11 Ideas To Improvise INCREDIBLE Bass Solos

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Have you ever wondered how to play a bass solo? Perhaps you're put on the spot to play one on a jam session or gig. Maybe you just want to know where to start. This video will give you some ideas you can work on to start making groovy, dance-inducing bass solos.

Here's the drum beat to play along to:

There are more at the bottom of the Free Stuff page.

Here are the eleven elements I talk about in the video with some examples of some of my favourite solos below. Use your ears, listen to as many solos as you can, and figure out what it is you like. Then start to use them in your own playing. Over time you will develop your own voice.

  1. 1
    Note choice. Work out the scales you need to fit with the musical situation you're in.
  2. 2
    Repetition. All the best solos contain memorable lines that repeat. This is a great device to draw the listener in and hook them.
  3. 3
    Expand the neck. Use the entire range of the neck to fully express yourself. You DON'T need to use every note; you just need to have the option available to you to go anywhere. Complete fretboard freedom = maximum expression.
  4. 4
    Articulations. Hammer-ons, pull-offs and the like add magic, flair, dirt, and character to your playing.
  5. 5
    Phrasing. Think of organising all your notes into units (phrases) with the use of rhythm and space. It helps to think about talking through your instrument. A random flurry of notes with no though, no space, and no breathing will make you sound as interesting as that person we all know that speaks too much in a boring monotone, never letting you get a word in.
  6. 6
    Chord tones/scale tone. You have notes from the scale and then notes within that scale that make up the arpeggio (and, therefore, chord). You can focus on scale notes, chord notes, or blend them.
  7. 7
    Sequencing. Figure out as many interesting patterns and patterns-within-patterns. Remember to think about good phrasing.
  8. 8
    Rhythm/syncopation. You can really control the vibe and the style by using different rhythms within a given tempo. You can play ahead, on top, or behind the beat. This manipulates the energy of your solo.
  9. 9
    Tension and release. This is a big subject for composers and the best music plays with these two yin and yang components. You can create tension with rhythm. Another good tactic is to play notes outside the scale whether using chromatics, different scales, or angular patterns. Returning to 'safe' notes creates the release.
  10. 10
    Structure. Refer to Willie Weeks' solo below to learn everything you need to about structure within a bass solo.
  11. 11
    Use effects. This is an option you can use to bring in some contrast and melt the faces of your audience.

Great Bass Solos

Darryl Jones: impeccable timing, use of Dorian mode, melody, outside playing, and effects.

Willie Weeks: P bass tone and the perfect way to structure a bass solo.

Mark Meadows: I love this solo. I think it's composed but the groove is awesome and he uses quotes as well as incredibly cool effects. Lots to dig here.

Learn From Other Instruments

David Gilmour: everything this man plays sounds like it's from the Gods (all of them). So melodic, restrained, and tasteful.

Louie Shelton: Classic Richie.



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