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Chops: Crafting an Effective Keyboard Solo

Essential advice from Scott Kinsey and Jason Lindner

Jason Lindner (photo by Denika Peniston)
Jason Lindner (photo by Denika Peniston)
Scott Kinsey (photo by Curt Bianchi)
Scott Kinsey (photo by Curt Bianchi)

When keyboardist Jason Lindner recalls some of his more memorable synth solos, the first to come to mind is a tempestuous passage on the Donny McCaslin track “Faceplant,” off the saxophonist’s newly released Beyond Now. Right on the heels of a blistering McCaslin sax solo, Lindner pushes his Dave Smith Instruments’ Prophet-6 to conjure a swirling sound which has more impact than the notes themselves. “It builds tension in a certain way, and it’s just really strange and almost eerily emotive but somehow maintains some musical logic,” Lindner says. “It sounds like screaming a bit.”

The archetypal solo, no matter the instrument, starts simple, builds to a climax and segues back into the song. Soloing is far from an exact science, though—particularly with synthesizers, which are flexible by nature. The art of synth soloing is as much about mindset as it is about the music, according to Lindner and fellow keyboardist Scott Kinsey. For them, a song is a dialogue between instruments, and their approach is the same whether they’re soloing or playing rhythm. “Maybe I’m the one doing the talking a little bit more, but I still need that conversation,” said Kinsey, who plays in Tribal Tech and whose most recent solo album is titled Near Life Experience. “I don’t like the soloing concept where it’s just about you, and you’re playing your shit on top of the rhythm section. It gets boring.”

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