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  1. #1

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    Hey guys, I'm fairly new to the forum. I've been reading for a while, but only just recently started posting.

    I was thinking about going about trying to get some solo gigs a la Chord Melody style. I had a few questions that I thought I'd ask the seasoned players here.

    1) Suggestions for a set list? I'm not Joe Pass, but I can handle anything that's been posted on this forum, as far arrangements go, and I'm usually fairly good at improv/embellishing my chords/mixing up my arrangements on the fly, etc. I want to develop a set that both is musically tasteful, and that will fill up the tip jar. =)

    2) How would I go about getting gigs? What sort of places should I approach? Should I set up a website with demo tracks or just record a demo CD?

    3) What are some places you would recommend getting started at?

    Any tips would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.

    Also, I hope this is the right forum to be posting this in, as it is a question about chord melody style playing.

    Happy Jazzings,


    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
  3. #2

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    Solo gigs are tough.

    I haven't done one since 2002. One reason they're tough is that the room you'll be playing in is probably way larger than the room you're used to playing you tunes in. So your tunes won't sound the same. These days most of the one man band type of guys have some sort of midi thing going on behind them to help them out.

    When I was gigging more I used to bring 2 guitars to the gig. One Archtop, one classical and I would mix up the genres. Play some jazz on the archtop and play some bossa's and latin on the classical.

    Some things to think about in song selection are tempo and key. I would always try to mix it up and not have too many in one key, or one tempo or too many minors keys , not enough blues, etc. If your doing say "How Insensitive" a slow bossa in D minor, follow it with with something up , in Ab major for example.

    One thing to remember is that since your alone , you will have a tendency to overplay, since theres no one filling upt the empty space. One way around this is during your solos, comp a bit more, like 3 measures of comp then 2 of single note lines. (ex)

    My last insight to you is that no matter where you play, somebody, somewhere, at sometime , will try to get your attention, or try to talk to you right while you're playing. Don't get flustered. There's nothing you can do about it. Just start the tune over again.

  4. #3

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    I love doing solo gigs. It's funny, jazz is such a communal music, but sometimes, i really like to just sit down and play by myself.

    Gigs are a little rough to come by in this economy, but here's how I do it.

    I have a demo CD that's pretty nicely done, even though it was all made at home. That basically comes along with me to the venue along with a folder that has a photograph of me (most of these places couldn't care less what you look like, but it looks professional) and a letter with contact info and some info about me. I look for places that either currently have entertainment or look like they could use some. I approach the owner, introduce myself, get things in his/her hands quickly and I call a week later if I haven't heard back.

    If it's a place that hasn't previously had entertainment, I usually work it out where I'll play one night for a very small amount of money ($50 or so,+tips) to see how things work out. Usually, if the owner can see folks are sticking around and buying more drinks, we'll talk afterward about working things out. Chicago's a big city and things are expensive, so I usually ask for $50 an hour, and I can usually get it. I have a day job, and this is just for fun, but I won't do a three hour gig for under $100 at a place I know is making good money.

    I will however, play coffee and tea houses for next to nothing. These places definitely don't make a ton of money, but they want live music, and I consider it live practice. I had a gig at a place that sadly recently closed that only paid $40 for two hours, but I'd make another $10-$20 in tips, and essentially, I'd make a little cash to practice live in front of people. At a coffee house, folks might not stick around as long as at a martini bar or similar venue, so if I wanted to try that new CM of "You Go to My Head" again at the end of the night, no problem--different audience. Don't rule the coffee house out--it's also good exposure. I always have business cards set up next to me, and I've gotten some very good private party gigs from this (to give you and example, I'll be making a nice chunk of change at the end of next month to play a cocktail hour at a wedding. Got the gig because I had business cards and I told the cat I'd have no problem doing a chord melody of Bryan Adams' "Have you ever really loved a woman?" Hey, it's about what they want sometimes!)

    As for the set, you're going to need to be able to improvise to fill it, unless you know 200 songs! I like to stretch songs to around the 4-5 minute mark max though. This puts me at about 10-12 songs per set, usually do three 45-50 minute sets with short breaks in between. I have about 50-60 tunes I can do CM style, and I make sure I've got 35 really ready to roll for a gig. As far as how I split up my playing and improvising, I'll give you a link to a site where I have some music up so you can hear how a regular dude does it (I also, am no Joe Pass!)

    ezFolk: Jeff matz

    (everything but for granted and quiet room are chord melody style)

    There are a few songs that absolutely have to be part of your rep. These will get you tips. Hold on to them for a bit, and see if folks are requesting tunes.

    When I fall in Love
    The Way you Look Tonight
    Some Elvis Ballad (I Can't help falling in love with you will usually do the trick)
    The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting...) (I've had this song requested as early as late October, so, just be ready)
    Georgia on my Mind

    If you dig women in their 40's, you gotta know something from Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Cinderella." I do "Do I love you because you're beautiful."

    Know a Norah Jones tune or two. Many folks' jazz collections start with Jones and end with Krall.

    Girl from Ipanema

    Have a few Beatles or other pop tunes up your sleeve too. I do Elton John's "Your Song" and that usually gets a great reception.

    and of course, even if you're not singing, someone will ask for "What a Wonderful World." I'll leave it up to you whether or not you wish to get that treacly.

    The biggest thing is to go out there, have fun, and suck it up and realize that for aside from the 1 or 2 musicians that might be in the room, you are nothing more than pleasant background music a lot of the time. Once you come to terms with that, it's actually a lot fun. Play to that crowd, mix it up, (all of John's advice is spot on) and enjoy. Post your set list too! I'll post one of mine so we can get ideas off of each other.

  5. #4

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    Mr. B's experience is very similar to mine. I have been at it for about 2 years, and have a regular weekly gig, and a more occasional one, both restaurants. I have also worked some (until the market imploded) playing in upscale houses during open house showings by a real estate pal of mine.

    Yep, paid practice. You are sonic wallpaper. I do get a few requests, and always try to accommodate if able. I have gotten a couple of private parties and students from laying out biz cards. I do not have a demo or website with recorded music. Each time, I just said let me come in before crowd arrives and play a bit. If you like it great, if not, no problem. Works fine.

    I get about $20 per hour at the restaurants, plus dinner ($10-$20), and typically $10-$20 in tips. I get more for the open house thing and parties. Current set list below.

    Autumn Leaves - But Beautiful - Beautiful Love - Body & Soul - Call Me - Days Of Wine & Roses - Deacon Blue - Desperado - Don't Get Around Much - Flintstone Theme - Gentle Rain - Georgia - Girl From Ipanema - How High The Moon - I'm In the Mood For Love - In a Mellow Tone - Look of Love - Minor Blues - Misty - Michelle - My Favorite Things - Nature Boy - Red Blouse - Satin Doll - Shadow of Your Smile - Somewhere Over The Rainbow - Stella - When You Wish Upon A Star

    Add a couple of originals (Bossas), a couple of different blues tunes, a couple of Christmas tunes during that time and Auld Lange Syne, and that is it for me. I can handle in the neighborhood of about 30 tunes pretty well at any given time. Working on arranging Stevie Wonder's Overjoyed currently. Hope that helps.

  6. #5
    This has been a great help already!

    Here is a list of songs, a tentative setlist, if you will. Quite Tentative. I've compiled a list of some of the songs I can already do, some of the songs , I've wanted to do, and others that looked doable, and some of your suggestions. However, I've come up with much too many, it seems. It'd be great if you guys could help me delete the ones that aren't worth doing, and replace some of the so-so songs with better choices:

    Alice and Wonderland
    All Of You
    All The Things You Are
    Angel Eyes
    Autumn Leaves
    Beautiful Love
    Blue In Green
    The Blue Room
    A Child Is Born
    Come What May (Moulin Rouge)
    Come Sunday
    Days Of Wine And Roses
    Dearly Beloved
    Falling In Love With Love
    Freddie Freeloader
    Girl From Ipanema
    How High The Moon
    I Could Write A Book
    I Got It Bad And That Ain't Good
    I Love Paris
    I'm All Smiles
    In A Sentimental Mood
    It Don't Mean A Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)
    Like Someone In Love
    Long Ago (And Far Away)
    The Most Beautiful Girl In The World
    My Favorite Things
    My Funny Valentine
    My Romance
    Over The Rainbow
    Stella By Starlight
    The Way You Look Tonight
    Waltz For Debby
    Your Song

    Thanks again!

    To put it plainly, I'm not as old as most of you, so I don't quite know all of the old love songs, or the favorited classics--the songs that will be getting me the tips, it seems. I'm looking for songs that will gain me popularity with the audience, not necessarily musicians. I am there to entertain the audience afterall. =)

    As far as a demo... I have a home studio where I could record a demo. Should it be a medley of say, half of chorus of 5 songs? Or should it be 3 full songs? etc.

    Thanks yet again for all your help. This forum is great.

  7. #6

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    Are you calling us old??!!! just kidding. Your list looks great but personally, I don't do All The Things You Are. Nothing against the tune it's just that I have an anecdote about why.

    About 15 years ago I was at a small jam session hosted by Lou Pallo. He plays rhytm for Les Paul. Before I had a chance to call All The Things You Are, he leans over and say's "I hope your not gonna call ATTYA. That's all you jazz guy's ever call"

    Needless to say I dropped that tune.

    Regarding Girl from Imanema, great tune. Wave is good too. I don't see many bossas so maybe you should consider both.

    Waltz for Debbie is a great tune. Maybe you could write up your version and post it in the CM section.

  8. #7

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    I don't see anything I'd cut. Might not be bad to have a non-jazz lover look at at it, and if there's that they say "Huh?" on, make a note and space those out in your set.

    Here's a sample set list of mine, btw (Tempo)

    A Day in the Life of a Fool (Med. Bossa)
    Alone Together (Ballad)
    You Go to My Head (Med Up)
    Georgia (ballad)
    So Far Away (Carole King) (med. ballad)
    Moonglow (trite, yes, but folks like it) (med)
    Do I Love you because you're beautiful? (med)
    Here's that Rainy Day (ballad)
    Stompin at the Savoy (Up)
    Wee Small Hours of the Morning (ballad)
    The Nearness of You (med.)
    Misty (med.)

    Stella by Starlight (med.)
    The Things we did last summer (med.)
    Green Dolphin Street (as up as I think I can handle)
    Night Lights (gerry mulligan tune, nobody knows it but it's friggin' gorgeous) (ballad)
    Tenderly (ballad)
    Foggy Day (latin-ish, med.)
    Way you look tonight (med)
    Beatles Tune (right now, it's Michelle) (ballad)
    Body and Soul (ballad)
    Moonlight in vermont (med up)
    Funny Valentine (ballad)
    Darn that Dream (med.)
    Cute (up)

    What's New? (ballad)
    Don't Know Why (Norah Jones) (med.)
    Your Song (med.)
    Satin Doll (med up)
    Embraceable You (ballad)
    I should Care (med. ballad)
    Ipanema (med. bossa)
    Tis Autumn (or Autumn Leaves, or if it's not summer or Autumn, It might as well be Spring and Spring can really hang you up the most might supplant it. Christmas tunes in december, maybe two) (usually taken at ballad tempo,leaves is med)
    My Old Flame (ballad)
    Only Trust Your Heart (bossa)
    Manhattan (med.)
    How High The Moon (med.)
    When I fall In Love (ballad)

  9. #8

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    I also do some occasional wine bar gigs but with a trio (2 guitars, bassist) in a bit of a western swing style...

    Some of the tunes we're doing at the minute:

    Autumn Leaves
    Flintstones Theme
    Blue Bossa
    Take The A Train (suprised this one hasnt been mentioned!)
    Tippin' In
    Jammin' with Jimmy
    Stompin' At The Savoy
    Honeysuckle Rose
    No Greater Love
    Thing's Aint What They Used To Be
    How High The Moon
    Flying Home
    Midnight Blue

  10. #9
    Thanks for the suggestions everyone.

    John, I'm not calling you guys old... just calling myself young!

    Any suggestions as which to which "popular" (possibly a style other than jazz) songs I should arrange in a jazz style? I want to throw in a couple popular ones arranged in a chord melody style, just for kicks.

  11. #10

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    This is all great advice.
    I had three gigs in this tiny town last week-one was a CM solo, the others with another guy-but we did plenty of CMs while he poked out a bass line on a keyboard..John-i really don't like ATTYA so I love that you don't do it.....The thing about CM solo gigs- ya gotta concentrate because you have no other player to cover you when you flub a note.
    But you have the option of playing anything you might want without getting the oK from another player...One thing-I always play 'Moon River."
    It is required.....'Autumn Leaves" is so overplayed but important. Ditto-for 'Misty." Beatles always good...I don't like 'Yesterday" but i play it....I would approach art galleries....They always need music when they have an opening and a CM solo player takes up so little space .....
    I charge 30.00 per hour...

  12. #11
    Shel, thanks for the great advice. My buddy and I are doing a couple duets within the next few weeks at art galleries. Good call. Moon River is a great tune!

  13. #12

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    oh, yeah-biz cards. Important-do i ever have any with me at a gig?No...
    People love to talk to you while you're playing.i don't mind-it's better than being ignored....Make out your set list and have it within easy eyesight-you forget the tunes you do at a gig....Good lighting. Clothespins or good cliplights for anything remotely outdoors is essential... Wear your best clothes. Look as sharp as you can.....I have always dug the 60s groups and their skinny ties and cool lapels..... A musician wearing a tie is an awesome thing....Play 'Blackbird" and 'Cantata 147"-these are sure fire....

  14. #13
    Blackbird. I love playing the Blackbird duet arranged and recorded by Sylvain Luc and Bireli Lagrene.

  15. #14

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    I've looked over all these tunes and with the Jobin songbook being as big as it is and all I see is Girl From Impanema.

    Where's :

    How Insensitive
    One Note Samba
    Once I Loved.
    Luiza (Vic Juris does a great version on his "Songbook" CD

    I'm not seeing any love here for Jobim.

    OK I see Blue Bossa but What about Ceora? Song For My Father? Forest Flower? Gentle Rain? etc...

  16. #15

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    I quit playing solo about 5 years ago after many years, but I used to hack a lot of tunes solo. Right now I'm half a duet playing in a nice hotel - in Mexico, so we are heavy on the latin, mexican, tango, rumba flamenco, etc, although we have a significant number of the tunes that you guys list above, for when the folks ask for them. We play nylon strings and can hardly be called jazz players in terms of style, but the tools of the trade are the same.

    Anybody notice that the request list is evolving? This weekend we were stumped by requests for Mannheim Steamroller and Neil Young, among others. Nobody has asked me for "Misty" in a long time. The Girl from I, yes, now and then.

    A few must-have tunes from our neck of the woods:
    Besame Mucho
    El Dia Que Me Quieras
    La Bikina (what's a Bikina? surprise: a "viking girl", translated to MX spanish)

  17. #16

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    Besame Mucho. Good call. I have always loved that tune. I need to work that one up. Not sure which Real Book that is in.

    My favorite Jobim tune to play is Red Blouse. I had never heard it before until I got Emily Remler's Latin and Advanced Improv vid. She plays it in the opening scene. Just beautiful. Here it is.

  18. #17

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    "Besame Mucho" is in Hal Leonard's Real Book Vol. III.

  19. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by zlarmer View Post
    Thanks for the suggestions everyone....
    Any suggestions as which to which "popular" (possibly a style other than jazz) songs I should arrange in a jazz style? I want to throw in a couple popular ones arranged in a chord melody style, just for kicks.
    Since I and my duo partner are in it for the money, such as it is, we keep a running request list and have no shame! - indeed, we take pride in our flexibility and willingness to please where possible. It fills the tip jar, and keeps us working. As you know, our employers don't give a flying capital F about the music itself, only about whether their clients are pleased or amused. Most of the folks who used to request the mainstream standards 20 years ago have died out, and their younger replacements grew up with the Beatles.
    Therefore our list includes, as well worked out arrangements in this category:

    Beatles: Blackbird, Yesterday, Here Comes the Sun, While My Guitar, Imagine
    Clapton: Tears in Heaven, Wonderful Tonite
    You've Got a Friend
    Classical Gas

    And we have minimally rehearsed hacks of many other tunes by John Denver, Van Morrison, Simon & Garfunkle, etc, whatever we can dredge up from the memory banks by grabbing a piece of the melody from somewhere.

    Unfortunately, the most recent crop of pop music has such faceless melodies and non-existent progressions as to not translate well into acoustic guitar arrangements. We arranged "Endless Love" for a wedding a few months ago, and tried to put it into our regular set, on spec, to see if it would fly, but I have to say it's pretty worthless!

    But this list reminds me that I have to get on the project of re-assembling an up-to-date working fake book for the ongoing request list. Some of them we can always hack, the 2 chord tunes, but often I get the "A" of the head and have to make up the bridge... (we play from memory most of the time, because we often go table to table, so if we need to read something, we have to go drag out the music stand and a book, and we don't always remember to bring those.)
    Last edited by jack_gvr; 03-31-2009 at 02:07 PM.

  20. #19

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    i always play Ipanema. THe chart I bought cost me five bucks and it was a bragain....Also i always play "One nOte Samba."
    Black Orpheus"..i HAVE found that people are bored with 'Gentle Rain" though it may be my playing of it!

  21. #20

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    i'd like to get inside brad mehldau's brain for a half hour or so, because he always seems to pick modern tunes that after i hear interpreted as jazz, i say "of course! why didn't i think of that!"

    most of the places I play have a crowd that really appreciates the sounds of the 70's, so I don't hang on too much pop music newer than that-- however, i did play accompanyment for a local sax player at his college recital last year--he assembled a trio for the recital, guitar, marimba and sax, and we did a very "out" version of radiohead's "karma police." it was one of the coolest gigs i have ever sat in on. too bad he has no real interest of pursuing jazz--he wants to teach and do the marching band thing. blows my mind.

  22. #21

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    I always play 'Wave" but i find 'Once i loved" pretty slow...'Triste" i play at times.....The people who hire me don't know a thing about music and don't care....i can kill a lot of time by placing a capo on the seventh fret and hacking out 'Here Comes the Sun" followed by 'Parseley, Sage etc....

  23. #22

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    wow what a great thread!
    im currently getting a solo set together ready for the up coming months (ive not yet done any solo gigs at all) Ive played quite a lot in trios quartets and i think ive kind of picked a half decent few tunes...what do the more experienced players think of this list?..any advice?

    Bb blues
    all the things you are
    i cant get started
    have you met miss jones
    satin doll
    autumn leaves
    i got rhythm
    stella by starlight
    my funny valentine
    someday my prince will come
    stolen moments

    most of these i play with a pick and improvise rather than have an exact arrangement prepared for them.

    any advice is welcome!
    im finally starting to get it

  24. #23

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    Stolen Moments is tough as a solo, for the bridge anyway. I wind up doing it in 95% quartal voicings/inversions. Good tune.

    Jim Hall has a version of Someday with Red Mitchell were he re did the melody. It smokes

  25. #24
    Mr B,

    Brad Mehldau is a wonderful musician, as well as a wonderful person. He's a friend of a friend, I suppose you could say.