Soloing On Bass Guitar

Bassists, like all musicians sometimes want to step into the spotlight and show their talents. Here is how to do it and make it good.

Ultimate Guitar
In this lesson I will show you the techniques I use for playing bass solo's to hopefully help you write your own. So here goes. Starting from the start you need some knowledge of scales. The most simple types of scale are major and minor and are played as follows: major c to c with no sharps or flats (c, d, e, f, g, a, b, c or tone, tone, tone, semi-tone, tone, tone, tone, semi-tone). Minor a to a with no sharps or flats (a, b, c, d, e, f, g, a or tone, tone, semi-tone, tone, tone, semi-tone, tone, tone). Here are some examples of major and minor scales:
C Major:

E Major:

F Major:

C Minor:

E Minor:

F Minor:
The usual technique for playing solos is to find out what key your song is in and then improvise or write notes from that scale over the backing music. When you play over chords you will need to know what chords are being played, and then play the notes in that chord. So if you are playing over a chord of c major then the notes in that chord are the ones, which will sound the best (c, e and g). You can still use other notes in the scale, but they will not sound as appealing as the chord notes. Slap solos. Nearly all of the bass solo's I've heard have included some slap in them. In case you're new to bass, slap is where you make a fist and hit the string with your thumb. There are a few ways to incorporate scales into a slap solo. One, which is the most obvious, is to play a normal solo but slap it. A few others include left hand taps (not actually plucking the note but bringing your finger down and making a sound) and index finger/thumb pops (pulling the string up and letting go creating a twanging sound). These techniques will make the solo sound faster, but will require more skill to make them sound good. Below is an example of a slap, pop, tap solo in e minor:
 S S S S P P T P P S P P
Another way to play a slap solo is to play the notes in a scale but slap another note in between them. This "offbeat" note can be in the scale or not. An example is shown below
(this is in a minor)
 S P S P S P S P S P S P S P P S P S P S P S
With the last technique you can change the Es or whatever note you're using for a dead note and it will sound just as good. Tremolo slap. This next technique I don't know the name for, when I thought it up I didn't know of anyone else who did it so I named it myself as tremolo slap. It is a slap technique but it gives the impression of a tremolo pick on guitar. What you do is play the normal slap note, and then on the way back slap again with your fourth finger. If you can get this fast it will sound amazing with a minimal amount of effort. I suggest practising scales, but doing them with this technique to build up your speed. Moving scales around. The scales I gave as examples don't have to be played like I've shown them. These are just the basic majors and minors of notes. You can play around with these scales, try flattening the seventh of a minor scale for a bluesy sound, or flatten the seventh of a major scale for an even brighter sound. The possibility's are only as limited as your imagination! Also, the scales don't need to stay within these boundaries, you can move them up and down the fretboard as long as you stay within the notes of the scale. You can add accidentals to the solo but don't add too many as this will make it sound sloppy and in some cases may even put it in a different key! Well that's all, I hope this inspires you to create better solo's and helps you in the process as well. Thanks for giving it a read!

89 comments sorted by best / new / date

    your scales are wrong. the next to the last note sounds sort of funny. example, c major, you have a b flat instead of a b.
    umm... in the C major scale shouldent the g string be g|---0-2-4-5-- ??? i really dunno it just sounds better to me... i'm still trying to learn more...
    burnthemessage wrote: the technique you call tremolo slap is actually called double thumbing vicotr wooten uses that technique alot
    That's not quite true. The double thumbing isn't slapping. It's using the thumb like a pic and going across the strings, not slapping them. Here's a video on youtube of the technique he's describing.
    i do agree..c major must be and C Major: G|-----0-2-4-5-| D|--0-2-3-----| A|3-----| E|---- -|
    i dont suppose you could send me something teaching me to solo slightly jazzy and and a bit metal
    tried some of these solos out with my band at this party gig, sounded so wicked.. thanks for the tips
    Wills Bradford
    Isn't C Minor: G|-----0-1-4-5-| D|--0-1-3-----| A|3-----| E|---- -| and C Major: G|-----0-2-4-5-| D|--0-2-3-----| A|3-----| E|---- -| If it's not just ignore me =D
    the technique you call tremolo slap is actually called double thumbing vicotr wooten uses that technique alot
    there's another lesson 4 slap and pop, it goes into much more detail, its a lot better if u dont know slap and pop.
    SouthernBassist, yeah sure not many basists use pinch harmonics. I say the more you can do the better you are. You can play pinch harmonics on bass, and if you can do it a way that sounds good, then go and do it. Thats what would make you a good basist, if you started doing that it could create a whole new style of playing. The same idea goes for a bass solo. If you can shread on bass, it makes you all the better basist.
    Yes, bass pinch harmonics are possible and quite easy, but pretty pointless unless your bass is highly overdriven...then it's STILL pointless. Don't worry about them. They don't sound nearly as good as a regular guitar pinch harmonic...they don't even sound as good as a dying cow. ...Which already doesn't sound good in case you didn't know.
    shmeegle wrote: bass pinch harmonics would be nice. If anyone could help me out id be delighted
    I can do them, theyre ****ing lame Easy, but lame.
    shmeegle : bass pinch harmonics would be nice. If anyone could help me out id be delighted Haha that would be wierd. You'll have to have your bass distorted though to have that real pinch harmonic sound
    For pinch harmonics, if you're not using a pick (I prefer finger pick and slap over pickbass), then go to pop the string but as you're doing that, have the rest of your hand curl around the string and in a way push off the string with your pinky, as your popping the string. You will get the pinch harmonic effect, although unless your bass is highly distorted it won't sound too great. Do what you will with that piece of info, just felt like sharing it though because no one mentioned that way of producing a pinch harmonic on bass.
    oti victor
    cul stuffs,i need u guy to prescribe materials to help become a better bassist,i'm stil a beginner
    4 string judas wrote: you know what really sucks douche. guitar hero. does any body ever say to you guys that nobody remembers the bass player? because those people are fags. this fag i know tells me that and i say "do you know alex lifeson?" "no" thats cause you dont anybody. he plays guitar. bitch." I talk too much
    Why u mentioned Lifeson over Lee when in a bass topic? most ppl wouldn't know a single member of Rush if they only play guitar hero coz they aren't mentioned during the game. i play bass and guitar, but i also play guitar hero and its about playing the game, it doesn't matter what you do or don't know. and what guitar hero has to do with this topic i don't reeally understand, but yes, u said it urself at the end.
    omg i do that tremolo slap thing all the time!@ i just alternate back and forth from my thumb to my pink rlllly fast lol
    4 string judas
    you know what really sucks douche. guitar hero. does any body ever say to you guys that nobody remembers the bass player? because those people are fags. this fag i know tells me that and i say "do you know alex lifeson?" "no" thats cause you dont anybody. he plays guitar. bitch." I talk too much
    yeah you all argue way too much. and pinch harmonics on bass rock!!! but i use my hand like the one guy does. slapbass w/ harmonics!!!
    I dont get why people complain? the guy gives up his time to do something and you just say "blah blah" Don't Like what he says? make your own article! Otherwise Very good Just a few minor errors but most people use their brains and change them well odne
    Im not %100 on scales still but this has given me an understanding on how solos incorperate with scales.
    Jake the Peg
    good article, although most of this stuff bassists can learn just by reading an article on soloing on a guitar. bass solos that go in gaps in a song, say about 2 bars long (like My Generation, the who) i just fart around on the right scale. i wouldnt really know how to solo for any longer than about 2-3 bars tho, i think everything would just fall apart lol
    i agree with EmancipatedSoul and RTBM, nice tab, those that are complaining need to STFU
    "tremolo slapping" is actually called double thump, and if you had any idea how to do it you would at least know its name
    WTF??? Someone TOLD you about that in UG contribution. You submitted this WHY? There is a fairly accurate post that sums of this lesson:
    BECAUSE i was told after i submitted it. its a minor mistake, get over it
    mangablade you comment is crap i think you could keep your mouth shut a little sure i could outplay you...good lesson dude...good for beginners
    2 stars. you missed a LOT of things eg: pentatonics (sure theyre designed for 6 string guitar, but can just as easily be done on bass), improvising (most important aspect of bass solo's aside from keys imo), hammer ons/ pull offs etc. next time take people's advice wen writing a lesson, and dont.