Solo instrumental playing is often the hardest performance type of all and can occur in many contexts. Playing solo with no other instruments or playing a solo within a piece of music in the context of a band or orchestra. Both require the same techniques, focussing around the necessity to be knowledgeable about the music you are playing as well as being well rehearsed.
It is obvious that some instruments sound more plausible when played on their own. A piano and guitar have the capability of being able to play chords and melodies together, therefore accompanying themselves. Other instruments, such as violins and flutes are more suited to be played with another instrument but this can be overcome. To prepare for a solo performance takes some planning and preparation.
Study what pieces are available to your instrument. Don't play a piece of music simply because you are familiar with it. For example, cellists have excellent solo Bach concertos to pick form, while anything form folk music to Paganini or Russian dances sound excellent on an unaccompanied violin.
Rehearse your music. As you will be the only person playing all attention is on you. You must know your piece.
Learn more about the venue and setting you will be playing for. A jazz guitarist at a small restaurant will probably not need any amplification. A solo violinist playing at a busy wedding meal however will definitely need this.
Look presentable and confident. It is important to look the part as well as having a good posture. No one will want to watch someone cowering in the corner, while everyone will be impressed by an impeccably dressed, confident player (even if you do make mistakes)
Solos with a band or orchestra
This situation will require the same rules as above but with more focus on one section. Obviously a confident sax player who stands while playing their solos will be taken more seriously than one who sits behind the music stand but knowing the piece is imperative.
Solos often occur in jazz performances and classical cadenzas. A jazz solo performance will require the player to learn how to improvise correctly around the keys used in the piece. A classical cadenza however requires the player to read the music, and make slight alterations if they so wish. In both cases, it is the performers' time to shine and it is important to be prepared.
- Learn scales and chords if improvising around a jazz piece.
- Learn the cadenza off by heart if playing a classical piece. This way you can concentrate on what you are playing and change portions of the music if you so wish.
- Always stand if possible when playing your solos. This allows the audience to focus in on what you are playing and the ability to hear you will become easier. It is also easier for your breath and tone production.
- Try having a few full rehearsals with your band or orchestra. This will allow you to prepare for your cues and therefore know exactly when you will be playing.
It can be very rewarding to play a good solo or to perform as a solo musician. Practice these tips for solo musicians and you will have more confidence with your solos in no time.