March 18, 2022
There’s nothing like a great solo to create a memorable moment in a show and bring the spotlight squarely down on one person. And what musician doesn’t want a little glory, after all? So, letting your star guitarist wail for a while makes sense. The question is, should everybody in the band get a chance at immortal solo glory?
The answer depends on the group (clearly), and there are a few things to consider before carving out solo slots for everybody.
It may be a little hard to hear, but not everyone is ready for a solo. Your brand-new rhythm guitarist who’s still getting used to chords and has very little stage experience may be doing a great job creating a musical foundation, but a solo could spell disaster. Perhaps it’s best to break newer players in a while before unleashing them.
As it turns out, not all musicians crave the spotlight. Some are far more comfortable playing their role and enjoying pure musicality. Even when these players are skilled enough to pull off a sick solo shred, you probably shouldn’t ask them to do so if they’re not into it. Maybe after some trial solos in practice, players like this will branch out, but don’t rush them.
If you need to fill a long set and you don’t have enough material, extending songs with multiple solos is a great way to do it. That situation may call for everybody to get in on the action, but a short set with limited time calls for a more succinct show. It’s wise to be flexible when it comes to who solos – some gigs may even be better with none.
Some genres are all about solos, like jazz. A jazz ensemble that doesn’t have a feature section for each member of the group, replete with mid-song applause for each may not even qualify as real jazz. If you’re in a group like that, part of the requisite skillset is soloing. But if you’re a supporting band for a famous singer/songwriter – maybe your job is to keep the spotlight open. Or if you’re a progressive metal funk crew, the wall of sound isn’t designed to be pierced.
A band is a partnership (usually), and it pays to be as equitable as possible. There are definite considerations when it comes to solo time, but all other considerations aside, if a band member can pull it off and they want to do it, it’s a good idea to let them have a solo.
It can be helpful, especially if you’re the clear leader of a band or a singer/leader hiring support musicians, to offer up solo time for band members. For those that like that sort of thing, that offer can go a long way to forming a strong bond and making everybody feel respected and valued. In other words, don’t just make it about you – even if your name is on the marquee.
At the end of the day, the simplest answer to the question “should everyone in the band get a solo?” is not necessarily – but definitely, if it works.
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Musicians can be notoriously hard to buy for. Not all music equipment is equal, choices are personal, and musicians tend to snap up what they want when they want it. So, when Christmas comes around, it can be hard for loved ones to come up with the right gift. Still, it’s not impossible. Finding the right gift for a musician you love just takes a little patience and listening.
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"Make a joyful noise unto the Lord all of the earth; make a loud noise and rejoice and sing praises. Sing to the Lord with the harp and the voice of the psalm." - Psalm 98:4-5