How to solo

If you’ve ever written a letter of complaint you’ll know that there is one basic ground rule to ensure a positive outcome: be concise and stick to the point. In other words, don’t ramble. If you’re returning a broken radio, your main point is that it’s not fit for purpose. To supplement this with an auxiliary list of complaints will only weaken your case. So how does this apply to this article on how to solo?

When soloing, my students are often brimming over with ideas. Although creativity, in itself, is not to be discouraged, a creative overflow not only puts pressure on the improviser to continue in the same vein, but also makes it difficult for the listener to take in so much information.

As a general rule, resist the temptation to throw in everything at the start of your solo. This will give you nowhere to go. Instead, start simply with a clearly stated idea and then develop it.

The following five points will help you work towards more effective soloing.

  1. Give your phrases a trim.
  2. Repeat and modify your original phrase.
  3. Use fragments of your idea.
  4. Displace rhythm.
  5. Only play on the important bits.

I will illustrate this with the first section of a 12 bar blues in F.

Fig 148

How to solo
Busy solo

1          How to solo by trimming your phrases

Although there’s nothing terribly wrong with the line, it’s rather relentless, with no space to breath. So let’s give it a trim.

Fig 149

how to solo
Trimmed solo

2          Repeating phrases

In the next example I take the first phrase and then modify it in bars 2 and 3. Notice how the modification in bar 3 leads me down a new path.

Fig 150

how to solo
Modified phrases

3          Using fragments

In fig 151 I’ve taken fragments of my original phrases. Again, I’ve modified notes and rhythm to suit my purpose.

Fig 151

how to solo

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