The Origin of the Solo
08 Dec 2014
Many forms of music—classical music, devotional music—is carefully constructed and is meant to be played in a proscribed way.
Rock and jazz are different in that there’s always been an element of improvisation.
An example of this is the solo, that bit in the song where the guitarist, the pianist, the saxophonist or whoever steps out and plays a solo. Solos appear when the melody runs out. There are no more words to sing. In order to keep the groove going—usually the most popular part of the song for dancers—solos evolved as a way of stretching things out.
Proto-jazz musicians were the first to popularize these improvisations and in doing so helped the whole notion of jazz come into being. By the time rock was born in the 1950s, it was common for popular bits of songs to be extended this way, so it was only natural for the electric guitar to take the place of traditional jazz instruments in rock n' roll songs.