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Your Solo Ideas, Please

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Mar 28, 2020 - 8:35:52 PM
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117 posts since 6/11/2019

BG and country jammers (though OTimers frequently get into the act too): I wonder what your templates are when nodded at for a solo? I realize a 'template' is not pure improvisation, and you probably don't play a solo the same way every time, but I bet there are some 'go-to-the-well' ideas you use often.

For example, here's some stuff I already do:
- Play second phrase octave higher than first phrase
- Blues the crap out of the lead line, even if it's a church hymn
- Syncopation: play (or rest) a lot on off-beat
- change temporarily to relative minor mode
- come-home licks are very important
- when in doubt, just play the melody straight out

I listen to a lot of BG and country for ideas, but I feel I am getting stale; do y'all care to share the sugar?

Mar 29, 2020 - 1:14:50 AM
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1503 posts since 12/11/2008

I've gotten addicted to jazzing it up.  Flat 5's or Major 7's, either to put bends into blues licks or as random notes.  Dotted rhythms that accent odd parts of the measure.  If a familiar tune rings a bell inside my head I'll quote it.  If I hit a couple clinkers, so be it.  If I'm feeling lazy I'll just gliss upwards into the tonic, ad nauseam.

Edited by - Lonesome Fiddler on 03/29/2020 01:16:40

Mar 29, 2020 - 1:34:49 AM
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1346 posts since 4/6/2014

Good topic..That list looks pretty much like my idea's about soloing, especially the "come home licks", which i like to play around with. (But not so much the Blues).

One really effective BG trick that has evaded me for years is when the soloist seems to roll over the home chord for a couple of bars while the next soloist takes over..if you get my meaning? Like a double ending, or false cadence while the solo fades out. Any info on that one would be much appreciated.

Btw, i think i really only improvise, or play around with things when i'm playing Swing, even then i need to know the melody and changes well, or at least follow a guitarists left hand while i pick up the melody, (not so easy with Gipsy Swing as all the guitar chord shapes look very similar). Then i use Scales/Modes/Arpeggios/Chord substitutions/Rhythmic stuff etc, until i have to fall back on the Melody or a "Come home lick".

With BG and Trad etc, i just play variations of the melody or worked out stuff, which hopefully develop into sort of improvisations over time.

Something i have been playing with recently is concentrating on the Pre-Dominant chord in the come home licks, where i seem to be able to get away with playing almost any thing with.

Edited by - pete_fiddle on 03/29/2020 01:44:20

Mar 29, 2020 - 6:11:05 AM
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1884 posts since 10/22/2007

Just remember, i don't know the song/tune or key before it's played. (in front of an audience) That's not to say i've never heard it before. It's hard to find a melody I've not heard. Also remember this probably isn't the best way. I always say, we'd be dangerous if we rehearsed.
What i do when i get the nod: i play the melody. Maybe, just a little sause on it.
What i do when and if i get a secound bite: depending on the tune, gets swung to the maximum.

Ok, i know i'll never get close, but rather than technical terms, i think of old artists. Just think, not duplicate. Benny Martin, Chubby Wise, and oddly enough Steph Grapelli. Yes, i know i didn't include Kenny Baker, but he's so enigmatic, it's too much to think about.

Mar 29, 2020 - 7:12:42 AM
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2238 posts since 10/1/2008

I look at at break as a paragreph of musical language. First it needs a kick off sort of staking your turf. Then cite a phrase of the melody. I does not need to be the entire line just recognizable as the song. Then Play the changes with chord tones , flatted thirds and fifths with the occasional flat seventh or a ninth like puncuation in a sentance. Finish off with a flashy lick ending on the tonic. Doublestops are sprinkled in at the end of phrases or to emphasize a chord change. Remember you can use anything too much....

Mar 29, 2020 - 10:02:04 AM
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4573 posts since 9/26/2008

To start, I DON'T consciously play licks but have listened to plenty of bluegrasses that some pop up when playing the classics. If it is a song, I lead into the solo inside the measure before the break starts and then usually play much of the melody the first half. In the second half I will do similar to what Scott describes: deviate from the melody with blue notes and often a higher reach with the note choices. Bring it home and, to address Pete's Q, play the outro into the next measure while backing away from the mic, often repeating a short, 3-4 note phrase on the home chord. It requires everyone to know what your intentions are so they don't think you are just taking another go. The intro should be strong, the outro should make room for the next player or singer.

Instrumentals are different in that often the people I play with barely acknowledge the melody, instead choosing to play hot licks all over the place (smiley bless their talented over achieving hearts) so I try to play melodic variations sometimes based on something one of the other players did.

And that brings me to the third piece. Since my fiddle improv jamming is in the Bluegrass realm, I like to pick up on what the other players are doing (song or inst.) and when my turn comes, reference them some and build on that, show I'm listening.  Playing with skillful, competent musicians is inspiring. If you are the "skillful" one, you should strive to inspire.

Oh, and the folks I play with tend to play a lot I've never played so I have learned to figure out melodies on the fly, but instrumentals are hard when they are odd balls in B like "Rebecca," so when that happens I make a note and look those curve balls up for future jams. 

Mar 29, 2020 - 11:37:35 AM
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Players Union Member



2506 posts since 2/3/2011

If I hear any nuggets while comping, I'll recall them during a lead. If I'm taking a lead late in the tune, I'm a little more likely to go for the high and lonesome.

Mar 29, 2020 - 12:04:14 PM
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117 posts since 6/11/2019

Originally posted by ChickenMan


And that brings me to the third piece. Since my fiddle improv jamming is in the Bluegrass realm, I like to pick up on what the other players are doing (song or inst.) and when my turn comes, reference them some and build on that, show I'm listening.  Playing with skillful, competent musicians is inspiring. If you are the "skillful" one, you should strive to inspire.


This is a good idea I have not considered, I'm afraid I'm guilty of just thinking of my next fill, and just keeping up.  Though I do listen to what my close friends are playing.

I like Ed's idea, too, of fitting in another melody.  Ricky Skaggs does this sometimes, with Looney Tunes song and Three Stooges song.

My comment on the outro after the come-home, it's commonly just arpeggios in the opposite direction that you resolved.  Followed by some ascending or descending scale pattern in the opposite direction again, if that makes sense.  I'm not good at inserting this seamlessly either, because I'm usually so pumped if I nailed the end of solo that I miss a beat and have to lay on a boring I chord doublestop til somebody else takes over.

Mar 29, 2020 - 1:01:27 PM
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1346 posts since 4/6/2014

Cheers Billy! Reckon ive got that, just tried it out on my goto tryout tune "All Of Me" ...something like.....

You took the part, that once was my heart, now why not take all of........Dm7///| G7///|C///|.... or chords/arps/licks etc, to that effect instead of

You took the part, that once was my heart, now why not take all of........C///| C///|C///|....Ho hum

It would work even if you are not handing over to another player. Thanks again

Edit: another good idea of echoing someone else's licks yes

Edited by - pete_fiddle on 03/29/2020 13:06:52

Mar 29, 2020 - 1:23:32 PM
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1346 posts since 4/6/2014

hey just realized that if i combine the outro thing, with the changing to the relative minor thing, and my pre- dominant chord thing, i get something like...

Why not take all of ...G#dim///|Fmaj7/ G7/| CMaj ///| or chords, modes, arps, licks, to that effect!

like a kid with a new toy!!

Mar 29, 2020 - 2:35:52 PM

1503 posts since 12/11/2008

This is a great thread. Gimme more!

Edited by - Lonesome Fiddler on 03/29/2020 14:36:18

Mar 31, 2020 - 2:00:15 PM

4573 posts since 9/26/2008

Originally posted by pete_fiddle

like a kid with a new toy!!

Ha! Isn’t it fun when that happens?  Glad to hear it,

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