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Working on solo/unaccompanied (gypsy) jazz guitar

travisrayletravisrayle ✭✭
in Welcome Posts: 18
Does anyone out there gig regularly "Solo" in this style? I've been working on some solo stuff lately (Thanks Jon Delaney, Fapy Lafertin, Adrian Holovaty you-tube videos!! You guys Rock!! I steal from the very best. Any insight/tips for playing in this style would be greatly appreciated \:D/
NoneJonJHBadrian

Comments

  • travisrayletravisrayle ✭✭
    Posts: 18
    Stuart that was wonderful, Thank you! Now, who else out there has got an awesome solo piece to share? This should be a weekly thing, no?
    None
  • JonJon melbourne, australiaProdigy Dupont MD50B, '79 Favino
    Posts: 391
    Beautiful stuff, both of you! Solo guitar is the best, but, yeah, underexposed in this, and most other genres. Especially hard is plectrum solo guitar. There are two hard things about it, I think - trying to have some variety, and - related - trying to fill large musical spaces with what is, depending on how you look at it, texturally either a very small piano, or a very big violin. I like writing out lists of things that I could do with the guitar texturally and think about them when I'm improvising or working on things. Additionally, its helpful to divide things up into devices that work in time and out of time, as these are very different scenarios with their own challenges. For instance:

    IN TIME:
    1. Melody by itself - can be helpful to vary the dynamic to make this stand out as a device, or deliberately play very sparsely to set it apart and create space around it
    2. Ornamented melody (single line) with apreggios/scale runs - can create a very full texture. Can be useful to think of yourself as two instruments: one playing the tune, and the other improvising complementary phrases
    3. Melody with chords - chords can support the melody, and also sometimes play figures like a big band horn section to increase the "size" of the sound.
    4. Stabs in solos - a chord stab followed by a bar or two of melody, like you might do behind someone in a band setting (again, think of yourself as two instruments
    5. Take 4s/8s with yourself - try to assume two different personalities and alternate lead breaks in them. You could mix up registers, or have one fast, one slow; one with chords, one without; one humorous, one straight...
    6. Pedal bass notes - put a pedal tone into a section to break up the monotony, maybe intersperse the pedal with some lead breaks. Open strings can help.
    7. Chord/comping solo - I love Tchavolo's comping solos where we plays bits of pompe, with those great moving bass lines and little triplet runs. You could easily fill a chorus just doing that and keep things interesting. Even just a good strong pompe with some rhythm fills can work for a bit.
    8. Riffs - work out a little riff and move it through the chords. You could alternate this with solo breaks too.
    9. Harmonise the melody line - either in solos or in the head, you can always harmonise the melody, or bits of it, with another note or two. 3rds, 4ths, 5ths, 6ths all can work well, or use bigger intervals, or smaller.
    10. Play the melody BELOW the chords. Playing the melody on the low strings with chords on G,B and E, like if you were in a band with the bass player doing the melody. I love doing this.
    11. Alternate playing rhythm and playing melody/solo. Especially challenging when using different (non swing) feels. Try to keep a feeling of strong rhythm the whole time. Fill out all gaps in phrases with a snatch of rhythm. Keep strong time.
    12. Octaves, licks and tricks.
    13. Get into Bach stuff - play two lines at the same time. Maybe even try to ape a fugal texture. This is awesome when it works.
    14. Change the feel/time signature/key whenever you want. You're in control, and nothing you do is going to upset anyone, so do all this stuff.

    OUT OF TIME
    All the above stuff still kind of goes, but you have some other cool options:
    1. Big tremolo gypsy-like things with huge chords followed by some fast arpeggio runs etc. Great for intros/interludes/codas.
    2. As I mentioned before, deliberately sparse playing to draw the listener in - be a flute solo in the middle of a symphony.
    3. You can stretch time however you like - stay on a chord until you're done with it. Explore each chord and maybe extend it with passing chords etc.
    4. Big bass statements - like the double bass section in an orchestra playing a melody. Be strong, dramatic, and powerful.
    5. Harmonics - both natural and the kind where you fret the note with one hand and touch above the harmonic and pick with you right hand...whatever they're called. You can play chords that way too. Kind of sounds like a music box or celeste. You could do an A section like that.

    That's all I can think of right now, but there are lots more, I'm sure. You can also just play the tune with a few chords, of course, and most of the time, that is best. I actually don't like hearing too many tricks and devices, especially if you can tell that they're all worked out before hand. I think of solo playing as a very intimate, personal thing, and as such, I think it should be improvised. Arranging things into a party-trick show bag always sounds a bit cheap to me. I love hearing people just honestly playing the tunes and supporting them as best they can with a few interesting hints at rhythm.

    The only other piece of advice I have is go and get a gig, or ask a cafe if you can play in the corner. Being dumped in a 3 hour gig with my guitar and nothing else was the best thing ever for my solo playing. You work out very quickly what works and what doesn't :)

    Solo playing is, as I've said before, the best thing. It leaves you more confident, more adventurous, and with a more thorough knowledge of what your little instrument can do. Just the knowledge that if the rest of the band dropped out under you, you'd be ok, is very empowering. I think it's one reason why pianists often are such commanding presences in bands - because they practice solo all the time, accompanying themselves without backing tracks or crutches.

    Hope some of those thoughts are useful. Great stuff guys! Cheers,

    Jon
    travisraylepickitjohnMichaelHorowitzBucoStringswingergalagatattoosjazzmanouchenwct
  • travisrayletravisrayle ✭✭
    Posts: 18
    Thank u so much for sharing this info Jon! I cannot wait to really pore over it! If yer ever looking for a gig in North Carolina, hit me up on here!
    Jon
  • travisrayletravisrayle ✭✭
    Posts: 18
    Thanks stuart! The guitar is a La Patrie Etude model. We should get together & jam next year if you're going to be in Asheville.
  • Jon wrote: »
    IN TIME:
    1. Melody by itself - can be helpful to vary the dynamic to make this stand out as a device, or deliberately play very sparsely to set it apart and create space around it
    2. Ornamented melody (single line) with apreggios/scale runs - can create a very full texture. Can be useful to think of yourself as two instruments: one playing the tune, and the other improvising complementary phrases
    3. Melody with chords - chords can support the melody, and also sometimes play figures like a big band horn section to increase the "size" of the sound.
    4. Stabs in solos - a chord stab followed by a bar or two of melody, like you might do behind someone in a band setting (again, think of yourself as two instruments
    5. Take 4s/8s with yourself - try to assume two different personalities and alternate lead breaks in them. You could mix up registers, or have one fast, one slow; one with chords, one without; one humorous, one straight...
    6. Pedal bass notes - put a pedal tone into a section to break up the monotony, maybe intersperse the pedal with some lead breaks. Open strings can help.
    7. Chord/comping solo - I love Tchavolo's comping solos where we plays bits of pompe, with those great moving bass lines and little triplet runs. You could easily fill a chorus just doing that and keep things interesting. Even just a good strong pompe with some rhythm fills can work for a bit.
    8. Riffs - work out a little riff and move it through the chords. You could alternate this with solo breaks too.
    9. Harmonise the melody line - either in solos or in the head, you can always harmonise the melody, or bits of it, with another note or two. 3rds, 4ths, 5ths, 6ths all can work well, or use bigger intervals, or smaller.
    10. Play the melody BELOW the chords. Playing the melody on the low strings with chords on G,B and E, like if you were in a band with the bass player doing the melody. I love doing this.
    11. Alternate playing rhythm and playing melody/solo. Especially challenging when using different (non swing) feels. Try to keep a feeling of strong rhythm the whole time. Fill out all gaps in phrases with a snatch of rhythm. Keep strong time.
    12. Octaves, licks and tricks.
    13. Get into Bach stuff - play two lines at the same time. Maybe even try to ape a fugal texture. This is awesome when it works.
    14. Change the feel/time signature/key whenever you want. You're in control, and nothing you do is going to upset anyone, so do all this stuff.

    OUT OF TIME
    All the above stuff still kind of goes, but you have some other cool options:
    1. Big tremolo gypsy-like things with huge chords followed by some fast arpeggio runs etc. Great for intros/interludes/codas.
    2. As I mentioned before, deliberately sparse playing to draw the listener in - be a flute solo in the middle of a symphony.
    3. You can stretch time however you like - stay on a chord until you're done with it. Explore each chord and maybe extend it with passing chords etc.
    4. Big bass statements - like the double bass section in an orchestra playing a melody. Be strong, dramatic, and powerful.
    5. Harmonics - both natural and the kind where you fret the note with one hand and touch above the harmonic and pick with you right hand...whatever they're called. You can play chords that way too. Kind of sounds like a music box or celeste. You could do an A section like that.

    Great list of ideas. I have been really pushing myself to grow in my unaccompanied approach, initially because I have no local Django enthusiasts to play with, and later on I realized it was one of the best ways to improve my musicality.

    It's interesting too, how each tune has its own strengths and weaknesses. Some really lend themselves to that chord stab/melody trade-off, while others sound stiff and underwhelming (depends on who is playing, I guess!). Some are excellent for chord melodies, while others allow for a sort of Joe Pass-esque bassline treatment. I wouldn't have appreciated this sort of diversity in these standards without the time spent playing this material unaccompanied. You're absolutely right about pianists - we stand to gain a lot by finding more economical ways to accompany ourselves in any solo setting.
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