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Old 08-31-2008, 08:02 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default improvisation tips

i've been trying to work on my improvisation skills but ive been having trouble with it i dont know the pentatonic scales but im playing the ionian mode and i cant seem to make it sound together i seem to be playing only on the marked frets (3rd,5th,7th etc.)
any tips and tricks would be appreciated.
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Old 09-01-2008, 10:40 AM   #2 (permalink)
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hmmm... a jimi avatar and a link to an animation of jimi at monterey and you don't know the pentatonic scale???

pretty much every solo hendrix played is pentatonic. you might not know you know it but if you can play anything of his then you do.

that's the other thing, when it comes to improvising the less thinking you do the better you sound. there's an old blues saying 'if you're thinking you're stinking' and that most definitely applies to improvisation. i also recently read an article about how certain analytical parts of the brain shut down when a musician was really getting into their improvisation.

my best advice when it comes to improv, like any other aspect of playing music, is to just do it as much as possible. focus less on the modes and scales being played on your guitar and more on the overall sound of the music being created. another thing that helped me develop my skills and style was to play along to music that didn't already have a guitar track or wasn't rock based, like old school free jazz or electronic music.
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Old 09-01-2008, 05:07 PM   #3 (permalink)
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A minor Pentatonic scales.

e------------------------------------------------------------------3---5-------------------------
B-------------------------------------------------------3---5------------------------------------
G--------------------------------------------2---5-----------------------------------------------
D---------------------------------2----5---------------------------------------------------------
A--------------------3-----5---------------------------------------------------------------------
E------3-----5-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------



e-------------------------------------------------------5---8------------------------------------
B--------------------------------------------5----8----------------------------------------------
G----------------------------------5--7----------------------------------------------------------
D-------------------------5---7------------------------------------------------------------------
A--------------5----7----------------------------------------------------------------------------
E---5----8---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------



e-----------------------------------------------------------------8----10-------------------------
B-----------------------------------------------------8---10--------------------------------------
G-----------------------------------------7-----9------------------------------------------------
D----------------------------7----10--------------------------------------------------------------
A----------------7---10---------------------------------------------------------------------------
E---8----10---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------



e---------------------------------------------------------------------------10---12----------------
B---------------------------------------------------------------10---13----------------------------
G---------------------------------------------------9---12----------------------------------------
D------------------------------------10----12------------------------------------------------------
A---------------------10----12---------------------------------------------------------------------
E------10----12------------------------------------------------------------------------------------



e---------------------------------------------------------------------------12---15----------------
B---------------------------------------------------------------12---15----------------------------
G---------------------------------------------------12---14----------------------------------------
D------------------------------------12----14------------------------------------------------------
A---------------------12----15---------------------------------------------------------------------
E------12----15------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Use the root note of the second scale down as your basis for understanding what key your In being on the A and these being minor pentatonic shapes these will wrok in the key of A minor, move them accordingly up and down the fretboard for other minor keys.
Just play those over something like house of the rising sun and it should fit, Easiest way to solo is through your minor pentatonics.
Give it a try.
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Old 09-06-2008, 11:55 PM   #4 (permalink)
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You MUST learn your pentatonic up and down the fretboard mate!


As for improvising, its easy to say `play by ear`, but every player uses little stock phrases occasionally. Here`s one i`m over-using at the moment, its in the SAME key as that posted above by littleknowitall.

e--------------------------------------------------
B-----------------------5--------------------5----
G----------------7h8-------------------7h8-------
D-------------------------------------------------

The chromatic note between the 4th and 5th here gives the lick some flavour!
After a quick burst of something like that, its nice to land on the Root note (or the 4th or 5th depending on where you are in the song), so land yourself (on A) like this...

e---------------------------------------------------
B-------------------8------------------------------
G----------7--s--9---9---7-s-5-------------------
D-----------------------------------7~------------

Ah, the pentatonic! The posibillities are endless....
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Old 11-28-2010, 12:13 AM   #5 (permalink)
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well to spice things up, incorporate licks that are in a different scale/key signature than the one you're playing (when I'm soloing in Em pentatonic, I'll throw in a few licks from the Emaj pentatonic/C#m pentatonic or when I'm soloing in Emaj, I'll throw in some whole tone licks, they sound "scary", so you should resolve it by NOT ending your solo with a whole tone feel).
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Old 12-22-2010, 07:42 AM   #6 (permalink)
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I totally agree that you can't think and improvise at the same time! .
for me, its more of the feel. Once you get into the feel of the song, it'd just come naturally. Thats why its called improvising not composing! :p
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Old 12-22-2010, 01:35 PM   #7 (permalink)
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It's true that you can't think and improvise simultaneously.

But the greatest composers of all time - Bach, Mozart, Beethoven et al - were all superlative improvisors. Sadly, most of Bach's music was improvised, and so is not recorded. Beethoven would turn up to parties and improvise around just about anything - his talents were legendary, and little 6 year-old Mozart could dash off a tune easy as wink. This fact is recorded in the Royal Society Journals, which make fascinating reading if you're really bored...

The difference between improvising and composing is not as different as you might think - it's only a different process to those who have to think about composing, and if you have to think about composing, then you need to practice that. Theory is as important as practical - you cannot separate the two.

The thing all these had in common (apart from being sickeningly talented)?

They practiced often and hard.

They learnt from the masters - they did all the thinking behind the scenes, so that when they "went on stage", it would appear as if they were making it up as they went along.

Hendrix famously wandered around everywhere with his guitar - even to the toilet. He just couldn't bear to be parted with it, and he played some monster covers as well as writing in his own highly imitable style.


You cannot produce music from thin air, you can only elaborate on what you have already heard, and the more you elaborate, the more different ways you think of to recycle the same old stuff, until it starts sounding new.


If this wasn't true, then we'd all happily be reeling off Mongolian nose flute music or Chinese gamelan music rather than sticking to the pentatonic and diatonic scales we are brought up listening to.


So it's "easy".

1. Practice hard, often and methodically, revisiting stuff often until you know it, rather than have simply played it a few times.

2. Play. Play with the ideas, play other people's tunes - improve them, if you can - try incorporating some of the technical ideas you've been working on, just for fun. Yes. It's fun. Really. Really, really.

3. Show off. At any opportunity, simply play something you've learnt well, and muck about with it - incorporate a technical idea, switch suddenly to a different tune, whatever - enjoy the music, and simply improvise - don't even think, just feel it.

4. Because once you've put the work in, like those bluesmen did, like the classical guys did, it'll come more and more naturally. No-one was born knowing how to play an instrument - you have to know technique, licks and tricks.


...or just do your own thing. If you can just stroll up and play, all power to you. It's an enviable talent. The rest of us have to take the long way home.
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Old 12-23-2010, 02:42 PM   #8 (permalink)
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I just started a 2 piece band with me on guitar and a drummer with the idea that we wouldn't write anything, we would just improv every show. I've just been focusing on "feeling" the music and letting it flow out of me rather than planning out where I will go with a song. The idea is to turn blatant mistakes into part of the song... I've been working on that an it's been starting to sound pretty good.
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Old 12-23-2010, 02:49 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Hehe, some friends of mine started a 3-piece band like that some 10 years ago.

I saw one concert and it wasn't that impressive. Something that bothered me was that they didn't know how to end their songs. That's okay when you're just jamming during rehearsals, but as I was watching the concert, I got a bit bored.
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Old 12-23-2010, 02:54 PM   #10 (permalink)
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One of the main things I've been working on is structure because I'm worried about exactly what you just said. I'm not averse to playing a 20 minute epic, but we also play some quickie 2 minuters. If people are going to sleep I'll just crank it to 11 and give them an ear stabbing pinch harmonic.
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