I’ve long been seduced by electronic dance music, and finding ways to perform it live. One aspect of this is creating solos out of comping. Not traditional melodic solos, but solos that stem from the crafting of parts. This can be great when interacting with a rhythm section or with loops—you can develop just a few notes or chords into an infinite amount of variations. Here are some ideas to get your rhythmic solos flowing. Gear note: Everything in these examples was created with Propellerhead Reason, using Kong, samplers, delays, and Subtractor. Sampling and sound design play a big part in the music I compose and perform.
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1. One-Note Solos
Here, I build a solo out of just one note, G, in different octaves. I’m using a sample of a major chord, heavily affected with delay, spread across several octaves. I change the pattern every eight bars, and we’ve reproduced the whole 33-bar passage to show you the rhythmic evolution.
2. Three-Note Solos
Now I’ve expanded my solo to three notes, (F#, G, and Bb, in the key of G minor), adding rhythmic variations as well. I often use a great deal of chromatic variations in my solos. Remember—since these kinds of solos are played in a percussive way, almost any note can work!
3. Chord Solos
This continues the development of Ex. 2, but instead of single notes, I’m playing minor triads in the same inversions. I’m also adding an extra note (B) to the mix as well.
4. Geometric Shapes
Here, I use the same core notes as in the previous example (F#, G, Bb, and B), but I play them using what I call geometric shapes. Here, I’m using tritones (augmented fourths), over an octave range, but you can use anything you like: major or minor seconds, thirds, sevenths, and the like.
5. Any Note’ll Do!
Ex. 5 demonstrates how this kind of soloing works with just about any note in the scale. Try building your own solos out of rhythmic comping parts by starting with just one or two quarter-notes. Then, add a third and a fourth note, and alternate between quarter- and eighth notes. Slowly add octaves and syncopated rhythms, and spread the rhythms between both hands.
Keyboardist, composer, producer, and arranger Didi Gutman is best known for his simmering work with poptronica band Brazilian Girls. Gutman has also performed and recorded with Bebel Gilberto, John Legend, Masa, and Brazilian Aliens.