Tutorials

Playing solos like the great

rudjarl

Senile Member. Scandinavian Ambassadour of CaSLM
Messages
657
Location
Løten, Norway
At the age of 14 I stated playing in a band for grown ups. Usually, they only admitted 18 years and above, but members were diminishing and panic rising I guess. The school band was getting boring to me, only playing the same pieces year in and year out. By that time I had already taken the 3 courses music theory, the 3 in instrument (horn :)) playing and the 2 course in conducting that the Norwegian Music Association held annually. I took two a year, instead of the one you were supposed to. (Bragging a bit more: I was considered the new musical wonder boy in the local community)... Anyway, when I threatened to go to sports, my dad (he was Mr. Music back home in the seventies) took affair and pulled quite a few strings to get me into the 'adult' band. I suspect that me playing the alto sax and they had none was a major contributor too.

(Please bear with me. If you are looking for the punch line, browse to page 42)

I say 'adult' in apostrophes because on the first session I learned that grown ups pay less attention to the conductor than kids. The level of gossip, idle chat and ignoration of the conductor was something a young boy trying to adhere to authorities should not be let in a position to witness. Anyway, the conductor (a wise old man) handed me the notes of a piece called Pavane in Blue. That piece has an alto sax solo in it, and when the 'adult's' finally paid a small amount of attention, we played it. The solo said 'ad liberty'. That, I knew, gave me the liberty to play as I saw fit. Being a cocky young kid, I did. Imagine being a sax hero I played freely. I did try at least...playing freely... failing miserably... The sudden silence did not pass me by. And when we played it again I stuck to the notes on the sheet. Playing 'prima vista' was something I did rather well...

In the break the conductor came to me and said he understood what I had tried to do the first time. And then he said a few words I will never forget:

"Nothing is so difficult that you can't skip it!" (Gudmund Finnbråten)

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According to this, learning a 'Bird' solo is no problem. Just skip it :).... No, no no, don't skip the solo, skip the difficult bits. Learn and play the main theme of the solo.(OK, 'Bird' was an ill choice for quite a few solos.) Play the theme, play it again, and again, and again until you are bored to death. Sooner or later you will let your fingers wander between the key notes. You start bending notes and finally, finally, it pays off having followed Pete's instructions of playing scales and producing a multitude of effects on your sax. Then, like an actor, you start telling a story. Maybe tender sordine, maybe bragging loud, or somewhere in between. It does not matter, you tell the 'Bird' theme the way you see it. Not as The Bird, but like The Bird.

It may not be a 'Bird' solo in the end, but it is definitely a solo paying tribute to 'Bird'. And that is good. Very good indeed. It is way better to be original than trying to be a copy of what can not be copied. OK, forget about Charley 'Bird' Parker. Make it any tune/solo you'd like to play. Same thing apply.

I guess what I'm trying to say is: start simple and evolve...
 
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