Today’s post might seem a little odd. Soloing with emotion, sounds a little new age doesn’t it!
When I was studying for my Jazz degree there were some particular lessons that have stuck in my memory. Soloing with emotion was one of these lessons. In my second year of study, I had a tutor called Ted. Ted is a drum tutor who I believe had a huge influence on the way I play. In my third term he was taking my ensemble group lessons. Sometimes instead of playing through the tunes, Ted would make us do a whole lot of strange soloing exercises.
Once we had to play through a jazz blues using only dotted crotchets (I really used to struggle with this particular rhythm, not anymore thanks to Ted). Another time we were playing a song called “whisper not”. Ted asked us how the song made each of us feel. A range of different answers came out but my answer was a little unexpected. The song portrayed the emotion of anger to me. It always felt like it would build up and in the first four bars then just explode in the 5th bar. Everyone else sort of laughed at this as the lyrics told a slightly different story I think (I didn’t really focus much on that). Ted told us to make sure we portray that emotion that we feel and let it come out in our solos.
I stuck to my anger emotion and let rip one of the best solo I have ever done. I forced out some gentle riffs in the first four bars and then just let it all out in the fifth bar. I played loud aggressive lines. Went into double time in places and was really feeling it. After my solo Ted singled me out and said “that’s how it’s done boys”. In that moment my confidence was sky high. I had not listened to the voices in my head that told me to just say a generic emotion that went with the song. I went with what I felt and it worked.
Now the moral of this story is not that I’m an amazing jazz player that showed everyone else in that group up that day. In fact it couldn’t be further from the truth. I struggled at Jazz school. Especially with trusting my instincts with guitar solos. I would often try to do what I thought they wanted to hear. I would also say what I thought they wanted to hear. I remember many times just going into complete panic when I was asked to play something simple and not having a clue how to do it. So good days like this were rare and I certainly cherished them. But, what I learnt from this is that if a song brings up a certain emotion to you, it doesn’t matter what it means to anyone else or what it’s actually about it. What it has sparked in you has to be channeled when you go to play it. All those worries about overplaying, what scale to play, what rhythms to play, they all disappear. You end up playing from the heart and everyone else notice’s it.
So next time you are playing over your favorite blues track, think about how it is making you feel. Does it make you feel really laid back and relaxed. If so channel it and you will end up playing these smooth relaxed lines. Does it make you feel excited, you will play high energy, angular lines. Whatever it is you feel, it is unique to you and you need to use it.