Thursday, December 24, 2015

Soloing, part 14: Two cardinal rules

I've been thinking about what makes a good solo lately.  Some of the things are subjective, some are things I prefer, but I feel that a few things have to be in a solo regardless of any other factors to make it a good one.

First and foremost, timing.

When someone rushes ahead of the beat or significantly lags behind, it totally nullifies how awesome the patterns are, how impressive the movements are, how well they project, etc.

Every soloist is bound to get off here and there, and it's up until that point where they thought they knew exactly where the downbeat was.  Oops!  So it's not a horrible thing, just means it's not a very good solo when it happens.

If you get told more than a few times that you get off-tempo in your solos, this could be a potential red flag.  There's a couple of things you can do, such as play less notes or play quieter, but it's all about being able to hear the ji.  If you can't hear it, how do you know you're on?  We all think we're doing fine until we come up for air and realize we aren't...

Second, technique.

Maybe someone can play a really fast sequence, but you can see the tension in their grip and shoulders from a mile away.  Or maybe they have some super nifty patterns, but they're hitting really unevenly between their dominant and weaker hands.  Maybe someone is super fluid in their movements but they slouch when they play.  Or maybe they're really mobile but they don't extend at all.  Maybe they have really loud kiai but it comes from the throat instead of the diaphragm.  Or maybe they're really energetic but their expression is the same no matter what the song.

While some of these seem subjective to you, my point is it's really about HOW a person plays rather than WHAT they play.  You can impress with the "what", but you can inspire with the "how"...and also impress!

Personally, I find timing is more important to nail than technique, because you can be taught technique, but you can't be taught to listen.  You have to learn that on your own!

None of us are perfect.  We're going to get off: we're going to hit poorly, express ourselves less ably than we normally can.  But overall, I feel like these two rules set the foundation for everything else you can do in a solo, regardless of your experience or ability.  After this, the world is your oyster!  Or, if you're allergic to shellfish, the world is your...jello mold?  :D

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