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Bob Elliott
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Bob Elliott

9/22/2017 6:01:08 PM

On Solos and Other Complexities
This is actually from an answer to someone's thread at VS Planet, but I spilled all my thoughts there that I had intended for my own thread, so I thought I'd bring that over here because it's fun stuff to talk about:

I have nothing against musicians who throw down spontaneous solos well (Charlie Parker, Miles, Hendrix, so many geniuses), but, for my own music, it's mostly the Burt Bacharach style of soloing: likely to restate the melody or some other melody idea. Also, the solo section might be shared with several instruments passing the idea along.

Often I'll just play single notes in a melody line on piano because they sound so good to me. I did that a bunch on the O'Brien album. They're not even hard to play, they're just the best feeling thing. The piano has such a nice voice for that. Maybe I'll throw in two or three notes at a time for part of it, but mostly just melody, and I tend to drop out a lot of instruments during the solo so it just gets clearer. Sometimes I'll cut out the whole drum kit at that section.

The solo is almost always planned.

It means nothing to me personally for anything to sound difficult to play. Many things in our music were difficult to play, but I work to make them not sound difficult. If I include difficult stuff, it's just because that was the right sound. I have no bias for easy stuff either, just whatever is the right sound, but for me that is often restrained playing.

Even then, though, you gotta play it just right with the feeling it needs, and that can take some time to learn the part after you make it, even if it's not all that technical.

Like a bass part can be technically pretty straightforward, but you know it's gotta have the full tones and holds and stops just so, or it doesn't get felt at all.


A lot of the creation of parts is whittling things away, especially bass parts. Could you get the feeling right with less? To my ear that will likely be better.

In the last song I posted, "Owl," the electric piano just plays three chromatic notes as a lead-in to the verse. At the end of the song it does a solo by replaying the melody, but up until then it's just those three quick notes.

There had been so much more, but as I boiled out the unnecessary stuff I realized the three notes were all that we needed, and those are sprinkled sparsely.

Everything on that song is like that. Everything sitting out a lot of the measure, taking turns and such.

But that's where my music is at these days. That's what really drives me.


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Father Time

9/22/2017 8:23:21 PM


From the day I started multi-track recording, I determined that solos were very important to me. I ended up putting one in pretty much every song i've ever done. Mostly guitar solos though there are a few instances like in my song Show Me or Miss Wills' Frustration when they are keyboard solos. I did a project featuring all my solos a few years ago called Guitarnado. and i did this radio show counting down my 60 greatest solos. i've done quite a few more good ones since then like my 2 solos in the cover of the Batman theme by The Coming Of Age which you can hear on that page. Here's the 60 greatest solos show though.


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Duane Flock

9/22/2017 9:15:32 PM


If you're recording, then yes the guitar solo has to be planned. I always do my guitar solos last because I don't want to "step" on the vocals and other parts.

I'll sometimes write a song around a great riff in which case it fits perfectly. Or study different styles and mixes when filling tracks for people for a couple of days.

If you know your scales, you can harmonize your leads with your melodies. I love doing that kind of stuff. Double tracks etc.

Playing live though is the best. Improvising and connecting with the crowd. Getting a screaming lead going and hearing the crowd after! Nothing like it!


Peace,
D.


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Hop On Pop

9/23/2017 11:22:23 AM


For me, what a solo should do, ideally, is to bring the song to another level, emotionally.

Of course, most solos (including my own) don't reach those lofty levels. For somebody like me, who is an average guitar player—slightly better on a good day—I play a solo to put a break into the song: just a change-up that will keep the listener paying attention a little longer until we reach the end. Maybe it will become a point of interest in and of itself, and that is cool; maybe it will just restate the melody, but throw a bit of a twist into the arrangement. Whatever.

What I am ultimately getting to is that, for me, a solo like this one is the ideal:



It's not virtuosic as far as technique goes, but as far as understanding how music works on an emotional level, there is nothing better. This solo transports me and is my favorite solo of all time. It's transcendental.

To get the full emotional effect of the solo, you really need to listen to the entire song. The solo comes in about 2:45 or so.

Trust me on this.
My favorite of all time.


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Father Time

9/23/2017 12:41:31 PM


Todd, I remember loving your solo on Meet Me In The Middle (I think that's what it was called)


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Hop On Pop

9/23/2017 1:23:54 PM


"We Made It to the Middle"
?

That was actually not me playing that solo. That was my friend Chuck. And I like it too! Thanks!


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Father Time

9/23/2017 2:58:44 PM


oops sorry I screwed the title up.


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Hop On Pop

9/23/2017 4:21:28 PM


No problemo.
What did you think of that Yo La Tengo song/solo that I posted?


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Father Time

9/23/2017 5:53:21 PM


Didn't listen yet, do most of my listening at night.


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Bob Elliott

9/23/2017 8:11:07 PM


So I listened to the tune you posted. I like their sound. My Daughter used to play them when she DJed at UC Davis.

That solo style is precisely what we were doing on this track you can find up on Tom O'Brien's site. Beautiful tune.

http://indiemusicpeople.com/songs.aspx?SongID=73768&ArtistID=128691


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Father Time

9/24/2017 7:25:19 AM


I listened to the song Todd and really liked the song. Strangly enough the vocals really reminded me of Bob Elliot. :) I thought the solo was a little noisy, liked the rest of the song better. The kind of solo I like is more explosive and exciting. Here's a song of mine with a really quirky solo that I've always loved.

The Night She Met Me


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Hop On Pop

9/24/2017 8:31:40 PM


Hey Bob!
The solo on that Tom O'Brien song is really great. It does kind of remind me of the solo that I posted, although more like Robert Fripp's playing on The Roches' first album. Either way, it's very cool and I dug it a lot.


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