Who doesn't love a bass solo?
Well, cows apparently...
It's true that in most styles of music your job as a bassist is to hold down the groove. Although well down the list, soloing is something many bass players would love to be able to do. Let's have a look at a few types of bass solo.
The Bass Break
My Generation was the first recorded bass solo in rock music and played by the great John Entwistle. This type of bass solo takes place in between hits played by the whole band. Entwistle employs a full range of techniques to impress and hit the spot. Note the extremely impressive bass face.
Using the pentatonic scale in a guitar-like way yields great results. Here is James Brown's bass player Jimmy Lee Moore with one of my favourite solos; full of soul, taste and heart.
The Solo Arrangement
This is the bass solo played by one player - with or without the use of a loop pedal. Players to check out in this genre are Michael Manring and Steve Lawson but here's Miki Santamaria with a solo bass arrangement of Ed Sheeran's Thinking Out Loud.
The Groove Solo
You don't need to fly all over the neck and play melodies when soloing. One of the most effective tactics is to stick to a groove and embellish with some lovely touches. This keeps the listener's interest going and doesn't kill the beat.
Here's a great example from groove giant Joe Dart.
The Written Solo
This is the pre-planned solo. It has been composed to be played at a set time during the gig and there are some legendary examples. Let's start with one of the all-time greats - Jaco Pastorius and Slang. Jaco improvises within the framework of his solo and also listen out for one of the first uses of a loop pedal by a bass player as well as the Sound of Music and Hendrix quotes. Truly epic.
Jazz bass players solo around chord changes using a variety of scales, modes, arpeggios and chords. There's nothing planned in the sense that most of these solos are played in the moment. The years of study and practice enable the players to execute these phrases instantaneously. Hadrien Feraud is like a modern-day Jaco on steroids. He's soloing here with the drums but just doing what he likes without a care in the world. Notice the way he sits with the bass in a classical guitar like posture. This allows him complete access to the entire fretboard whilst keeping his fretting hand wrist straight and relaxed.
John Patitucci outlines the melody of Giant Steps in this solo before improvising around the chord sequence.
You don't have to be able to solo on the bass and, in fact, many of the best bass players just play foundational bass lines, supporting the overall musical situation. I hope this post shows you the incredible scope that the bass offers. The modern-day bass player is expected to be able to step out front and shine when their time comes. Choose the style you like and work towards that. What's your favourite bass solo? Comment below.