Thursday, August 22, 2013

Soloing, part 8: Soloing as speech

There are many ways to think of how to solo.  A general rule of thumb is that a solo should have a beginning, middle, and an end.  Sometimes it’s hard to define what a “middle” is, or how one section is different from another.  Also, you might find that you have to cut your solo in half and then what?  Everything reduced by 50%?  No middle?

I tend to approach soloing as if I was giving a speech to the audience, trying to convey an idea.  Instead of words, I’m using notes and rhythms.  Thinking of a solo that way means you need to ask yourself some questions:

- How do you want to introduce yourself?  If you’re overly clever or oBnOxIoUs, you’re going to lose some of your audience right away.  Grab their attention, but don’t force it.  What you play here sets the tone and expectations (which you can play with later)

- What’s your point?  In other words, what are you trying to get across?  Show them your voice, your style, and express yourself in the moment.  To some, this is the easiest part but to others it’s the most difficult.  Think of the song and the ji to help figure out what you’re trying to “say”.

- What feeling do you want to leave the audience with?  You can be solid, humorous, exciting, playful, etc.  Just like in a speech, you want to wrap things up and come to a close.  Staying in this vein also means you don’t want to introduce too many new things at the end, just like you wouldn’t end a speech about fishing talking about astronomy and motorcycles.

So there’s a basic framework for beginning, middle, and end.  We can use this concept of speech/words to develop things further, though.

Every song has its own voice; every ji has its own feel.  A straight beat in one song is not the straight beat in another.  Think of them as venues or topics or audiences.  How do you fit your speech to your environment?  Are you going to speak with passion?  With clarity?  With abandon?   With exuberance?  With caution?  Also, you wouldn’t speak about your love of pizza to a group of businessmen the same way you would to a group of kids, right?  Same subject, but your tone of voice and vocabulary have to adjust.  This applies to having a dongo as a ji and soloing the same regardless of the song you’re in.

Now if someone talked to you about how much they liked soloing and all the patterns they could play while soloing and what they’re thinking about in the moment but to be careful about thinking too hard because that can cause problems down the line that you might stumble over but sometimes that’s ok because it forces you to learn from your mistakes…  Well, no one talks like that, except for maybe little kids.  No, when people talk, there’s a natural rhythm.  In speech, we talk with our personal style, full of punctuation and rhythm.  Commas and periods are our ma, our pauses.  Higher volume and exclamation points help us emphasize certain points, as we use our dynamics.  If you want to be creative, think of other parts of speech and how you could convey them through rhythm, things like question marks, rhyming, talking with an accent, etc.

There’s no one way to approach a solo, but sometimes the way you prefer doesn’t always work the best.  What other ways can you come up with?

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