Ever wonder why more players can’t solo? I do. I used to think I was a decent soloist. That was until I started taking lessons. I’m in year 5 of lessons and I find that now that I understand more about theory, I am loath to solo. I think, why do I have that nanny goat vibrato that I’m working so hard to tame? Why did I think the 9th would sound so good there? Why am I playing so many kinds of instruments that I never become great on one?
Ever hear of writer’s block? Well this is the same thing but for a musician. And like writer’s block the fix is doing what comes hard to you a lot. To be a good soloist you must have the passion and drive to work for years to make it work. Taking lessons is not enough; it’s time on horn that is focused and therefore contributes to a successful learning experience.
I’m not there yet. I have all the excuses you normally hear; full-time job, full-time family, too much TV and other distractions that come from being alive. Today I was asked to pass a solo for a gig off to a more qualified soloist because I didn’t get it right in practice when I had a week to prepare. I spend about a half hour on the solo plus 20 minutes with an instructor. That isn’t enough time for a hobbyist such as myself.
Yesterday I was listening to two saxophone peers in the community band I belong to. Five years ago these two ladies didn’t vibrato, their instruments didn’t sing, the solos were uninspired. Technically, they both were at that time and still better readers and have a firmer grasp on internal pulse that I do. Now they are better than me at soloing. Their vibrato is lovely and breathtaking. How did that happen? I’m constantly thinking they set a high bar to beat. Fortunately it also gives me the impetus to work harder on my solos.
Most people who know me would be surprised that this bothers me so much. I get a lot of playing time, a lot of soloing opportunities and on a lot of instruments. But deep inside I think I know I could do better. So I will continue to take lessons, play in more bands than I probably have time to do well, and work on increasing my time on my many instruments. And every once in a while, I’ll nail a solo so well that it will spur me on to keep striving to be a better player.