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Thread: How do you Improvise

  1. #1
    Registered User Michael. A's Avatar
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    How do you Improvise

    I'd like to see how we all improvise when most comfortable. I think thats a very interesting part of playing guitar to me as I love improvisation so much. Put it up with warts and all I don't mind mistakes, cause I make so many!

    Just explain how you feel most comfortable improvising over things and what you do and maybe upload an sample video or track. This can be any improvisation.

    Ok here is mine playing what I call cosmic blues...

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yc3xHx_tTBI

    Basically I like having a drone in this case a plain and simple E and experimenting with ideas around it. I like trying out different rhythmic stuff as well as lead and go for melody mostly though my first take accidentally got deleted and was more interesting then this one . I usually use the good old pentatonic as a base for what I do and move around it.

    I dare you to laugh at my ridiculous hair. I dare you!!! That little flutter on my face when its done is me thinking... OMG I have such a horrible headache you can tell cause I get worse as I go on.
    Last edited by Michael. A; 10-29-2006 at 11:22 AM.

  2. #2
    Artistically Bankrupt
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    Now That's a Question

    I assume everyone can write a book on how they do it. I'll try to keep it short...

    I have two means of improvisation. If push came to shove, they are really the same thing, but I break them into two for illustrative purposes.

    1) Some songs dictate that improv follows the song's inherent melodic line. That is, improv is sometimes simply applying a personal variation to the "tune." This is a comfortable, easy, and otherwise "safe" approach. One will bend, slide, and slurry their way through the melody, giving it a slightly more complex feel. This is classic improv, with an ear toward melody.

    2) This is hard to explain, because timing is key to it. For an easy example, let's use a standard I-IV-V 12-bar blues thing... It is improv with an ear toward musicianship. Most blues players stopped improvising on melodic lines ages ago (except for the exceptions you just though of).

    Change drummers on me, and my style changes. Change bass players, and my style changes. The pulse I feel will drive my "events" in the improv. It will drive not only the temporal aspects, but the intensity, speed, volume, etc. These "events" are riffs, licks, phrases, etc. (whatever term you use to describe the finger flashes you use but perhaps refuse to admit using).

    I play against an improvised string section in my head. Crazy, right? But anyway, I hear a string section doing harmonized, yet simple, progressions. Imagine during your 12-bar run, you hear a keyboard player lazily chording sweep pads that work against the I-IV-V. Well, whatever the degree is of that chord, that will be my "key center" for my riff/lick/yada.

    Essentially, I end up improvising a chord progression in my head, that rarely sees more than a quarter note of sustenance. The guitar solo, though, can have ungoldy 128'th notes and what have you.

    Nobody thinks in 128'th notes. They think "trill." <---That comment will offend Some, but I really stopped caring about "Some" 43 years ago. "Some" needs to get over it, because it is not a denigrating comment. Remember that I said an "improvised string section" in my head. The improv is there. Perhaps you use a bass, or a horn section. Perhaps you use a herd of gurgling chipmonks. I won't hold that against you. Imagine if I practice up the ability to improvise more and more impressive "string sections." The trills and licks will be even better placed, etc.

    The primary difference between John McLaughlin and myself is that he improvs phenomenal sequences in his head to finger against. Well, that and he's a Brit. Oh, and I'm like 6'5" and all that. I'm missing a few teeth, but he might be too. Gee our differences are legion, now that I think about it.

  3. #3
    Did I say that out loud ? joeyd929's Avatar
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    Improvizing

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael. A
    I'd like to see how we all improvise when most comfortable. I think thats a very interesting part of playing guitar to me as I love improvisation so much. Put it up with warts and all I don't mind mistakes, cause I make so many!

    Just explain how you feel most comfortable improvising over things and what you do and maybe upload an sample video or track. This can be any improvisation.

    Ok here is mine playing what I call cosmic blues...

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yc3xHx_tTBI

    Basically I like having a drone in this case a plain and simple E and experimenting with ideas around it. I like trying out different rhythmic stuff as well as lead and go for melody mostly though my first take accidentally got deleted and was more interesting then this one . I usually use the good old pentatonic as a base for what I do and move around it.

    I dare you to laugh at my ridiculous hair. I dare you!!! That little flutter on my face when its done is me thinking... OMG I have such a horrible headache you can tell cause I get worse as I go on.
    I approach improvization from different angles, depending on what I am playing over. I'm still learning jazz so that is always a crap shoot, as to what I come up with.

    Another way to practice improvization is that I record II-V-I progressions starging in the key of C and play for about 16 measures. Then I modulate up to F, then Bb, Eb, and so on up the cycle of falling fifths.

    Playing over II V I or minor II V I chords can be lots of fun and a great learning experience.

    Other ways like I said depend on the music. If I have blues music playing, I tend to think in a blues state of mind. Depends..

    Frank Zappa said in an interview with Guitar Player mag one time that his solos and phrasing are speech influnced. Like take the phrase "Hey, how's it going, what have you been up to". Now, play some notes, any notes you like, but put them into this "hey, how's it going" phrasing, just like the way you say it.

    Phrasing is the most important aspect of improvization because it is what sets apart the difference between creating new stuff, or just running up and down scales.

    I started expirementing with speech influnced technique and it proves to be effective when you have notes and scales in mind but just can't come up with anything. Think "Phrasing" all the time...
    Last edited by joeyd929; 11-01-2006 at 05:55 PM.

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