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Thread: Bass Solos

  1. #1

    Bass Solos

    So, I'm sorry to the bassists out there... but I gotta say it. I feel like basically 99% of the tunes I've heard that have a bass solo would have been better off not having a bass solo. I am totally willing to accept it as a personal shortcoming or inability of my own hearing, but I basically never think the bass solo is interesting. Am I alone here?


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  2. #2

  3. #3
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    Being both a guitar and a bass player ...

    Very good bass solos which really add something to the tune, keeping the audience alive and tapping its feet, are indeed very hard to perform ! It's really a big challenge requiring much expertise and a good deal of talent to perform a solo which is both rythmically and harmonically interesting. Very few books exist about this topic.

    Most often bass solos are only performed during a few tunes of a set. Several times I felt they didn't bring anything, and sometimes they were even reducing the energy felt during the tune.

    But not always, it also happened that I personally heard solos I found were really impressive, in particular for some Piazolla pieces generally very hard to perform, maybe just because being a bass player, I may gauge the amount of the required expertise.

    Also, are drums solo always adding something to the tune, with the possible exception of trading four moments which may add to the rythmic feel ?
    Perfection is in the Details, but Perfection isn't a Detail (Leonardo da Vinci)

  4. #4
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    Best pop bass solo ever.

    Ironically the camera centres on Keith Moon for the solos.
    “When a wise man points at the moon the fool considers the finger.”

  5. #5
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    Opinions may differ, but this bass part solo isn't too bad

    Perfection is in the Details, but Perfection isn't a Detail (Leonardo da Vinci)

  6. #6
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    Bass solos can certainly add something to a tune. I love Pattitucci's playing, and lord knows he steps out often enough ... but almost always adds something to the mix. No doubt they can get annoying, but truth be told, for me any soloing can get old quick in incompetent hands. It really does fall on the musician to make his place in the sun bright.

    Now, if we're talking rock, bass solos should be relegated to parody movies, for all they "add" to the song.

    Quote Originally Posted by mhch View Post
    Also, are drums solo always adding something to the tune, with the possible exception of trading four moments which may add to the rythmic feel ?
    If they're a capella, they give you a smoke break, otherwise they're not very enticing to me. I don't like a capella solos though, typically. I want to hear music, not showboating -- bass, drums, or guitar, I'm not big on the wheedly-wheedly stuff. I love a good solo in the context of a song, though. Never had any interest in playing solos outside a song even when I was a metalhead in the late-80s SoCal scene where such was considered de rigeur. Play the damned song and spare me your bragging.

    My favorite drum solo is Steve Gadd's playing on "Aja". Grab 4:43 -- 5:34, where he's "soloing" under Wayne Shorter, and from 6:57 to fade. Very musical drumming, the guy's killing it.



    That's a solo that adds a hell of a lot to the song.
    Last edited by Thumpalumpacus; 09-15-2016 at 05:17 AM.

  7. #7
    Most enjoyable bass solos I ever heard were by Ray Brown in his own trio at Ronnie Scotts many years ago. No virtuoso flights of fancy, just very tasteful, melodic solos with a big, acoustic bass sound. (He did have some amplification but it was not very loud).

  8. #8
    I should specify, I was referring primarily to the small combo, more traditional jazz format. And specifically to use of upright bass. Amplified bass guitar is a different beast. I'm not talking about stuff like Jaco. I love some of the tunes where Ron Carter pulls out the bow and actually plays with a second bassist. Maybe that's part of it... Losing the underlying walking foundation. But I also feel like there's just something "not melodic" about most bass solos. Like it's more of a technique showcase. This can be true on any instrument, but it seems particularly an issue on the bass.


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  9. #9
    Hey Pants,
    I was the same way a few years ago. try listening to scott lafaro playing with bill evens. listen to his solos actively for an extended time period. When I did this it sort of opened up my ears to the bass and I was able to enjoy other bass solos as well. of course, sometimes it's just a bad solo!
    White belt
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  10. #10
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    Hello.
    A missionary goes to the most remote part of jungle.
    As soon as he arrives in the village he is to visit, he hears drums beating wildly in the distance.
    He asks the Chief what the drums mean.


    The Chiefs reply is "Drums play, good. Drums stop, bad."
    During the missionaries entire month long stay he frequently asks the Chief about the continuous drumming.
    The Chiefs reply is always the same. "Drums play good. Drums stop bad. Finally as the missionary is leaving he asks the Chief again about the drumming...
    The Chief says "Drums play, g..."
    "I know, I know" says the missionary. "Drums play, good. Drums stop, bad.
    But why is it bad when the drums stop?"


    The Chief shakes his head and says" Drums stop, bass solo.







    Music is the key that can open strange rooms in the house of memory.
    Llewelyn Wyn Griffith


  11. #11
    Understand somewhat where you're coming from . I guess it depends to a great degree on the player. Gary Peacock takes a solo on nearly every Jarett-trio track, and I love each of his solos. But with that group, it's more about the interactions than individual solos anyway.

    I also think it has something to do with the way they mic him on those recordings. It's not necessarily a "realistic " front of the house sound or mix . More like being on stage with him , but again, I wouldn't want to discount what those guys do musically either. I've just heard some older recordings with a more "realistic" miked bass sound, and you really can't hear much. It's definitely not as compelling.
    Last edited by matt.guitarteacher; 09-15-2016 at 09:02 AM.

  12. #12
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    I have a guitar trio, as in me and a bass and drums. Without bass solos, I'd never get to comp

    so I have a rooting interest

    but bass solos are cool. All the cool kids dig jazz bass solos, that's just how it is. You can't fight it, you just gotta go with it.

    besides, aren't all your best friends bass players or drummers? Why would you tell your best friend he can't have a solo?

    Its the upright bass player who has been working his ass off. Those guys are playing what is essentially a dog house with strings on it. And for the last 20 choruses of Cherokee, while you've been noodling around, that at that point you're going to tell your best friend that after all that he cannot have a solo?

    have you no heart?

    those guys work their asses off for us and you don't even want to hear them play?

    what kind of jazzman are you???

  13. #13
    I guess maybe my point is more that it's possible to be more interesting and why doesn't it happen more often? Seems maybe the expectation is so low? We should see more bows too... I know it's not "tradition" but the instrument can really sing when used right.



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  14. #14
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    I can tell you one of the reasons you see few bowed solos is because bowing is effing hard to do right. You have to spend a lot of time...years really to get your bow arm working. I know first-hand, I play fiddle.

    Guys who have had classical training (and that's what it takes) but can still swing pretty good despite all the classical training are few and far between. It's hard enough finding upright bass players period.

    The bass player in my trio can bow enough to play one long note, so every now and then on the ending, he'll pull the bow out of the quiver in time to sound an ending note.

    I mentioned something about "wouldn't it be cool to play a chorus with the bow" but that didn't really go anyplace.

    you have to understand that a bowed upright bass is essentially a different instrument. You might as well ask him to take a chorus on French Horn while you're at it.

  15. #15

    Bass Solos

    Are there really that many bassists playing upright that didn't learn classically? I learned how to play bass with a bow long before I learned to pluck it. I don't know. It hasn't been that long since I grew up with jazzers, but all the bassists I ever met were
    classically trained.


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    Last edited by pants; 09-15-2016 at 12:28 PM.

  16. #16
    dortmundjazzguitar Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by Nate Miller View Post
    #And for the last 20 choruses of Cherokee, while you've been noodling around, that at that point you're going to tell your best friend that after all that he cannot have a solo?
    yeah, i always make it a point to give the bassplayer a few chorusses on cherokee. if i feel especially generous i even have the drummer stroll for the bass solo. happiness all around.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by pants View Post
    Are there really that many bassists playing upright that didn't learn classically? I learned how to play bass with a bow long before I learned to pluck it. I don't know. It hasn't been that long since I grew up with jazzers, but all the bassists I ever met were
    classically trained.


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    yes, most of the bass players I ever played with. In fact, I can't think of one that was a classical guy. I like to play with bass players that swing.

    But I'm here in the States and so most guys playing in clubs didn't start out in classical lessons as kids.

  18. #18
    especially like the bass duo trading 4s at 6:10


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  19. #19
    Isn't it kind of condescending to say that bass players needn't know how to use a bow because it takes "years" of training? Isn't that the point of any instrument? Spend the time learning to play it well, learn different techniques? (And by the way I put in my time with pennies balanced on the back of my hand too Bass Solos). Bowed bass allows melody lines that sing and project and provide a huge dynamic and emotive range. With such a capability available on your instrument wouldn't you want to tap it?
    I'd say finger style vs picked guitar would be a more apt analogy than bass vs French horn. It's the same instrument, nearly the same left hand technique, just a different way of setting the strings in vibration. No, it's not easy to do well, but neither are most other facets of being a good musician.
    Being able to use a bow doesn't have to mean you can't swing. Paul Chambers, Ron Carter, Christian McBride just to name a few.
    Again, maybe I have a skewed sense of the world or maybe we have a generation gap, but it seems to me that most of the time when you learn an instrument (unless you are just striving to be "good enough" and not to actually "play" the instrument) you first learn the instrument and then learn specifics of genre. At least in my experience, there aren't too many avenues available where you can go cold from not playing the bass at all to learning all the basics of the upright in a jazz idiom. If we are talking bass guitar converts to the upright, that's a different story. I don't consider the 2 the same instrument. A bass guitarist who can pluck an upright bass is different from a bassist who plays upright. In my mind at least.


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  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by pants View Post
    Isn't it kind of condescending to say that bass players needn't know how to use a bow because it takes "years" of training? Isn't that the point of any instrument? Spend the time learning to play it well, learn different techniques? (And by the way I put in my time with pennies balanced on the back of my hand too Bass Solos). Bowed bass allows melody lines that sing and project and provide a huge dynamic and emotive range. With such a capability available on your instrument wouldn't you want to tap it?

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    condescending? no.

    practical, yes. And I didn't say that they needn't know, I said that they didn't know. There's a difference.

    Like I said, most guys I've known started on electric bass and then got an upright and figured it out for themselves.

    but that's ok because I don't have Larry in my trio for the last 20 years because of how he bows, I could care less.

    He's my bass player because he knows what jazz is supposed to sound like.

  21. #21
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    For whatever reason, I tend to find bass solos (and drum solos for that matter) to be a lot of fun in person and generally pretty tedious on recordings.

  22. #22
    Quote Originally Posted by Nate Miller View Post
    condescending? no.

    practical, yes. And I didn't say that they needn't know, I said that they didn't know. There's a difference.

    Like I said, most guys I've known started on electric bass and then got an upright and figured it out for themselves.

    but that's ok because I don't have Larry in my trio for the last 20 years because of how he bows, I could care less.

    He's my bass player because he knows what jazz is supposed to sound like.
    I'm not trying to judge anyone. I apologize if I cause any offense. I think that bass guitarists who learn the upright can be perfectly fine jazz bassists. I'm not trying to say every bassist should use a bow. It may have come across that way. I meant to make the simple point that using a bow opens up a whole new world of expression for the instrument as a lead voice, and that I find it odd that in the history of a genre full of instrumental technique innovations and experimentation, so few bassists embrace the bow as a tool to expand their playing.


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  23. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by jtr View Post
    For whatever reason, I tend to find bass solos (and drum solos for that matter) to be a lot of fun in person and generally pretty tedious on recordings.
    I think there's some definite meat to this point. For one, bass and drums are notoriously difficult to capture well on recording. Honestly I think we still do better with drums than with a plucked bass, which tends to yield either too much "thunk" or that unnatural synth-y piezo honk. Ron Carter comes to mind as someone who plays phenomenally, and manages to get a good amount of "singing" out of the instrument, but there's just something off and electronic about the tone to me.
    Bass and drums are "felt" more live.
    I think there's also a degree of the live experience which benefits from a sonic break moreso than the experience of sitting in one's living room and listening. (This opens up a whole other set of doors about jazz's role as pure performance vs entertainment... Are we meant to sit rigid and listen or do we sit around and chat? But that's a different discussion)


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  24. #24
    I'm a bass guitar player not a double bass player.. but here's the man...

  25. #25
    I'm primarily an upright bassist who also plays guitar.

    1 - I only like to take 1-2 solos per set on bass, and bandleaders are often surprised that I don't want to solo more than that. If I sit in with a group, I'm almost always expected to solo, even when I'd rather just drive the band. I make this point because oftentimes it's not the bass player who is asking to solo a lot.

    2 - I wouldn't really say bowing is like playing a different instrument entirely, but it is quite a bit different and needs significant time and attention. Classical study helps a ton, but often doesn't address the offbeat legato aspect of 8th note lines and various chromatic devices. Bowing bebop bass solos is something any player would need to invest a significant amount of time in, and it's just not everyone's musical goal.

    3 - Some people (notably, Monk) just don't/didn't like the sound of bowed bass in jazz. I recently listened to an interview with Christian McBride where he said he caught a lot of flack for his bowed bass solos. So even if you do it really well, it won't be to everyone's taste.

    By far my preferred approach is to approach the bass solo as a "feature", similar to the way Art Blakey would feature a player on a ballad, or something. This only needs to be done once or twice in an evening, and announcing the "feature" gives the audience a heightened awareness, if it's a listening gig. In a loud club, for the most part, a bass solo sounds to most people like the band just stopped playing, it's not fun for the bassist, it's not fun for the crowd, it really doesn't serve anybody well.

  26. #26
    Quote Originally Posted by pants View Post
    I meant to make the simple point that using a bow opens up a whole new world of expression for the instrument as a lead voice, and that I find it odd that in the history of a genre full of instrumental technique innovations and experimentation, so few bassists embrace the bow as a tool to expand their playing.
    Now along that line of thinking, do you as well find it odd that so few jazz guitarists ever play with a slide?

    The foundation of jazz was blues, and early blues instrumental technique as a historical genre was full of slide guitar. Both country music and rock were founded in the blues and both well developed the use of the slide ... but not jazz.

    I don't have an explanation for the absence of slide guitar playing in jazz... just an honest sense of thankful relief that it never caught on.
    "Bent my ear to hear the tune and closed my eyes to see."

  27. #27
    Ry Cooder's 'Jazz' has him playing some slide on tunes by the likes of Jelly Roll Morton etc. Generally I guess slide is a bit unwieldy for jazz though.

    The nearest I've heard is Buddy Emmons playing jazz on pedal steel guitar (he did an album with Lenny Breau).

    Having said that, I think Derek Trucks plays some Coltrane tunes on slide.

  28. #28
    Quote Originally Posted by grahambop View Post
    Ry Cooder's 'Jazz' has him playing some slide on tunes by the likes of Jelly Roll Morton etc. Generally I guess slide is a bit unwieldy for jazz though.
    Dave Tronzo is a giant and probably the most well known slide guitarist in jazz. I also think Doug Wamble is really great at it, he does a lot of different stuff these days, but still works with JALC and played some nice slide on the recent John Lewis tribute.

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