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  • Solo Instrumentalists

    Thinking about taking a closer look at venues that focus on instrumental music. I was asked to sub at an art gallery opening, which I've decided to accept, even though it's only a week's notice and . . . . I've never played a solo instrumental gig. Always a band or solo with vocals. One advantage is that I learned a lot of songs for other vocalists that I couldn't sing for any number of reasons but which should work well as instrumentals. And I don't have to haul any gear - house piano (tuned the morning of the gig.)

    Thoughts?

  • #2
    go for it...there are times I think I need more instrumentals for background gigs....and I am probably right.
    I'm doing a wedding reception today as a solo on three days notice...take the gig if you can get away with it.
    "We are currently experiencing some technical difficulties due to reality fluctuations. The elves are working tirelessly to patch the correct version of reality. Activities here have been temporarily disabled since the fundamentals of mathematics, physics and reason may be incomprehensible during this indeterminate period of instability. Normal service will be restored once we are certain as to what 'normal' is."

    Life's journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally used up and worn out, shouting '...man, what a ride!'

    "The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively" ~Bob Marley

    Solipsism is the new empiricism. -Alan Burdick

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    • senorblues
      senorblues commented
      Editing a comment
      I took it, but it required some cajones . . . . I was out of town and felt like I needed to accept or decline before getting back to the studio and playing for a while with this gig in mind to see how I felt about it. It's an art gallery opening, and I've been assured that there will be a lot of folks chattering. Maybe I can tap into the Ahmad Jamal vibe. (obscure; I know.)

  • #3
    Change and new challenges help you grow.sure it will go well all the best.
    Cheers Steve

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    • senorblues
      senorblues commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks, Steve. Looking forward to it, now that I've shedded a bit. Messing with different grooves, tempos . . .. fun!

  • #4
    Should be a good gig for a pianist. Depends on the amount of opportunities in your area.
    BD

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    • senorblues
      senorblues commented
      Editing a comment
      I don't think most galleries around here are big enough, but several people have suggested "Friday Art Walks" Worth a search . . . .

  • #5
    A couple of times when I had a sore throat on a Wednesday, I'd play my regular tunes with just piano. Worked fine. I only do one 'real' instrumental as a rule: "Harlem Nocturne."
    There is more than one way to do this. Notes Norton

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    • Notes_Norton
      Notes_Norton commented
      Editing a comment
      "Harlem Nocturne" is one of the most requested sax songs. Right up there behind "Yakety Sax" and a lot more fun to play than YSax. Others are "Night Train" and "Europa".

    • pogo97
      pogo97 commented
      Editing a comment
      Whatever happened to "The Hucklebuck"?****


    • senorblues
      senorblues commented
      Editing a comment
      Well if I was ever going to learn "The Hucklebuck", now's the time . . . . .

  • #6
    Originally posted by senorblues View Post
    Thinking about taking a closer look at venues that focus on instrumental music .… And I don't have to haul any gear - house piano (tuned the morning of the gig.)

    Thoughts?
    Tuned the day of the gig is nice.

    If you're looking for instrumentals to play, you'd do well to scan wikipedia for best-selling songs of any given year or decade. I was surprised at how many instrumentals that charted well. Here's a start:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_o...s_of_the_1950s
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Billbo...ingles_of_1950
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_o...er-one_singles

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Instru..._instrumentals

    You'll probably know most of them but if you don't recognise a title, cut and paste to a youtube search. It's a bit like panning for gold.
    There is more than one way to do this. Notes Norton

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    • senorblues
      senorblues commented
      Editing a comment
      a kazoo . . . that would work.

    • pogo97
      pogo97 commented
      Editing a comment
      Never, ever. Seriously, ***NEVER*** play Kazoo in public if you value your musical life.

      I know this from bitter experience. I was accompanying/duoing with an excellent but aged (my age, now) singer and I hoped to get her to take some of the breaks, so I gave her a gold-plated kazoo for her birthday. She was a quick study and quickly became the best horn player in town. But people were horrified and embarrassed, thought she had lost her marbles, and it ruined her stage creds.

      I think kazoo is cool, though I need both hands to play it properly. And if I ever need to ruin my reputation as a musician and a sane human being, I'll take one out on stage.

      Seriously. DON'T DO IT.

    • senorblues
      senorblues commented
      Editing a comment
      I was kidding about the kazoo . . . except that the drummer for "The Gruesome Twosome" (my college duo) used it for the intro to this song. He could get away with just about anything. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yDISzuhyaMk

  • #7
    The way I see it, pretty much any song can be done as an instrumental, especially on piano. Another source for gigs would be wedding ceremonies and reception cocktail or dinner music. I know of a guy in New Jersey that plays piano during cocktail hour then DJs during dancing.
    BD

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    • pogo97
      pogo97 commented
      Editing a comment
      Originally posted by Bob Dey View Post
      The way I see it, pretty much any song can be done as an instrumental, especially on piano.
      Agreed. But there are songs whose strength is the lyric. The tune by itself may or may not make the cut. The best songs, of course, are strong musically as well. I guess that's the difference between "can be done" and "should be done."

      There are many more songs, though, that have wonderful music and stupid lyrics. Maybe some of those *should* be done instrumentally. Like "Where the Boys are."
      Last edited by pogo97; 04-30-2018, 01:02 PM.

    • daddymack
      daddymack commented
      Editing a comment
      If the song has a recognizable melody, then there is no reason to do it...there are many songs that may have great lyrics, but suffer from lack of melody [many older Dylan songs, for instance], but if there is a hook, then you could certainly get way with it as an instrumental.

    • senorblues
      senorblues commented
      Editing a comment
      This song does indeed have a simple melody, but I had fun throwing in some suspensions . . .

      The Times They Are A Changin’ – F

      INTRO: Fadd9 Dm11 Bb69 C9sus :||

      Fadd9 Dm11 Bb6 F a -

      Come gather 'round people wherever you roam
      F a Dm7 Bb69 C9sus

      And admit that the waters around you have grown
      Fadd9 Dm11 Bb6 F a -

      And accept it that soon you'll be drenched to the bone
      F a [ - /G /A ] C9sus -

      If your time to you is worth savin'
      C /Bb Am7 G7sus

      Then you better start swimmin' or you'll sink like a stone
      F c - Gm7 F/A C7sus |

      For the times they are a-change in'.

      Fadd9 Dm11 Bb69 C9sus :||

  • #8
    This sort of gig has a lot of potential if you can get in a rotation, but for a first time, one-off sub gig, I'm keeping it simple. Nothing brand new for this one. Some three chord blues songs sound pretty silly without lyrics, so they're out, but most of what I do sounds OK, and I've added maybe a dozen songs that I know from recent band gigs that work as solo piano songs. Oddly enough, I don't have any instrumental hits on the current list, but I could see adding a few if this works out.

    Comment


    • #9
      I don't go with "any song can be played as an instrumental". There are so many simple songs that have such weak melodies that they won't make it without vocals.

      To me, one of the marks of a good song is that it has a strong melody that can be recognized without the underlying chords and also can be played in a variety of styles.

      Me? I don't play piano strong enough to take a gig like that, but if I did, I would definitely take it as long as I had enough material to do it and my material was appropriate for the audience.

      I know a great jazz piano player who also takes sonic wallpaper gigs. They keep his fingers nimble, and pay the mortgage.

      Insights and incites by Notes
      Bob "Notes" Norton
      Owner, Norton Music http://www.nortonmusic.com
      Style and Fake disks for Band-in-a-Box
      The Sophisticats http://www.s-cats.com >^. .^< >^. .^<

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      • #10
        I'm not sure how to measure this, but I suspect that this gig doesn't put a premium on the "audience's" familiarity with my repertoire. They're there ostensibly to look at art, but really to drink free wine and talk to their friends. "The girls don't seem to care. As long as the music's right. . . . FM" - Steely Dan.

        I linked to a very good piano player who has a successful trio but also has a house gig at a hotel playing solo piano. Videos she's posted sound like she's composing on the spot. Noodling? At least I don't recognize any songs or even a standard form. Some gigs apparently really work well even though nobody's listening, at least with an ear towards recognizing what's being played.

        But let's get back to the requirement that a song needs a good melody. OK, but do you have to play all the notes for the song to be recognizable? I suspect that some songs are recognizable by a signature rhythm and changes. I hope so. . . to the extent that recognizability is necessary.

        Comment


        • #11
          Originally posted by senorblues View Post
          But let's get back to the requirement that a song needs a good melody. OK, but do you have to play all the notes for the song to be recognizable? I suspect that some songs are recognizable by a signature rhythm and changes. I hope so. . . to the extent that recognizability is necessary.
          One of the waitresses where I play on Wednesdays asked to sing some songs while I backed her up. Good PR move for me and not a bad singer -- a bit on the trained side for me. Anyway, when I played the intro, unless I played specifically the tune she couldn't tell where her entrance was. Seemed odd to me, but there you go, we dealt with it.
          There is more than one way to do this. Notes Norton

          Comment


          • #12
            Originally posted by senorblues View Post
            <...snip...>
            But let's get back to the requirement that a song needs a good melody. OK, but do you have to play all the notes for the song to be recognizable? I suspect that some songs are recognizable by a signature rhythm and changes. I hope so. . . to the extent that recognizability is necessary.
            IMHO you have to play enough of the song so that at least 3/4 of the audience members who know that song can recognize it.

            There are some songs with such weak melodies that I don't care what you do, they won't work as an instrumental.

            But you have a point with signature riffs. For instance, James Brown's "Papa's Got A Brand New Bag" wouldn't be recognizable to most people who know the song until the 16th note guitar riff after the line "Ain't no drag, papa's got a brand new bag."

            In some cases, the background riff IS the song.

            On the other hand you could play "Misty" without accompaniment and everybody who knows the song would recognize it.

            You have to remember, unless you are gigging in a special place, most of the audience members do not listen with musician's ears. Some won't even get it if you don't sing the words.

            Always remember: You can play for yourself, You can play for other musicians, or You can play for the general public. In each case if you are good enough, you will get the audience you asked for.

            Me? I ask for the general public, but I need to gig to make a living. Fortunately I like playing popular songs and I like playing jazz, and I like playing classical, and I like playing salsa, and I like playing Reggae, etc., etc. But always remember, there is more than one right way to do this. Pop is just one of my many favorite types of music to play.

            You must follow your personal bliss, and there will always be compromises to make, even Mozart and Beethoven had to play to their audiences. Prokofiev had to wait until Stalin died before releasing his 4th symphony for fear that Stalin would execute him for the dissonances in the symphony.

            Insights and incites by Notes

            Bob "Notes" Norton
            Owner, Norton Music http://www.nortonmusic.com
            Style and Fake disks for Band-in-a-Box
            The Sophisticats http://www.s-cats.com >^. .^< >^. .^<

            Comment


            • #13
              So the gig came off with only a couple of major clams. The linked video I put together shows what for me was a first - literally being the center of attention. A guy snuck up behind me, at least it felt that way. Totally unnerved me; I'll be ready next time.

              I was delighted at the positive response I got and was especially impressed with songs people recognized without the help of lyrics or even a complete recognizable melody. As you can see, it helps that most of the folks are my age. Even more gratifying is that a few of the more obscure songs that I played got a favorable response. I asked if they knew the song, and several times I got the same response. "No, but I just like the way it sounds." What a rush!

              I wondered if anyone would decide to fill in for the missing vocals. Sure enough; check out "Gee, Baby".

              The woman grooving to "Saturday in the Park" and talking during "Pretzel Logic" wants to put together a series of private events at her home so we can keep this going. Well . . . sure! I hope she follows through.
               
              Last edited by senorblues; 05-09-2018, 06:37 AM.

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              • #14

                "Well if I was ever going to learn "The Hucklebuck", now's the time . . . . ."

                You all disappoint me . . . . nobody got it!
                 

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                • pogo97
                  pogo97 commented
                  Editing a comment
                  That was pretty subtle.

                • senorblues
                  senorblues commented
                  Editing a comment
                  I guess I've been obsessed recently with ASCAP issues and who's ripping off whom. Another benefit of instrumental music is that you can dance around a song without making it recognizable if the venue feels like they have to avoid paying fees.

              • #15
                RE playing the melody, I'm of the opinion that playing the melody as accurately and true to the original as possible- at least the 1st time through- is crucial to a "wallpaper" gig. It's also (in my experience) a fairly rare skill. I have seen lots of guitar hero shredders and accomplished horn players struggle with playing a melody or "head" on the spot without fumbling around.

                A local bassist, that has the corporate "wallpaper" local scene wrapped up, used to hire me over more accomplished jazz players because I could play melodies (or "heads", as he called them). I discovered that we had a mutual appreciation of Paul Shaffer's Late Night (Letterman) band as the template for that. His view was that playing the melody accurately 1st time through, with no added notes or ad libs, locked in the listeners' interest in the musicians, cementing their impression that "that band can play ANYTHING". He actually went so far as to maintain that the melody should be played with single notes, not chord clusters. Not sure I go along with all that, but given his talent, rep, versatility and experience I paid attention to his words.

                He also said that he was sick of playing 3 hour gigs where no one in the audience recognized a single song- something that happens both because of too much improv/ too little melody, and also because of the typical, traditional instrumental material. He decided that to remain viable, he was going to have to incorporate "contemporary" songs (definition of "contemporary: tunes only 30-40 years old instead of 50-80, ha). That's where I came in, although with mixed results for things like Journey. I do remember a cover of Don't Stop Believing that started out rough but jelled into an intriguing smooth jazz version once the sax player found his bearings.

                Congrats to senor on his successful wallpaper debut! If instrumental/singalong stuff goes over better than vocals with piano, it may be worth considering focusing on that.

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