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Thread: Developing solo skills

  1. Developing solo skills

    I'm a 74 y/o comeback player (from 50+ yrs) who has been thoroughly enjoying the last 3 years in our community band. My 7 years in school and early adult years were also all band experience and no solo work, except for a few measures of solo work within the piece. I've now set a goal of becoming more proficient as a soloist and so far have played a duet with a trombonist and a solo with piano accompaniment, both at my Church (friendly, understanding audience, thankfully). Regardless of their positive and well-meaning comments, neither of these two experiences was up to my standards. I'm reminded of the TV commercial, "when just ok is not ok". I'm interested in the experiences of you band players who have added solo work to your skill set. I'm pretty much on my own, although I haven't asked my section mates about their interest in some duet, trio, etc. work as a confidence and preparation builder for me -- but of course they have busy lives as I do. I will be appreciative of your thoughts, recommendations, and encouragement on developing my solo skills.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    West Palm Beach, FL
    Posts
    3,280
    I’m no expert but get to play solos in our comm band since I’m principal - and sometimes in church. What helped me is something Dave Werden suggested some time ago. Listen to some of your favorite euph soloists in how they phrase the melody, where they take a breath and the changes in dynamics. It also helped me in listening to vocalists sing a given song to know where they take a breath and add vibrato. I like adding vibrato toward the end of a held note.... not on all notes.

    Hope some others will chime in too
    Rick Floyd
    Miraphone 5050 - Warburton Brandon Jones sig mpc
    YEP-641S (on long-term loan to grandson)
    Doug Elliott - 102 rim; I-cup; I-9 shank


    "Always play with a good tone, never louder than lovely, never softer than supported." - author unknown.
    Symphonic Band of the Palm Beaches
    Russian Christmas Music (Alfred Reed)
    El Cumbanchero (Rafael Hernández) cell phone video

  3. Thanks, Rick. Very helpful.

  4. #4
    Following Rick's advice is good, and I'll suggest a little more to go with it.

    I'd pick a solo, or even a part of a solo, played by a pro player. Find a piece that sounds "right" to you in terms of expression and execution. Choose one that is within your abilities (that's why you might choose only part of a solo) and one for which you can get the music. I have several solos that would fit the bill, and in most cases I try to link to the music. But if you pick music you like, it's a good way to build your library.

    Take a few bars from the piece and listen to it several times. Analyze what sounds "right" about it - types of attacks, subtle dynamic differences between notes, accents, amount of attacks, etc. Then try to produce the same effect. If might require practice on your part to work on those subtleties - I work on them for almost every piece I play. Gradually build up the whole section. At some point(s) along the way, record yourself and compare. Or have another musician listen to the recording and you and tell you what differences they hear. Having a simple example to emulate is a great learning tool!

    I spent quite a while in high school trying to sound like Tommy Dorsey on trombone. In college I bumped it up a notch and transcribed some Doc Severinsen solos and tried to match his style and verve. At some point(s) along the way I began to have my own ideas about things and worked just as hard to implement those.

    Make sense?
    Dave Werden (ASCAP)
    Euphonium Soloist, U.S. Coast Guard Band, retired
    Adams Artist (Adams E3)
    YouTube: dwerden
    Facebook: davewerden
    Twitter: davewerden
    Instagram: davewerdeneuphonium

  5. Makes perfect sense, David. I'm listening to a lot of solos these days and finding playable and expressive examples to choose from. Many are some of your solos. One thing I'm clear on is that to be a competent soloist, I have to step out and play, play, play in front of audiences and learn from each performance. I love Edison's quote about being asked by an interviewer how he felt about all his failed attempts on inventions. He responded by saying that he didn't fail, he just learned thousands of ways not to do something. We should all internalize his positive, optimistic attitude.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Indianapolis area
    Posts
    823
    I normally experience low confidence levels, and I found I can overcome a lot of it
    by memorizing my music and the accompaniment.
    Fortunately, I am good at music technology, so I can create MIDI and audio files of
    accompaniments--piano or band--to play along with.
    That way, when I get on stage I am not surprised by anything and am as comfortable
    as I am capable of being. I use music on stage, but it's just a convenience in case of a memory lapse.
    I can't say that I ACTIVELY try to memorize anything; it happens in my case through repetition and
    realizing the structure of the pieces I play. I have very little musical training, so I feel a need to over-
    compensate!
    You can hear my live performances at the link in my signature.
    I'm only 67, BTW.
    You'll succeed if you put in some quality time and follow Dave's and Rick's advice above.
    CARRY ON!!
    Jim
    Jim Williams N9EJR (love 10 meters)
    Yamaha 642-II Neo, Wedge 103E, SM3.5
    Yamaha 321, Yamaha 621 Baritone
    Conn 50H trombone
    Blue P-bone
    www.soundcloud.com/jweuph

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    West Palm Beach, FL
    Posts
    3,280
    Interesting Jim that you say you use music on stage - even when memorized. I found I need to too. Not only in case of memory lapse but helps me concentrate. One time many years ago I was playing a memorized solo in church without music. I made eye contact with someone in the congregation and lost focus. Missed a note then two notes. Since then I always have music to look at.
    Rick Floyd
    Miraphone 5050 - Warburton Brandon Jones sig mpc
    YEP-641S (on long-term loan to grandson)
    Doug Elliott - 102 rim; I-cup; I-9 shank


    "Always play with a good tone, never louder than lovely, never softer than supported." - author unknown.
    Symphonic Band of the Palm Beaches
    Russian Christmas Music (Alfred Reed)
    El Cumbanchero (Rafael Hernández) cell phone video

  8. Yes, memorization is key to knowing a piece cold. I do that with my guitar work, and it's a goal of mine with my horn. Let add another question. I have a habit (a bad one according to my wife) of saying to members of my congreation who compliment me on my playing things like "it wasn't up to my expectations", or " I had few bumps in the road". I certainly say thank you, but I tend to add the comments above. My wife says just say thank you and move on. Some people don't hear mistakes and say "I enjoyed your playing". But I'm sure some hear mistakes but still say "I really enjoyed it; you did a really good job". How do most of you respond to compliments after knowing you hit a few clunkers? Keep in mind I have about 10 years total playing experience but have only soloed twice.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Roger View Post
    Let add another question. I have a habit (a bad one according to my wife) of saying to members of my congreation who compliment me on my playing things like "it wasn't up to my expectations", or " I had few bumps in the road". I certainly say thank you, but I tend to add the comments above. My wife says just say thank you and move on. Some people don't hear mistakes and say "I enjoyed your playing". But I'm sure some hear mistakes but still say "I really enjoyed it; you did a really good job". How do most of you respond to compliments after knowing you hit a few clunkers? Keep in mind I have about 10 years total playing experience but have only soloed twice.
    Those in the audience may indeed hear the bumps, but not the same way we do. If you heard David Childs play a piece nicely, even though he scuffed a note or two, I assume you could honestly say something like "that was great!", right?

    For me, I take the listener's compliment as sincere, and I say "Thank you" and mean it. If I feel like amending my thanks, I still avoid mention of bumps and say what I feel about the piece, for example ("Thanks - it was really fun to play, too.")
    Dave Werden (ASCAP)
    Euphonium Soloist, U.S. Coast Guard Band, retired
    Adams Artist (Adams E3)
    YouTube: dwerden
    Facebook: davewerden
    Twitter: davewerden
    Instagram: davewerdeneuphonium

  10. Thanks, David. I need to develop that discipline. With you and my wife agreeing, I'm convinced.

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