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What constitutes a well played solo?

Discussion in 'Recording' started by omegaarts, Jun 19, 2003.

  1. omegaarts

    omegaarts Member

    This is partially in response to Rick’s question in mastering about song order.
    I’ve heard about a zillion solos on different instruments in my lifetime. Just finished listening to some Louis Armstrong cuts.
    Question for topic? What makes a good solo as opposed to a bad solo or just a mediocre solo?
    What is the thought process while you play or produce a solo, ride, lead break, whatever terminology you chose.
    I really don’t think some people have a desired destination in mind they just blaze of wildly into the night hoping they don’t run off the road before daylight.
    Any comments?
  2. Rod Gervais

    Rod Gervais Active Member

    I have no idea what the technical answer is (if there even is one) - but i believe personally that it is the mucisian feeling what the arrangement is (to/for? him) - and then bringing himself into the mix. (by the way - references to "him/his" are also meant to imply her/her's)

    I know that in our arrangements - sometimes what we hear when we write the piece - and what eventually comes out in the leads - are very different (at least for my bass player and I - i think that the songs the lead player writes - he already has it "figured out")

    We have a funk piece that has a double lead in it - and when we recorded the 2nd lead - a keyboard piece - the keyboard player came out with this Jazz solo which sort of just floated around the song.

    My bass player (who wrote this particular piece) wasn't able to be in the studio that particular day - but when he heard the rough mix at our next practice - he went wild because it was so beautiful and also so unlike anything he pictured for that piece.

    I know that when our people have it right - depending on whom is playing the lead - their phrasing is key to what works and what doesn't.

    anyway - will be interested to hear how the experts view this..........

    Happy Hunting

  3. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Experts?Where?...A good solo has three elements.... make that four elements....Theres a couple of elements to a good solo...a solo is by itself.??!!?..<<

    What a subjective question! As a long-time listener/appreciator of music, I think that theres a good way to judge if a solo fits the piece.There has to be anticipation,tension,and release.And it has to be in context. Now there is a school of thought that tries to completely tear down these ism's but I doesnt fit in my ear at all.In a recording, the solo is a piece of history.....once its over its frozen in time. A true mark of the great solo is whether or not it sounds like there is nothing left to say.
  4. Rod Gervais

    Rod Gervais Active Member

    Nicely put........

  5. Dan Guenette

    Dan Guenette Guest

    I always thought my best solos were in front of an audience, especially when there was generous amounts of cleavage in the crowd.
    For recording purposes you have to use your imagination I suppose.

    or better yet, don't think..DO
  6. jslator

    jslator Guest

    I've always felt that the best solos just seem to be an integral part of the song. They don't scream "Here! Look at me! I'm playing a solo!" They could be flashy or simple, but they *fit*. So, what makes a great solo will obviously depend on the song. Personally, I love Neil Yong's solo from Cinnamon Girl. One note of out-of-tune perfection! It's technically horrific, but it fits the song perfectly. A good example of what I'd consider a terrible solo is the one on the new Audioslave single. It's like the song stops and the guitarist starts doing his best Steve Vai impression (complete with harmonized whammy-bar theatrics). It's jarring. The soloist should remember that he is playing within the context of a song. Make it fit!
  7. Rod Gervais

    Rod Gervais Active Member

    Nice point, well put........

    Happy Hunting

  8. Chae Ham

    Chae Ham Active Member

    You're not referring to the "Like a stone" single are you? Tom Morello and Steve Vai approach their instruments in completely different ways. I'm going to have to kindly disagree. I think Tom Morello's solos are (almost always) great. In "Like a stone" the guitar solo acts as the bridge to take you to a totally different place, and it does a great job of bringing you back to where it left off.

    Nothing against Steve Vai(because he is a great guitarist) but progressive rock or not, he just overplays. Steve Vai would've most likely performed unnecessary runs with the only distinguishable notes being the first and last, root.

    In my humble opinion a great solo, whether its busy or minimal, is one where the addition or deletion of one note would render an awkward result.
    It think people like Carlos Santana and Joe Satriani have a great grasp on the concept of using restraint and knowing when not to play.
  9. omegaarts

    omegaarts Member

    Some good insight! Since I started this thread I'd like to make some comments.
    Davedog said something relative..anticipation, tension, release. I think these are good points.
    I try and think this way about my solos..three parts...question, answer, and conclusion.
    J Slator said..needs to be an integral part of the song. An engine is an integral part of a plane but the engine it's self is more than just a part, it works because it's a lot of parts working together for a common cause.
    This type of solo has absolutely nothing to say.
    Some people will say yea but it has emotion.
    I say emotion with out information is useless.
    I would never talk to someone likethiswithnoinflectionsorpausesorchangeinmytoneofvoice so why would I ever try and communicate musically to some one this way. Music to me is a means to communicate and converse with others. To many solos leave the listener out. I admit a lot of people are voyeurs and would rather watch than participate, but I'd rather have the listener involved with what I'm doing not just watching or listening for that matter.
    Space, or pause is probably the single most important element in a solo.
    Comments anyone?
  10. omegaarts

    omegaarts Member

    the addition or deletion of one note would render an awkward result.
    If I yelled "there is a fire" as opposed to just yelling "fire" do you tink it would cause an awkward result?
  11. Rod Gervais

    Rod Gervais Active Member

    What you call space or pause - is what i refer to as Phrasing...... how one "speaks" musically - how one phrases their music.

    However - i still think that regardless of the phrasing - it also has to connect with the piece it fits within - which is why i found Jay's comment to be right on -

    i believe that it's not just one thing - rather it's a combination of many things which really make the great ones just that - great.

    Happy Hunting

  12. jslator

    jslator Guest

    Yes, the notes are definately different. It sounds like he's trying for Steve Vai's sound though: in-your-face use of an Eventide harmonizer and lots of dive-bomby whammy bar stuff. It's clearly not as busy as a Vai solo, but it still seems pretty out-of-place to me.

    I like a lot of his stuff too. Just not on that song.
  13. Chae Ham

    Chae Ham Active Member

    Your analogy isn't comparable to the above statement. Yours is a question of syntax.

    But for fun, lets assume that it is an appropriate analogy.
    The closest approximation would be deleting ONE word: "...is a fire" "there a fire" "there is a" etc...
  14. Chae Ham

    Chae Ham Active Member

    This will probably end up being a rather large thread. We all have different opinions. :D
  15. Rod Gervais

    Rod Gervais Active Member

    LOL.......... either way it would cause an awkward result - the real question i would think is - would it be effective - and the answer is (in this case) "yes".

    However - this is not an emergency - so wouldn't you think that maybe another anology might be better suited for this?

    I don't think i would buy the argument that because i can get the same effect in a fire with the addition of 300 percent of the simplest - that this means musically it would be that effective.

    I do however agree with the concept that the changing of one note would NOT render something ineffective.

    If you go to concerts Omega - i would imagine you must be very dissapointed all the time - because it would be quite unusual for a lead player to always play ever single song note perfect every time he played it. They always embelish - improvise - show that they are more than a one trick pony....... this (to me) generally adds to the beauty of it - doesn't detract from it.

    Think about it for a moment - no one would ever have a market to present a re-release to - if all they had to do was press the original they made - i would just listen to the old -

    things grow - they evolve - we evolve - or we die........

    I love this string - let's explore more.......

  16. omegaarts

    omegaarts Member

    I think we mostly agree.
    The reason I don't go to concerts very often is because a soloist will set down and learn a solo note for note and play it that way for ever.
    I'm not the same person I was last year so I want to express something different each time I play live.
    I've never copied a gutiar solo from anyone ever not even when I first began to play. I've never copied one lick off a record. Truth!
    I've listened a bunch and emulated other players but never copied them.
    I've recorded a bunch of projects and I've never even copied one of my own solos.
    When you hear a solo on one of my projects it's the only place you'll ever hear it.
    I've even had people through the years come up to me and say "you didn't play that solo like you did on the record" Did you like the solo on the record? "Yes" Did you like tonight's solo? "Yes"
    Well good because you still have the record but you'll never hear tonights solo again.
  17. Rod Gervais

    Rod Gervais Active Member


    listening to you - i agree - i think we are very much alike - i appreaciate the answer to your listeners - it's very appropriate.

    Have a happy

  18. Terrific thread. A friend of mine saw Daniel Lanois last week and was floored by the playing. Most of the show is two people, Daniel Lanois playing lap steel (as a non-guitarist my understanding is the lap steel is extremely difficult to play) and Brian Blades on drums. My buddy said it was a great show, and that Blades' drumming was brilliant, and then when he was playing a fill (which is lik a mini solo)(which brings us around to the topic at hand) he would bleed over past the one and come back on the off beats in the middle of the bar. Apparently his body would rocket off his stool at the end of the fill. My friend said it was actually painful to watch Blades play sometimes, because his body would get so contorted. I am hoping to see them at Bumbershoot in Seattle- already have a hotel room reserved. I love drummers that hand out a wicked fill here and there, or freestyle through the song, but man, I am generally not to fond of "drum solos". Doc
  19. Rod Gervais

    Rod Gervais Active Member


    I hate drum solos - and absolutlely refuse to play them - although my bass player and i do have a thing we do in the middle of "On Broadway" where we go jazz together and just get wild walking our special walk........

    The pedal steel is very difficult - i have a 10 string pedal steel - I'm just learning - it's three foot pedals - one knee bar - tuned to E 9th

    The gentleman who's teaching me plays a 9 pedal with 3 knee bars - and god can he play.....

    Anyway it's a pretty wild insytument - with very beautiful sounds......

    Happy Hunting

  20. Scott S.

    Scott S. Guest


    Not sure if you seen these sites, but you may want to check out here:


    Lots of good info, regarding tuning, mechanics, etc on the forums.

    Here's a link to some tuning charts:


    They are the most commonly used setup, mostly just temperment with certain pulls and intervals equal temperment, but there are lots of tuning schemes different guys use.

    I have been playing steel for 13 years, and it's definitely beautiful sounding and definitely diffucult to play well and in tune.

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