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  1. #1

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    So we play the tune, let's say 32 bars with a few extras for an intro. At 100 bpm, that's about 1:30 to play one time through. How do you guys extend your arrangements to fill up time during a solo set?

    I realize of course that one can play the song's melody the first time through, improvise a 2nd chorus, then play the CM arrangement again for a 3rd and final time. Now we're at over 4:00 which is great. It's the improv that's tough, especially for songs that are works in progress.

    There probably aren't too many options other than this, but maybe some of you have other techniques? I'm curious to hear them.


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  3. #2

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    Play the verse ? Usually when I think of instrumentalists playing the melody it usually means chorus

  4. #3

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    I me it ain't jazz until I do!

    Honestly, I wouldn't play any tune in a solo set if I couldn't improvise comfortably over the form...

    Some ideas, though...

    Play the head rubato, then "in time"

    Do a chorus of chords with walking bass (Although, personally, I can only listen to guitar players do all their cutesy worked out walking bass for about 30 seconds...)

    Start by playing once through the chords of the tune, with little bits of improv...THEN, actually play the tune...

    Do "chord stabs" and single note lines if improvising more polyphonically is tough.

    Write designated intros and outros...think "Peace Piece" and how Bill Evans used it on "Some Other Time" with Tony Bennett...or at the beginning of "Flamenco Sketches." Go all Eddie Lang and start a tune with some flash...

    Harmonize a tune different ways...start close to the original, add more subs and take things further out as you go...Bill Frisell is really good at this, leaving in just little snippets of melody as he goes to remind you it's still the song...

    Hope this helps.

  5. #4

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    In short, you need to be creative. Your creativity will be boosted by first learning other people's arrangements. Once you've learned a hundred different arrangements, and you understand what the arrangers were thinking (i.e. music theory) when they wrote it, you'll never be at a loss for ideas in how to make your own arrangements. It takes a lot of time and practice and learning what has already been done to get to that point.

  6. #5

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    Here's a practical example that I had, last year. I was asked, at the very last second (I mean LAST second, as in no repertoire prepared) to sub for some musicians at a Holiday event for several hundred people for 90 minutes (!)

    I took a deep breath, told them I had nothing really prepared, but I'd go out there. Strangely enough, people dug it (which only tells you the sad state of musical appreciation these days )

    Here's what I decided to do:

    Instead of playing songs I had not prepared and do a bad job on them, I thought I'd thoroughly just improvise on the spot, creating melodies and harmonizing them (i.e., pick a key and go with it, so to speak). And not to overplay and run scales.

    I recognized, at the very least, this is where years of learning music and applying it to the fingerboard made the job somewhat easier. It also helps that you can get away with musical murder on solo guitar. I had spent a long time learning to diatonically harmonize the major scale in 3rds/4ths/5ths/6ths/ev8ths/10ths, 11ths, and 13ths. Harmonizing melodies via intervals/double stops all over the fingerboard can really be effective. I decided I would never give up the melody, and harmonize it when I can, where I was. Maybe harmonize with a triad or a drop 2 or drop 3.

    Double stops and intervals and knowing where all the triad and triad inversions, as well as usual 20 open voicings for every chord (the usual drop 2 and drop 3s) really helped me with solo guitar. I am far from good, but at least I have an idea what I am doing.

    I mean, this is not exactly new. The Gods up on Musical Mount Olympus did this. Everyone knew how Wes was gonna run his choruses (at least the form, anyway): one pass using single note lines, one pass using ev8ths, one pass using chords (usually drop 2s and drop 3s--let's be honest here, every one plays drop 2s and drop 3s as a basis of what we do). Giving credit where credit is due, I took an excellent Skype lesson with the esteemed administrator here (highly recommended), and he really gave me some excellent food for thought about what you can afford to lose regarding the chord forms: often times, you can just drop the root, so you've chiseled it down to what's in strings 2-4. Doing that, you can voice lead nicely to other chords.

    I'm doing the same event this year, but this time, I'll have some tunes prepared. And I think I'm gonna use that Solomon Imperial.
    Last edited by NSJ; 11-18-2013 at 08:11 PM.

  7. #6

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    Timely thread for me, I have a solo gig coming up in a few weeks (just playing mood music, I am not the main attraction) and am trying to polish up some songs. I am trying to learn the melody, the chords, and then to be as extemporaneous as possible as opposed to always having a set arrangement (though I do of course have some). Some arrangements are more worked out than others; on Nardis, for example, I have some intro chords, then play the melody, then I at least know what positions I am hitting on one improvised chorus. Then I am playing the chorus and out, with a repeat on the end.

    Other stuff, like Summertime or Freddie the Freeloader, I fell like I can play quite a few chorus of simple ideas, trying to come up with a basic motif and developing it some. I do TRY to emulate Frisell, keeping some sense of the song to keep things from getting monotonous--that could be pieces of the melody, or repeated chord snippets, or a rhythmic motif. I am hoping to keep it interesting by varying the songs by using more open strings in some songs, blue-grassy fills in others, playing some blues in a more basic-blues style and some with more complex chord subs.

    That is my goal anyway, I don't really do it all that well yet! Playing solo gigs has been a goal for a few years since I started playing again, so we will see how it goes. I have heard you play on several youtube snippets, and I have no doubt you play well and if nothing else will SOUND great which is half the battle imho.

  8. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by mr. beaumont
    cutesy worked out walking bass
    You can improvise walking bass as well. Everything is worked out beforehand anyways.

  9. #8

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    Wasn't suggesting you couldn't...OP was looking for ways to extend an arrangement without necessarily improvising.

  10. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by rpguitar
    So we play the tune, let's say 32 bars with a few extras for an intro. At 100 bpm, that's about 1:30 to play one time through. How do you guys extend your arrangements to fill up time during a solo set?

    I'll almost always play the whole tune twice - why? They tend to be beautiful & I feel that they help to set-up the improvisation to follow by having the song clearly stated - so even if you take only one chorus to improvise over and then play the head through once more with an outro - based on above you probably have a song approx 4 to 5 mins long

  11. #10

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    That's a great idea. Sometimes, I'll play the head between improv choruses. . . . that would be intro / head/ improv / head / improve / head / ending. I think this works well with tunes that have a groove.

    Another quick idea is to play parts of the melody (thinking two to four bar phrases) in octaves, and trade with playing the harmony for two to for bars (can be walking if you want).


  12. #11

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    For me it's much harder (and probably sounds better) to play fancy prearranged arrangements. I just like to know the melody and the chords and then just do what I can making up a chord melody. Not exactly making up as I use the devices I already know, but these ideas/vocabulary/devices etc. are not song specific; I use them over all my tunes.

    I don't have to take it too seriously though, I'm usually just playing for friends in my patio.

  13. #12

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    Modulate, and create medleys as well, based on themes (summer, love, waltzes, songs by Italians, songs by Gershwin, etc.). Improvising in a solo context is where the true mastery of technique and theory come into play. I play 3-5 solo gigs a week, and all of these tricks are necessary. Of course, the more tunes you know, the easier it is. I find the most difficult situations are Christmas gigs, because we never play those tunes but 2 weeks out of the year.
    Last edited by ronjazz; 11-20-2013 at 11:22 PM.

  14. #13

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    [QUOTE=ronjazz;379061 Improvising in a solo context is where the true mastery of technique and theory come into play. .[/QUOTE]
    I find I can't play solo guitar with a pick because my hybrid technique is bad. because you may need to grab notes on non-adjacent strings, I can only play it finger syle.

  15. #14

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    How many use a Looper these days for a bit of help occasionally ?

    Playing solo all night is really tough (on anything but Piano)........

  16. #15

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    I use BIAB (Realtracks only) occasionally when I am faced with a long night of playing.


  17. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by pingu
    How many use a Looper these days for a bit of help occasionally ?

    Playing solo all night is really tough (on anything but Piano)........
    the piano analogy is an apt one. I try to simplify it. We can't can't do what a piano player can do. We have to often infer what a piano player can make explicit. We can barely play closed voiced chords beyond triads, due to the nature of the instrument.

    --only 2 part counter point is possible
    --most times, 3 or 4 note chords, so which notes to leave out?
    --even a simplified George Shearing block chord which doubles the top note in the left hand one or two octaves below will have to be simplified to maybe top and bottom note and guide tones.

    Guitar playing has changed for me from the fear of over playing (yellow pages approach) to the art of working with limitation while still making it sound sufficiently full sounding-the judicious use of a difficult polyphonic instrument -the one that's the easiest to simply pick up and play music but the most difficult to master-why most people don't get beyond the 1st or 2nd position and cowboy chords.
    Last edited by NSJ; 11-21-2013 at 06:32 AM.

  18. #17

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    Not sure if these have been mentioned but here are some ideas: I like to change keys to extend an arrangement, sometimes up to three keys; I go from playing it straight to rubato and back again; and sometimes I will medley some tunes together. Just some ideas. Best of luck.

  19. #18

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    I don't have the energy at the moment to post individual replies to all the thoughtful ideas... But I thank you all for them!

  20. #19

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    "Improvising in a solo context is where the true mastery of technique and theory come into play. "

    Hi, R,
    I'm voting this definition to be added to the Harvard Dictionary of Music under "improvisation."
    Well said! Play live . . . Marinero

  21. #20

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    Be like Bruce.

  22. #21

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    I don't think there is much more you can do than play the head and improvise. 4 minutes is pretty respectable. If you watch Joe Pass he'd string things out but going back and forth between the head and improvising. Or he'd maybe just state a bit of the melody before branching off into improv again. He's also back and forth between playing in and out of time. So he could keep a song fresh and keep you guessing and extend it out for several minutes. He'd play single lines—often doubling up—sometimes just play bass lines. He really mixed it up. He used to admit he'd sometimes forget what tune he was playing. But then he was the maestro. For most of us, we're probably playing as background music so don't have to worry about boring an audience. Cocktail pianist can offer some tips. If they're technically competent they probably get away with stuff, since it's the overall effect and mood they're creating. Just my tuppence worth.

  23. #22

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    Bruce vid is a great EG of how you can lighten the load a bit by not trying to juggle bass line,harmony and melody all at the same time ala Martin, Pasqually,etc and still produce a lively and entertaining rendition.

  24. #23

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    Cool video by Tim Lerch:

  25. #24

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    Bruce did a good masterclass lesson, well worth purchasing (I got it):

  26. #25

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    I like to play longs exploratory intros, interludes that lead to a modulation and I improvise ( that doesn't necessarily mean I play all my bebop licks with out any accompaniment, although if done well that can work too).

  27. #26

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    There’s some good ideas here. Over 6 minutes and the song doesn’t even have a bridge!

  28. #27
    If I am doing a long solo gig I bring my trusty Berklee Pickstyle for Classical Book. It has many pieces by J.S. Bach and others. Also duets. Including some classical music adds variety. Maybe a Chet Atkins style tune also helps break the monotony of just one type of style. Most of my paid solo work in recent years has been retirement centers. I bring a boom box with Bennie Goodman with Charlie Christian and Billy Holliday and other styles popular with my audience. I find about fifty-fifty solo and with boom box works for me. Older people like music that was popular when they were young and happy. My rate is normally 125$ for about an hour of entertainment. This year covid has kept me home. When I lived in Kansas City I found out that the man who wrote and recorded Classical Gas was also playing retirement centers. Its fun to make people happy and get well paid for it!!!

  29. #28

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    Quote Originally Posted by BickertRules
    There’s some good ideas here. Over 6 minutes and the song doesn’t even have a bridge!

    I saw JP play Summertime live several times - he always ended it with a smile & a comment along the lines of

    'I've got a lot of versions of that tune' - back to back Flamenco & 'pinky rock' made it into one version I heard...

  30. #29

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    Quote Originally Posted by grahambop
    Bruce did a good masterclass lesson, well worth purchasing (I got it):

    Bruce Forman - Solo Jazz Guitar Lesson - My Music Masterclass
    Thanks for the recommendation. I just purchased this and am enjoying the fact that it is more of a discussion where Bruce basically gives you the fishing pole and line and it's up to you to catch fish. It is not a "course" so to speak with detailed curriculum TAB and examples.

  31. #30

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    Yes it’s basically a lot of great ideas and approaches for you to take away and work on.