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Old 04-26-2013, 02:19 AM   #1
dragnet99
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How to make solo acoustic + vocals not suck (ALL ideas welcome)

I have an opportunity as soon as next year to do some solo acoustic gigs, which means I've got some time to develop some new skills. As is, unfortunately, I'm very much an intermediate player, and I normally play with a band (bass and drums).

My problem is that, as I've mentioned in other threads, I'm terrible at combining lead and rhythm guitar, as much as I'd like to. They still feel totally separate to me. This is fine in a band; even the clumsiest transition between chords and a solo is fine with a bassline and drums going, but when you're a solo acoustic act, you have to somehow:

- Sing
- Keep the driving chord progression going
- At least imply some kind of percussion
- Do something during the bridge; ideally I'd like to at least hint at a solo while keeping the chords going too, somehow
- Make EVERYTHING flow together with perfect (or near perfect) continuity, since there aren't any other sonic elements to fill in a clumsy or slow transition
- Not be another loser who just strums chords while singing

The reason I stated this thread was to collect AS MANY ideas on how to make a solo acoustic act more interesting.

As an example, I've started studying the Hendrix approach to chord embellishments, which is great. It's a way to play rhythm while working a bit of lead-style melody in at the same time. It's definitely better on an electric, but it's the kind of technique that can help a solo acoustic/singer a lot.

But I'm looking for anything else out there too. And anything that you might have
experience doing while signing is even better.

Like so many people, I'm perfectly capable of singing and strumming. But that's not a "show". I want more details, more personality and more ideas to turn my playing into something fun and memorable instead of a rote exercise in basic vox+guitar.

Any ideas that players/vocalists have for turning the chord/strum/blah blah blah formula into something better, while still keeping it practical enough to sing over would be AWESOME. And like I said, I have at least a year until this opportunity, so I have some time to really practice my ass off. I just need direction!

Thanks in advance.

Last edited by dragnet99 : 04-26-2013 at 02:24 AM.
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Old 04-26-2013, 03:42 AM   #2
patticake
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you're over-thinking this. i've seen guys who play songs with basic chords and sing who make their audiences very happy. lots of applause, lots of tips. i wouldn't call them losers. you can cut the bridge to a minimum instead of playing it full-length, making the song drag on.

enthusiasm, a great vocal delivery, lots of eye contact with the audience, funny, engaging things to say between songs can do a lot for a performer. and even if you only play chords, dynamics can make a song stand out. whisper the first verse, belt out the chorus or something like that. let volume and intensity change enough to make things interesting.

do learn your vocals till you don't have to think about them. listen and sing along in the car. type the words a couple times a day. read them once a day at work or school. listen to them at home. practice your songs till your turnarounds and changes are perfect, then play 'em some more till they're firmly embedded in your muscle memory. then combine the lyrics with the playing.

no one can give you direction because each of us has a different way we want to sound, to be perceived, even to feel while we play. it sounds like what you need is to sit down and figure out what YOU want for your performances.
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Old 04-26-2013, 03:48 AM   #3
Vantage
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Quote:
Originally Posted by patticake
you're over-thinking this. i've seen guys who play songs with basic chords and sing who make their audiences very happy. lots of applause, lots of tips. i wouldn't call them losers. you can cut the bridge to a minimum instead of playing it full-length, making the song drag on.

enthusiasm, a great vocal delivery, lots of eye contact with the audience, funny, engaging things to say between songs can do a lot for a performer. and even if you only play chords, dynamics can make a song stand out. whisper the first verse, belt out the chorus or something like that. let volume and intensity change enough to make things interesting.

do learn your vocals till you don't have to think about them. listen and sing along in the car. type the words a couple times a day. read them once a day at work or school. listen to them at home. practice your songs till your turnarounds and changes are perfect, then play 'em some more till they're firmly embedded in your muscle memory. then combine the lyrics with the playing.

no one can give you direction because each of us has a different way we want to sound, to be perceived, even to feel while we play. it sounds like what you need is to sit down and figure out what YOU want for your performances.

This is pretty much it.

Also, take some notes from John Mayer if you want to continue with this acoustic + singing thinger.

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Old 04-26-2013, 04:04 AM   #4
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do you want to write new songs for that?

try to tune your guitar to an open tunning. that makes it easier to incorporate some leadlines into chords. like the beginnig of creeds "higher"

mark tremonti is in general very good at that.

look up higher, rain and the wheatered album of creed to maybe inspire you.



other than that, pretty much everything patticake said is very important
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Old 04-26-2013, 04:05 AM   #5
dragnet99
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A couple things:

1) In case anyone was offended, I didn't mean to imply that people who sing straightforward vocals + strummed chords are losers. Of course, some people blow the audience way with that alone. I use that term because that style of performance attracts a lot of people with very shallow skills and I don't want to be another one of them. It's one thing to choose to use chords alone as a creative decision; it's another thing to be stuck with nothing more than that particular technique (as I am at the moment).

2) As much as I appreciate the sentiment about simply being creative, I really am looking for technical insight and specifics. Of course I'll apply my own musical personality to whatever I learn, but I'd like the opportunity to do that. I'm not asking about how to write songs or come up with a stage persona, I'm just trying to collect techniques that can be practically applied to a solo acoustic/vocal setup. Ideas for chord embellishments, rhythm + lead combinations, percussive techniques, whatever. The more of this stuff I can learn, the more I'll have to apply to my own songwriting.

I come from a very simple, chord-driven electric guitar background, and I'm really looking to explore solo acoustic guitar. Ive seen a lot of performers who manage to get a ton of variety, detail and articulation out of an instrument that is often just used as a strummed chord machine. I'm just trying to navigate my own way towards that kind of style. Rather than poke around for a decade and maybe come up with some ideas myself, I'm trying to see what the lay of the land looks like right now and then figure out where I want to focus my practice and evolution as a player.

Last edited by dragnet99 : 04-26-2013 at 04:10 AM.
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Old 04-26-2013, 04:08 AM   #6
dragnet99
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Vantage

Also, take some notes from John Mayer if you want to continue with this acoustic + singing thinger.




Right, John Mayer is an example of the kind of performer I mean. He writes fairly straightforward pop songs a lot of the time, but his playing style is almost always technical (sometimes more so than it seems), and he uses that technical skill to put on a show that's way beyond solid chords for an hour.

So like I said, if anyone has any insights into techniques that fall more onto that technical side of the spectrum (even if you just want to tell me to "look up X and study it"), that's enough. I'm just trying to get an idea of what kind of techniques are out there and what I should be studying.
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Old 04-26-2013, 04:19 AM   #7
Jimmy Blue
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Just learn as many songs as you can (that you want to sound like) and you will get better.

It's simple advice but very true.
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Old 04-27-2013, 01:42 AM   #8
pezuzu
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Mentioning Mayer is a great starting point like the gentleman above said.. take this example

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=39nb8vHQWIQ&feature=slpl

great use of the strum hand to add depth.. if you can pull this off you can add the same technique to numerous songs esp. when youre alone playing
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Old 04-27-2013, 09:30 AM   #9
andrew k#
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Robert Johnson and J.L.Hooker are awesome examples of making solo sound snazzy. They concerntrate on the percussive feel rather than the fullness of chords, so muting on the off beat becomes the bell on the whistle of the song cause what you dont hear is just as priorital as what you actually do. billy bragg is another that comes to mind,looking them up might serve well.
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Old 04-27-2013, 10:00 AM   #10
HSB_Shred
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dragnet99
Right, John Mayer is an example of the kind of performer I mean. He writes fairly straightforward pop songs a lot of the time, but his playing style is almost always technical (sometimes more so than it seems), and he uses that technical skill to put on a show that's way beyond solid chords for an hour.

So like I said, if anyone has any insights into techniques that fall more onto that technical side of the spectrum (even if you just want to tell me to "look up X and study it"), that's enough. I'm just trying to get an idea of what kind of techniques are out there and what I should be studying.


john mayer is an extremely advanced player, its wise to see that as a long-term goal but you won't be there in a year's time if you wouldn't yet consider yourself an intermediate player. set more realistic goals for short term but keep mayer in mind as an influence for a lifetime of playing and development
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