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  1. #1

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    Hey players,

    Don't slay me, but I need some advise on getting a 2 hour solo guitar gig up to speed. I'm an ocassional gigging amateur and I'm used to playing in a duo/trio/quartet setting -- maybe too used to it. I have an opportunity for a semi-regular solo gig, but I just don't have enough material or practice performing alone to cut it. But I am enthusiastic about making it happen. At this point, I can maybe scrape together 45 minutes solo. So I'm trying to figure out where best to put my energy in growing my solo set? It's a bar/wallpaper type of gig as opposed to on stage with critical listeners. Any advise (hoping for more than learn every tune backwards & forwards) is appreciated.

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  3. #2

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    I would try and put as many improvised choruses in each tune as you can get away with, to get maximum mileage out of each tune. If it’s background then no-one will notice if you screw up the form a bit or wander off the chord changes or whatever. Vary each chorus a bit, e.g. maybe start with one rubato, then play the tune in time, then some comping, some walking bass, some single note stuff, then mix up all of the above etc. Doesn’t have to be Joe-Pass-level, just melodic, swinging, groove, etc. Whenever in doubt just revert to playing some of the tune again, with a bit of embellishment.

  4. #3

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    What Graham said above is good advice.

    But there's no getting around the fact that you are going to have to find the time every day to work on memorizing new solo guitar arrangements.

    Just remember, it doesn't have to be a difficult or advanced arrangement that takes a lot of time and effort to learn and master - it just has to be an arrangement that sounds pretty. That's what the majority of people are looking for.

    In other words, you're not playing for other guitarists you're playing for regular folk who would love to hear a pretty melody played on a beautiful sounding guitar.

    Regards,
    Steven Herron
    Learn To Play Chord Melody Guitar

  5. #4

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    Play songs they know*. An audience will cheer for a song they know even if not performed very well but barely respond to something they've never heard before played brilliantly. And if it's only background, so much the better :-)

    * Summertime, Autumn Leaves, Georgia, Misty, After You've Gone, Sunny Side Of The Street, etc, you know the stuff. And some blues, everybody likes blues.

  6. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by Longways to Go View Post
    Hey players,

    Don't slay me, but I need some advise on getting a 2 hour solo guitar gig up to speed. I'm an ocassional gigging amateur and I'm used to playing in a duo/trio/quartet setting -- maybe too used to it. I have an opportunity for a semi-regular solo gig, but I just don't have enough material or practice performing alone to cut it. But I am enthusiastic about making it happen. At this point, I can maybe scrape together 45 minutes solo. So I'm trying to figure out where best to put my energy in growing my solo set? It's a bar/wallpaper type of gig as opposed to on stage with critical listeners. Any advise (hoping for more than learn every tune backwards & forwards) is appreciated.
    I would also try to sprinkle in some well crafted pop tunes like Beatles tunes, Moondance etc


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  7. #6

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    If it's a restaurant or that style, where there's turnover in the crowd, you can repeat tunes. Get an hour together, and play it twice.

  8. #7

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    Is it inappropriate to suggest playing along with backing tracks?

    I hear solo guys do that fairly often.

    It's not Joe Pass, but the audience might like it.

  9. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by rpjazzguitar View Post
    Is it inappropriate to suggest playing along with backing tracks?

    I hear solo guys do that fairly often.

    It's not Joe Pass, but the audience might like it.
    I have done that. No one really seems to mind.


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  10. #9

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    I wouldn't rely on backing tracks, but get a looper, and prepare some of your own, or do it on the spot. To me, there's more dignity in looper than in backing tracks off internet.

  11. #10

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    I've found that developing the art of the introduction is how I keep things fresh and engaging. Introductions let me set the tone, the motif, the groove or the interest on my own terms. I'd always found going up against a song form to be a challenge and setting up a nice introductary segment causes me to focus on my own sounds, my own space and gradually "invites" the song to emerge from the space I create.
    A single note, repeated into a rhythm that plays in the song... a nice chordal passage that winds up on the dominant of the first chord... a variation on the last 8 bars of the song... they all serve me well to set the musical tone of each piece, and the pieces flow much easier into and out of the form.
    A nice introduction also uses things like vamp passages and pleasant interlude to use space and time, stretch out a song to take up more time and allow that "Oh! How clever! I recognize that tune now!" moment for the audience.

    David

  12. #11

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    I think someone once said if it's got a good intro and a solid ending no one cares much what happens in between

  13. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by rpjazzguitar View Post
    Is it inappropriate to suggest playing along with backing tracks?

    I hear solo guys do that fairly often.

    It's not Joe Pass, but the audience might like it.
    The trouble with that is they might actually start listening to it... I mean, you really don't want that

  14. #13

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    Another reason to play a long introduction is that it gives you an opportunity to work through the tune 'on your own terms' and refresh your memory, before you get right into it at tempo etc.

  15. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by grahambop View Post
    Another reason to play a long introduction is that it gives you an opportunity to work through the tune 'on your own terms' and refresh your memory, before you get right into it at tempo etc.
    That reminds me that as you go through selecting the repertoire for your gig, listen to broadway tunes WITH the verses. These are introductions to well known tunes that nobody heard of. They were designed to make the transition from the speaking part of a play (or movie) into the song. These verses are often as beautiful or more compelling than the even the part of the standards we know. Vocalists will sometimes include a verse, Ella is well known for doing this. Watch Fred Astaire movies, he's got the complete songs when he sings and dances a number. Learning a good verse really "frames" an already great song and extends it into a most rewarding piece of episodic music. Well worth the effort.
    David

    How many of you guys know, not to mention can play, the verse to All The Things You Are?

  16. #15

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    Taking a tune through two or more keys is a great way to extend it and keep it fresh.
    If it's a restaurant crowd, you can certainly repeat after an hour or so, there's turnover.
    Definitely sprinkle in some pop tunes, Beatles, something Sinatra sang. You might want to keep a few of these tunes in pocket really, they might get requested...requests fulfilled usually equal tips, sometimes nice ones.



    Looper? I dunno...if used creatively, cool. Though generally, I think the creative application of a looper doesn't really lend itself to wallpaper music, it's listening music...think Bill Frisell. I'd be excited to see him play at a restaurant, most folks would be confused.

    Tracks? You know what, I'll just shut up.
    Jeff Matz, Jazz Guitar:
    http://www.youtube.com/user/jeffreymatz

    "Jazz is like life...it goes on longer than you think, and as soon as you're like 'oh, I get it,' it ends."

    --The Ghost of Duke Ellington

  17. #16

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    Looper... is that where you press a pedal, play the chords, then it repeats so you can solo over it? The only place I've seen those in use is by buskers :-)

    Or arty people where they 'create-their-own-music-while-you-watch'. But I wouldn't have thought it very good for wallpaper... I might be wrong.

  18. #17

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    speaking of tracks, i would get some solo guitr albums and pantomime them
    White belt
    My Youtube

  19. #18

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    Wow! you guys have tossed me a ton of great and useful info in this thread. Thank you all.

    I love the extended intro and key change ideas -- those are something fun I can work on. I'm more of an improvise & noodle player than a memorizer of arrangements, so stretching tunes should fit my skill set pretty well.

    I also love the Moondance and Beatles suggestions. I've already got Moondance 1/2 way under my belt. It's funny about the Beatles -- I've never been very good at their tunes somehow. It seems like they always throw in a chord change I'm not expecting. I guess it's time to learn Blackbird

    I had a looper once and was terrible at using it.
    There are a couple of guys in town that do Looper solo gigs, but I'm going to try to do without.

    Thanks again for all the ideas. You guys are great !!!

  20. #19

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    One more idea--a little "light classical" goes over really well.

    Think Spanish over Bach, though, at least for the restaurant crowd.
    Jeff Matz, Jazz Guitar:
    http://www.youtube.com/user/jeffreymatz

    "Jazz is like life...it goes on longer than you think, and as soon as you're like 'oh, I get it,' it ends."

    --The Ghost of Duke Ellington

  21. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by mr. beaumont View Post
    One more idea--a little "light classical" goes over really well.

    Think Spanish over Bach, though, at least for the restaurant crowd.
    *cringe*
    White belt
    My Youtube

  22. #21

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    Really? Lagrima works wonders, I'm telling ya...

    (I've probably done a few hundred wallpaper gigs over the years. Blending in, not being too loud, noticeable, or taking up too much space are my specialties)
    Jeff Matz, Jazz Guitar:
    http://www.youtube.com/user/jeffreymatz

    "Jazz is like life...it goes on longer than you think, and as soon as you're like 'oh, I get it,' it ends."

    --The Ghost of Duke Ellington

  23. #22

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    oh for sure it’s a good choice Jeff; most people will like it— same with the pop tunes.

    that stuff sounds to me like what the chicken dance sounds like to wedding DJs
    White belt
    My Youtube

  24. #23

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    Quote Originally Posted by mr. beaumont View Post

    Think Spanish over Bach
    What's that?

    (I was playing Lagrima before some of you were BORN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

    doesn't mean I was any good at it, just saying :-)

  25. #24

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    i was playing lagrima before you were born
    White belt
    My Youtube

  26. #25

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    I know, and you were brilliant

  27. #26

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    I once booked a gig for 3 hours at a trade show for a obscene amount of money. And I was low bidder.

    I knew I couldn't do a full 3 hours so I teamed up with another solo guitar player singer.

    We were to do 1/2 hour sets tag team sort of, that meant 3 hours non stop music but breaks for us.

    Then the trade show got canceled. Oh well I tried.

  28. #27

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    Nothing wrong with spare use of a looper, but, like everything else, you have to practice it a bit. In fact, on something like Moondance, just a looped 4-bar vamp from the 1 to V7 chord will fill a couple of minutes easily. Pop music is the basis of jazz, although the pop music of the 40's was quite different from the pop music of the 60s and 70s. Even so, Beatles and Santana tunes are a lot easier than Gershwin and Porter, and a lot more familiar to an audience from 30-60 than the old jazz standards will be. The Spanish stuff is great, but really needs to be done well, probably not worth the time and effort. In any event, play hits from the various eras and you'll be fine, and don't be afraid to have a book of sketches to work from. Realistically, you can fill 2 hours with 30 or so tunes with intros, outros and improvisation; that's not a lot to learn at all. If you have a looper with a memory, you can pre-record organic backing tracks as well, my JamMan Solo holds 99 tracks, and I can record a rhythm track tapping on the guitar and hitting the muted strings, then lay down a basic accompaniment over the rhythm track, giving me a decent but unobtrusive little band with my own changes and tempo. I agree that downloading internet tracks can be really cheesy, but making your own tracks becomes part of the creative process, and for background music, makes a 4-hour gig fly by.

  29. #28

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    Quote Originally Posted by ragman1 View Post
    Looper... is that where you press a pedal, play the chords, then it repeats so you can solo over it? The only place I've seen those in use is by buskers :-)
    I'd say the same thing about the backing tracks- buskers only. But on a jazz gig, what, are you gonna play to Abersold CDs? Gross!

  30. #29

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    Whatever you decide, please, PLEASE, keep the rubato to minimum. Maybe a bit on intros, but that's it. If I ever walk in a restaurant where someone plays too much rubato, I'll leave before my meal is ready lol

    And +100 on endings. Endings do need to be solid. One wise man told me, the endings sell the song!

  31. #30

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hep To The Jive View Post
    I'd say the same thing about the backing tracks- buskers only. But on a jazz gig, what, are you gonna play to Abersold CDs? Gross!
    I agree, NO backing tracks. Yuk. As for loopers, in advance is good.

  32. #31

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    I do regular solo gigs. For me I have to work on pacing myself. Early on doing these I might play 5 songs only to realize that only ate up 18 minutes. Now I try to keep it relaxed from the start. The thing I don’t like about the wallpaper gigs is the “audience” is not really there for you, you are part of the ambiance. I always want to talk about the songs but usually that’s not an option. Some of my gigs are 3 hours and I sing. What saves me there are the rotating listeners. There are songs that are very comfortable for me so I can spice those in to a new group and it’s a bit of a break for me and my voice. So my advice, stay comfortable, remember people like what they know so you can use material that might seem simple and overdone but done well will be well received.

  33. #32

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    Not a looper but a Freeze pedal used sparingly may amuse yourself and provide a little harmony for single line excursions. For those that don't know you play a chord, note, double stop, and the Freeze pedal records and plays back a sustained snaphot of that moment.

    Here is a vid I just googled:

    "6 strings this way and 12 frets that way and a world of mystery in between" Keith Richards on the guitar

  34. #33

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    Quote Originally Posted by joe2758 View Post
    speaking of tracks, i would get some solo guitr albums and pantomime them
    You are my spirit animal.
    - Lawson
    "Whenever you come near the human race, there's layers and layers of nonsense." - Thornton Wilder, Our Town

  35. #34

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    my solo gigs are more in the jazz/jam/funk realm, but i do 'wallpaper' gigs somewhat frequently; i would just like to put a +1 to the looper suggestion. my entire night is done with a looper. also, if the crowd is cycling through, definitely feel free to repeat some stuff as suggested. ...if you get that one drunk guy who is loving it and stays all night, he'll forgive you for the repeat.

  36. #35

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    Hi Longways.
    I'm a little late to the conversation, so maybe the gig has come and gone. I've been doing a regular 2 hour solo gig (no vocals) at a restaurant for about a year and a half now. I play a lot of mid tempo swing standards (Gershwin, Cole Porter, Ellington), but I've always found that mixing in (the right) pop tunes really works well. For Beatles, try 'Something' in C, 'Strawberry Fields' and 'Norwegian Wood' in G. 'New York State of Mind' in C, and Norah Jones' 'Don't Know Why' in A are good too.
    General thoughts - don't stress about virtuosity. I've never had it, and I get gigs! Just play in tune, in time, and with confidence and good humour. Have a comfortable chair. Keep some water handy. Try your best to have enough material to not repeat any tunes.
    Specific ideas - if you're working out your own arrangements, always keep in mind the option of moving the melody up and down an octave in different parts of the song, to make it "fit" better on guitar. And if a tune runs short, consider a segue straight into another one with the same key. Maybe the same tempo, maybe not. You may get some ideas from this...
    jazzguitarmichael
    - YouTube

    Cheers