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Soloing


Skinny

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I've been playing in a cover band for about 3 years now, and I think I've improved a bit since '06 (actually I started playing in a group setting in church in 2003, but... it's church)

 

One thing I've never been is a great soloist. In my band now my main role is essentially rhythm (since we only have 1 guitarist) and bass (I play LH bass for most of the setlist). When it comes time for a keyboard solo, I can always pull it off, but, IMO, my solos are less than stellar.

 

Those of you who are seasoned players - is soloing something that you get better and better at, or were you always naturally good? Did you watch any of those instructional videos, or just get better by playing all the time?

Stuff and things.
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Those of you who are seasoned players - is soloing something that you get better and better at, or were you always naturally good? Did you watch any of those instructional videos, or just get better by playing all the time?

 

You DEFINITELY get better at it. And yes, instructional videos are awesome. But so is talking to other players. Or listening to records and stealing ideas that way. Anything that you put time and effort into and try and wrap your head around and then execute with your hands is what makes you better. Try and assimilate as much as possible. Then practice soloing. It's helpful just to take one concept at a time and thoroughly chew on it. Maybe take the blues scale and just the blues scale, and play lines using it. Or focus on pentatonics. Or playing lines that go from high to low. The biggest thing that separates beginning improvisers from seasoned players is noodling vs intentional lines. Whatever you play, BE INTENTIONAL. Try to hear what you play before you play it. And leave space. Treat every line you play like a musical sentence where you're going to say something of worth. Then you'll be on your way to good soloing.

Kawai C-60 Grand Piano : Hammond A-100 : Hammond SK2 : Yamaha CP4 : Yamaha Montage 7 : Moog Sub 37

 

My latest album: Funky organ, huge horn section

https://bobbycressey.bandcamp.com/album/cali-native

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is soloing something that you get better and better at, or were you always naturally good?

Well, every musician is more naturally versed in some aspect of music than in others (say, harmony, or rhythm), and has to work hard on the other aspects to become a complete musician.

I certainly studied a lot to improve my soloing.

 

Did you watch any of those instructional videos, or just get better by playing all the time?

At the time of my formative years, there was nothing like "instructional videos" :D , but I did use a few books, and a few teachers. :)

 

Not knowing your level of playing and the kind of soloing that you'd like to develop, here is a little generic advice:

 

- Play with your right hand alone sometimes; but always keep the tempo and structure. Later, add the left hand stricly at the service of what the right hand is doing.

 

- Perhaps obvious... work with one key or chord at a time, then try to transpose your discoveries to other keys. Later, you can work on structures which change keys.

Always try to keep your improvisation melodic and fluid.

 

- This is maybe the most important: Record your solos, then listen to the recordings both critically *and* instictively. This will tell you immediately on which aspects of your plying you still have to work in order to achieve your goals.

 

- No, *this* is even more important... :D The basic concept for good soloing is to be able to hear in your head what you're going to play. The most notes you are able to hear in advance, the better your solos will be. Work on that: It can be developed. Oscar Petrson said that he could hear 16 bars in advance!

 

 

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- Play with your right hand alone sometimes; but always keep the tempo and structure.

 

I've found that I need to use a metronome or drum track to keep me honest while doing this sort of practice. If not, I'll get too involved in the improv line and add or subtract a beat and then when I try to play with the band, those cool licks won't work.

 

I can now hear about 4 bars in my head. I guess that's progress...

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If you're hearing 16 bars ahead, you're not listening to the band...
Oscar paid them to listen to him. ;)

"I'm so crazy, I don't know this is impossible! Hoo hoo!" - Daffy Duck

 

"The good news is that once you start piano you never have to worry about getting laid again. More time to practice!" - MOI

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If you're hearing 16 bars ahead, you're not listening to the band...
Oscar paid them to listen to him. ;)
My point is, that's not really improvisation then, that's planning and composing. How can one hear their solo 16 bars ahead and ever hope to interact with the rest of the band? I prefer conversation, not monologues...
A ROMpler is just a polyphonic turntable.
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If you're hearing 16 bars ahead, you're not listening to the band...
Oscar paid them to listen to him. ;)
My point is, that's not really improvisation then, that's planning and composing. How can one hear their solo 16 bars ahead and ever hope to interact with the rest of the band? I prefer conversation, not monologues...

 

That's a great point. And that wasn't really Oscar's deal was it. He's still bad though.

Kawai C-60 Grand Piano : Hammond A-100 : Hammond SK2 : Yamaha CP4 : Yamaha Montage 7 : Moog Sub 37

 

My latest album: Funky organ, huge horn section

https://bobbycressey.bandcamp.com/album/cali-native

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Hey Kanker, that was an extreme, almost superhuman example, to stress the fact that advance hearing can be developed. I'm not certainly advocating the practice of soloing without paying attention to the rhythm section (although it could be argued that this is exactly what Oscar did sometimes!).

 

To be perfecly clear, I'm not talking about planning a solo in advance, but to imagine phrases 'during' improvisation! If I analyze my own plying, for example, I see that I usually 'hear' from two to five bars in advance, depending on the song, style, tempo, and situation.

 

Btw I don't think there's much point in discussing it, since very few people on earth could retain so much music in their head *while* playing!

 

 

 

 

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My point is, that's not really improvisation then, that's planning and composing. How can one hear their solo 16 bars ahead and ever hope to interact with the rest of the band? I prefer conversation, not monologues...

 

That's a great point. And that wasn't really Oscar's deal was it. He's still bad though.

No one can deny that. Still, there are plenty of questionable and even bad (in the real sense) Peterson solos out there. Makes you wonder what he was hearing 16 bars out and why he felt the need to claim that.
A ROMpler is just a polyphonic turntable.
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I'd say all oft he suggestions here are great. A good way to develop the "hear it in your head before you play it" concept, is to sing or scat a solo and record it. Then play it back and learn the lines. You'll be amazed at how much more musical and melodic your ideas will be if you learn to do this well. It doesn't matter if your pitch is a bit off or your voice sucks. Your just recording a sketch of your solo. And because you naturally have to breathe, those spaces in between the lines will automatically be there in very appropriate places and make your solos more organic.

Ian Benhamou

Keyboards/Guitar/Vocals

 

[url:https://www.facebook.com/OfficialTheMusicalBox/]The Musical Box[/url]

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Makes you wonder what he was hearing 16 bars out and why he felt the need to claim that.

 

It was just an interview which I read many years ago. I believe he just answered a question.

 

The OP was asking for advice about improving his soloing, and in my experience, anticipating your phrasing with your thought is one important element to learn, though not certainly the only one. (Others could arrive at that in more instinctive way that 'practicing' it, but it's usually there)

 

 

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Makes you wonder what he was hearing 16 bars out and why he felt the need to claim that.

 

It was just an interview which I read many years ago. I believe he just answered a question.

 

The OP was asking for advice about improving his soloing, and in my experience, anticipating your phrasing with your thought is one important element to learn, though not certainly the only one. (Others could arrive at that in more instinctive way that 'practicing' it, but it's usually there)

 

I've seen the quote before. Can't remember where, but I know it was before I joined KC ;)

 

I agree though that it is important. What I often find is that if I am the first soloist, or soloing following a singer, it is more important to hear a little in advance and have a bit of an idea of the start of the solo and the general course of at least the first half chorus or in the case of a blues, 12 bars. If I'm following another soloist, I prefer to play off their last statement, which involves more ears in the moment than any planning.

A ROMpler is just a polyphonic turntable.
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- Play with your right hand alone sometimes; but always keep the tempo and structure.

 

I've found that I need to use a metronome or drum track to keep me honest while doing this sort of practice. If not, I'll get too involved in the improv line and add or subtract a beat and then when I try to play with the band, those cool licks won't work.

Absolutely. In my first post, I forgot to add that it works best with a metronome or some kind of rhythm comping.

Thanks for pointing that out.

 

 

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Thanks everybody for the suggestions so far.

 

Some of my trouble is not having a lot of time during the week to really sit down and practice. I think what I may do is try to find some jam tracks to play over. I know they make them for geetar players of course, but is there such a thing for keyboardists?

 

Marino above said something about keeping solos fluid and melodic. That's something I struggle with the most I think - especially on piano. Usually it seems the basis for my "solos" is just pounding a bunch of chords. And I always think that solos need to be fast and contain a bunch of notes. Which is funny because my biggest musical influence is Pink Floyd. They were all about simplicity and space in the music. (BTW, Rick Wright/Pink Floyd is the reason I got into playing keyboards. More specifically, it was the intro to "Sheep". I actually bought a Fender Rhodes because of that intro.

 

 

Stuff and things.
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If I'm following another soloist, I prefer to play off their last statement, which involves more ears in the moment than any planning.

 

I use that a lot too. *If* that last statement is worth it, of course! :D

 

Ha! Ain't that the truth!
A ROMpler is just a polyphonic turntable.
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I agree it means 'hearing' sections of the form in advance to plan ahead how to phrase through the bars during a solo - connecting the dots to get from here to there.

 

It doesn't mean you know every note you'll play, or negates any spontaneity. You just think in terms of phrases to get to the next place, like a driver seeing ahead, calculating the turns or obstacles to drive through them. That would include playing "over the bar" phrases too.

 

Peterson played a lot of lines, so 16 bars doesn't sound too far fetched. Some like Charlie Parker or Coltrane probably heard farther.

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Funny that my little response to kanker spurred so much good discussion, because I was just keeding him. :D

"I'm so crazy, I don't know this is impossible! Hoo hoo!" - Daffy Duck

 

"The good news is that once you start piano you never have to worry about getting laid again. More time to practice!" - MOI

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I personally found my soloing abilities improved after I had spent some time practicing with a metronome with the clicks representing 2 and 4 (when playing swing and straight ahead music). You can always play wrong notes but having less than secure time will ruin any solo.

 

Someone earlier in the this thread said BE INTENTIONAL.

 

Play with authority, like you mean it - it's your fucking solo, it has your name on it, play it with AUTHORITY. If you have to practice it in advance, do so. The only thing that matters is the final result and the public doesn't care if you're playing from the depths of your very soul or playing a solo that you've worked up note for note. (It's much like acting in that sense - you're playing a part but making it sincere for the audience. Classical players do that all the time.)

 

Having a secure sense of time (and excellent technique) will lay a solid framework for a good solo. Of course, you have to play notes that in and of themselves make sense, but having an excellent sense of time along with solid technique will help to create a solid solo.

 

I personally cannot stress just how much having those clicks representing 2 and 4 did for my rhythmic development. I have a sax player to thank for giving me that tip .... many years ago. It made my time much more secure.

No guitarists were harmed during the making of this message.

 

In general, harmonic complexity is inversely proportional to the ratio between chording and non-chording instruments.

 

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by Skinny Keys:

 

 

Some of my trouble is not having a lot of time during the week to really sit down and practice.

 

That is a problem that those of us that have to do something other than play music to pay the bills are faced with. I remember what my piano teacher told me a long time ago. During the course of the day, think about what you are going to practice when you get to your instrument to practice. "15 minutes of structured practice is better than an hour of the other kind". Noodling doesn't usually amount to much more than noodling. It can give you ideas of what kind of phrases you can come up with, and if you follow through with practicing your discover in proper time, it can be beneficial. But my point is that you need to know what you are going to work on before you get to your instrument. Have a plan of attack and do it. By the way, your job is more difficult because you have to carry LH bass too. That means you need complete hand and finger independence. Do you feel like you can play two independent parts without one stepping on the other or playing one or both out of time?

 

Mike T.

 

 

Yamaha Motif ES8, Alesis Ion, Prophet 5 Rev 3.2, 1979 Rhodes Mark 1 Suitcase 73 Piano, Arp Odyssey Md III, Roland R-70 Drum Machine, Digitech Vocalist Live Pro. Roland Boss Chorus Ensemble CE-1.

 

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