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Filling the "gaps" in a 3 piece - during guitar solo etc


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Posted (edited)

Starting this thread as a dedicated thread for the topic raised in the "three piece' thread.

So you're in a 3 piece, and when the guitarist switches from rhythm to lead you feel that the song goes 'empty'.

What can you do?

Opinions welcome from "Embrace the Space" comments to tech tips etc.

Edited by Nail Soup
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I'm by no means an expert, and I'm still finding my sound in my current band. We're a four-piece, but the singer doesn't play an instrument, so the question still applies.

I tend to go for adding some drive, play a lot of octaves and letting my notes ring out more when the guitar player moves up the neck or plays some sort of lead line.

We're not a riff-based outfit, so the guitar player and I basically never play unison lines. This frees me up to create parts that sound good when played under guitar chords, but that can also be "expanded" when he goes for his lead lines to fill the space he leaves behind.

In extreme cases, I'll go for the full three-string power chord (root-fifth-octave), but that's only if we want a section to be crushing, and only for slow songs.

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Although it seems counter intuitive, being busier during solos works. Check out Jack Bruce during Crossroads or Tommy Shannon during Shotgun Blues (IIRC). There’s also the tritone/chord option. Martin Turner does some some full on, Quo type boogie on Blindeye.

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A little while since I had to do this but I tended to use arpeggios a little more and (when I had played with him a while longer I would know roughly where he's do go so I might 'follow' him. By that I mean if he played a scale downwards I might follow him two notes later so I came down in thirds. Probably a terrible explanation.

I mainly stuck to the same pattern but used arpeggios etc as I said earlier.

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There’s some good suggestions here but in my experience I’d say don’t be reluctant to leave things just as they are. Let the change in dynamics and sonic space work for you.

When I hear a bass player suddenly getting busy or stamping on effects pedals during a solo I often think it shows a lack of confidence in themselves or the material they’re playing.

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I've pretty much covered in the other thread my 3 piece example...of course there are as many different band "sounds" as there are breakfast options, from sparse to wall of noise....but as Len Derby alludes to above, why desperately feel the need to change anything ?  

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We're actually a 5-piece but we'll play gigs with the rhythm guitarist missing and our singer only sings, so I'll join in. On those gigs I haven't changed my tone, but I've sacrificed a few twiddly-bits where it's better to just keep the rhythm driving, and I generally don't play super low to begin with; I find that if you're thundering around at the bottom of the B string when the guitar switches from rhythm to lead it's a much starker contrast when the 'middle drops out' than if you're routinely based half way up the E and A strings so there's still plenty going on in the mids to connect everything together and the bass part was just never that low.

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50 minutes ago, Len_derby said:

There’s some good suggestions here but in my experience I’d say don’t be reluctant to leave things just as they are. Let the change in dynamics and sonic space work for you.

When I hear a bass player suddenly getting busy or stamping on effects pedals during a solo I often think it shows a lack of confidence in themselves or the material they’re playing.

This! Why would you feel the need to start flair playing whilst the guitar player was soloing? That would detract from what he was doing. Listen to live tracks from established three pieces and they mostly carry on with the natural rhythm. 

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Posted (edited)

I pretty much only play in a 3 piece a bass sound - bit of compression and a bit of drive (whatever your flavour) and it will all stay knitted together.

My fave way to achieve this the tech21 dUg Ultrabass amp or the Tech21 DP3X pedal - it was made for this

Edited by Cuzzie
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Embrace the space.

Improve the composition- bassist needs to listen to more Jack Bruce and less Adam Clayton.

Build the sound and arrangement from the ground up so bass drums and vocals could carry the tune alone then the guitar is always an embellishment.

Guitar player to be more aware of chordal structure and not just go off in a pentatonic widdle fest. Interact with the bass line, use double stops, and rests to give even more space to give contrasts of loud and quiet with the solo.

 

Rests / silence are some of the most powerful composition tools. Not every thing has to be a wall of noise.

 

SRV / Hendrix / Kings X  etc etc all sound great with sparse arrangements.

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I don't think it's possible to "fill the gaps". I agree with those above who say don't change or do so minimally.

If you're not happy to do that, maybe suggest to the others that the band recruits an additional musician. Fwiw, there are very few guitar bass and drums line-ups that really work live for me, but that's just my 'umble opinion.

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My CD of The Who Live At The Isle Of Wight tells me that when a guitarist shifts gear from good rhythm playing to second rate soloing, not even John Entwhistle and Keith Moon can fill every inch of the gap created.

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1 minute ago, Ricky Rioli said:

My CD of The Who Live At The Isle Of Wight tells me that when a guitarist shifts gear from good rhythm playing to second rate soloing, not even John Entwhistle and Keith Moon can fill every inch of the gap created.

2nd rate solos! Very true!

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Nothing gives the impression of 'filling out' the sound without clutter quite as well as a walking bassline.

If you walk between the chords of the song, it also helps to remind the widdle-meister where he's supposed to be.

 

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21 minutes ago, Dan Dare said:

I don't think it's possible to "fill the gaps". I agree with those above who say don't change or do so minimally.

If you're not happy to do that, maybe suggest to the others that the band recruits an additional musician. Fwiw, there are very few guitar bass and drums line-ups that really work live for me, but that's just my 'umble opinion.

I can promise you Kings X does and Living Colour, old Alice in Chains before Duval comes in and out

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It’s not just the bass and drums which need to consider this. The guitarist needs to play in a way during the song which avoids the impression that a massive void has been created whilst they solo. This also applies more generally in music and isn’t restricted to three piece rock bands, for instance. 

A combination of changing the bass part a little, the drummer perhaps going to ride symbol and if there’s a separate vocalist, maybe adding tambourine might all complement the solo and subtly fill the void created during a solo. 

Its interesting this applies with a keyboard based band and the keyboard going into a solo from, say a boogie woogie style left hand - the bass playing an octaved walking bass to replace the missing left hand piano line can work (if the bassist can do it!!)

However if your three piece is based on the guitarist playing barre chords in frets 1 to 5 all night except when soloing, and also dependent on the sound they’re using, it may be difficult to compensate!! 
 

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I'm in a four piece classic rock covers band, but the singer doesn't play an instrument so I think this applies to my set-up.

When our guitarist solos the 'body' of the sound seems more exposed in some songs than others. I don't think there is a pattern - some songs originally created for a three piece can feel empty, others created for a four seem fine without a rhythm guitar/keys part underpinning the solo.

Some interesting ideas already mentioned. For me, starting in a higher register when the solo begins (e.g. Crossroads) works well and smooths the transition; equally, dropping to a low note can create some drama. I wonder too if the singer started playing the tambourine and jumping around a bit no-one would notice the dynamic change.

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When the guitarist starts with his solo I usually nip off, put on a baked potato, have a bath and I'll be back in time for his final orgasmic crescendo, where he's standing on a balanced spike, juggling 3 chainsaws and a double-handed highland sword, and is rubbing 2 Les Pauls together like Cockchafer beetles rutting in May...

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I've only ever played in 3 piece bands and the gaps feeling empty are not apparent to the audience.  You may think it, but the audiences attention is on the solo.  The only things that you could try to do is have a cutting bass tone and for the drummer to perhaps play more fills and add more cymbals.

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Loads of ways...

Effects to thicken the sound: reverb/ delay, octave, chorus, drive. 

Otherwise play shed loads of fills, be sensitive to what the guitarist is playing and don't solo over them, just embellished versions of the typical line you'd be playing. Also, get the drummer involved, it's their job to fill that space too! 

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