Hello everyone. I was wondering how I could improve my improvisation skills. By improvising I mean solo's, bass lines, etc. And coming up with them on the spot.

I know some people are able to sing a line and play it on their bass first time through. How can I achieve this goal of thinking of a line or melody and translating it to actual notes and frets?

Besides major scale modes, and pentatonic scales, what other scales are used a lot in rock, jazz, funk, blues, and reggae?

Any other tips are also welcome
This is a skill developed over time. Ear training has a lot to do with it. Note memory/placement also has a big factor. This is an ability that you will develope more with direct improvisation with other musicians. At first you will want to sit out the first couple times through a progression, think of what you want to play, then jump in. You also need to know scale intervels, dissonence, harmony and chording. Knowing how to go from the I chord to the V chord to the IV chord is what improvising is

I found that I learned alot faster when I had a lead sheet infront of me. Or atleast something that gave me the chords.

The minor scale, the blues scale, and diminished scales are the most common scales in popular music.
Well there are serveral things I think are important.

Theroy knowledge can make a huge difference although it sounds lame learning how to solo of a mixolydian mode of E minor takes very little time to learn.

My advice would be to learn about mdoes and how they work, practise them, get some backing tracks that you know the key of and using knowledge of the modes solo over it.

It sounds daunting and my explanation is a bit rough, its ahrd to explain exactly what modes are, etc, over the net but I am sure someone has done some great lessons on it.
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Another possibility is to work out the melody on bass, and for the solo if it's still the same progression through the solo use the melody as a base for improvisational ideas. I ended up doing improvisation the hard way with being in a small jazz group at school and the teacher pointing at me for the solo and i just played some random stuff, but it worked out ok in the end.
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For what you want to do, the best thing is interval training. But as Elenmohpee said, it's a skill developed over time. Scales, intervals all help, but there is nothing like repetition. Learn some common progressions, even just 12 bar blues is good for that. Then just solo over them. Personally, i like to solo not on the root, but on the third or the 5th. So if the progression when I IV V in a key of G, you could quite easily play a D over the G instead of the G as the root...
Also important, improvise in a practical situation. Get a backing track, or some friends to jam with an improvise there. Theory is important, and the basis of everything you will do.

But practical experience is just as important. Improvise as much as you can. At first you will sound crap. When you first try anything hard it sounds crap. But you get better. And try to apply our theory throughout.

EDIT: Also, try listening to some horn players for solos. Check out Kind of Blue by Miles Davis. You can hear him thinking of what line he will play next and then he plays it. He's a good example of thinking of a melody then expressing it with an instrument.

Also, when learning songs with good improvised solo's look at the scales the player uses over the chords to get an idea of what works over what.

Don't just listen to bassists, you can learn alot from other musicians. At least in terms of soloing and phrasing.
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Last edited by TGM at Jan 16, 2007,
Thanks for all the help everyone. I think I have basics of improvising down. Like I can already walk a blues in any key, I can solo on guitar in pentatonics, etc. I just needed some tips on creating something new and exciting. I also know my modes so there's no reason to waste your time explaining them.

Here's a list of ideas so far
1.Solo with different modes over backing tracks
2.Diminished Scales are also used in music a lot
3.Learn the melody on bass and solo around it
4.Solo over the I but use notes from the IV or III etc.
5.Listen to other instruments, not just bass.

Awesome, thanks for all the help. Is there anyone else with more tips that could help me out?
Whoever said listen to some horn lines had a really good idea, too. Good advice.
When listening to the backing track hum along random harmony lines. I do this all the time and I often harmonise to songs that I'm listening to just for the fun of it. This has helped me alot with improvisation because I can hear in my head where I want to go - the part everyone finds hard towork on at first is knowing how to get there.

I find using octaves is really useful, and if you're stuck for ideas, just find the highest octave of the root note you can on your bass and just play that with little twiddles on the II, III or VII - it's my favourite kind of bass solo at the moment, really simple and you can work it all out by ear while listening to the track you're playing along to, as long as it's all in one key. If simplicity is your thing, go for that - always remember, you don't need to play gut-busting basslines to have the potential to be a gut-busting bassist - play what's appropriate for the song.
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One tip I always find helpful was a questino and answer solo.

By this I mean instead of palying a barage of notes have one phrase (question) pause and a new one (answer).

I guess it seems rpetty obviously looking back but it didnt occur to me until my teacher showed me how to do it.
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Usually if I'm given a chord progression I'll play the chord and also take notes from a relative scale, like the first measure is based around E minor so I'll use E phrygian for a little bit of spanish too. It won't always sound pefect but it'lll do what it should, plus you sort of develop you're own tastes with more practice.

Another thing, don't be afraid to throw in rests, dead notes, and chromatic tones to add even more variety.
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One tip I always find helpful was a questino and answer solo.

By this I mean instead of palying a barage of notes have one phrase (question) pause and a new one (answer).

I guess it seems rpetty obviously looking back but it didnt occur to me until my teacher showed me how to do it.

Thats always a great thing to do, its like trading fours or twos or eights with yourself. Another tip leading off that idea is to not be afraid to repeat ideas. This doesn't mean play the same exact thing over and over necessarily, but to take variations off a theme you establish and keep coming back to it.

Another good way to keep your solo exciting is to think of it as a curve shape, almost like a bell. At the beginning, the excitement should start low and build and build as the solo progresses. At the top of the curve you have the climax of your solo, where the crowd is on the edge of their seats. You can then either cut it off at that point and leave them hanging or bring it down