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  1. #1

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    do any of you guys play solo? i do but i have to sing and play . alot of these tunes are 60's tunes .

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  3. #2

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    Not currently, but when I was still able to I did a lot of solo gigs; and yes, at least some singing is pretty much mandatory unless it's a wallpaper gig where you play politely and blend in with the ferns. Full disclosure - I really liked those gigs!
    It aids your audience in connecting with what you're doing, and that can't hurt. You don't have to be a virtuoso - just stay in your range, smile, and do your best.
    Best regards, k

  4. #3

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    You know, I've been contemplating exactly that, mostly playing the songs from the Great American Songbook, a lot of Nat Cole, mostly instrumentals, but a few vocals, but not many because over the years my range has gone from a tenor to a low baritone, even dipping my toe into bass. Also, I find it harder to vocalize while playing than when I was young: I guess playing syncopated chords while phrasing melodies has a higher degree of difficulty than playing distorted hard-rock power chords and screaming.

    I figure on doing some coffee houses for free (well, maybe free coffee anyway) just to try things out and get used to performing in front of people again. Been decades.

  5. #4
    I've only done a handful of solo gigs over the years, and usually it was corporate events where most people don't really pay attention. It is difficult, but you get the flow after a while. But I've played solo on theatre with loopers and effects a lot (not jazz usually), and found it a lot easier. It's just difficult to avoid Joe Pass territory at a solo jazz gig, and it's REALLY difficult to indulge an audience for a whole set or two. You have to organize your set list and vary it as best you can. Fun gigs though, challenging

  6. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by Alter View Post
    I've only done a handful of solo gigs over the years, and usually it was corporate events where most people don't really pay attention. It is difficult, but you get the flow after a while. But I've played solo on theatre with loopers and effects a lot (not jazz usually), and found it a lot easier. It's just difficult to avoid Joe Pass territory at a solo jazz gig, and it's REALLY difficult to indulge an audience for a whole set or two. You have to organize your set list and vary it as best you can. Fun gigs though, challenging
    Set organization is really important. Varying tempos, keys, and moods helps stave off the performer's nemesis -boring, or worse yet, irritating the audience. Always go in with a plan, preferably in writing (brain-blanking will occur, just ask Captain Murphy) and be prepared to change said plan if circumstances warrant. If at all possible, take requests (breaks are good for consulting Real Books for refreshers). Above all, maintain a professional demeanor - friendly, polite, and smiling. Take along a good supply of business cards, and distribute them when asked - do not foist.
    Best regards, k

  7. #6

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    So you have your sets prepared: Do you stick to them rigidly, or perhaps bring a fake book in case you get a request?

    I have this nightmare of, say, playing "Sweet Lorraine" and then some nimrod asking if I know "Stairway To Heaven". Maybe I should just stay home? I'm sure a lot depends on venue.

  8. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by Uncle Vinnie View Post
    So you have your sets prepared: Do you stick to them rigidly, or perhaps bring a fake book in case you get a request?

    I have this nightmare of, say, playing "Sweet Lorraine" and then some nimrod asking if I know "Stairway To Heaven". Maybe I should just stay home? I'm sure a lot depends on venue.
    Rigidity is to be avoided. Nimbleness is advised. The key is preparation and situational awareness. The set lists and realbooks are resources. The thousands of hours of practice you've put in to get to this point are your real strength. You can do this.
    Best regards, k

  9. #8

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    I've played thousands of solo gigs, from background in restaurants to concerts. Informal situations will always get requests, many of them of the Stairway to Heaven type, so either throw a version together or learn to politely say "I am working on it, maybe next time", or something like that. I've found that just playing the opening lick and a few bars beyond will satisfy most folks. Something like Hotel California is a big request, it's very easy to play and you can improvise on it, I play mostly nylon-string, so I adopt a Gipsy Kings rumba-style rhythm, gets great response and tips. Your audience pretty much sets the play-list, and leaving out pop tunes from the 60s on will paint you into a corner if the crowd is younger than 75.

    Many of the Beatles tunes are Gershwin-Inspired, and perfect guitar music, along with any popular ballads from the past 30-40 years, Bossa-nova is still popular on the guitar. I can't imagine a background music gig where bebop is going to succeed as the main style, but mixing in some is cool. If it's something you need to do for income, keep in mind that most pop tunes are much easier to learn than American Songbook standards, and certainly are more recognizable to a mixed-age audience. Carol King tunes are well-structured and easy, and very popular, for instance, also good vehicles for improv, as well as Santana's early stuff, like Black Magic Woman.

    Lastly, I have found great success simply by playing with a nice groove, which is where a looper becomes very handy. Pick a fairly short tune, play your arrangement, then loop the changes with a strong rhythm, play a couple of choruses, finish off with the melody, 4 minutes gone. Any style benefits from this treatment: swing, bossa, light rock, jazz waltz, etc. And don't ignore jazz hits like Take 5 or Song for My Father or Summertime.

  10. #9

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    I used to play solo gigs every week for years on cocktail hours, when the keyboard player couldn't move all his stuff from room to room for catered affairs.
    I loved it because i was a total song freak back then, and I'd spend the weekdays at libraries, xeroxing hundreds of harmonically interesting tunes I could play on the gig. I'd also take out hundreds of records and copy the tunes I liked, and play them also.

    I played everything; standards, current pop tunes, movie themes, folk songs, rock tunes; anything that had a decent melody, and good changes.
    When I do solo gigs today, I can still play a lot of those tunes, because the boomers remember them and dig them. I still play many standards, but as Ronjazz said, you can't just play songs from the 30s and 40s, because the boomers don't know them.

    There are no good tunes from this generation, but you can't go wrong with Bachrach, Beatles, Legrand, Roger Nichols, Mancini, Jim Webb, etc... Rock bands like Steely Dan, The Moody Blues, The Association, America, etc... all have a few good tunes that work.

  11. #10
    thank you for all the replys!! i still play out on weekends but anymore ; i mostly do ragtime fingerstyle and blues and old rock mellow type of tunes. most gigs i'm just "wallpaper". but i enjoy it [ and make a little $] , very little $!

  12. #11

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    I have been offered a nice hotel wallpaper gig in a few months. Haven't done anything like this in a while so must admit to feeling a bit anxious. Part of me wants to do a jazz improv gig where I play changes and improv over them....the other part of me says be sensible and learn some solid arrangements especially for the first few songs till you get comfortable. Either way it'll be putting dinner on the table so to speak.

  13. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by Liarspoker View Post
    I have been offered a nice hotel wallpaper gig in a few months. Haven't done anything like this in a while so must admit to feeling a bit anxious. Part of me wants to do a jazz improv gig where I play changes and improv over them....the other part of me says be sensible and learn some solid arrangements especially for the first few songs till you get comfortable. Either way it'll be putting dinner on the table so to speak.
    My advice would be to map out a whole show, but from time to time throw in some of your improv to test the waters. Best of luck to you!
    Best regards, k

  14. #13

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    My dream gig has always been to sit 'among the ferns' in a nice restaurant and play pretty chords all evening. The nice thing is, you can repeat yourself about every hour or so because the audience (diners) tends to change on a somewhat regular basis - new audience, same tunes, but pick good ones so you won't be bored to death. I don't sing and won't put the world at large in the unenviable position of being forced to listen to me try. Along with the looper, you might also want to try some simple mp3 backing tracks that you can play from your phone and bluetooth to your amp. I keep a 12 bar blues or two, a 'jump' blues, some simple bossa changes that can be improvised to, and even a few Ventures/surf tunes that folks will remember. I've got a little $30 bluetooth receiver gizmo from Sweetwater that plugs into the 'aux' in of my amp and plays stuff from my Android phone. I've found that there are folks out there who actually like instrumental music.

  15. #14

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    I do solo gigs, though I’m a bit rusty on the solo soloing - was better at that 10/12 years ago. But the looper is fun to create the beat and if I don’t want to sing for a bit can extend the solo. As I get better at that the response has been improving too. I do some acoustic but mostly electric.


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  16. #15

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    I saw a very good (and smart) soloist playing at Santana Row (fancy outdoor mall).
    He had a small laptop, running a "garage Band" app which he had laid backing tracks
    and he was playing along, and if people engaged him long enough (he was also selling
    CD's) he would un-mute his previously recorded guitar track, set his guitar down and
    engage in selling CD's or booking a house-party gig etc.. Then when they would leave,
    he would pick-up his guitar, mute the recorded track, and play along.
    Of course, he was incredibly talented guitarist, had a great Latin style, but it his shift
    into "sales mode" was so cleanly deployed I was impressed.

    I still, however think the ideal solo gig is from Stringswinger: Gigging solo in a Tux
    playing (probably one of his D'Angelico's) for Real Estate customers at multi-million dollar
    Palo Alto home showcases.... spiffy!!
    measure with micrometer... mark with chalk... cut with axe

  17. #16

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    This is totally where it's at. One man payday. Soloing over hifi backing tracks. Who wants guitar when there are guys doing this?


  18. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by cosmic gumbo View Post
    This is totally where it's at. One man payday. Soloing over hifi backing tracks. Who wants guitar when there are guys doing this?

    Looks like a wild party.
    Not a fan of simulated bands on stage bet it backing tracks or loopers.
    I'm all about interaction in music.I much rather hear him attempt to make
    it work playing unaccompanied, failing that budget for a 2nd musician.

  19. #18

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    I'm with Bako on this one. When I'm at a wedding or a coffee house, I don't want to have to shout into someone's ear who's sitting next to me because the band/DJ/solo guy with backing tracks is playing too loudly.

    If I decide to do a solo gig, I want to be background music and unobtrusive to the point where people have to focus their attention on me to hear me: I don't want to be louder than their conversation.

    That's the beauty of the guitar: Much more control of dynamics as opposed to canned music and a naturally-louder instrument like the tenor sax the guy in the video is playing. With a guitar you can play chorded melodies, or accompany your vocals and control the volume.
    Last edited by Uncle Vinnie; 07-06-2018 at 09:31 PM.

  20. #19

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    I play solo all the time, but I sing so I guess it's really more of a duo. I have to come up with arrangements because I have a hard time improvising seriously in the solo guitar format. Really wish i could do the Joe Pass thing and am working on it, but I'm honestly mystified how anyone gets to the point where they can truly improvise and sound good in a solo context. It's hard as hell.

    I just learned a buttload of tunes, a good mix of standards, bossa, and pop tunes arranged in jazz style. For requests I've found that your best bet is to try to cover a lot of decades and artists that folks know, not necessarily songs. So if someone requests some weird shit you can associate it to something you actually know. Get a request for "stairway" and you can say, I don't do that one but I do some Hendrix, and then folks are generally happy. Sometimes when I get a specific request from a regular at a place where I play, I'll learn it and do it for them the next time which folks seem to appreciate.

    Solo gigs are really fun, but totally exhausting. Takes so much more mental focus, etc. than doing the combo thing. You can never check out mentally for a while.

  21. #20

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    There is plenty of interaction to be had with tracks or loopers, certainly as much as with a band of egotists or amateurs or just plain selfish players. In a commercial setting, a horn-player has no chance of success without backing tracks; in fact, no chance of a gig at all. Guitarists have more success, being in possession of a small orchestra, but music and culture have changed, and those changes must be reckoned with if, like me, you'd rather play than work for a living. The variety of sounds available via loops, especially with drums, is just about infinite, and putting together an effective and musical bass and drums backing track is part of the creative process, as far as I'm concerned.

    Of course, the ideal is to perform with excellent musicians who do interact and listen, but today's cultural and budgetary demands make that more difficult all the time. When confronted with the reality, the choices are paradoxically limited and unlimited, depending on how open-minded and ambitious one is about mastering the technological aspects of music-making. For me, it can be as simple as creating a nice bossa drum loop with fills where appropriate, then laying down a 7-string guitar backing track. This may take 15 minutes (often less), and gives you something to play on your restaurant gig forever (or you can go back in and change things occasionally). If you're feeling more creative, you can add percussion, strings, horn parts, etc. I generally design my tracks to include a second player, be it horn or guitar or violin or a better vocalist than I am, because interaction then becomes real, but you still have an act that is affordable and that much more interesting. To me, the goal is FEEL, getting away from the machine-made aspect is very important, thus, creating your tracks with human input is a real plus; I always play the bass lines in, along with "rhythm" guitar if warranted, and that is usually enough to humanize the track.

    I manage to have a pretty even split between solo-with-tracks-or-looper and live group gigs, and will always favor a good group of humans over silicon and bits, but my tracks also have the changes I like to hear, so there's that.

  22. #21

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    Between djs and puppets, solo gigs for real musician are getting rarer, plan accordingly.


  23. #22

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    I play instrumental solos: jazz standards and recent show tunes at a CCC cocktail lounge, and spirituals in church. I use Band In A Box for the backing tracks. Using their Real Tracks, I can arrange for any instrument, style, tempo or key. That way I can focus on melody and improv. I play the backing tracks from my iPad on my music stand through an amplified speaker set, and have the scores on an iPad Pro, also on the stand. That way the electronics aren’t too visible.