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View Full Version : Improvisation...I seriously need help.



Necromortis
05-01-2005, 05:50 PM
After giving a shot at the "Strickly Melody" thread, I came to a few realizations.

The first was, wow, some of these guys here are really good. The second was...'Damn, I suck.' And the third was, "My improvisation needs help...badly."

So I came here for help. I've attached a copy of the SpanishJuju file with me improvising over it...please tell me what my strengths are, what me weaknesses are, etc.

Another problem I have is coming up with the scales to use over the chords. I had to sit down and write out the chords in that song, write out the notes, wrack my brain, and then come up with the scales.

Once I got the scales...well, my "improvisation" really isn't that good. The first section (the verse) sound incredibly aimless and just crap. The second section (chorus) sounds a bit better simply because I sat down with powertab and figured out what I wanted to do with the chorus before hand, so it wasn't quite improvisation now was it?

Please, for the love of all that is sacred, help me with my improvisation!

Any tips, pointers, advice, constructive critism, etc. is badly needed.

Thanks in advance,
Necromortis

satch_master
05-01-2005, 09:36 PM
was it just me or was "strictly melody" a bit more technical wise musically. I dunno, havent really sat down to look at it but it sure looks like i might need to spend some time on this one. Theres lots of chord changes and scale choices in this one.

Dont worry, let one of the Ibreathe masters help you out! Just keep practicing. Its a good shot to to back to the old strictlys and work on them, I have to admit the new "strictly" may seem a bit overwhelming at first. And dont load yourself with too much theory when you play, just play and it should sound good and not like typical scalic intervals. Like understand what your playing and make sure your hitting the right notes with the chords and scales but it may be limiting your playing because your thinking to much when your playing. just my advice.

satch_master
05-01-2005, 09:38 PM
Yeh it did hurt my ears a bit, but keep practicing, i mean hell your only 13, your still a kid.lol.

GtrvVampyre
05-02-2005, 05:00 AM
As far as scales go, heres a site that helps alot. Just click what key you want it in and what scale, gives the notes in the scale, ect....

http://www.looknohands.com/chordhouse/guitar/index_rb.html

Necromortis
05-02-2005, 05:19 AM
Well, see, I know quite a few scales. I know all the seven modes, etc. It's just that I have incredible trouble sitting down and improvision. If you look at the above example, it's all planned out really, and the bits that aren't are completely random and boring.

It's more of a question of how to make my impovision sound good, and how do I know what scales to play over each chord, key, etc.

satch_master
05-02-2005, 06:02 AM
practise and experience. How long have you been playing? your still a kid right?

it takes many many years to become a good improviser, and one over any style of music and any situation, just keep learning your masters favourite solos and practising your own and maybe one day youll be great just like them too.

I cant really answer your question, cause there is no real answer. You gotta put the hardword in and keep trying. This is becoming a mental post lol.

EricV
05-02-2005, 10:42 AM
Hm, ok, letīs see...

Itīs true what satch master said, it does take a lot of time, and your best bet would be to keep going for it again and again.
However, Iīd like to add something:
You mentioned that you know your scales and modes, and of course, that is great, and very useful. But at the same time, it can even make it harder to get into improvisation. Lemme explain.
I know some people will prolly go "Oh no, not again", but lemme once more compare improvisation to speaking. If you improvise, you hopefully have something to say, a message you want to bring across, something to say about yourself.
Now, if you donīt feel too comfortable when youīre improvising yet, if you donīt have too much experience in that area yet, letīs compare it to speaking. Imagine you have never tried to say anything, never tried to, say, tell someone about what happened to you yesterday. But you have sat there with a dictionary and have memorized a whole lot of words. You also have learned some of the rules about how to construct a sentence, so theoretically, you know what you have to do.
However, if you do try to "improvise" ( telling others what has been going on yesterday, or whatever... imagine trying to tell them what you dream of achieving ), all the rules and different words might block you... too many words to choose from, too many rules you wanna follow.
I am not saying that this is true for you, but itīs possible that knowing too many scales might be a disadvantage here.
When I got into improvisation, I knew one pattern of the major scale. Thatīs right, one single one. Back then, I had dabbled with improvising, and I had no clue whatsoever about scales, modes, how to figure out what notes to play. I had heard those terms, but I had no clue what was going on.
So whenever I "improvised", I just played some random notes, trying to get some that sounded good. I recorded myself jamming over some song, and played that to my teacher. He kinda cringed and said "uhmmm... what scale were you using here ?"
So I said "Oh, since youīre mentioning scales... WHAT ARE THEY AND HOW DO I USE THEM ?"
So he showed me that one pattern, and for about a month or two, I only knew that one. I knew how to move it around to fit different keys, and that was it.
So for weeks, whenever I tried to improvise, I used that pattern. And suddenly, it worked. There was a limited amount of notes, and soon, I knew what notes sounded good over what chord of a given progression, I knew that pattern inside out, and I figured out that even if I was limited to that one pattern, there was still a lot I could do.
I tried to play melodies in my mind, tried to copy the licks of some players I liked, tried some licks and repeating patterns, etc.
A while later, my teacher showed me the next pattern ( adjacent to the previous one ), and again, I thoroughly explored and used that one.
So instead of learning a whole bunch of modes and patterns, I learned one at a time and limited myself to that... the new pattern or the pattern in combination with the ones I had previously learned.
I do believe that that makes sense, and was a very good approach to getting into it... I only had a small amount of notes to learn each time, and could focus on using it to play something that sounded good, something I liked... little themes and melodies, licks etc.
I started out with simple stuff, and then tried to go for more sophisticated stuff ( longer melodies, runs, sequences etc. )
So maybe ( this worked for me and some of my students, does not mean it must necessarily work for you, since everyoneīs a bit different ), you wanna try to limit yourself right now to one mode, one pattern, one scale segment.
Check out my old article about improvisation... go for a simple melody ( maybe consisting of only 3 or 4 notes ) and then elaborate on that. Combine actual improv with licks you have learned.
However, as Satch master pointed out, it will take some time. DFonīt expect to be able to improvise like Metheny, Scofield, Steve Lukather or whomever you admire right away. But you can take steps into their direction, by getting into it step by step, by learning about establishing themes and melodies, by trying to keep a structure to your improv, by playing what you like to hear etc.
Sorry fo rthe long-winded post,
hope this helps
Eric

Factor
05-02-2005, 10:54 AM
Excellent advice there Eric!

There's a lot of truth in the saying:
"Limitations bring out the creativity".

Necromortis:
It's great that you have started analyzing yourself like you've done here. I don't think I could've done that myself when I was your age. Knowing the problem and being aware of it is the first step to solving it. Just keep playing and don't give up! You might meet some uphills, but that is what makes you stronger. Why don't you try to play/record over the Strictly Ionian over at the improvisation forum? That's a bit easier (less chords) but you have to think of making a melody all the time.

Necromortis
05-03-2005, 03:34 AM
Hey, thanks for all the replies and advice.

Satch master, to answer your question, I've been playing for 3 years, 4 in July.

Anyway, excellent advice Eric, thanks. I have to say though, I know exactly what you are talking about. And I only know 12 scales...uggh. Well, thanks for the advice, and I'll check out your article.

Anymore advice?

Thanks again,
Necro

Los Boleros
05-03-2005, 04:40 AM
Please, for the love of all that is sacred, help me with my improvisation!

Any tips, pointers, advice, constructive critism, etc. is badly needed.

Thanks in advance,
NecromortisWell it is obviouse that you are using the old hunt and peck method of improvisation. (Random travel up and down a pattern looking for notes that sound good). I could analise the song by it's indiviual parts but I think it might be better to just pick out one part and tear it apart. Take the first progression in the backing track. It is a phrygian Dominant part. There are only two chords being played. F and E. It's a very simple progression and one that has been done a quadrillion times before. Getting familiar with it would be an advantage. Lets take a close look at it.


The Chords are F and E
The notes of the F Chord are FAC
The notes of the E Chord are EG#B
The notes of the F chord are from the A minor scale ABCDEFG
The notes of the E chord are from the A harmonic minor scale ABCDEFG#
(Notice that the only diffeence between the two scales is that one has G while the other has G#.)
During the progression, you not only have to keep track of when to play G and when to play G# but you want to put your emphasis on different notes.

Where as over the F chord you would want alot of emphasis on the FAC notes. You would be more careful how you aproach your melodies and how you finish them to highlight the FAC notes during that chord.

During the E Chord, Your emphasis will be over the EG#B and even the D notes. You have to change how you approach the melodies during the E chord so that the chord notes fall on the strong beats.

The way to start out is slow. As was said before, try small three and four note melodies. It would be nice if your melody included the G or G# notes so you can practice soloing over a scale change.

This is merely an excersise so take it for what it is worth. There is much more stuff to talk about but everything in due time. There are situations where the A harmonic minor work over the F chord and A minor over the E chord but that kind of thinking right now could blurr the effectiveness of this drill right now.

Necromortis
05-03-2005, 05:03 AM
Thanks for analyzing that bit. Unfortunately, I can't say the same thing that I said about the chorus licks. I completely and utterly bull****ted (if you'll excuse my language) the progression over the verse. It's totally random. And I don't like it :P

Listening to what you say, it makes sense I should try and emphasise the notes in the chords in the melody, but because I'm stupid (well, not really, but still...) I'd have to sit out and find each F, A, and C in that scale pattern, memorize them, etc...not really improvising is it?

Los Boleros
05-03-2005, 06:00 AM
Thanks for analyzing that bit. Unfortunately, I can't say the same thing that I said about the chorus licks. I completely and utterly bull****ted (if you'll excuse my language) the progression over the verse. It's totally random. And I don't like it :P

Listening to what you say, it makes sense I should try and emphasise the notes in the chords in the melody, but because I'm stupid (well, not really, but still...) I'd have to sit out and find each F, A, and C in that scale pattern, memorize them, etc...not really improvising is it?Yes, it will take practice to know where the notes are. Knowing where your notes are is not cheating, it's arming yourself with the tools to improvise. As was said before, it will take time. It will take much less time if your time is organised and aproached from a logical sense but never the less, it will still take some time and some effort. The key of A minor is a great place to start since it has no sharps or flats. It just follows the alphabet up from A to G. A harmonic minor is the same scale but it has G# instead of G.

Necromortis
05-04-2005, 12:19 AM
I know the notes in most of the scales (or at least I can figure them out given about a minute)...it's just the placement on the guitar's fretboard. I'm thinking of sitting down one day and memorizing (actually memorizing, not just being able to figure out) each note on the fretboard...do you think that this is worthwhile?

Well, I have no shortage of time really...I'm thirteen, got my whole life ahead of me...

Again, thanks for all the advice, keep it coming ;)

Thanks,
Necro

JohnJumper
05-04-2005, 02:53 AM
thinking of sitting down one day and memorizing (actually memorizing, not just being able to figure out) each note on the fretboard...do you think that this is worthwhile?

Yes! Yes! Yes it is very worthwhile...It is VERY difficult to be creative and improvise a melody if you are using part of your brain to figureout what can be played.

The easier it is for you to play the scales and patterns without thinking the more you can devote to listening and improvising melodies. I think the most important part of improvising is listening to yourself and the other music around you and reacting to that music. By listening you can pull on the smallest thread of an idea from something you played or something the other musicians play and knit together a concept or melody...

Dommy
05-05-2005, 03:34 AM
Learn the fretboard. But remember learning the fretboard is a process and your cant learn it one day. I recommend just going up and down one or two strings just playing a melody. It doesn't have to be complex or anything, just try to be aware of what the note is and the sound it creates against the chord progression.

Before trying to play anything though, try to sing a melody that you think fits over the changes. If you can't sing a simple improvised melody over the changes, what makes you think you can play it on your instrument? You have to hear the melody in your head and play it in real time.

dalin
05-16-2005, 12:03 PM
^ I agree. The first step is thinking/feeling where you want to go melodically, and the next I would think is knowing the fretboard well enough that you can play the intervals in your head.

I'm by no means very good, but I've realized that the less I think "ok, I'm going into a X scale over this chord.." and the more I think about what I would actually want to hear, the better I play.

My approach is to just go by knowledge of intervals on the board. I practice scales so that I can use them as tools. I don't think about scale patterns when I actually play, but if I've practiced the scale enough, I'll remember where I have to go to create a particular intervallic jump I hear in my head. Get me?

I find just taking familiar melodies, and practicing getting them right in as few times as possible (got that exercise from an article here) really helps in building up that "intervallic intuition".

And you're not going to get blazing fast right away. Like others said, go with simpler melodies. It'll be better in the long run if you improvise simpler melodies, but consciously, as opposed to just noodling around patterns you memorize. With time you'll know the board better, and be able to think/react faster melodically.

Mue999
05-20-2005, 10:28 AM
First, you should hear and sing, then learn how to play what you sing... (scales, modes, chords, ...)
If you can't sing, turn on the radio w/ your favourite solo pieces around 30 minutes... Now you can sing!!

By the way, the most important is,"You are a musician. You gonna make the music, so you have to change your attitude....

Nobody care how fast you can play,....
Nobody care if you use the complex scale,...
Nobody care how many note you play in your improvisation,... you can play only one note with bending it :)
BUT EVERYBODY care if your play a good sound..."

That's it....