Every bass player has one goal in common no matter what genre they play; to showcase their skills. Whether this is through jamming with friends or playing shows with a band, we all want our hard work to be displayed for someone.
The best way to display those skills is through a solo.
But what goes into making a solo? In jazz, there are so many techniques, how do you choose which to use and which to leave out? Do you just take everything you know and stuff it all together, or do you spice a little here and there?
These are some important questions to ask yourself before creating a solo. Every solo should have a direction and a purpose. No one wants to hear you roam around the fret board for a half hour, so you need to discover what you personally wish to accomplish with your solo.
Once you have, we can give you a few tips on how to take your goal and make it a reality.
First off, techniques; don’t use them all at once. If you insist on taking everything that you have learned and stuffing it into one single solo, not only will you overwhelm the listener, but you will give them no further reason to listen. Why should they? They’ve already heard everything that you can do.
This can kill your playing before it has even had a chance to breathe, so do yourself a favor and don’t get show happy.
The best thing to do is to pick a few techniques and build your entire solo around them. If you want to use legato, pick one or two other techniques that won’t show up your legato but will simply supplement it. Chances are a legato and staccato combo solo won’t sound too great. It may grab attention, but only for a moment or two.
After that, it is simply an absurdity. This is because they are far too different of techniques to be intertwined with one another. Now, if you use something like legato and sweeping seventh chord arpeggios, then that may very well work, as they are both very fluid techniques. Likewise, if you simple want to use alternate picking with your legato, it will be a tasteful contrast of texture.
Solos are simply a showcase of your playing. They are your creativity and skill melded into one product. This means that you don’t want any of your solos to be absolutely generic and boring, as it will cause you to come off as a generic and boring player. Likewise, you don’t want to sound mechanical; put some feel into your notes. Unlike heavy metal shredders, jazz is all about feel, and mechanical scale exploration has to place in your solo.
Whichever scale your solo is in remember to keep your chromatic options open. You can use leading tones to tie notes together. If you choose to go the full chromatic scale route, stay within the context of the key. Don’t simply run everywhere and hit every fret; stay within the notes that fit the rhythm best.
In the end, practice is the only way to a perfect solo. Try writing some basic solos, and more importantly, take your time and listen to the solos when you are finished. Be unbiased, because your audience won’t like it just because you wrote it.
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