Solo Jazz guitar gig.

(8 posts)
  1. g_2_the_izzo

    Hi all,

    I've been playing jazz guitar for the last 5 years or so and classical before that. I've gotten pretty solid at playing chord melody and can do some decent improvisation with it. Recently, there have been a few postings for gigs in my area where they are looking for a solo jazz musician to play happy hour slots. I think I could reasonably manage to get together enough tunes to play it (2- 3 hours) but I'm a bit concerned that all the songs will sound the same. I don't know if that makes sense to you guys?

    I bought a loop station and that seems to let me get a break from the limitations I have with my chord melody. The downside is that the looped changes become incredibly boring themselves...

    Do any of you guys have experience with playing a solo jazz guitar gig? Do you use a loop pedal for that or backing tracks? What advice do you have on expanding the possibilities of chord melody to make each tune sound fresh for a general audience that might not be hip to the subtleties of jazz? Any general advice on chord melody?


  2. jbroad

    i've done a bunch of solo gigs and i know what you're saying about keeping things fresh (especially when you have to do 3 one hour sets). i try to mix up the types of tunes. remember- you don't have to stick to standards. i will throw in some steely dan, pink floyd, radiohead, and michael jackson tunes just to keep things interesting. people really love those tunes and i always get comments on those.

    i've never used a looping pedal on a solo gig until last week (it was only a 1 hour set). i only used it at the end of a tune to set up a vamp and blow and i also did a spontaneous thing where i layered a bunch of things and improvised with them. you should check out both wolfgang muthspiel's "solo" cd and bill frisell's cd called "ghost town". both of them do some really creative things with solo guitar. wolfgang has been doing some amazing stuff with looping pedals lately.

    i would advise against just setting up a "backing track" for yourself and blowing over that progression for 5 minutes. you're right- it's boring and not very creative. you could play a few choruses by yourself and then set up the progression and blow for a couple of choruses and then go back to playing solo. that seems like it would be a good balance.

    have fun!


  3. jazznan

    I play a mix of standards and Frisell and Metheny tunes and stuff like that.

    Something I like to do is:

    take a standard and loop a pedal point and play the melody,
    then cut the loop and go into a chord melody,
    then loop an ending vamp and improv a bit and then end it with a quote from the melody

    Then I might play a folk tune, ala Frisell or Metheny and you can usually depart from the harmonic structure fairly easily in those "folky" tunes, like Shenandoah, and it will still sound cool, think Metheny's One Quiet Night album. Then I might loop a few chords that I liked while playing and build something from that etc....

    You need to have some solid tunes down, and then extend the intros, endings, and or, just in the middle of a tune, come up with a vamp on a certain section, loop it, improv, etc...You get the idea, but you have to have some solid tunes down that you can mess with

  4. cruxtable

    i'm not a big fan of using loops for solo playing.. seems like a cop out to me, i strive to get the most out of the 6 strings you have and make music by yourself, that's a challenging thing to do, but also can be very rewarding. not that i can do it well at all. when i've played solo gigs, i always feel limited because i want to blow over the changes, but when i try to play any single note lines it just sounds too's tough to find the right balance.

  5. filters

    check out sylvain luc

  6. jazznan

    I guess Frisell is a "cop" out when he loops stuff? There's a long list of players who use loop pedals, and yeah I agree it can be boring, overdone, and down right stupid sometimes, but the gear is only as good as the player and sometimes a loop can sound really great.

  7. cruxtable

    i'm not saying it's a cop out all the time, it can be great. i'm just saying, at least for me, it seems like a cop out if you use it all the time for solo guitar. the reason for adding a loop pedal has to come from an artistic standpoint, and not because it makes playing by yourself easier. for creating music there's nothing wrong with it. but for getting through playing a standard solo, i'd rather just practice playing solo, so i can show my friends and family what i can do with 6 strings and no extra equipment. i don't have a loop pedal yet, but when i do get one, i'll probably only use it for compositions/modern stuff. i'm playing "crooked creek" in my combo now (thanks to poparad for the transcription - helped loads) and i could really use it for the ending vamp since we don't have a piano, so i can play the chords and melody at the same time.

    anyway, no offense to anyone who uses loops for playing solo standards. it's just my goal is to get better at playing the guitar with what you've got. though sometimes i wish piano was my main instrument for that reason.

  8. InWalked

    I've been doing mostly solo gigs on my 8-string the last 7 or 8 years now and think music selection will always make happy hour gigs succeed. Most happy hour goers aren't steeped in jazz standards so do familiar music like jbroad suggested - pink floyd, radiohead, michael jackson, etc. I do a few arrangements of Police, Elvis Costello and Prince tunes that get a positive response. As for the looping/not looping debate, I prefer not. Doing a solo gig, what better way to create that intimacy and the looper takes some of that away. Plus for me the more electronics in my chain the more worried and skeptical I become about bugs.


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