I assume you will be on the spot for 2-3 hours during the main dinner rush so pick popular tunes you like that you are comfortable with. Avoid high energy screamers. You are essentially high-class live mood music and not the star of the show. Give them your best elevator music. Lots of gentle bossa novas and the type of stuff you hear on your local smooth jazz FM station. Listen to Kenny G. Get some fake books and work through them to find these tunes. The books give you the advantage of the most common rendition of a popular song and if you are a good sight reader, they enable you to cover a lot of the inevitable requests ( you should receive some sort of tip for requests ).
One thing to clarify up front is where do you perform. Is there a small stage? Are you expected to roam? The small stage is best because you can keep an eye on your tip jar, you avoid turf wars with the head waiter, and you don't interfere with the waiters. Ask for a chair or stool to force them find you a permanent spot. The head waiter will want to confine you to the smallest remote corner because you are not a paying customer. You should be seen and heard without being obtrusive.
Lowell's advice was right on the money. You are there to be a distraction for when people run out of witty stuff to say at dinner, not a point of interest. You will add 'depth' to the scene, and will have complete freedom. If you do it and like it, you may want to consider making it a form of 'Karaoke' where you have CDs of music without the lead, and play to them. This would require a very minimal investment, and would give you some security and form for your playing. I have been playing for 50 years and gigging for 40, but I would be very apprehensive going in there with nothing but me. I did it for awhile with a guitar player, and he had a rhythm box. You quickly learn to tune out the diners (except the chicks, of course) and just get into what you're doing. It's a good time to work on stuff, like your natural sound. Just be sure to play things 'right' and not go too far 'outside' - not good for digestion!
just spotted this one - this is a very interesting subject.
A few years back it became one of my goals to be able to do a full gig completely solo - no other musicians, no backing tracks - and make it musically interesting.
I'm about half way there - I reckon I can do a good half hour at the drop of a hat. I've done that recently, and it's fun.
These are some of the sources I've tapped:
1. Bach. Not to perform, but for inspiration. Bach some of the most incredible music for a single note instrument - the flute partita. This will show you just what CAN be done. Also the cello suites work well but need transposition - the first suite is in F on sax. Buy a viola copy (in some funny clef) and just change the clef and the accidentals - it works. These pieces are great technical etudes as well.
2. Celtic (Irish) traditional music. This is another tradition where an unaccompanied single note instrument can play - even for dancers. The tunes make good exercises in melodicism without chromaticism too. They add colour to a set. After a while you can get to improvise in the style of a reel or a jig, and mix it with the more modern styles you know.
3. That's the historical sources. What about the present? Learn tunes! Lots of tunes! Tunes that you like, that move you. And learn them from the record, not the real book. One tune that a lot of people know (say a Stevie Wonder) that you make come across on the horn makes your set more accessible to people, and helps you get away with more experimental stuff.
4. Keep the tunes shortish, your improvisations short and to the point, and go for melody and rhythm. Having a good sound and intonation is also paramount.
Doing this can really help you to become a stronger improviser in a band setting I believe.
These solo gigs can be great fun, watch the volume and don't play too loud is the buzz word here. Play tunes that the punters want to hear, interact and joke with the clientelle. You are now becoming an entertainer rather than a musician.
You will need to play everything short, play melodic and illustrate the chords religiously. These gigs are lots of fun and I had a solo restaurant gig for several years playing in this manner. It ended up being clarinet mostly because it was a lot quieter than the saxes were too loud.
Very cool if you can manage to pull off a gig entirely by yourself. It's true that you become an entertainer rather than a musician...look at the solo piano bar players...they yak with the clientel and play snippets of songs that are requested, seemingly to tease folks into tipping in order to hear the entire song. It's kinda like a game, I guess.
I don't think I'd recommend playing along to an Aebersold in public, though. Hate to say it...while great for practice sessions at home, it would most likely seem boring and monotonous on an actual gig. And cheesey...a drummer I know did this once when the gig details got messed up and nobody else in the band showed up. Not a good solution, at least in his case! (and don't get me wrong, he's a great drummer....)
Hi, I just joined this great forum and am a working musician myself. I happen to play at a hotel lounge/bar alone as well, but to take the monotony out of things I usually compile music that's actually been recorded and released - ie. no karaoke CDs, etc. The trick for me is to pick tunes that have enough spaces in them for me to play fills, so while I'm not the lead instrument al the time, I open myself up to playing to almost anything! From Bossa to Soul to RnB to some Jazz...helps with the boredom of playing alone :wink:
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