing off.

    Mike Dimin is great at this, i saw him last night and it was ridiculous. Just being able to do all that looping stuff between all thos riffs
  10. Mojo-Man

    Mojo-Man Supporting Member

    Feb 11, 2003
    In the right situation, there fine.
    I like to play short solos, in rok or blues settings.
    If it a Jazz setting I tend to wank out more.
  11. Brian S

    Brian S

    Nov 11, 2003
    Atlanta, Georgia
    I believe that one of the big problems with bass solos is that the bassist, being so used to playing a steady stream of notes while playing rhythm, does the same thing when soloing. A good solo needs silence as well as sound. Phrasing is very important. Good phrasing creates points of tension and release in the solo. If you want to learn how to solo, listen to horn players like Charlie Parker and Miles Davis. They can't play a constant stream of notes because they have to breathe, which helps them in their phrasing. Learn to 'breathe' in your solos and they will become more interesting to the audience.
  12. burk48237

    burk48237 Supporting Member

    Nov 22, 2004
    Oak Park, MI
    My feelings on solo's are mixed, there was deffinently an era (the late 70's) when long solo's were the norm even in pop, but I get the feeling most people wern't clapping at the end beacause it was a great solo, they were clapping because of the release of tension, THE SOLO WAS OVER! On the other hand I've been to plenty of shows (pop) where the bass solo got the most applause! Maybe because the guy only took one solo and people were pleasently surprised to hear bass with chops! So maybe the key is not to play a lot of them but blow all your best chops on one good one toward the end of the night. Now Jazz/Jam band music is totally different, it is about improvisation and interaction between muscians. Maybe thats why the only people that go to them are muscians! Or at least it seems that way.
  13. rporcupine


    Jun 7, 2004
    Brighton, UK
    my guitarist is a female dog and says 'bass solos are not meant to be'. this really gets to me, because who wrote in 'the laws of music' that guitarists have to take the fun?

    i think if you can pull a bass solo off, they rock harder than guitar solos most of the time. guitar solo? pfft... how cliche ;)
  14. Metal Mitch

    Metal Mitch

    Jul 14, 2003
    I totally agree with that... and I'll go a step further and say most guitarists simply have no idea how to play accompaniment or comp parts. They know how to play a standard rythym part, which would be equivalent to our playing just root notes or even less in some cases - like a "scratch" part. But very few know what to do beyond that. Which is the reason you see so few 2-guitar "teams" that work well together without duplicating each others parts.

    Agreed. A bass "break" (rather than a "solo") on some songs is standard for most metal bands, although you don't hear it as much in other styles.

    The other piece is, if you're playing lines that are technical and/or melodic, and at the same time complement everything else that's going on, you don't really need to "solo" to say what you have to say. You just need to think - which is something a guitarist rarely has to do.
  15. James Hart

    James Hart

    Feb 1, 2002
    Endorsing Artist: see profile
    to me a solo has little to do with chops or speed.... it has to do with being part of the story the music tells and any instrument can be the narrator... bass included.
  16. willgroove2


    Aug 16, 2003
    chicago IL
    Endorsing Artist;Essential sound products,Dunlop, Ergo Instruments
    depending on the setting i take solo's on the regular,in fact i think to be a well rounded bassist you should be ABLE to take solo's.the "less is more,i don't need to know what im doing" school of thought is strange to me because when i was learning how to play i was taught that you should know your axe well enough to solo and have a voice while doing it.now i don't think one should force thing's where they don't go and that short bass breaks can be great spice in songs,anthony jackson is not big on long solos but i have learned a ton form hearing him take short breaks on steve khan and michel camillo stuff.now im in my mid-'30's but didn't return to forever and weather report play to big crowds all around the world? i have toured all around the world and outside the US people love bass solos maybe it has to do with the state of music in general,jam band's have bass solos in their music and they draw well don''t they? here is some of my work,i don't think it's boring(at least i hope not)http://www.soundclick.com/willhoward
  17. Lorenzini


    Dec 31, 2004
    Los Angeles
    Ah finally a more philosophical and artistic approach. This is imo also true
  18. I've always thought that any solo is fine as long as it's in context or is organic in the situation. if it's forced, empty, all about chops, or if it doesn't say anything I don't know why one would play it.

    I play in a bunch of different settings, solo shows among them. in my Old School funk trio I rarely if ever solo. in my bass duo I solo occasionally if it fits or if I feel it. in my working gigs, I solo if I'm asked to.

    all about context and emotion for this boy. not to say that I'm always hip to my own advice, but I'm working on it!


    from the lows,

  19. If you wanna solo, get one!
  20. Matt Till

    Matt Till

    Jun 1, 2002
    Edinboro, PA
    I don't like solos... I'm punk rock.