For a good portion of the 20th century, guitar heroes ruled popular music. The defining element that made a guitar hero a guitar hero was the ability to play good solos. Ukulele solos can be just as interesting as guitar solos and, because people's musical tastes have become more eclectic over the years, uke solos can sometimes get quite a response. The practice of creating good guitar solos, drum solos or uke solos is essentially the same and requires you to have some sensitivity to the audience and the music that you are playing.
Placing a Ukulele Solo
In many cases, a uke solo will function much like a guitar solo. It will appear somewhere in a song where enough tension and expectation has been built by the main melody and by the other catchy elements of the song. The uke solo will generally emphasize the main melody of the song and, using improvisation, the instrumentalist will engage in variations on the main melody to create an interesting composition on the spot.
When you're playing a uke solo, you have to be sure that you're staying true to the spirit of the song that you are playing. The first and most important element of this, of course, is staying in key with the original song. When you're practicing your uke solo, make a recording of yourself playing the chord progression to the song or play the original song, if you happen to be covering somebody else's music. This way, you can get used to the timing of the chord changes and you can improvise over them in a way that enhances the chord changes and that, in turn, allows the chord changes to enhance your solo passage.
Rhythm is absolutely vital to any solo. Like any other piece of music, a ukulele solo will rely on comparison and contrast to catch the ear of the audience. This means that you will generally repeat certain rhythmic phrases at different pitches, as is commonly heard with blues and rock guitarists. Because the ukulele has such a small neck and because most adults can easily span the vast majority of the neck with their hand, you can engage in a great deal of creative improvisation where pitch and rhythm are concerned.
Once you get the timing down, the rhythm down and the melody down, you have to open up and learn how to improvise. Improvisation is one of the most advanced aspects of the art of music. Anybody who has been a musician for a long time understands that finding a good improvisational list is very difficult. Unless you're playing a composed uke solo, you will have to learn to improvise.
The easiest way to learn improvisation is to practice. Practice doing a uke solo over songs that you like that you have on recordings. You can also practice doing fills-which are short, quick musical passages that punctuate the riffs that make up a song-if you're not ready to listen to yourself play a solo yet.
If you're getting ready to try a ukulele solo with an ensemble, be sure of a few things. First, be sure you have either new strings or that your strings have been properly cleaned after each use. This prevents them from getting finger oil built up on them, which dampens the sound and makes the string sound dead. Make certain that you are tuned to the other instruments in the group. You'll notice an off key note much more when you are soloing. Also make sure that, if you're using amplification, you are not so loud that you're drowning out the other instruments when you solo.
A ukulele solo can be a lot of fun for the player and for the audience. Remember, however, that the ukulele solo is intended to be part of the song. If you find yourself soloing a bit too much, you might alienate your audience and, eventually, get on the nerves of your ensemble.
The most important thing during uke solos, is the knowledge of chord's, chord progression's, and chord scale's. I've developed a basic plan on this to help you with this here. Have fun!