All my words come back to me, like emptiness in harmony
December 3, 2010 2:06 PM   Subscribe

What are some recognizable songs that can be played on a single instrument?

I want to take my trumpet and go busking in the subway, but I can't think of any good songs to play. Everything I like seems to depend on a funky bassline, harmony, or arranging of antiphonal groups. What sounds good with just one voice by itself?

Christmas carols would be appropriate, i guess, but I don't want to do only christmas carols.
posted by Jon_Evil to Media & Arts (26 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Jeremiah Clarke's Trumpet Voluntary? It's pretty Christmassy too.
posted by fire&wings at 2:08 PM on December 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Every song prior to 1990.

Not kidding. But you can start with "Feels So Good" by Chuck Mangione, since you've chosen the trumpet.
posted by Aquaman at 2:22 PM on December 3, 2010


Seems like big band/jazz standards would be the way to go. If you want want more recognizable themes then maybe mine some pop culture like The Final Countdown, theme from the Godfather, 30 Rock theme... heck, lots of movie/TV themes would work.
posted by Rhomboid at 2:29 PM on December 3, 2010


Amazing Grace would probably work well with the season, and it lends itself well to little improv flourishes and tempo stretching.
posted by Wossname at 2:31 PM on December 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I think what Aquaman is getting at is that melody played a larger role in music up until around 1990 or so, when textures and beats came to the fore. I mean, it's tough to cover 2pac on the trumpet.

That said, there's a lot of melodic, recognizable, subway friendly music from our own age. For example, Smell Your Dick actually has a nice little melody to it, and people would recognize it.

But yeah, early Beatles, jazz standards, show tunes of any sort (especially if you're in NYC). Go to a music store and pick up a good fake book - they're usually full of standards and well-known tunes with just the tunes and the changes.
posted by Lutoslawski at 2:32 PM on December 3, 2010


To be slightly less flippant: you need to pick songs that have well-written melodies.

TV Show theme songs are great because they are short & instantly recognizable. Also try popular hits from the '70s and '80s. Or earlier!

But not later, because apparently everyone forgot how to write songs using a melody right around 1990. (Dammit! Well, my bias is clear I guess.)
posted by Aquaman at 2:33 PM on December 3, 2010


Greensleeves
Take The A Train
In The Mood
posted by Conductor71 at 2:35 PM on December 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Time After Time" is great on the trumpet, and I know this because Miles Davis.

There was someone who used to busk in London Tube stations playing Elvis Costello tunes on the trumpet. Alas, he wasn't very good, but the songs might work better if you have a better sense of pitch than he did.

Bob Marley songs work surprisingly well on the solo sax, so don't see why they wouldn't work on the trumpet.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:48 PM on December 3, 2010


Good call on Greensleves and In The Mood, Conductor71, also Amazing grace.

The whole "every old song" doesn't work, because so many are just one or two riffs repeated over and over, or are just completely unrecognizable without the backbeat. For example, is "My Girl" even a song without that guitar walking up the scale behind it (well, technically yes, but that riff is the defining part of the song).

Early beatles songs are totally all about the little guitar fills in between phrases: "Last night I said these words to my girl [da-duh da-duh da-DAH]", or "Oh yeah you've/ got that something [do-do-do-da-do], I think you'll understand"; or about call & response between the lead voice and the other two: "[help!] I need somebody", or "shake it up, baby [shake it up baby]/twist and shout [twist and shout]" It doesn't make sense when all the parts are played on the same instrument.

Although I guess Paul's ballads work pretty well. I can totally play "Yesterday," so thanks for inspiring this conversation in my head.
posted by Jon_Evil at 3:28 PM on December 3, 2010


Keep the ideas coming!
posted by Jon_Evil at 3:29 PM on December 3, 2010


God rest ye Merry Gentlemen
posted by fire&wings at 3:37 PM on December 3, 2010


The theme from 'Rocky'. The theme from 'M*A*S*H". The theme from 'Dallas'. The theme from 'Family Ties'. The theme from 'The A-Team'. The theme from 'Diff'rent Strokes'. Cee-Lo's recent hit song 'Fuck You'.
posted by item at 3:50 PM on December 3, 2010


more:

The theme from "Hamaii Five-O". The theme from "Dukes of Hazzard". The theme from "ChiPS". The theme from "Cheers". The theme from "Jeopardy!". John Cage's "4'33""
posted by item at 3:55 PM on December 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Everything in the Real Book. They're called standards for a reason!
posted by mendel at 3:56 PM on December 3, 2010


'Mad World' by Tears for Fears/Gary Jules/about a million others.
posted by HandfulOfDust at 4:13 PM on December 3, 2010


John Cage's "4'33""

Dude, that's a piano piece! You'd have to get a special arrangement for the trumpet.

HAMBURGER

Serious contribution: Don't overlook the beauty of mariachi and bullfight music.

And, while looking for a truly awesome solo performance of "La Virgen del Macarena" (no relation to the novelty dance number of the 20th century), I came across this gentleman, who seems committed to playing all music on the solo trumpet. His performance of the "Hungarian Dance #5" is actually quite good.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:55 PM on December 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Hey Jude" seems like a good busking song.
posted by LSK at 5:59 PM on December 3, 2010


I just got back from Germany, where some of the buskers played Bach and Mozart. It was pretty great. Just pick your favourite pieces and go with it?

(Although when Joshua Bell tried to do this in DC, it wasn't all that successful...)
posted by chicago2penn at 7:00 PM on December 3, 2010


As mentioned, time to listen to Herb Alpert again.
posted by ovvl at 9:06 PM on December 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Somewhere Over the Rainbow
Ode to Joy
Within You Without You (Beatles)
posted by John Cohen at 9:13 PM on December 3, 2010


I came across this gentleman, who seems committed to playing all music on the solo trumpet.

Holy crap! This guy is awesome! and he can play the fuck out of that trumpet! Thanks, Sidhedivil!
posted by Jon_Evil at 11:23 PM on December 3, 2010


Early beatles songs are totally all about the little guitar fills in between phrases

But surely you could include the melodic instrumental bits in your renditions if you want as well, no?
posted by dpcoffin at 10:57 AM on December 4, 2010


Early beatles songs are totally all about the little guitar fills in between phrases: "Last night I said these words to my girl [da-duh da-duh da-DAH]", or "Oh yeah you've/ got that something [do-do-do-da-do], I think you'll understand"; or about call & response between the lead voice and the other two: "[help!] I need somebody", or "shake it up, baby [shake it up baby]/twist and shout [twist and shout]" It doesn't make sense when all the parts are played on the same instrument.

Counterexamples:

I'll Follow the Sun

All My Loving

Things We Said Today (you could alternate between playing the lead or harmony on the "Someday when we're dreaming..." part)

I've Just Seen a Face
posted by John Cohen at 11:43 AM on December 4, 2010


But surely you could include the melodic instrumental bits in your renditions if you want as well, no?

Well, yeah, he "could." But it probably wouldn't work very well. The Beatles' guitar and vocal back-and-forth worked well because they took clearly distinct instruments and pitted them against each other; that wouldn't translate to a lone trumpet.
posted by John Cohen at 11:52 AM on December 4, 2010


But surely you could include the melodic instrumental bits in your renditions if you want as well, no?

Well, yeah, he "could." But it probably wouldn't work very well. The Beatles' guitar and vocal back-and-forth worked well because they took clearly distinct instruments and pitted them against each other; that wouldn't translate to a lone trumpet.


Ah, disagree! It's a rich area of potential pleasure when a soloist re-renders a classic song that has iconic instrumental bits along with a melody and they include the bits that aren't native to the new instrument.

It's up to the soloist to MAKE this translation work, but if he does, it can be a huge hit if for no other reason that it's not expected. It's a bonus for the listener and a proof of the player's skill as an arranger. Lots of potential for contrast, surprise, and suggestion, plus it adds to the anticipation/stick-around factor: How'll he do THAT one? The whole idea is "Here's my translation, see how good it is!", no?
posted by dpcoffin at 2:10 PM on December 4, 2010


Lady Marmalade
Joy to the World (the hymn)
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:40 PM on December 4, 2010


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