The Bass As A Solo Instrument

This topic came about when a bunch of my Irish friends got together recently on my patio and decided they wanted to have a sing song. I grabbed my acoustic guitar and Ukulele and a good time was had by all.

I got to thinking afterwards about why I did not even think about using my Bass.
Then I realized I would not have known what to do with it as a solo instrument. Trying to play a song using triads just does not sound the same as it does on a guitar. Some triads on Bass sound just awfull to me. I read somewhere on the forum is that it is because we are tuned an octave lower.

When I started the Bass at the beginning of 2021 I did so because it seemed to me at the time, and still does, that the Bass is more of a beat driving and timing machine music foundation machine. Not sure if I explained that properly or not. If you have ever heard a song without Bass and/or drums you will know what I mean. The song just sounds dead.

Sure you can have Bass fills, scale runs, arpeggios and all but, what do you do if you are the only instrument?

I wondered what others thoughts on the forum were regarding this so here we are.


I’ll just leave this here.


Take Mark Smith’s Chords for Bass course


The hardest for a bassist to learn is the melody. It comes quite naturally to other instruments, once you got the melody part down the rest gets much easier.


He just but a capo on the 12 fret and treat it like a 5 string guitar.
I was thinking more from a beginners perspective and some of those plucking hand techniques are not for beginners. :rofl:

In other words, how would an absolute beginner play House of The Rising Sun as a Solo/Stand alone instrument?

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Not really sing-a-long type music, or something a beginner could handle.
That would just make my Irish buddies grab 2 more Harps :rofl:

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I mean…

That’s what I would do. You see a bunch of guys like BOH in the video above, or the guy from Animals as Leaders who do amazing things with > 4 string basses and tapping and the like, but… as you said, that’s WAY beyond an absolute beginner (and many non absolute beginners). But if you know some guitar chords, capo your bass at the 12th and play away.

Enjoy my $.02. :slight_smile:

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Never thought of that because I never play above the 12th fret but I will give it a try in the next few days.
Thanks for the thought.


I firmly believe in the bass as a background, accompanying, rhythm and chordal instrument. But I very much enjoy the bass as a bedroom solo instrument and where it fits in with the music, provided that no slap is ever involved. I’m afraid I’m allergic to slap.

Bass chords using a C string are really very very musical and pleasing to the ear. There are also lots of really nice musical bass solos, using a combination of chords and arpeggios. I think some bass solos sound better than guitar solos, but bass solos should not compete with or sound like guitar solos.

NOT the solos that are ego fests with the bassist trying to stuff as many notes into every microsecond as possible(that’s just not music), of which slap very often competes with in this type of environment, but the ones that use space and rhythm(solos can groove too) and melody tastefully and intelligently and musically.


I think that is just beyond an absolute beginner’s scope :man_shrugging:
As a beginner bassist mastering rhythm is probably the priority, and since bass is not commonly the soloing melodic instrument there aren’t much “how to” instruction to do that on bass
But of course anyone can develop those skills, probably approaching the bass as guitar is usually learned


Likely root notes following the chord changes. Maybe throwing in a 5th here and there, or a walk-up or something. A “complete beginner” isn’t going to be attempting to whip out the melody.

I mean, how would a “complete beginner” guitarist or ukulele-ist play it? I’d guess strum the chord changes.

Soloing melodies isn’t really a “complete beginner” task… Other than that, I would’ve been pretty surprised if your buddies wanted a sing-along and you did pull out the bass, when guitar is an option for you. A bass doesn’t strike me as a natural “lead the sing-along” choice…


Not sure what this means. Are you saying to tune the D string down to a C?

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I’d play a guitar :slight_smile: sonically, the bass just isn’t a great solo instrument. Sure you can do it but it’s a bit like using a crescent wrench as a hammer. :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:


The string next to the G on a 6 string bass.


There’s a song about that.


love Corb Lund!

Thanks for sharing that.

I could not stop laughing listening to that song.
Sad thing is it’s all so true :rofl: :rofl: :rofl:

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That’s fair, but it was meant more as an example of bass as a melodic instrument, a change from the normal rhythmic style.

Maybe this will help. Here bass and rhytm guitar pretty much switch places, Atsuko is playing the root on all the beats (something you see in punk) while here sister Naoko is playing the chords, Atsuko is playing the root of all the chords, with some fills thown in, and in the solo Atsuko plays the solo on bass why Naoko keeps the rhythm. This is one way to do it.

Doesn’t the capo just make this a guitar?

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