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Trawl through YouTube and you will hear lots of annoying duets trying to perform some basic melodies on the Pan. Most them sound very empty because they choose the wrong combination of instruments for the type of booking. Ofcourse, this is a matter of opinion, but, 2 people performing with no backing tracks requires a tremendous amount of skill and if you were the client having a party or a wedding reception for 120 guests, would you really hire a duet? If you did hire a duet, what type of repertoire would you expect at your event? Try to get inside the client's head for a moment; how long could you cope with listening to a tenor and a single or double seconds performing on their own without backing tracks? They would need to be exceptional for most of us to part with our money. 

Now compare that to the trio option which includes a 5 note bass; or bass player simultaneously shaking a maracas. Suddenly there is an improvement in the sound with an extra component and your feet starts moving to the rhythm. The trio requires more space and cost more money to hire, but if you are the client and looking to impress your guests, which option are you likely to spend your money on?

In our band the focus is on creating music that clients will want to talk about and recommend to their friends. We use the trio as a minimum and place high importance on the bass component by using 2 custom made drums. It's more work, it takes up more space in the car, it takes longer to set up, etc, etc, but it adds an amazing dimension to the overall sound and our trio makes the audience dance. On some occasions the trio would include a drum kit and the drummer uses brushes to maintain the right balance; sometimes we use a conga player instead of a drummer. Tenor, Bass and congas has worked very successfully; again, the congas employ a similar approach to the drummer and blends in with the Pans. Have you ever tried any of these duet or trio combinations and which is your favourite? Or, do you use a quartet as the minimum requirement?

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You do what you have to do for your presentation.  You can tell the difference when you perform as a duo or trio or quartet, so you have to negotiate your rates for the three options and let them decide.

I will sometimes attempt a song that I have no backing track for if the client springs it on me, but that is the exception.  I'm not comfortable playing solo with no background music. I've recorded my backing tracks in separate versions... drum & bass and solo.  I've performed them with guys playing tenor and guitar pan with me, but we live in different cities now.  I miss having them around, but in order to keep playing, I had to solo.  I don't have a favourite, but I feel best when my sound is full... not missing the bass line and accompaniment to support me.  

A wedding of 120 guests... I'm winning that contract every time, unless you sell the client your confidence in your presentation and benefits of them hiring you over a duo or soloist..  I have higher rates than most musicians in town, but am less expensive than a duet.  Where you beat me is that clients are paying me to be accompanied by a computer, where as you are live.  Compared to the duo that has no accompaniment, you bring a fullness of sound that you believe the client will prefer.  Then you let them decide what to spend their money on.

I've created a market here for clients that are happy with my solo work.  I also get work when our local steelband is too much band for the venue.

If you ever come across any video from my solo work... as a matter of fact, here's one.  Feel free to pass on any advice.  I suppose I should put my money where my mouth is.  This song, I feel like the pan is too thin through the verses, but I worked hard on the harmonization of the choruses, to sound bigger.  And this arrangement... I broke my rule of using pan sounds in my MIDI recordings, but it only provides a little reinforcement to my chords... I don't want to give listeners a chance to point the finger and say it's not me.  I can't wait to see the coming debate.

That was good Cory, even tho I did not like that A note, it seems flat

Haha Bede... Good ear!  This double second is over 40 years old... I really need to get a new set and retire this one!  Thank you for the compliment!

Corey, in response to your comment, "That double second is over 40 years old... I really need to get a new set and retire this one!", do you think owners of the E-Pan, P.H.I., or ANY other electronic controller/synthesizer will have that kind of "shelf life"? (And I mean with NO replacement parts or repairs.) 

Ghost Who Knows Which Will Outlast Which! (Rust and premature aging? Pan is here to stay!!!)

Oh gosh... stirring the pot! Haha!


Tuners hate this pan.  It's had a lot of work.  I only purchased cases for them a couple of years ago.  If they had been stored in proper cases and conditions, I'm sure this pan would be in much better shape.


I don't want to play electronic instruments.  There's nothing that beats the natural sound and feel of a good pan!  

Ghost: All dem fellahs putting up music ... gih we something nah.

Corey, You think A Client would get their money's worth with my Concert (Cocktail hour) style Solo with this, Ave Maria(Bach)


Absolutely!  I think you would have lots of gigs... I often play "cocktail hour" or "dinner music" for pay.  But nothing like you... I'm scared to play without my tracks, but you sound great.

bigsands, certainly you can see that we tend to have our strengths and we are all possibly ideal for different types of gigs.  I would not mind losing out on a contract to Bede or Aaron or you.

But Bede, let me rephrase my answer... yes, I think your confidence and talent in soloing without accompaniment lacks in no way.  As a matter of fact, how you handle the couple classical numbers I saw videos for today, playing without accompaniment is an asset and selling point for you.  You can really change gears if you turn off the cd player and give the people a number like that.

Thanks, since I play by myself with 2 Sticks(Mallets) I usually change some of the Chords, like where some of the Chords call for a C9 I might use a Gm instead. Another thing is if you have a small band it's better to use the Root Chords instead of extended Chords it makes the band sound full.The Soloist can solo with the extended Chords if you have a Soloist (just my opinion)

Although there's a few people who work in partnerships up here, I have a hard time getting guys who are free to do pan duos/trios.  We all have gigs, so we end up with double bookings a lot.  I treat pan as a frontman for a Caribbean jazz group - bass + piano/guitar + drums.  Recently I've done a few duos with guitarists.  Most importantly, I try NOT to play with tracks unless it's a solo gig.  But it all comes down to the clients' money.  I find a way to make EVERY client happy, which keeps me working.

For those working with tracks, I have a book coming out with 20 new tunes complete with backing tracks recorded in studio by my band & I.  It should be out within the next few months - published by Hillbridge Music.

Here's one of my groups:   

Aaron Abrahamson Cote

I like it!


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