How to Start Playing Your Own Solos

  • Incorporate using your knowledge of basic chord changes to make up small melodies.
  • Think “forward motion.”  Every solo needs to move forward just like a speaking conversation.  If you say “Hello” to someone in a conversation, you need to be prepared to continue the conversation.  A similar concept can be applied to improvisation.  Start with a simple phrase (or “Hello”) and shape your musical conversation from there.

Ideas for solos:
Call and Response – i.e. Repeat small melody lines
As a general rule, do not repeat something more than three times as it can become boring to the listener.  If you repeat a melody, add in a few notes that compliment the melody.  On the third time you can start out by playing that melody again, but take the listener to a new place by the end of your conversation.
Incorporate other musical “quotes”
This means that you can play another melody (within the proper key!) in your solo.  For example: If playing “Chega de Saudaud,” you can play part of the Disney song “When You Wish Upon a Star” over the “Chega de Saudaud” bridge section.  The Disney melody works for the first few bars over the bridge’s chord changes.  Once you begin the musical quote, explore a new musical ending.  This appeals to the audience because you have let them hear something they recognize and then take them to a new musical place.

Using Silence
Silence is often a great tool that is underused.  By incorporating silence into your solos, you allow the solo to “breathe.”  Just like a conversation, a solo needs a place to have a end a phrase or sentence before continuing on with a similar idea.  Great soloists convey musical ideas that are built like a well-developed conversation.  Start with something basic and develop that idea.