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Miniature Orchestra

Going It Alone

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Just as I was getting the hang of covering pop songs and Americana in my acoustic duo, my partner has had to relocate out of state for family reasons. I am not optimistic about finding a similar congenial relationship of two baby boomers that like the same stuff, and certainly not quickly. I am instead considering a solo act.

I don’t like the acts that use rhythm machines, backing tracks, looping and such. I prefer to hear people perform live, as themselves. For myself, it is that, and the simple reliability of just doing it with my own instrument and voice. It worked for lots of guitar players in the past (and Jethro), and it is good for one’s playing because it encourages using the whole instrument, not just playing a melody or riff, and not just strumming.

I would not use the same song list as my duo, more likely it will be mainly instrumental. The venues here are a bars or wineries that will hire a full (and loud) band for dancing, but some want quieter music that is more background. Also, evenings tend to be the dance-band slots, and daytimes the solo and duo acts. That is very much ok with me.

I am thinking that some Bach will go over well at the right time, and jazz numbers that are not too intense. Beatles instrumentals are usually popular, and I have a few Brazilian numbers from Dudu and Hamilton I can throw in. I think about Don Stiernberg’s mix of mostly instrumental but with a few songs to make it more friendly. I would choose some pop songs, and a few old blues or jazz numbers,too.

The hard question is whether the 10-string on its own would just sound too miniature, a novelty but not normal musical entertainment. I take courage from hearing about folks here that do this very thing.

Some venues here want a 4-hr appearance. That’s a lot of songs, and stretching material by improvising on it for a few choruses is a challenge for a solo mando. But instead of worrying about that I will just take one song at a time and work up a few moves I can use. Eventually I’ll have enough to cover a long gig. Right now I can play a 3-hr gig without repeating or too much stretching.

Wish me luck.

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  1. Mandocarver's Avatar
    I do wish you luck and hope you will continue to post videos of your performances which I've always enjoyed immensely.
  2. catmandu2's Avatar
    Yes, good luck - let us know how it's going. Sorry to hear of things ending. There are definitely drawbacks to going solo - but also advantages of course.

    I faced this necessity of going solo too (when I acquired children several years ago, which doesn't leave much time for play with others, much less getting out of the house at all in the evenings). Certainly challenging to do with only a mandolin. Maybe you use some effects to bolster sound? Some guys bring a whole backing track and play sax on top of it all - I thought I would try bringing a rhythm machine (especially for bossa nova stuff) but I never did - too lazy, probably. I love the thought of working up a whole set with a DL-4, but I've not achieved the motivation yet..
    Updated Dec-12-2016 at 9:56pm by catmandu2
  3. Tom Wright's Avatar
    I appreciate the support.

    There are some acts in the area working solo with backing tracks. I can't abide it. It feels no more interesting to me, as a listener, than music from the ceiling speakers.

    The venues of my last two gigs showed interest in booking. I just have to practice some more, and remember that the audience always thinks you know what you're doing.
  4. ald's Avatar
    Mr Wright I just discovered your playing through Mandolin Cafe. I really enjoyed your blues playing as part of a duo.You sing and play really well. I would not have thought it would be that hard to find another partner. Anyway, solo or duo don't leave out those blues tunes. Think what Rich Dlegrosso does when playing solo or with a bass guitar/double bass accompaniment.
  5. catmandu2's Avatar
    I'm with you on finding 99% of "backing tracks" performing uninspiring. Yet the technology offers creative opportunities. E.g. the wonderful series caoimhin o ragahallaigh did with looper:

    I get lost in 'ambient' sound - I can while away an afternoon bowing long tones on double bass - if I had the toys I would probably spend all my time with technology ... of course an audience likely wouldn't find it as intriguing ; )