Thursday, July 10, 2014

Trust me, I'm a soloist

Does a soloist have an obligation to their audience?

Should a soloist entertain?  Should they challenge the listener?  Should they play things that everyone can follow?  Should they make sure they don't "upstage" the next soloist?  Different people will have different answers.

One thing I appreciate is when a soloist gives the listener concrete moments to come back to.  I can syncopate and play some pretty crazy stuff but if I never come back to the downbeat, if I never give the audience some sense of purposeful phrasing, I'm going to lose them.

In that sense, I can ask them to "trust" me when I go off on a crazy rhythm, that I'll come back to the downbeat, the 1 of a phrase.  I'll need their trust again when I go off a 2nd, 3rd, 4th time...

It's like a roller coaster.  A good ride builds things up, whizzes people around and makes them scream, then gives a few moments of stability before doing it all over again.  If a ride just kept making people scream without any pause, it would be exhausting and/or overwhelming for the riders.  Translated to music, syncopation without a downbeat is just noise and so is density without texture.

I doubt the audience think of it in such a way, but I know personally when I hear a soloist go all over the place - which I hear myself being guilty of in the past - my brain stops listening after a while. 

When you solo, how are you earning the audience's trust?

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