The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
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  1. #1

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    I've been having fun reading about solo acoustic gigs online but since I, and most on here if they play solo guitar, play electric I thought that I might ask the question here.

    Personally I play pop, folk, Irish, classical and light jazz when playing solo guitar and generally get gigs by reaching out via social media. I send message with my website and a clip of me playing.

    My next gig at a farmer's market is interesting. I get paid to play what I get for playing with my acoustic duo, approx $80 for 2 hours with current exchange rates (pre covid as we haven't done anything since) plus I get to busk and when I busk markets I make good money.

    A great tip that I read about is to keep a spreadsheet of people and places contacted for gigs, their contact info and any notes such as 'they might need someone in October' that way you can easily see that you need to contact them before October.

    Ok if you gig once a year that's easy to remember but not if you contact say 50 places in a week.

    So how do you get solo guitar gigs and what is the pay like in your neck of the woods?

    Edit; just to add list of places to reach out too

    Farmer markets
    Art galleries
    Cafes
    Restaurants
    Fundraisers
    Corporate events
    Council events
    Hotels
    Wine bars
    Libraries

    Keep them coming....

    A great thing to do is to find the upcoming events in your town using the big G. If you think that the event can do with a solo guitarist then reach out.
    Last edited by Liarspoker; 08-23-2022 at 05:04 PM. Reason: Spelling

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    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
     
  3. #2

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    i get them by referral only, no active marketing, not much to add here unfortunately. $150 minimum for 2 hours.

    consciously want to keep my gig schedule light...got burned out. only been doing solo stuff for about 4 months now and have enough connections to do 1-2/week at about a half dozen places 5 mins from my house, all without lifting a metaphorical finger. restaurants and wine bars, but my fav semi-regular gig is a high-end cheese place that does these cheese tour happy hours a couple times per month...it's a really nice sounding room, huge windows w a ton of natural light, and the people legit enjoy it.

  4. #3

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    Hi, L,
    You must define your market. If you play Cowboy chords on a flat top, don't query an upscale bistro, hotel, or similar venues . . . check out a beach bar or a locals neighborhood spot. Also, what you charge per hour will determine part of your success. I will not play for less than $75.00 per hour for a one-hour gig(rare) or $120.00 minimum for 2 hours. However, there are some gigs where the tips can be as much as your hourly rate and if that is the case, on a steady basis, you have some room for negotiation. I'd be surprised if anyone here would really give you their hard-earned secrets for finding/keeping gigs since good-paying jobs are few and far between---especially post Covid. In my case, I play Classical, Jazz, and Brazilian music. The least popular of the genres is Jazz. So, focus on venues that fit your niche and start knocking on doors. It's like my old friend who sold cars used to say: There's an ass for every seat."
    Marinero

  5. #4

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    I have a regular weekly solo jazz gig that is at a wine bar 3 minutes from my door. They pay me $125 plus all the fine wine I want to drink for a three hour gig. I average about $25 in tips on that one. I have an agent in Silicon Valley who books me for corporate solo jazz gigs. I get $300 for a three hour gig, but I have to wear a suit and tie and travel about one hour each way for those.

    And that is all the solo gigs I want or need.

  6. #5
    Wow Spencer, that sounds great. Unfortunately I haven't reached critical mass yet where people ask me to play and if they do they assume that I'll do it for free.

    My hands are getting older so I don't want too many gigs either. I've a heavy enough teaching schedule from September to June but a gig a week or every second week is nice.

    Marinero you are correct. My market is background fingerstyle solo guitar.
    My city has a population of around 250k so not too big nor too small (for me anyway). Plenty of opportunity for someone like me anyway.

    Stringswinger, you have it made in the shade. They sound like nice gigs

  7. #6

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    One real problem I always faced as a solo for gigs: pianists. Many of the best paying gigs are "locked" by piano players . . . and, if they sing, they rarely leave because they always have a following. I used to "water" in an exclusive restaurant/bar in Barrington, Illinois--a very upscale area NW of Chicago. The pianist who had been there for 15 years drove 1 1/2 hours each way/6 days a week and played from 8-12 pm. It was nothing to see several $100. bills in his tip jars with many $20.'s and $50's by the end of the night. I always wonder what happened to him when they closed during the Bush recession. What a difference a day makes.
    Marinero

  8. #7

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    Anyone else kind of dread solo gigs? They are the easiest to get since you only have to pay yourself and not a band but man what a drag. Listening to myself play the same shit for 3 hours and no on the gig hang with other musicians. I try not to take gigs that feel like work these days and most solo gigs fall into that category for me.

  9. #8

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    Of course, the senior market is ripe for soloists, especially if you sing a few well-known oldies, from Sinatra through Neil Diamond. Jazz is always part of my program, but generally no more than 25% of my presentation. There are plenty of easy, fun tunes from the 50s and 60s that are appealing to the current Senior crop, after all, they are now in their 70s and 80s, so grew up with early rock 'n' roll and would have been in their teens when the Beatles hit. It's no longer just a swing demographic, although strong swinging playing and singing goes over very well. In the Northeast, the fees range from $75-150 per hour. I tend to keep the lower-paying gigs close to home, and look for more money of I have to travel more than 25 miles. As far as strictly instrumental solo gigs go, the wine bar and vineyard circuit is good, as well as the "better" restaurants. If you're in a good retirement area in the south, some of the gigs pay very well for a real"act"; I have friends that have spent a couple of weeks in Florida doing shows and have come home with 2 or 3 grand in their pockets. But that takes promo material and a polished, upbeat show.

  10. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by drbhrb
    Anyone else kind of dread solo gigs? They are the easiest to get since you only have to pay yourself and not a band but man what a drag. Listening to myself play the same shit for 3 hours and no on the gig hang with other musicians. I try not to take gigs that feel like work these days and most solo gigs fall into that category for me.
    It is difficult at times; music is, after all, a social art. However, solo gigs are a good way to challenge yourself both technically and musically. However, even with good tracks (I make my own), the lack of interaction can be stultifying. I do my best to keep solo gigs to 2 hours or less, and I am constantly learning tunes so that I don't get bored.

  11. #10
    I agree. 2 hours is plenty for a solo guitar gig. I did one for 3 1/2 hours last summer and it was an endurance test

    Anyhow I have old hands so a 2 hour gig suits me fine.

    Unfortunately the nursing homes, old folk homes, here don't pay much if anything at all although it's been a while, pre Covid, since I played in one. There are no vineyards here either.

    I might try the old folk homes again and see which ones, if any, are paying.

    Ron the secret to keeping it fresh is indeed to keep on learning new tunes.

    I play arrangements but often improv over the chords for an intro. Play the tune twice. Improv again. Play the tune once and end or improv if suitable.

    It took me a while to get the improv under my fingers. I'm getting there but still don't land on my feet when I fall down the stairs sometimes.

    The improv keeps things interesting alright

  12. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by Liarspoker
    Ron the secret to keeping it fresh is indeed to keep on learning new tunes.
    That's one secret. But for me, a bigger one is to play the same tune as many different ways as you can. You can play Wave as a bossa. Or you can swing it. Or you can do it as a rubato ballad. Try a 4/4 tune as a waltz, or a waltz in 5/4. Make a standard like Watch What Happens a little funky. Adapt a classic blues head to major 7ths instead of diminished or dominant 7ths. Tenderly is a beautiful ballad, but it also swings - check out Oscar Peterson's take (which starts to swing at about 1:24 and never looks back):



    The world is your oyster. So try maple oyster pudding.

  13. #12

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    I always felt undervalued and underpaid as a guitarist so I recently placed an ad -

    Guitarist available, €120 per night(3 hours max).

    included in the price are the chords C, F and G so I suggest you transpose all song to the key of C.

    Other chords available at extra cost and jazz chords such as F#m7 etc can be provided.

    Pentatonic solos are included in the price but addition charges apply for non-pentatonic solos.

    A selection of effect pedals are available at a cost of €10 per effect.

    refreshments must be provided by the venue.

  14. #13

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  15. #14

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    And, then when you get a decent gig and some guy wanders in during the week and talks to the owner and asks how much you were getting paid for the gig and says . . . I'll do it for . . . I had a very good solo gig at a continental bistro in the NW suburbs of Chicago and never took home less than $200.00 for two hours including tips twice a week. The owner called me before my next performance and told me he was going to try a piano player for a while to see how the crowd reacted. I later found out that the piano player was a first-generation Chinese engineer(day gig) on a work visa and played the gig for $10.00 an hour. And, he played very well.
    Marinero
    Last edited by Marinero; 08-25-2022 at 09:51 AM. Reason: spelling

  16. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by drbhrb
    Anyone else kind of dread solo gigs? They are the easiest to get since you only have to pay yourself and not a band but man what a drag. Listening to myself play the same shit for 3 hours and no on the gig hang with other musicians. I try not to take gigs that feel like work these days and most solo gigs fall into that category for me.
    dread is an interesting word...

    do i miss playing with other musicians when doing/practicing for solo gigs? a little bit...but my thumb is a pretty good bassist and i wont talk bad about him. what i like about solo gigs is being able to play stuff like steely dan or joni mitchell or things like that in a context that's new to me, keeping it fresh. three of my fav songs are solo arrangements ive done of deacon blues, rikki dont lose that number and black crow...and i dont think that'd fly in a band setting, either getting shot down or just not being a good fit. i enjoy playing in a joe pass-style, which im not good enough at yet to be able to tweak for a pianist.

    but back to "dread"...i play a lot of rock and blues stuff too (well used to, since i quit most of the groups i worked with). i dont drink and am on average the youngest in all these groups by a decade. "dread"...i dread the end of gigs. where i've already packed up my stuff and just want to go home to hang with my fiancee and dog, and the rest of the band is hanging with people, ordering drinks. that dread of knowing i've got to wait an hour to get any real momentum towards packing up is very, very real. the dread of watching the drummer fumble with his keys while you've got three stands in each hand digging into your flesh. the dread of PACKING UP A PA...a PA that's a metaphorical howitzer that was brought to a squirt gun fight. or...lets rewind...the dread of showing up at the arranged time, and being the only one there for 30 minutes for all the same tired reasons. the dread of watching the bandleader take an extra cut while you've waited around 90 minutes to be their roadie, all because you don't want to be a jerk and just split.

    or the worst dread of all...the dread of maybe having to play CCR.

    which kind of circles back to your point...does it feel like work? my solo gigs dont feel like that...that's what ive been working on with my teachers, so the workload is already baked in there...plus im a loner by nature. of course id rather have a trio of my own with experience, but that'll come eventually (maybe)...but i truly enjoy the solo stuff on its own merit. the rock stuff? it's nice making really good money (music doesnt pay my bills tho, making it easier to walk away from gigs), but in most of my cases, id gladly fork over a portion of my cut to save two+ hours of a chinese fire drill.

  17. #16

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    Yea... it's difficult, your approach sounds good. I still have friends doing the solo thing, they're really good players and they can entertain, LOL very good personality traits and look good while they play.

    Years ago unions were great, still good. Union rates are updated every year. Cheap to belong. But generally I've always worked with agents... what your talking about is their job and they're really good at the BS. They get a cut, but you'll make much better money etc... I even tip them for really good gigs. (under the table) LOL

    I still play lots of gigs with different musicians and bands as sub etc... but you either play what they need or you play something better, raise the bar etc... most amateur gigs don't really pay much, it's just what it has become.

    It is work... right... i still love to work.

  18. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by spencer096
    dread is an interesting word...

    do i miss playing with other musicians when doing/practicing for solo gigs? a little bit...but my thumb is a pretty good bassist and i wont talk bad about him. what i like about solo gigs is being able to play stuff like steely dan or joni mitchell or things like that in a context that's new to me, keeping it fresh. three of my fav songs are solo arrangements ive done of deacon blues, rikki dont lose that number and black crow...and i dont think that'd fly in a band setting, either getting shot down or just not being a good fit. i enjoy playing in a joe pass-style, which im not good enough at yet to be able to tweak for a pianist.

    but back to "dread"...i play a lot of rock and blues stuff too (well used to, since i quit most of the groups i worked with). i dont drink and am on average the youngest in all these groups by a decade. "dread"...i dread the end of gigs. where i've already packed up my stuff and just want to go home to hang with my fiancee and dog, and the rest of the band is hanging with people, ordering drinks. that dread of knowing i've got to wait an hour to get any real momentum towards packing up is very, very real. the dread of watching the drummer fumble with his keys while you've got three stands in each hand digging into your flesh. the dread of PACKING UP A PA...a PA that's a metaphorical howitzer that was brought to a squirt gun fight. or...lets rewind...the dread of showing up at the arranged time, and being the only one there for 30 minutes for all the same tired reasons. the dread of watching the bandleader take an extra cut while you've waited around 90 minutes to be their roadie, all because you don't want to be a jerk and just split.

    or the worst dread of all...the dread of maybe having to play CCR.

    which kind of circles back to your point...does it feel like work? my solo gigs dont feel like that...that's what ive been working on with my teachers, so the workload is already baked in there...plus im a loner by nature. of course id rather have a trio of my own with experience, but that'll come eventually (maybe)...but i truly enjoy the solo stuff on its own merit. the rock stuff? it's nice making really good money (music doesnt pay my bills tho, making it easier to walk away from gigs), but in most of my cases, id gladly fork over a portion of my cut to save two+ hours of a chinese fire drill.
    Wow, yes in your shoes I'd feel the same way. I never travel with or have to wait on anyone else at the gigs I play with others. I'm usually packed up and ready to go home 90 seconds after the last tune is over. A lot of gigs these days the band leader just pays everyone via venmo/paypal so I'm not even waiting on cash in hand. Typically I'm halfway home before the drummer has drums in cases.

  19. #18

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    Around here, Northern California, there seem to be a lot of band gigs happening for food, drinks, tips and maybe a little money.

    I guess a lot of players have accepted the idea that there isn't a living in this sort of activity, but it's better than not playing for an audience.

    The players I know who are earning more serious fees for their performances are truly top notch players. And, I still see some of them at the low-rent venues.

  20. #19
    So tomorrow is that gig at the farmers market. Heavy rain forecast so gig might be cancelled. The organiser will let me know in the morning.

    Anyhow here is the gear that I'll be bringing. Would love to see pics of your solo set up.

    Finding and pay rate for solo guitar gigs-img20220910165535-jpg

  21. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by Liarspoker
    So tomorrow is that gig at the farmers market. Heavy rain forecast so gig might be cancelled. The organiser will let me know in the morning.

    Anyhow here is the gear that I'll be bringing. Would love to see pics of your solo set up.

    Finding and pay rate for solo guitar gigs-img20220910165535-jpg
    no looper or pedals??

  22. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by alltunes
    no looper or pedals??
    Exactly what I thought but some solo players prefer to do all by themself (that is totally understandable according to me).

  23. #22
    Quote Originally Posted by alltunes
    no looper or pedals??
    All effects from the amp. A tiny bit of chorus, tiny bit of delay and a little more reverb.

    Apart from that it's all au naturale....the ultimate solo guitar challenge

  24. #23
    As expected the gig is cancelled. I wouldn't mind except that 99% of my income comes from music

    Oh well, since my wife is away for the weekend I can spend the morning with the kids. You can't put a price on that

  25. #24
    That gig above was rescheduled for this morning and it was a nice gig.

    I got paid 25% extra ( what they pay a duo) plus I can come back next month

    Tips were ok but less than what I make at markets during the summer. Never the less I received a tip while doing on improv on Misty so hopefully my longer term goal of better improv is coming closer.

    I found a few other gems while doing improv on other songs too so they'll be better next time that I play them.

    A true win/win.

    Solo fingerstyle guitar, the ultimate challenge for a 2 hour gig

  26. #25

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    Congrats, L,
    There's no substitute for LIVE MUSIC!
    Marinero