Bass Solo versus Solo Bass

With solo bass night upon us,

  (compile of the Los Angeles Show, there are two, see

the question re-emerges… what is solo bass?

Bass Solo

So, there are bass solos…. when a bass player plays a solo, when the band “gives the bass player some” – after dutifully laying down the groove and outlining the chord changes dutifully for their bandmates all night for them to play or sing melodies and solos over. Now the band steps back and allows the bassist to abandon the responsibilities of outlining chords and keeping the groove going; here, the bassist is featured as the soloist.

A bass solo can be anything from a melodic improvisation to a groove solo to a percussive thumb funk-fest or any combination of these. If you are terrified to solo, or just want to learn more about solo strategies I recommend (including very easy ones) check out this blog post.

So that is a bass solo. What, then is solo bass?

Solo Bass

Solo bass is when bassists plays solo, as in, alone, all by themselves.

The bass is typically not the type of instrument you might expect to do that given its usual supportive role in the band, its low range and sonic properties. But as often is the case with restrictions and limits, they beg for someone to challenge them- and overcome them. Solo bass does that. It is indeed “a thing”. And it comes in a wide variety of “flavors”:

From the monstrous tapping extravaganzas of Stu Hamm, to incredible fretless work by Michael Manring; from the outlandish tuning schemes by Jeff Schmidt, to the masterful soundscapes by Steve Lawson; from the “So-Low” (get it?) six-string fretless work of Steve Bailey, to the creative musicality and thumping virtuosity of Vic; from the mind-bending interpretations of film scores by Zander Zon, to the Mario Brothers theme played on an 11 string by Jean Baudin; or Cody Write’s cool loops and jams. Some players using loopers, effects, customized basses with D-Tuners, or special tunings, while others keeping it bare bones and simple with just a four-string and an amp… solo bass is an amazing and exciting new art form! I never tire of checking out the latest my heroes are up to and discovering who’s new on the scene!

Also read my Quora answer to the question ’does the bass sound good solo?’ and this link

But Jaco only needed four strings…

Interestingly, not everyone is happy with the bass taking liberties outside of its traditional role. They’ll  say:

  • “That is not bass playing, get a guitar!” in the face of anything tapped or chorded, or
  • “But Jaco only needed four strings” in response to extended string basses, or
  • “Bach would turn over in his grave – that is supposed to be played on a cello!” as a comment to a Bach cello suite played on bass.

Like everything new, this art form has its detractors who like to see the bass in its traditional role only. For me, it’s okay if a person doesn’t like something because it simply does not sound good to them. But to dismiss it categorically because of the number of strings, or the instrument itself, or the fact that effects are used… that has always puzzled me. Isn’t art and music about expression, exploration, expanding horizons and challenging norms?


Solo Bass players have also banded together and created amazing projects like the Bass Extremes (Victor Wooten and Steve Bailey), SMV (Stanley Clark, Marcus Miller, Victor Wooten) and BX3 (Stu Hamm, Billy Sheehan, Jeff Berlin).

Not a Comprehensive List

If you are a bass player who is interested in exploring solo avenues, check out the cats I mentioned above and please add your own favorites in the comments. My list is not meant to be comprehensive by a long shot!!

And while you’re at it, check out our site My solo bass playing buddy Josh Cohen (check out his amazing Bach renditions) and I are carrying forth the torch ignited by David Grossman, Jean Baudin, Jeff Schmidt and Michael Manring on a thread from 2005  and are continuing and expanding on the tradition of the Solo Bass Nights. Five such shows drew a regular crowd of groove geeks, pedal freaks, bass lovers and their friends. The series got interrupted for a few years because of changes of ownership at the venue, but Josh and I are bringing it back! First stop in:

  • San Francisco Bay Area (November 7th at the Soundroom in Oakland), then to
  • Los Angeles (November 14th at GruvGear Headquarters)

Our plan is to make these two shows as epic as can be, so please come and join us. Performers include:

  • Michael Manring
  • Stu Hamm
  • Norm Stockton
  • Kai Eckhardt
  • Josh Cohen
  • Charles Berthoud
  • Ariane Cap with special guest Paul Hanson
  • Kai Kurosawa
  • Jayme Lewis
  • Johnnie Gilmore

We also have an AMAZING raffle at each of these shows, with prizes including MXR pedals, Kala basses, a PJB Bighead and an Earbox, LaBella strings, Singularsound Cablis and a mini Beat Buddy, killer cables by Tsunami…

If you get your tickets during the presale you will get two extra raffle tickets with your purchase 🙂 so please go to, pick a show and secure your seats. You just might win a Kala bass, a BackBeat or a Phil Jones Earbox!

Who are your favorite Solo Bassists (and why)? And tell us your favorite Bass Solos?

Post in the comments. Got a video of yourself having a go? Post it!!

Learn Music Theory in our signature course, Music Theory for the Bass Player….

How can I learn theory faster so I can create my own Music?

Ariane Cap Led Zeppelin

Well, the Quoran opened a bit of a can of worms with that question.

Some of the “worms”:

  • Do you even need to know theory in order to compose?
  • How do you advise someone whose biggest concern is to learn something fast?
  • What styles are we talking? (I don’t think a single style of music exists that does not invite deep study, yet, not every style requires a lot of music theory – think punk for example)
  • What background, musical skills (if any) and disposition does the questioner bring?

Learning to compose is not exactly a weekend project, yet read my post to learn:

  • The three concise steps you can follow to get to your goal. Every time.
  • How to speed up the process. (Not a flashy gimmick, yet it works!)
  • A super easy composing technique you can try even if you have no background in composing at all. (And an example of a song that illustrates that technique. You are going to have to crank that one. I get chills every time!)


Read Ariane Cap’s answer to How long does it usually take to learn music theory? How can I learn it faster and be able to create my own music soon? on Quora

Tiefgang – the Marleaux Camp

Goodness, what a blast we had at the Marleaux Camp! It is called Tiefgang, which is a play on words in German. We are “going deep” – as in notes, low tones on the bass, and we are diving down deep to the bottom of the sea (of knowledge). It was held from October 4 through 6 at the Wunderkammer in the beautiful Hartz Region of Germany.

I teach at a lot of camps and I can truly say that Tiefgang is very unique.
Here are some of my favorite things about it (in no particular order):

1 – This camp is all about the people –

The Participants

The participants (many of who have attended since the first camp four years ago!) came prepared rocking awesome bass T-Shirts! The one on the left sports: “HOME IS WHERE THE BASS IS” and he is holding the exact bass that’s on his shirt. “BASSD SCHO” is another play on words – all good in German doubles as “bass already!”. The spelling is a bit off, but who cares :).

They come from near and far with their Marleauxs or other basses (of course everyone is welcome!), put on a smile and tune up for a great three day event!

Marleaux Tiefgang

marleaux tiefgang image

When I say the people are really what this event is all about, I mean it. The Marleaux, Wunderkammer and faculty team all contributed to support a young student named Lisa with a scholarship and stipend. It was a pleasure to be part of that, and truly feel like sharing our best ideas and strategies would inspire effort and hard work!

Marco Assman – MC/Magician/Musician

Marco not only owns a real flea circus, is a musician, magician and variety performer, he is also the host of the “Wunderkammer” and MC of Tiefgang. You never know what jokes he has up his sleeve. But you do know, the organization will be stellar, smart, and from the heart!

Marleaux Ariane Cap
with Marco Assmann, Florian Friedrich, Lisa Wulff, Christian Fabian

Gerald and Heike Marleaux

Top favorite peeps in my book…

Tiefgang Marleaux Ariane Cap

You can clearly see how loved these two are :). Down-to-earth, hard-working, passionate, artistic, creative and committed- all wrapped around a really great sense of humor!

It is impressive to get a glimpse of the hard work that goes into building these instruments (I have a surprise for you on that below!), as well as to appreciate how much effort putting together a camp like this is – on the heels of the London Bass Guitar Show, Mannheim Bass Day and with NAMM looming, there is no downtime for Gerald and his small team! Heike is very involved in the business as well – you can feel what a great team they are, bound by a shared passion for wood, beauty and family.

The Teachers and Classes

From Top: Claudio Zanghieri, Marius Goldhammer, Emmanuel Stanley, Lisa Wulff and Andreas Dahle

Awesome clinics from the teachers. Check them out:

Heiko Jung, Oliver Poschmann, Andre Müller, Andreas Dahle, Ralf Gauck, Claudio Zanghieri, Marius Goldhammer, Florian Friedrich, Emmanuel Stanley, Jay Tee Teterissa, Ariane Cap, Lars Lehmann, Christian Fabian, Lisa Wulff

Left: Ralph Gauck. Right: Christian Fabian.

And while the concepts, ideas, and content shared was as diverse, inspiring, interesting and challenging as it comes, a good laugh is always part of the groove…

Andre Gleisberg, Photography

All the awesome photos in this blog post are by Andre. Check out his page,

He and his wife create some amazing art there! This would not be Tiefgang unless every detail had an artistic and unique touch. Thank you, Andre!

Andre Müller

2 – The “Wunderkammer”

I have been to camps at hotels, on campgrounds, in nature, at retreats… but this one is at a little Theater. Marco owns it and it has as much charm as it has a remarkable history.

The area of Germany where all of this goes down used to be big on mining. Directly behind Marco’s Theater, the miners entered the mountain. Every morning before they started their treacherous and extremely dangerous work, they would go into a little chapel and pray.

The mines shut down many years ago, but the chapel is alive and well and has retained its spirit of being a place to be uplifted to this day – Marco bought it and turned it into the “Wunderkammer”, translated the “Chamber of Wonders”.

He added a cool stage, red plush seats and lots of charm. When it is not bustling with bass players and low-end love, it hosts comedians, musicians, jams and speeches. And although it is a bit in the sticks, I believe Marco when he tells us the camp is almost always completely sold out and patrons come from as far as 100 kilometers away. It is the perfect backdrop for this event!

3 – The Final Concert

Varied and inspiring! Singer Jaycilee and the awesome band with Andreas on guitar, Ollie on keys/flute and Ron on drums knocked it out of the park! Also pictured is Silas who played a beautiful vocal-bass duet with Jaycilee!

4 – The Cozy Air BnB and the Breathtaking Nature

Frau Berndt is the beloved host at the Hotel Berndt. Those jams with the long spoons on them are all hand made. She remembers what you like and dishes it up for you every morning. And those caterers every day at camp with their traditional German fare were yummy, too!

Those shrooms, though! Watch out for the dwarfs living underneath!

Marleaux Camp Tiefgang

5 – Gerald Marleaux Clinic, Tour of the Shop

Every time at Tiefgang, Gerald gives a tour of his shop. So much love and expertise go into every step of the process of creating these basses. But even when it is all finished, it is not done. Gerald spends at least an hour after each bass is completely done to play it, enjoy it and get a feel for it to make sure it is just right.

I mentioned in the beginning I had a surprise for you… Here it is.

Once a month, students of any of our Courses (Music Theory for the Bass Player, Ear Confidence, and other upcoming courses) can ask questions in our monthly Q&A called “Ask Ari Live featuring Wolf”. This members-only event takes place every first Sunday of the month. This time it just so happened that this date fell on the very last day of the Marleaux Camp “Tiefgang” – Gerald agreed to give us another tour of his wood workshop – exclusive for Ask Ari! And we decided to share it with everybody!


Just the part on how to properly string your bass is worth it. Tune into this impromptus bass workshop tour featuring Gerald Marleaux, his wife and team member Heike Marleaux, Marleaux endorser Christian Fabian, Wolf co-moderating from Los Angeles and myself. It’s a raw (shot on iphone), fascinating and informative hour!

Thanks for the great times, all!

Enjoy! And remember that Ask Ari is a useful Q and A event to help our course participants stay on track. Learning is easier with support. Sign up now!

Upper Structure Pentatonics: Thinking inside the Box (Talking Technique)

Pentatonics Boxes Upper structure pentatonics
Scroll down to watch the video

Thinking Inside the Box: Upper Structure Pentatonics

If you have been following me for a while or if you have taken any of my courses, you know that I am big on boxes. Boxes, as in box shapes, as in 0f course pentatonics. After all, pentatonics make up a huge percentage of what bassists play so knowing how to use the right ones at the right time is a must. Don’t think of them as beginner stuff or boring, all things I have heard people say. Nothing could be further from the truth! In this episode of Talking Technique I use a “Little Box/Big Box” blueprint on the top two strings only and we will use them for “upper structure” coolness, IOW, they sound super hip for solos! Just because it is fairly easy to do doesn’t mean it can’t sound awesome!

Enjoy upper structure pentatonics!

Check this episode out on

Here is the PDF for this episode


A new episode of Talking Technique is going live next Monday! Make sure to subscribe at


Related posts:

Pentatonic PlayGround DVD

Pull-off Pentatonics

Five major Pentatonic Shapes

Terrified to Solo?