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Lesson 20: Solo Analysis

My Written Stockholm Solo

Stockholm is a samba I wrote when travelling to Stockholm in February 2004. I went there to watch Nelson Faria at Fasching and I'd like to dedicate Stockholm to him.

First play Stockholm. Then check out my scale choices chart for Stockholm. Now let's take a closer look at my Stockholm solo:

  • It starts with a two-bar pick-up over Fm9 - Bb13 leading to Cmaj7 in bar 1.
  • The A part is handled motivically. A simple motif is stated and then used, varied and developed.
  • The B part is handled in a fashion that gradually builds up the tension to a climax in bar 33. Note how the motif used in the A part is used as a starting point for weaving new and increasingly complex lines in the B part, thus giving continuity and an inner logic to the solo.
  • In the C part we have an idea utilizing basically a G major triad to a B minor to a Bb minor triad. The last two licks ( in bars 34 and 35) also prepare the ear for what is coming: the sixths in bars 37-40.
  • In bars 37-40 we have two typical sixths licks. They mark the end of the climax of the solo.
  • The last four bars of the solo is taken care of with block chords. The block chords utilize the same rhythmic idea as the sixths in bars 37-40 and maintain a relatively high level of intensity.
  • Note the longer ( one-bar) pauses in bars 16 and 36. Pauses are important in order to let the listeners and yourself breathe and prepare for whatever is going to happen next...
  • Also note how very few basic ideas are used and abused almost to the point where it becomes absurd. This is a great way to play a solo, it is easy for the listener to follow the flow of the ideas and yet there is no limit to how sophisticated you can get if you like.
I did not think of all these things when I wrote the solo. When I wrote the solo I just let one thing lead to another, pretty much like you should do when you're improvising...

Intensity Curve of the Stockholm Solo

The variations in intensity in this solo are plotted above. A smaller intensity peak is achieved in bar 9 and maintained for eight bars. In bar 17 we are back at a low level of intensity, starting to build towards the big climax in bar 33. This high level is then sustained for eight bars and tapered off a little towards the end of the solo in bar 44.

My Written A Major Mistake Solo

My second example solo is for the tune A Major Mistake by Anders Östling. A Major Mistake is an uptempo bebop tune with swing eighths that should be played at 160-200 bpm. In this solo I even utilize some "out" playing. Let's take a closer look at my A Major Mistake solo:

  • It starts in bar 1 with a simple motif which fully blossoms in bars 5-7.
  • In bars 9-10 I'm doing my C# minor pentatonic thing. It soon transforms into an ascending sequence in bars 13-16 that smoothly modulates to Bb in bar 16.
  • In the B part we have basically the same changes as in the A part but in Bb major. In bars 17-19 I ascend and then descend when the chords go in the opposite direction.
  • I bars 19-20 we have a G minor arpeggio to an F major arpeggio to an Eb major to a C# minor arpeggio. The Emaj7 chord in bar 20 is kind of tricky so I had to go on instinct there...
  • In bars 25-26 it's C# minor pentatonic again and in bars 27-28 I decided to go a little "out". The line reflects the one in bars 11-12, but this one is based on the progression Emaj7 - C#7b9 - F#m7 - B7. That is all E major, so it's not really that out after all...
  • The ascending sequence in bars 29-30 reflects the one in bars 13-16. At the same time it sets up for the punch line in bar 31.
  • Especially note the "out" stuff: in bars 6 and 30 the note D# over the Dmaj7 chord and in bar 27 the E# and D over the Emaj7 chord. Things like these work mainly for two reasons:
    • the key center, the tonality is so clearly E major in the A part
    • because of the logic of the lines, they are melodically very strong
  • Also note the longer pauses in bars 8 and 23-24. These pauses divide the solo in three parts that do not coincide with the parts of the form, which is AABA.
I did not think of all these things when I wrote the solo. When I wrote the solo I just let one thing lead to another, pretty much like you should do when you're improvising...

Intensity Curve of the A Major Mistake Solo

The variations in intensity in this solo are plotted above. We start at a relatively high level in bar 1 and maintain that level for eight bars. Then we go down for four bars, starting to build towards the big climax, which is achieved in bar 17 and maintained for four bars. In bar 21 we are back at a lower level of intensity. In bar 25 we go a little lower still, starting to build towards the second, but smaller climax ( the punch line) in bar 31.

© 2004 Tomas Karlsson. All rights reserved.