If you read our last blog, you should have been waiting with bated breath for this follow-up entry on the “solo!” Before I launch into my solo regarding the solo, I thought it would be wise to provide a sort of transition from performing as part of an ensemble which was my last entry’s focus. Both are performance mediums that provide a performer with the experience of playing their music with the intent of entertaining (or at least intriguing) an audience. Both require commitment towards the preparation of the music, and the emotional preparation required to put on as good of a performance as possible. However, they have their inherent differences as well. In part 1 I discussed what I felt were the key elements to performing as part of a group, including the emotional and social advantages. Playing a solo as part of a musical group (in my humble opinion) can be as exciting as playing or singing a full solo performance, but in a more limited fashion. Regardless, playing a solo can be a very rewarding experience at any level of musical performance. So what exactly is performing as a soloist, and why would anyone want to put themselves in such an emotionally vulnerable situation?
Performing as a soloist can be interpreted in several different ways. For example, climbing a mountain by yourself would be considered a solo, or flying an airplane all by yourself would also be considered a solo as in the phrase “flying solo.” Though performing as a solo artist has the solitary component, it doesn’t always mean to be alone onstage with no one else. As mentioned, “taking a solo” as part of a jazz or rock ensemble usually means playing or singing an improvised (made up on the spot) feature with the rest of the ensemble giving the soloist the backing musical context to play behind. Performing a solo in the classical context can be accompanied or unaccompanied. An accompanied solo means that there is a supporting instrument or instruments that perform along with the soloist. The accompaniment may have elements of the solo in it, such as when the accompanist is playing an interlude section while the soloist is resting. This is done to set up the mood for the next new section. The piano is perfectly adaptable as a solo or an accompaniment instrument because it is basically a one-person band or orchestra! Other non-keyboard instruments like the guitar can also be suitable for accompaniments. Concertos are music written for a soloist but usually accompanied by an entire orchestra!!
Playing solo performances may not be for every musician, but should be attempted in some way by every musician (again in my humble opinion). At Valotta Studios we recognize this principle as well. Unlike a school performance where time and accommodating large numbers of students is the main priority, we here do not have the same types of restraints and therefore can better provide the “recital” experience that schools cannot. Performing a solo piece in a recital setting not only is great motivation for a young musician to rigorously prepare the music, but to challenge their fears about performing as the main attraction. It is definitely a great experience which gives a musician the exhilaration of accomplishing something that they had to work hard for and may not have thought they could do, and for triumphing over the unknown. This is why I insist that every musician attempt to perform a solo at least once. They will inevitably come away with an experience that will build confidence in any future endeavor, in or out of music!