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  1. #1

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    A friend of mind opened a new venue and asked if I would play the back room. Very cool place, great vibe atmosphere, intimate seats about 30 people. So first I have one week to come up with a set list and get it in performance shape. It was coming around OK and then I realized I was leaning pretty hard on ballads, slow rubato no groove music. My fear is I'm going to bore everyone to death. I came up with a few things and actually just improvised a set of changes with a groove to them. If I do it again I'm going to seek out some material that balances the set better. Any thoughts?

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  3. #2

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    I think you must have some tunes with a groove and strict time. All ballads and rubato is boring, as you say.

    I would include some tunes that work well at a medium tempo, and a couple of bossas e.g. Jobim tunes.

  4. #3
    Doubletime feel is your friend in solo playing honestly. On ballads, play type eighth notes as quarter notes to get a start on this feel. If anything, this can be a nice second or third chorus take on a ballad. You can groove them more, and honestly it's easier to play this way over fast-moving changes, vs just straight ahead quarter-eighths feel. You can slow the tempo down over all, while FEELING somewhat faster and more groove-oriented to the listener.

  5. #4

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    unless the listeners are jazz fans, double-time will just confuse them. in this situation, by far the most important aspect is SONG SELECTION, along with a variety of tempos and feels. Keep in mind that it is now 2019; the jazz standards will not be the favorites in a mixed-age crowd. Jobim, Beatles, Santana tunes, a modern waltz like Mr. Bojangles or Norwegian Wood, a solo version of Take 5, an improvised groove blues, a little Gershwin and Porter, you're good to go. No more than two ballads a set, and one of them should be relatively contemporary: Don't Know Why, for instance. For a jam tune, I always have in my back pocket a 1-chord tune to really go to town on, like The Beat Goes On, in E or A, using the bass string as a drone to play over, this can be very effective if you build your improv over time.

  6. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by ronjazz View Post
    unless the listeners are jazz fans, double-time will just confuse them. in this situation, by far the most important aspect is SONG SELECTION, along with a variety of tempos and feels. Keep in mind that it is now 2019; the jazz standards will not be the favorites in a mixed-age crowd. Jobim, Beatles, Santana tunes, a modern waltz like Mr. Bojangles or Norwegian Wood, a solo version of Take 5, an improvised groove blues, a little Gershwin and Porter, you're good to go. No more than two ballads a set, and one of them should be relatively contemporary: Don't Know Why, for instance. For a jam tune, I always have in my back pocket a 1-chord tune to really go to town on, like The Beat Goes On, in E or A, using the bass string as a drone to play over, this can be very effective if you build your improv over time.
    I'm not talking about doing anything overly complex. It's true that you can syncopate and make things more complex with a double time feel as well, but double time feels can be just as straight ahead, often more so.

    Paper Doll is the one I always think about, as that was my first exposure to the concept. It had an indication at the bottom of the leadsheet that it could optionally be played double time feel, where eighths equal quarter notes. I immediately found that it was easier to play rather than harder. If anything, the macro tempo setting can be much slower, even while grooving much harder, and in some ways, it may be actually easier to hear for the listener.

    Anyway, I always appreciate your posts. Thanks Ron.

  7. #6
    If there's any ladies at all, playing 3 ballads in a row would kill them. It's a science fact.

    This sums it up:

  8. #7

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    If you are not singing songs, it's not going to matter to anyone, just have fun.

  9. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by cosmic gumbo View Post
    If you are not singing songs, it's not going to matter to anyone, just have fun.
    If you’re just background music, I’m afraid Gumbo is right..... uptempo helps though.

    When I play solo I repeat all my ballads as bossa’s (well, sort of: uptempo gringo latin-feel) further down the set which automatically gives them a double time feel. Works like a charm! (I especially like it for Misty and Darn That Dream, but it works on every ballad). In noisy rooms I don’t even play the ballad-version, just the uptempo bossa.

    :: Jazz, Funk, Soul & Boogaloo: My group ::
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  10. #9
    This is a great topic.
    I guess you already know Jake Reichbart , but he always plays in time, and its very releaving to listen to..
    If its a new start for one to do so, I would learn to play 3 or more populare tunes and repeating the arrangement with no solo

    Strangers in the Night, Jake Reichbart, solo guitar
    Uffe Steen Music: http://www.uffe-steen.dk

  11. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by jaco View Post
    A friend of mind opened a new venue and asked if I would play the back room. Very cool place, great vibe atmosphere, intimate seats about 30 people. So first I have one week to come up with a set list and get it in performance shape. It was coming around OK and then I realized I was leaning pretty hard on ballads, slow rubato no groove music. My fear is I'm going to bore everyone to death. I came up with a few things and actually just improvised a set of changes with a groove to them. If I do it again I'm going to seek out some material that balances the set better. Any thoughts?
    I almost never play solo guitar gigs, but I play a fair amount of solo guitar just for fun and sometimes in public places like parks. I've also played a LOT on the streets and I like to pay attention to what people notice, here's what I've found:

    1) Volume: if you play below a certain volume, basically no one will care. people respond to volume; so many times on the street, I've seen successful performers playing terrible music loudly, and people respond. whereas if you play too quiet, you can play the most beautiful thing ever and no one will care.

    2) Rhythm: playing something with a clear beat is always a winner. I bet that I would get a better response playing creative 4 to the bar swing guitar, rather than "bill evans style" pick and fingers solo guitar. Of course, variety is the spice of life, but, in general people are not complain if they can't hear the melody, they will not be interested if they can't hear a beat.

    3) Melody: Playing very clear melodies in good time is always something people like. Don't be afraid to play songs most people are gonna know, jazz standards used to be songs people knew, so jazz musicians would play them. Play a few songs that folks will know. Again, the most successful street musicians I've ever seen would play the theme from "titanic" over and over again, loudly. people love that shit.

    Basically everything else will serve to keep yourself, and other musicians, interested. Fancy harmonic stuff, reharms, contrapuntal textures, all that is great, but average listeners are not gonna notice or care, most people can't hear harmony that well anyways.

  12. #11

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    Is this a 'listening' room, restaurant, bar or ....? My favorite gigs have always been 'sitting behind the ferns' and playing what I want to play - nobody is listening anyhow - you're just there for background music, 'musical wallpaper', if you will. OTOH, if it's a listening environment, you need to put a little more thought into it.

  13. #12

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    Just play some Derek Bailey, you'll be fine.

  14. #13

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    I've done a lot of these type of gigs. Haven't done one in a while...should change that. Anyway...

    To do a setlist, I'd always sit down with my rep, written out and divided into categories: ballad, medium, up, bossa, "other"

    I'd figure out how many sets I needed to cover, then I'd start dropping things into place. Rule was always no more than two ballads in a row, no more than 2 songs in the same key in a row (unless I could make it a medley)

    Then I'd find a good starter and closer for each set. Starters should be medium or up, something you can play in your sleep. I have a very worked out arrangement of Neal Hefti's "Cute" that I'd often use, sometimes I'd start and end a set with it, it was kind of my "play in and out" tune.

    I'd also have a few "kept in pocket" tunes, things people request (usually Beatles or something Sinatra sang) that I wouldn't put into the set right away...I'd have spots for them, but I could move them around too if I got a request.

    One thing I'd never do: Just noodle. I'd also never play a whole tune rubato.
    Jeff Matz, Jazz Guitar:
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    "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

  15. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by mr. beaumont View Post
    I've done a lot of these type of gigs. Haven't done one in a while...should change that. Anyway...

    To do a setlist, I'd always sit down with my rep, written out and divided into categories: ballad, medium, up, bossa, "other"

    I'd figure out how many sets I needed to cover, then I'd start dropping things into place. Rule was always no more than two ballads in a row, no more than 2 songs in the same key in a row (unless I could make it a medley)

    Then I'd find a good starter and closer for each set. Starters should be medium or up, something you can play in your sleep. I have a very worked out arrangement of Neal Hefti's "Cute" that I'd often use, sometimes I'd start and end a set with it, it was kind of my "play in and out" tune.

    I'd also have a few "kept in pocket" tunes, things people request (usually Beatles or something Sinatra sang) that I wouldn't put into the set right away...I'd have spots for them, but I could move them around too if I got a request.

    One thing I'd never do: Just noodle. I'd also never play a whole tune rubato.
    When I’m the bandleader (which I’ve been avoiding lately) I use a spreadsheet to do almost exactly what you suggest here. The repertoire, rhythms and keys are in columns, but the first column named “set order” is blank. I’ll number them per the rules you mentioned then sort by the first column. For the initial draft I might number them by multiples of 10 (e.g., 10, 20, 30), which makes it easier to move tunes from one location to another as I iterate. After I’m done iterating I’ll renumber 1, 2, 3... using the spreadsheet “series” function. Then I’ll send a pdf to bandmates and print.

    It’s easier to do it than explain it!

  16. #15

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    Play to your strengths. People can tell. If you're genuine and you play with feeling, and don't bore them by playing too much (too many choruses of eighth note arpeggios), they'll enjoy the feeling you can convey. Throw in some And I Love Her, or Vincent, or Deer Hunter, or Cinema Paradiso and you'll have a pleased group of semi-listeners who will not be put off. When I'm in a place for a nice meal, I don't really need someone showing off their version of Giant Steps or Cherokee because they fear I won't notice them. Don't steal the show from the chef.
    Tricks and gadgets are always fun. If you use a looper, and put down a chorus of Tal Farlow type tap and bongo percussion, add a modest bass line and chords chorus, you can play the tune in and there's a memorable performance right there.
    Do have fun. If I tell a little story about a piece I'm going to play, it becomes real. If it's an eating crowd, then just play with a convincing feeling and they'll be encouraged and comforted into having a nice conversation with their company. Job well done. Yay.

    David

  17. #16

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    You are overthinking it. Solo jazz guitar (and I do about 70 solo gigs a year) is almost always about creating ambience. Unless you are giving a concert, you will not be listened to intently. If having a set list will make you more confident, do one.

    I do bring a list of about 200 tunes that I know I can do a pretty good solo performance of to the gig just in case I run out of inspiration. Mostly I just play whatever tune comes into my head. I do try to mix in a few Jobim tunes and Beatles tunes in each set. I am also careful to vary my keys, my tempos and to mix some minor harmony tunes in between a bunch of major harmony tunes.

    Good luck and enjoy. The toughest part of a solo gig for me is not hitting on any good looking chicks who might be at the venue during my breaks (I have been happily married for 20 years). On a gig with other players, the breaks are spent with them and there is no temptation.
    _____________________________________________
    "When the chord changes, you should change" Joe Pass

  18. #17

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    If you ever get as good as Ted Greene, you might be able to snag a primo gig like this.


  19. #18

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    I’m trying to develop my solo repertoire, having fallen into the weakness of lots of guys my age... grew up playing in bands, developed into jazz, but still rely on duo/trio/ band settings, so I comp or solo, but have a very limited solo rep. What has made the biggest difference for you guys with lots of solo experience in developing your solo rep.... copping recorded solo arrangements of your favorite artists, developing skills to make your own arrangements, transcriptions?

    I’m not planning on playing restaurants or background gigs very often, so I have the privilege of just working up tunes I really like, but this thread is helpful in deciding what’s listenable for people.
    It all works out in the end; if it's not working out, it's not the end.

  20. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by yebdox View Post
    I’m trying to develop my solo repertoire, having fallen into the weakness of lots of guys my age... grew up playing in bands, developed into jazz, but still rely on duo/trio/ band settings, so I comp or solo, but have a very limited solo rep. What has made the biggest difference for you guys with lots of solo experience in developing your solo rep.... copping recorded solo arrangements of your favorite artists, developing skills to make your own arrangements, transcriptions?

    I’m not planning on playing restaurants or background gigs very often, so I have the privilege of just working up tunes I really like, but this thread is helpful in deciding what’s listenable for people.
    For me, it was after hearing Joe Pass' Virtuoso album, I sat down with a few of the tunes that he did on that record (All The Things, Cherokee, Round Midnight and Night and Day) and worked out my own arrangements. I then began to do improv on them. After a time it became second nature to arrange a tune chord melody style and improvise over the changes. I never had the patience nor the chops to copy Pass note for note like some guys do.

    IMO, a great acoustic archtop is not the best instrument for playing in a noisy restaurant or bar. But for doing solo jazz guitar in your living room, it cannot be beat!
    _____________________________________________
    "When the chord changes, you should change" Joe Pass

  21. #20

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    This video by Tim Lerch has given me a lot of inspiration for how to approach solo guitar without having to learn loads of fancy arrangements (which I soon forget):


  22. #21

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    I also purchased this great Bruce Forman solo masterclass recently, it’s also given me lots of ideas:


  23. #22

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    Thanks for the ideas, guys. I have that Forman lesson, but haven't tackled it yet. This is definitely the next significant advancement in my playing. I have the Yelin books, but find those arrangements pretty boring. Guess it's like anything else in life, you gotta do the time
    It all works out in the end; if it's not working out, it's not the end.

  24. #23

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    If you're singing, some of my more up tempo solo sung tunes are:

    1. Frim Fram Sauce, a la Nat Cole, bouncy but not too much,

    2. Route 66, also Nat Cole, up tempo but not head banging. I loop one of the verses to solo over

    3. Can't Take That Away From Me, slow intro then kick it up to a medium swing. Great tune.

    4. One Note Samba. 'Nuff said. (Not sung, but it moves nicely)

    5. Sweet Loraine. Nat Cole again, slow-medium swing, attention grabber. Again, I loop a verse to solo over.