Created By: jaytee on April 22, 2011 Last Edited By: jaytee on October 24, 2015

Instrumental Solo

Letting one musician take the spotlight

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
Rolling Updates.

Probably going to hold off on launching for at least a little bit. This is shaing up as a supertrope/index page, so I kind of want to get the sub tropes ready before we launch it

An Omnipresent Trope in Music. Any time a single musician or instrument is allowed to take the focus while the others accompany or stay altogether quiet... that's an Instrumental Solo.

Found in pretty much every type of music there is. Older Than Steam, given that some of the earliest known sheet music is for monophonic vocal chants.

In the western classical music tradition, the Concerto was designed as a vehicle for a single instrumentalist -- or on rare occasions, a small group -- to showcase his abilities. The piece would have at least one cadenza where the accompanying orchestra would go quiet and let the soloist riff for a few minutes on melodic ideas presented earlier in the piece. Initially, these were true improvisations where the only notation would be the final note that lets the orchestra know when to come back in. Later on, the composer would write out the desired cadenza, but even today some soloists will put together their own versions to replace these.

For modern western pop music, while the context has changed, the instrumental solo often fills a role similar to that of the classical cadenza. Namely, the performer is often taking an opportunity to show their expertise. Like the cadenza, it is often improvised (though not always), but unlike classical music, solos in pop music are often accompanied, giving a rhythmic and tonal pallette to play off of. (Drum solos are a common exception, most often played unaccompanied.)

Solos can become an Apple of Discord in a group and a Berserk Button for particular members, especially when large egos are involved. Given that the solo is often the best place in a song to demonstrate one's technical mastery, some musicians get upset if they feel they're not getting as many solos as their skill deserves. On the other hand, some musicians welcome solos from their bandmates, as it can give them a chance to catch their breath or, if they can be sneaky about it, tune up their instrument.

Guitar Solo, Drum Solo and Strange Instrument Solo are subtropes. (Please only list examples if they do not fall into one of the subtropes). It is important to remember than the human body is a musical instrument too - vocal solos, tap dance solos, clapping solos... they all count.

Examples

  • The Who's "My Generation" contains an early example of a bass solo in rock music.
Community Feedback Replies: 24
  • April 22, 2011
    randomsurfer
  • April 22, 2011
    troacctid
  • April 23, 2011
    Auxdarastrix
    No offense, but trying to list every musical work with a musical solo would produce an absurdly large page. Really, it would be a wiki of its own. It seems to me this is about like making a trope of of verbs, and listing every work that includes verbs.

    The only possible way I could possibly justify this as a trope is if you change the name to "Significant Solo" and change the description so that it covers works where an in-story solo plays an important plot point. For example, if Susie Sitcom Character is in the high school band and one of the episodes is about her stressing out because she has her first big solo coming up in a school concert.
  • April 25, 2011
    goodtimesfreegrog
    This is too People Sit On Chairs for my tastes, sorry.
  • April 25, 2011
    MorganWick
    Hmm. For this to happen in real life, it would turn it into an actual musical work, and thus an actual example. Generally, my sense is that People Sit On Chairs applies only to things that appear in Real Life.

    Which may hint at a problem with listing ordinary songs in example lists for anything other than their lyrics. But then we'd have to bolt a lot of tropes...
  • April 25, 2011
    jaytee
    @auxdara: You are absolutely correct that, being an omnipresent trope this has the potential to become a huge and unruly page. But the truth is that music tropes don't really get much attention here. I'd definitely be willing to limit it to in-work examples, and maybe notable Playing Withs, but honestly I don't see this page getting out of control (and if it does, we can always deal with it then).

    I was kind of thinking of limiting it to stuff like the Flight Of The Conchords or Cannibal, where it's played with in some way, but now that I think of it, that's probably an entirely different trope. Strangely Specific Solo? Your Significant Solo is probably yet another trope, if you can think of some examples.
  • April 25, 2011
    jaytee
    @goodtimes: Without any justification for your comment, I can only assume that you're mixing up Omnipresent Tropes and People Sit On Chairs. An instrumental solo isn't something that will happen incidentally in music, a musician or composer uses it as one of the building blocks to construct a piece of music, just like a narrative trope. It just so happens that nearly every piece of music you've heard had some sort of instrumental solo.

    @Morgan: Yeah, things get a little nebulous when you're dealing with media that don't have their own "verse."
  • April 25, 2011
    bluepenguin
    I believe the Flight of the Conchords song is in fact called "Robots".
  • April 25, 2011
    troacctid
    Not technically Omnipresent, since Omnipresent Tropes aren't bound by genres, and the trope would only count as Omnipresent for Music. But it's definitely not People Sit On Chairs--this is a music trope. Whether it needs examples is another issue. Probably there should be a subtrope for calling out a solo before it starts, as in the Cannibal! example, or that one where Weird Al Yankovic shouts "Drum solo!", or in Poison's "Talk Dirty to Me" where he's like "Pick up that guitar and talk to me!" and a bunch of examples that could go there.

    But yeah, I'm confident that Instrumental Solo is a trope. We have a precedent here: Instrumentals is already a trope.
  • April 26, 2011
    jaytee
    @troacctid: Universal Tropes are the tropes that appear in all media/genres, Omnipresent Tropes are the tropes that are nearly ubiquitous in the media they appear in. But that's just me picking nits. :)

    The more I think about it, the more I'm thinking examples here are a bad idea and that the examples we have fit better under other, yet to be made subtropes. I like your idea of Calling Your Solos, we could definitely get one for Odd Instrument Solo.

    Then this page can function as more of an index/supertrope. how does that sound to people?
  • April 26, 2011
    GymQuirk
    Some mention of the classical Concerto (and in particular cadenzas) would probably be in order.
  • April 26, 2011
    DragonQuestZ
    Can do.

    EDIT: Tweaked the name and description. That help?
  • April 27, 2011
    GymQuirk
    Okay. Added my perhaps overly-wordy summary. Feel free to fold/spindle/mutilate as desired.
  • April 27, 2011
    Flioro
    I didn't even realize we didn't have this, and I think we should. Probably limit the examples to fictional use or Playing With it in some way, like Jaytee said.
  • April 27, 2011
    Cidolfas
    Yep, examples definitely need to be limited to where they're played with. For example, "DRUM SOLO!" shouted in one of Weird Al Yankovic's polka medleys.
  • April 27, 2011
    AGroupie
    Index/supertrope sounds good, though I would like to suggest guitar solo and drum solo as subtropes.

    I'd also like to add that solos can often be a huge Apple Of Discord in a band and Berserk Button for other members, though on the flip side of it, they can be a much-needed rest for other members. A vocalist made to wait for a 20 minute long guitar solo may be thankful for the time to catch his breath, for example, or may be angry enough to pick a fight with the guitarist for it.
  • April 27, 2011
    jaytee
    Ok, so here's the state of affairs right now, as I see them.

    Playing With and fictional entries can definitely be listed as examples, so long as they aren't better covered by another subtrope. (I'm working on the subtropes Guitar Solo, Drum Solo, and Unexpected Instrument Solo and I plan to add a Calling Your Solos [a la the Weird Al example from Cidolfas] YKTTW when I get a chance).

    Also:I figure played straight examples might as well go here as well as long as they aren't covered by one of the subtropes (I have a feeling it will be mostly keyboard solos and bass solos). I know it seems ridiculous, but seeing as music tropes tend not to get a lot of attention, I figure we'll allow it for now and if it gets out of hand, we can either kill the example list or split them into appropriate subtropes as neccesary.

    How does this sound?
  • April 27, 2011
    jaytee
    @Gym: Thanks! Looks great :) I added a paragraph on its use in pop music to mirror your entry.

    @agroupie: Drum Solo and Guitar Solo are both in the YKTTW stage as well at the moment (how did we miss these?!). I'll add your second bit in one second (it should be called Stumbling Updates instead of Rolling Updates - I'm at work and so sometimes I only have time to write one sentence before I have to take a call).
  • April 28, 2011
    AGroupie
    Also, solos can be seen as a type of Pandering To The Base. There are some fans that specifically like artists *for* technical skill, and these fans are often pleased by instrumental solos. Also can overlap with sexual fanservice in any genre where that is commonly used.
  • August 26, 2011
    jaytee
    Just bumping some of my never-launched YKTT Ws.... Can I get some more ideas, comments, etc?
  • October 22, 2015
    DeltaDart
    In Rock Band games, playing a perfect solo results in a point bonus.
  • October 22, 2015
    DAN004
    Call it Instrumental Solo Section. Instrumental Solo sounds like a song that uses onky one instrument in its entirety.
  • October 24, 2015
    randomsurfer
    see also the ykttw Cuing the Solo
  • October 24, 2015
    DAN004
    ^ Kinda thinking we should merge that with this.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=2syrw15ivwfpe1zymkz3tkd9