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psychology of soloing

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by nathan, Apr 24, 2006.

  1. nathan


    Jul 16, 2004
    I've been trying to learn how to solo better recently.
    Yeah, you can learn complex scales and jam inside of them, but that can only take you so far.

    I want to know what you all are thinking while you're soloing. I mean EVERYTHING if you're willing to write it. Not just "I use a minor/major scale." When you're improvising, why do you do what you play? What are the driving inside forces that motivate you to play a certain way?

    That didn't turn out as elegantly as i was planning to write it, but i'm really curious to know.

    Sorry if this post seems a little lame.
  2. Correlli


    Apr 2, 2004
    New Zealand
    Not lame at all. very important IMO.

    I'm building a mental library of elements that contribute to improvising and soloing. Things like rhythm patterns, phrases, chord progressions, chord patterns, techniques, etc. So when it comes time to improvise, it's a matter of pulling these elements together in different combinations.

    To get that 'icing on the cake' as far as soloing, it's definitely a psychologial ability, rather than a physical aptitude IMO
  3. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    If you're looking for anything in regards to psychology of music, check out "Effortless Mastery," a book by Kenny Werner. Nothin' better.

    EDIT: As far as what I'm thinking, I used to think in terms of chord tones and scales in relation to the changes of whatever tune I was playing. Right now, I'm trying to work with tunes and forms I've really strongly internalized (blues, Body and Soul, St. Thomas, and rhtyhm changes right now) and playing more by ear. After reading the article on Steve Swallow, I've finally tried singing along with my playing through a few choruses...this has easily yielded the best results, conception/phrasing wise.
  4. Whenever I have a chance to solo, I tend to focus on the message I want to get across not so much the technical ability I may (or may not ^_^) have. Some inspirations (and by no means am I trying to compare myself to these guys) of mine for soloing are guys like John Coltrane and Stanley Clarke because their solos always "speak." They start with phrases and build with points that are emphasized and punctuated. What I try to do is imagine an idea I may have for the music, be it dark, heavy, happy, sad, so on. Going by that emotion, I run with it. Hell, it may not always be in key and may sound "wrong" but as long as I get my ideas out, it's cool ^_^;
  5. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    One of my favorite Carol Kaye stories - somebody asks her what she's thinking about when she's playing and she said "Whther or not I dropped off my dry cleaning."

    You really shouldn't be "thinking" about anything. Music is about "listening" not thinking. The bad thing about most formal educational approaches ( and the great thing about my teacher) is that they tend to devolve to easily quantifiable Q & A - you have this chord, what scale do you use? And you have a WHOLE bunch of musicians out there who aren't playing any wrong notes, but they aren't palying any "right" ones either.

    Soloing is about conveying some intent and meaning about your internal conception of the musical piece in such a way that it interacts with the other musicians who are doing exactly the same thing. Just like having a conversation.

    You have to have some control of your instrument, some ability to hear with clarity and some understanding of what you are hearing. Rather than trying to figure out what you're supposed to be thinking, I'd recommend working harder on ear training.
  6. JHL


    Apr 8, 2005
    London, England
    When I'm not playing... that's when I'm thinking about my soloing. I think of things to try out and different concepts etc. When I play I just play what I want to hear.

    Best advice I can give: Start singing.... first sing what you play, then after a while start playing what you sing. Your voice can really help bridge the gap between your ideas and your hands.
  7. gre107


    Dec 25, 2005
    What you need to do is practice. Learn as much as you can. Get the exercises/studies internalized. Remember you play what you practice.

    Be able to "sing" out the intervals etc while you are practicing.
    Ear training is the most overlooked practice.

    When you are soloing sing the "message" out loud or to yourself. When ideas come to your mind you want to be able to just play it and not think about what/where the next note is.

    You cannot think about "Well, now I'm going to play this pattern or this scale/mode, this sequence etc... and then move to here or there". It's not going to happen. No one can process this much information this quickly.

    Going into a song you should know what key(s) it is in, the form of the song and from your practice/studies be ready to dive in and play whatever comes to mind.

    Take 1 or 2 static chords and play solos over them. Then later on move to more complex progressions.

    At first start playing only chord tones then add the scale tones in later.

    Start making a "library" of "licks/phrases" that you like. Transcribe lines from other players and add that to your arsenal.

    Adam Nitti teaches two improv classes at Musicdojo.com and covers many of the above ideas.

    "Learn everything you need to know and then forget it all"

    Hope this helps?
  8. Jimbo


    Dec 4, 2000
    Philadelphia, PA
    in indian music, you have a raaga you're playing within and that raaga is tied with a time of day, a feeling or emotion (ex: evening, early morning, romantic, etc). so you play in this mindframe

    when i solo on bass i try to do the same things. its not that i'm exactly thinking anything, its that i'm just feeling something.

  9. oathbass462

    oathbass462 Guest

    Dec 27, 2005
    when i jam with other musicians, not necissarily soloing, i just play what feels and sounds good man. i'll get a basic line going and then add hammersons and pulloffs in to that line. i listen to the drum beat and play to that, i kinda zone guitar out a little bit, just drums and vocals and me. it's not hard to get good at soloing, just pratice it alot, and you'll pick it up.
  10. fretless Bob

    fretless Bob If you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail.

    Nov 27, 2005
    Harrow, London, U.K
    i think about what i am doing, but i think the most important thing is to listen to what is going on around you. listen to the drums and the other instruments and try and take things from them.

    They should be giving you little signs or something as to where things are going so just keep your ears open.

    that and sing what you are playing is the best advice i can give you.

  11. +1 to all that - I've been out soloing with my jazz band recently and it's surprisingly how little actual time you have to think - it's never enough! So I try not to do it - basically it's like any conversational style of communicating - if I say 'Hi' to you - your response has probably left your mouth before you even thought about it - that's what it should be like.

    I had a little epiphany on a gig a few weeks back; I was playing Steller By Starlight - a classic standard and very well known but with its fair share of chord changes ;) - and I had recently memorised the tune so I could play it without relying on a chart. About half way through playing it - probably the first time I actually played it live - I suddenly realised I'd stopped thinking about the chords, or the scales, and al I was actually doing was playing...with almost no thoughts at all. It was so good - I was utterly absorbed in it and just feeling my way through - it was great to be playing complex music and yet feel so goddam relaxed.

    It takes a lot of time and practice - listen to the advice here - but above all get out there and do it - experience counts for so much in music. Remember theory is just the instruction manual in music - it's not the real deal! There is a difference.

    Good luck

  12. vyse933


    Mar 31, 2006
    Grand Haven, MI
    It's just what i feel. for a good solo, i can stop thinking about how long the solo is..what i gotta play, what i wanna convey...i just let my fingers do the walking and the talking...w/e they do, it's my solo.
  13. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification

    Steller? :D That must be the southern version....:bag:
  14. Thunder Lizard

    Thunder Lizard

    Dec 7, 2005
    Lethbridge, AB
    Canadian Distributor, Basson Sound Equipment
    Funny. I just realized that in 20+ years, I don't think I've ever actually taken a solo that wasn't part of a song I learned. Is that wierd, or does anyone else just not feel like solo'ing is something they need to do?
    I mean, I sure enjoy listening to a good solo, and I always respect the skills reflected within one, but I just never get the need to take off and do one myself. Usually, I'll refuse if offered.... it's just not my job, man. I hold down the bottom. Me and Drums, here, we'll hold it all together while you guitar/key/horn/harmonica/whatever types step out for 64 bars, and we'll be right here in lockstep when you get back.
    Now, if that counts as a solo, playing complicated or just cool stuff in total lock with Drums, then I do like that version a lot. Love hearing the two of us just GLUED to the same thought.
    But to stand out front and go "hey, here's my ninety seconds to three minutes of musical wankery".....naw. Not my idea of fun. But go ahead, man, if it's your thing, then I'll grab a brew and smile along with ya.
  15. Correlli


    Apr 2, 2004
    New Zealand
    I respectfully disagree.
  16. jgbass

    jgbass Guest

    Dec 17, 2003
    It is so nice when that happens. Can't make it happen, but it does happen out of the blue after one does the shedding, listening, and really learning a tune.

    I think of learning to solo as the same as learning a new language. One hears things one wants to play and does some basic imitation. One then kind of goes to school and studies music theory kinds of things, does more listening, and starts imitating more. After awhile it all becomes a part of you and, just like driving or talking, one just goes out there and solos.

    A few things that have helped me most have been (a) lots of listening, (b) understanding of basic chordal structures in various styles of music. When you can automatically call up various blues and jazz changes, for example, that makes it all easier, and (c) learning patterns, common licks, etc. Not scales, patterns. I hardly even think of scales, but when I kind of at a loss as to what to play, a pattern pops into my brain, something I have shedded and played over the over again, I know what chords this goes with, and I play it. Also, as an example in playing jazz, and this can certainly apply to other styles, it is helpful to have an undestanding of what style of jazz one is soloing in. Right now I am specificallly studying the structure of some be-bop solos by Paul Chambers, because there is a common style they played in. Fusion or more contemporary jazz would reflect a different style of soloing. And finally (d) just get out the play with the best players you can. I spent three hours last weekend playing tune after tune in a trio situation, taking solos on every tune. I didn't think of much of anything, just played. But I didn't have to think much because I had most of the tunes memorized, or at least "got" their basic chord structure, I had a vocabulary of patterns to draw from, (c) I had spent hours listening to a lot of these tunes and knew the style, had heard certain licks over and over and somehow they became incorporated into my playing, and was a great experience. None of this happened overnight, but with good time spent it will happen.
  17. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Feel free to. I'll be happy to lay out my range of experience (on which my opinions are based) if you'd care to point out the flaws.

    You say he can drive north and get to Philly from here; I'm saying I drive that way a LOT and it ain't the best route.
  18. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.

    JG - I hear what you are saying and I really must encourage you to try another way. You don't really learn to speak a language by "copying" what other people are saying, you learn to speak by attaching meaning to the words you hear other people using. You don't just learn to pronounce "cat", you gain an understanding of what CAT means. It's the difference between speaking a language and speaking gibberish. And believe me, I spoke fluent gibberish for any number of years. I think one of the common misconceptions of studying (particularly) jazz is that all any of the cats were doing was copying somebody who came before them until "suddenly and magically" they developed a unique individual voice. There are a number of things that can be gained from transcribing somebody whose playing you love, but the first and foremost of these is that you are working on teh ACTUAL MECHANISM of improvising; that is, hearing with enough clarity that you can identify what you are hearing and make it come out on your instrument. NOT playing a chord scale that's "supposed' to work (this word is a verb, it should be OK to put it HERE), NOT playing something somebody else played in a similar harmonic situation (it meant something when SHE said, it should mean something when I say it), NOT playing a pattern ( that meant something somewhere else, it should mean something here). The thing that prepares you for an actual conversation that has a free flowing exchange of genuine ideas and feelings can't be had by preparing language beforehand (this chord scale on that chord), memorising a precise phrase (this lick from that solo) or repeating a phrase that has no specific meaning (plugging in a pattern). If you tried that in a conversation it wouldn't work, trying it in a piece of music ONLY works when you are playing with folks that aren't really listening and just trying to plug and play too. Then you get the experience of a bunch of musicians sounding like they are playing to a click track in seperate rooms, they play the same song in the same time frame, it just never sounds like the are playing TOGETHER.

    What prepares you to have a true exchange of ideas is being able to communicate clearly WHAT and HOW you are hearing internally. The whole point is to play TOGETHER, the harmonic structure of a piece is just a framework that is as malleable as your wit, ingenuity and will (and that of the other players) can make it. You can tell th efolks who are just "memorizing" stuff from the Real Book, they play the same chords in the same spots (or shove in the "hip" substitutions they picked up somewhere) NO MATTER WHAT ANYBODY ELSE IS PLAYING.

    Again, being able to say something meaningful with the vocabulary that you can clearly hear communicates more to other players (who can hear it) than ANY amount of vocabulary that you are just shoving in without meaning.
  19. Pruitt


    Jun 30, 2005
    Danbury, CT
  20. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
    Ed, I think what you're saying is valid but you can't even begin to get to that level until you have done a lot of playing and a lot of improvising. Practice indeed makes perfect and you need to be comfortable with your instrument and what it can produce and be able to do that without trying to figure which fret is what or what position you're in. Playing music at a high level is no different than doing anything else on a high level, it requires a huge amount of work. The people you hear that sound great have invested an enormous amount of time which is why they sound that way and because they've spent that time there's a certain level of confidence which is one more thing out of the way that can prevent you from take your musical idea and rendering it on an instrument.

    The Carol Kaye quote mentioned earlier epitomizes this. If you can think about your laundry or some other mundane thing while sight reading a chart you have gotten to a point where it all has connected. Playing one rhythm and singing another is also an example of that as is playing a tumbao and tapping out the clave with your foot.

    A have a question for you Ed; What if you clearly hear it in your head, but it's totally inappropriate or better yet, it's not as powerful a statement?

    Someone should do a study one day about muscians their playing and their level of charisma.

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