RE: Playing Solo

Subject: Playing Solo

Ben Majchrzak writes...

>A friend of mine who has heard me play with various musicians, offered me a 
>gig at a coffee house.  Getting sick of defending musical taste with the
>members of my so-called "band" (see also Lead Guitar Players (Again)), I
>decided that it may be time to start my little solo career.  So I accepted
>the offer.  I'll play for just one hour, I will haul in a lot of cash.  The 
>problem is, I'm strapped for solo material....

>Can anyone relay any thoughts or ideas reguarding the topic of Playing
>Solo?  What should I beware of?  Et Cetera. . .

Hi Ben,

Most of the following opinions, suggestions are just from a rank


a) Large cats looking to mark their territory.
b) Guitar players with the same intent.
c) An audience of ~ALL~ harmonica players.
d) An audience of ~ALL~ harmonica players who ~ONLY~ like traditional trios.

:-) I couldn't resist the straight line.

Seriously, I wouldn't attempt a solo act myself. But I have always been in awe 
of anyone who could do a solo act and keep it interesting and entertaining. 
Your question got me to thinking about some I've seen who can do a good solo 
act. I assume your talking about a one-man-act (no back up/accompaniment).

I think technical ability is last on the list - Of course you need it but that 
alone IMHO will not pull off a good show in most cases.

Some good one man acts I can think of...

Peter MadCat Ruth (especially his kids show)
Pete Pedersen (virtuosity mixed with humor)
John Hartford (Banjo, Fiddle, Guitar, Kick Board, some harp)

GIMMICKS -  You need a gimmick. props, costume, comedy, strange looking 
instrument, etc.


If at all possible - work in a quick change of costume. (Reversible jacket, 
vest, etc.) Even if it means just walking behind a curtain, and reappearing 
quickly with a different look. - Even take off, put on something right in front 
of the audience.


Get the audience involved in the act. Clapping, humming, shouting a key word in 
a song, etc. (even in a instrumental, example: everyone knows when to say POP 
goes the weasle). 

KEYWORD - moderation, don't water down your act with too much schtick.

I'd like to quote from John Hartford (Gentle On My Mind)
who gave a workshop at Sweetwater Music, Columbus...

(excerpts from Jan 94 HARP-L post) 8<---


A performer treads a fine line in determining how to please an audience and 
still maintain his own artistic signature. When asked how he plans his own 
show, John Hartford had this to say. Poet that he is, the following lyrical 
passages of his were captured by Harold Kohn, Buskers Columbus.

"Mine are the ones I like.
 Ours are the ones that we both like.
 Yours are the ones you like and I ???
 If I open with one of yours and you like that, then
 I'll play one of ~mine~.
 If I play one mine and it becomes one of ~ours~... then I'll
 play another one of mine. (If not, then it's back to one of yours).
 I try to earn the privilege of playing one of mine."

What a nice philosophy for any performer to follow. Jack Ely

       Jack Ely - Columbus, Ohio  --Internet--> IMS_ELY@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

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