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Ok, I have what I'll consider my first solo gig coming up. I've done a few before, but I did them because I needed the money and didn't a you know what about them. One was in a clothes store playing Christmas music. I was soooo broke. So I did it and hated every second of it. The others were a couple cocktail parties or worse Barmitzvah's. Sorry to my jewish buddy vibe players, but I HATE Barmitzvah's. A room full of kids high on soda running around like fools is not fun when you're an adult. I know it's fun for them. Ok, I digress.

But one more thing. I've done plenty of solo playing amongst other stuff in concert. So that's cool. One, two or three tunes, is manageable. Now I'm thinking about 2 45 minute sets.

So I've been preparing for this gig, so that I do the best job I can. I don't expect to blow away Burton's concert from back in the day. I just want to make some music and get through and feel ok about it. And hope the audience is ok with it. They won't be the same people the whole time, but it will be fairly quiet. Otherwise I wouldn't do it. This instrument sucks solo with a low rumble of people talking under it. We need as much of the bottom end as we can get!

I've been taking a methodical approach to play solo vibes. I've been keeping a diary of sorts. Lists of tunes, any thoughts etc. Nothing fancy. This is one reason why I initiated the mini concert, to try three tunes in a row and play them for you guys!

Now I'm up to about 30 minutes or about 7 songs. I have a list of songs to choose from. I'm thinking about stretching out intros and thinking about ballads. I'd like to get 10 songs into about 45 minutes, take a 30 minute break and then do another 45. I'm thinking about Stamina, the audience and me. I'm thinking about chords and lines. I think I might try Celia and keep it primarily 2 mallets. Why not. Faster tunes will be about lines more so than chords. But also chords, I'm just saying and thinking Philosophically.

For me this is all about be as interesting as I can be for 45 minutes. Keeping the time and keeping lines happening, keeping the spaces 'honest' and the beat.

What do you guys think? Have any of you every prepared a solo vibes gig.

I'm also thinking about putting a sign on the vibes saying 'This is a Vibraphone, not a xylophone'. Just to get rid of the knuckleheads!

Thought I'd discuss my approach with you all. Any thoughts?


Babu Tue, 03/05/2013 - 13:28

I'm totally unable to do a solo vibes gig, but back in the days I did a bunch of solo guitar gigs and I think the "rules of thumb" might be the sames ....?
First of all, I was choosing tunes I was really comfortable with. If a tune is challenging too much, risk is too much too.
And after playing the firsts of thoses gigs, I understood that setting up the list is very important. To maintain the attention of the audience, I needed tunes with clear differences (I mean for the audience !!!)beetween them. when I was playing 2 tunes in a row with the same density of harmony, more or less the same tempo, and with more or less rythm basic pattern, I was loosing the audience's attention very quickly.
And something I learned too was : never forget to play something very simple and light (no "heavy" chords, no heavy accents, etc...)in the middle of the set.
Simple things, I know, but I learned from stratch at that time. Last idea : a well-done medley works well too.
The trick (IMHO) is giving hooks to the audience for making them hang to the music. Once done, the freedom of playing is quite unlimited.
My 2 cents

David Friedman Tue, 03/05/2013 - 14:55

In reply to by Babu

Here's my suggestion based on doing quite a few solo gigs: DON'T do two 45 minute sets. Ask the organizer if it's possible to do one set of about 1 hour and 15 to 20 minutes. The reason is, you want to create a dramatic arc that starts somewhere, builds, and then comes down to an "organic" finale, as it were. Doing two sets is harder than creating an arc over an hour, an hour and 10. I would also think about the first piece being a free kind of medative improvisation with ostinato pattern, a stretched out groove, etc. That creates a nice mood and bonds you with the audience. It also relaxes you and puts you in a good space to continue with tunes, or with whatever you feel comfortable with. AND, you'll have the audience on your side waitng anxiously for what comes next. Don't be afraid of the thought of playing for a little over an hour at a time. It'll pass much faster than you think.


tedwolff Tue, 03/05/2013 - 16:31

I used to do a lot of solo gigs at restaurants. Two things that I found helpful:

1. Try to play familiar songs. I love Falling Grace but nobody in a general audience has ever heard it. It wouldn't keep me from playing a tune like that but I'd also do lots of tunes that sound good on vibes and are recognizable.

2. I would do medleys of 3 or 4 tunes. By doing that I could play for 10 or 12 minutes at a time. I would focus on the melody and keep the improvisation to a minimum. It wasn't a jazz concert. I would try to play what the audience might like to hear.

vibraman Wed, 03/06/2013 - 02:56

hey tony,

i think if anybody can do a very good solo vibes gig than it´s proofed on so many posts that vibraphon can be a good solo even played tunes solo which i thought wouldn´t sound to well on our instrument beside all the tips the people told you i can only say...don´t worry.

i think in one way it´s more comfortable to play solo. you can stretch rubato things and insert changes the way you want on the fly without caring about others. another thing i think can be good is to use different sounds of the instrument. i know you don´t like the motor too much but for the people listening every small change of the sound is good,so maybe you can use it.also the sound of different mallets or playing a spheric part with the bow creates different sounds and stretches time :)

on sunday i have my first gig in duo with a sax player.i´m really afraid of it because it´s really different than playing duo with guitar.much more responsibility for me.i listen a lot of times to david´s duo cd with peter to get an impression how the pro´s do it.that helps but it´s still a difficult setting. we play 12 pieces written by the sax player and i have only 1 week to learn them....i´m happy if the job is done.


tmackay Thu, 03/07/2013 - 16:47

ive done quiet a few solo gigs, and they are definately my most challenging. im surprised that you havent done alot of solo gigs cause the solo playing you do on the vibeworkshop is on point.

i agree with david on talking to the organizer to see if you can do a longer set at the beginning then a shorter one and also in the beginning creating a mood rather than a tune. That in it self will give the listeners a chance to grasp the sound. Also playing tunes that the audience knows, When ive done both solo piano bar gigs and vibe gigs i would definately put in some modern standards ( fields of gold by sting, beautiful by christina aguilara) these tunes bring the audience closer to you. Another concept is to play many styles. show off wat the vibes can do, aka ( stride, ect).

tony, your a master at all the above .. JUST BE YOU.

Marie-Noëlle Sun, 03/10/2013 - 13:28

I know you'll do great and they will all have a great musical moment with you! I wish I was there!!!

jamesshipp Mon, 03/11/2013 - 12:53

I wouldn't make a sign saying 'This is a Xylophone, not a vibarphone.' Little bit aggressive, and there's just no reason to expect people to know.

What I WOULD do is just hang a good looking sign on the instrument that SAYS 'vibraphone.' I went to college with someone who did, but his sign was rather handmade and college-looking (1999 college, not everyone-can-use-design-software college) and it looked pretty cheap. I'm sure you can come up with something better looking, resourceful guy as you are.

I've been thinking a lot about solo playing myself lately. I would say if you're going to do any two-mallet burning through changes without a lot of chords tunes, keep them quite brief, use them as palate cleansers. Whenever I see horn players do something like that, I try to get myself out of my musician brain and see what it sounds like to me if I don't know the tune and can't hear the changes running under what they're doing. The answer is that it's nice, but after a chorus or two, I don't think it makes much of an impact on folks who can't hear the tune going by.

While we're at it, I don't know who your audience will be, but unless you're going to play really universally recognizable things (Beatles tunes, or Lean on Me, or 'I Got Rhythm,' or "Georgia on my Mind') if I were you I'd worry more about playing stuff that you can make captivating even if no one in the audience has ever heard the tune than playing things that it's 20% more likely someone will know. (Like, Recordame instead of Stablemates. The gulf between those exists only in our minds and at jazz college.)

Just my two 'I've never played a solo gig that wasn't a background gig' cents...

John Keene Mon, 03/11/2013 - 13:14

In reply to by jamesshipp

Y'know, James, considering that this Tony we're talking about, I simply think that a black tee shirt that reads "Vibraphonist" would suffice. I think it's what he'd prefer to wear anyhow.


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