BeBop Bass Solo with Band-in-a-Box®

Are you a Bass player who is feeling left out?

Do you wish that you could have Band-in-a-Box® create a bass solo that is as diverse and creative as the solos it creates for all of the other instruments? There is a way! In this tutorial you will learn how to take any soloist that is supplied with the Band-in-a-Box® program, and alter it so that it plays in the range of the double-bass (or electric bass if you prefer), with other parameters that are idiosyncratic to the bass.

Last updated:  Tuesday, 13 October 2015

The best way to learn this is to start right from scratch, and build a bass solo from the bottom up.

Listen to a Band-in-a-Box® bass solo demo!

We'll start with a blank song and enter some changes. Set the key to Bb and the tempo to 180. These changes have been used for hundreds of jazz tunes; you can add any variations you like.

| Bbmaj7 G7 | Cm7 F7 | Dm7b5 G7 | Cm7 F7
| Bbmaj7 Bb6/D | Ebmaj7 Edim | Bb/F G7 | Cm7 F7
| Bbmaj7 G7 | Cm7 F7 | Dm7b5 G7 | Cm7 F7
| Bbmaj7 Bb6/D | Ebmaj7 Edim | Cm7 F7 | Bbmaj7 A7alt
| D7 | | G7 |
| C7 | | F7 |
| Bbmaj7 G7 | Cm7 F7 | Dm7b5 G7 | Cm7 F7
| Bbmaj7 Bb6/D | Ebmaj7 Edim | Cm7 F7 | Bbmaj7

Copy and Paste the first 6 bars to save some typing. Once you have entered these changes, click with your mouse to add "a" part markers at bar 9 and bar 25, and click twice to put a "b" part marker at bar 17. The chorus starts at bar 1 and ends at bar 32, choose the number of choruses you want. The next thing to do is pick a style. When soloing, you probably prefer that the drums tone down a bit, so a style with brushes would be ideal. We'll choose J~CELLAR.STY, but feel free to choose whichever style happens to be your favorite. For this exercise it would probably be best to stick with a swing style.

When these basic tasks have been completed, it's time to create the solo. If you are a jazz musician, no matter what instrument you play, you owe a little bit to Charlie Parker. He forged a new path, not only for alto sax players, but for all instrumentalists. In this tutorial, we will use patterns based on Bird's playing, and change the parameters so that the result is a great bebop bass solo. First, press the "Soloist" button on the basic Band-in-a-Box® screen (or press Shift+F4) to bring up the "Select Soloist" window. The specific soloist we will select will be "28 C Parker - Alto Sax- 8ths". With that soloist selected, press the [Edit...] button in the "Soloist Maker" area. This will bring up the "Soloist Editor" window.

Before we make any changes, we should save the current settings. Press the [Export] button. Save the file as "28_orig". This will let you know that these are the original settings for the #28 soloist.

We can now begin to make changes. The first thing we should do is to change the range of the soloist. The Note Range is currently set at 49 to 80. Middle C is note 60, so this means that this soloist will play between the C# below middle C and the G# an octave and a half above middle C. This is obviously much too high for the double bass. If you click on the [Choose] button and select Acoustic Bass, the note range will be set 36 to 55. You might prefer a different range, say from 33 to 60. The 33 corresponds to the open "A" string on the bass (you could go as low as 28, the low "E" string) and the 60 corresponds to middle C up in the thumb position. Again, if you want to go a bit higher into thumb position, you can nudge that number up a bit. You can override the preset note range by typing your own note numbers in each box. The patch will change to Acoustic Bass when it is selected from the "Select Instrument ..." list. You could also override this setting with another choice from the Patch Change combo box.

The next parameters that can be changed are very much a matter of taste. The phrase length is currently set at 4 to 24 beats. If you prefer slightly shorter phrases on the bass than you would find coming out of a horn, change that to 2 to 16 beats. For a bit more space in the solo, change the space length from "0 to 4" to "0 to 8", and increase the "How often" field to 75%. We'll leave the 'Outside' range parameter as is. This means that some phrases will employ only chord tones (1) and some phrases will use the most crunching notes available (9), and most will be somewhere in between. The other parameters can also be tweaked: Legato Boost can be altered if you would like the phrases to be smoother, Increase lateness can be used if you would like the soloist to play further behind the beat, etc. You can also change the name of this soloist in the title field to "Double-Bass-8ths", and put any relevant comments in the memo field. Once you have completed this, press OK.

You will now notice that the name of this soloist has changed to "28 Double-Bass-8ths" If you would ever like to get the old settings and name back, just hit the "Edit" button again, and import the "28_orig" settings we saved earlier.

There is one small thing we should do before actually creating a solo. We have not created a song here, this will only be one long bass solo, so we should set it to solo throughout the whole song, not just in the middle choruses. This can be done by pressing the "All Solo" button. We are now ready to create a solo! Press OK.

BB will take a few moments to generate [or compose] the 3-chorus bass solo. You can use this opportunity to mute the actual bass part by right-clicking on "Bass" at the top of the screen. This bass solo we've created will be on the Soloist track. You should now be listening to a double bass playing some great bebop lines!

There is one final thing that can be done to make this exercise complete, and that is to view and/or print the solo in notation. If you press the notation button and select the Soloist track, you will notice a lot of ledger lines below the bass clef. This is because the double bass should be written an octave higher than it sounds. This is easily done by pressing the [Opt.] button to open the Notation Window Options dialog. First, change the "Clef split at" field to C5. This way all of the notes will appear in the bass clef. Next, in the "Transpose Options" field, select "Bass Guitar +12". When you press OK, you will see the notes written as they should be. Go to the leadsheet notation window to view full page notation, and print out the solo to read and practice away from the computer. The Band-in-a-Box® Soloist is an endless source of new sight reading material, as is the Melodist feature too.

This whole process can of course be used to change any soloist, be it straight, swing, eighths, sixteenths, etc. Have fun experimenting! Auf Wiedersehen from the lower register...

Tobin Frank
PG Music Inc.

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