Solo Gig Scams and Tips From The Trenches
May 29, 2021

Written by Doug Perkins

I got a scam email looking for a solo guitarist for a wedding, and since this is the second time I have gotten one of these, I thought I would lay out how it works since it doesn’t seem to be going away:

You are contacted for some kind of gig that is relatively soon – in this case, two weeks away – and you send in your info and a price and it’s accepted right away via email. In this case, it was the groom looking for music for a wedding in a private home – which is a yellow flag right there, because you will almost ALWAYS here from the bride first – and “he” said that someone was gifting my performance to them and would be sending me a check in full and asking what name should it be filled out to.

Just the “paid in full before the gig” part should raise anyone’s eyebrows, but as we all should know from being alive for a while, most scams appeal to people’s sense of greed and need for money. Here’s how the scam runs: the supposed benefactor sends you a money order in the incorrect amount – something quite bit more than you are charging. Because the date is rapidly approaching, the “client” tells you. – all via email, they will never let you talk to them on the phone because they probably aren’t even in the country of even English speakers – to just deposit the cashiers check and send them back the difference. And that’s the scam – the money order is fake but it takes about 7-10 days for that to be proven at your bank, but the money you send them is real but now LONG GONE.

So all that being said, beware of fakers bearing gifts. But here’s some real tips for solo gigs that might be helpful to be learned from this:

Have lots of short MP3 versions of you playing the kinds of things that you will commonly be asked to do on various kinds of gigs. Here’s what I sent them:

A version that I arranged of “All You Need Is Love” which is a cool alternative to “Here Comes The Bride” (which I also have an MP3 of me doing)

The Theme from the Deer Hunter (which is called “Cavatina”) which is a very loved classical piece that people know but don’t know the name of, and is a great thing to use for candle lighting moments etc.

A swing version of Cole Porter’s “I Love You” which most everyone knows that is the opening lyric for. I suggest this a lot as the ending music after the wedding couple is announced, as mostly the only thing the audience really hears is the first measure with that line in it because they will all be clapping by then. But the important thing is that it’s got a happy vibe and you might have to play this for LONGER than 5 minutes as all the people are escorted out, so it’s good to have this be a standard that you know and can improvise on.

Some classical piece that I just call “Grandmothers” in my head that has two short sections that I use for the seating of family members, which is very easy to “loop” because you never know how short of long these can be – I have literally had to play for these things for at least 5 minutes, and you have to be musically prepared for that.

I have a separate book of solo guitar tunes arranged by type more than alphabetically, because that’s how you will need them. So there is a Wedding Ceremony section, and when I know for sure what I will play and in order, I will re-order that section accordingly. You can’t be shuffling through multiple books during a ceremony like that, but I do bring the Real Book and other stuff for dinner sets etc. If need be, I could probably play at least three 45 minute sets just form the solo book, which has pop tunes, jazz, classical etc.

Here’s my most valuable tip of all: how to physically make it through long or “continuous music” solo gigs – and I will say that no one should have to play literally continuously, so anyone that asks for that should be told that the best you can do is just do a 5 minute break every hour and play background music from your phone or something into a spare channel on your amp if that’s REALLY needed.

What I do to give myself a rest on solo gigs is to whenever my brain of hands get tired, I make up what I call “sounds like songs” in open string keys. These consist of me just improvising something that becomes my main A section theme – or it could even be a blues in G or E or something – and then make up a little bridge as musical relief to that. This is good for developing your writing as well, and if you can’t remember wheat you just played, play something else and start anew.

Monetarily solo guitar gigs can be pretty good – for example, I have done gigs like where I was booked for a 4 hour Thanksgiving dinner in a private home that was contracted for $600 but it went two hours overtime and with tip I made an even $1,000. I have played the VIP dinner for the fans of Josh Grobin for 3 hours in a private room at a big outdoor arena where he was going to perform where I made $600 plus tip as well, and they found me just from my web site – so you want to have MP3s there as well. I have a minimum solo price of $200 for the first hour, but sometimes you can tell that this is way too low so make sure you ask questions before you quote a price.

So all this is about the economics of playing solo guitar, but of course, the real reason that we learn to play solo is for the love of being able to create great music all by yourself. I strongly suggest that you check out these masterclass lessons form some true masters of solo guitar for help with that:

Ron Eschete’s Jazz Blues Substitutions:

Sid Jacobs Counterpoint:

Sid Jacobs – Counterpoint: The Art of Two Note Improvisation




2 responses to “Solo Gig Scams and Tips From The Trenches”

  1. Looks like some really good material here. Please keep me on your mailing list!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.