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Thread: Improvisation

  1. #1
    Registered User
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    Improvisation

    I was wondering what everybody thought was the best way to become good at improvisation and soloing. For example say that someone was going to finally buckle down and say "I'm going to get good at this and do this right." What would you recommend they do?

    My opinion is to transcribe your favorite artist's stuff. But then this leads to the question: do you just transcribe part of a solo, or the entire solo?

  2. #2
    Registered User LarryJ's Avatar
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    it depends on the solo for me. For like 90% of the stuff (especially solo-heavy music like I like) i have absolutly no patience to transcribe and play a solo note for note. I also find it very difficult, even though my technical skills are capable of playing something, going through 2 pages of licks at 220bpm is no easy task to get down. So, I take the main part and idea's and sort of make up my own fast runs in place of the artists. Unless the parts are critical, I usually work around them.

    In the case of a short/simple solo, or something that has to be played exactly for integrity, than the whole thing gets played as it should be. A good example is something like the infamous 'to be with you' solo , or something people are so familiar with, they might get upset if you dont play it exact.

  3. #3
    Registered User LarryJ's Avatar
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    I missread the first part of the question. The way to become good is to practice playing over everything and everything. Usually during a solo break in a song I'm listening to, I'll play my own thing and see if it fits. Theres also a ton of licks and patterns and fills a person can learn to piece parts together, either the old standby's or ones that you came up with. Since alot of the music I listen to comes in only two flavors, E, and A, (well, witholding the prog/fusion stuff) it makes it easy to find things that work.

    I feel that things like tension and resolve, are much more important that individual note choice anyways. I have a much harder time fitting speed and such in, than I do with making notes fit, especially because my solo's always end up as zz-top-esque slow bend filled blues fests as opposed to racer x type songs I'd prefer.

  4. #4
    Headbang Master Slaindude's Avatar
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    Practice, practice, practice, practice, PRACTICE!!!

    Thats the only thing that will make you good

    You can practice over a backing track, with other musician or just a metronome. And you know what they say, go with the flow.

    Transcribing your favorite artist's stuff will not make you good at improvisation, but it gives you some ideas that you can incorporate into your playing and change it, so that the riff becomes more YOUR riff than somebody's else riff. Don't waste time transcribing riff or solos from somebody if you know that all you are going to do is using the same riff in the same type of song using the same mood, bla bla bla bla.

    Innovation is about taking your influences to the next level.

  5. #5
    Resident Curmudgeon szulc's Avatar
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    Improv

    I suggest that you play over changes like the kind of music you like (Jazz?, Latin?).
    If you don't have it you should get Band in a Box.
    This is great software for learning to improvise.
    You can pick a style and a combo type then just type in the chord changes from a fake book (you can find lots of fake book songs on the net in biab format)
    Then, play the song and listen to the changes until you can hear them in your head. Try to hear the melody in your head while you hear the changes. Stop the song playing and see if you can remember the melody and the chord changes.
    Play the chords, try to use different inversions until you have a good framework. Use the minimum movement principal to keep you in one general area (position). Now play the chords with the song playing. After you have this down then try arpegiating the chords.
    Now try to map out the key centers and work out the different fingerings for the key centers you want to use. Play the song and improvise using 1/4 notes (or 1/2 notes) making sure to try to play something melodic using the key centers from above.
    When you can do this then cut the note duration in half (1/2 to 1/4 notes or 1/4 to 1/8 notes) and try again.

    Try to use only one kind of note duration this will make you concentrate on the melody (choice of notes) and not the rhythm.

    Make sure you can play through the changes with 1/4, 1/8 and triplets all the way through. Play something different each time.

    When you can do this, forget every thing and play. Any rhythm any note.
    "Listen to the Spaces Between the sounds."
    Szulc's Site

  6. #6
    Resident Curmudgeon szulc's Avatar
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    and Then...

    When you have completed the previous step, learn a new tune and repeat the process.

    Eventually, you will find common chord changes in most of the tunes you are learning.

    You will find things that work over certain changes. I suggest you categorize these common changes and common approaches to improvisation and either write them down or record them (or both).

    Then search for new approaches to improvisation through news groups or online forums or just by listening to people you respect.
    "Listen to the Spaces Between the sounds."
    Szulc's Site

  7. #7
    Resident Curmudgeon szulc's Avatar
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    Alternate Approach

    Play a recording or BiaB or MIDI version of the song you want to improvise over.
    Pick up your guitar and hold it without playing it.
    Imagine lines. When you have good line imagine playing them on the guitar. Sing them. Then try to play them.

    Repeat until you have something you like.
    Then imagine a different set of lines and repeat the process.
    "Listen to the Spaces Between the sounds."
    Szulc's Site

  8. #8
    Resident Curmudgeon szulc's Avatar
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    What you are likely to Find

    You are likely to find out that you can make beautiful music using either method, but the first method is more likely to get you there faster.
    "Listen to the Spaces Between the sounds."
    Szulc's Site

  9. #9
    iBreatheMusic Modthor phantom's Avatar
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    hey szulc,
    first of all - everytime i see one of your posts i know, its a valuable one. a source that one can trust and rely on.
    i really appreciate your clear and understandable way to describe even the wierdest things to people.
    you earn a mvp (most valuable poster) badge.

    this time i took your band in the box idea. - great tool! downloaded the demo version and found tons of songs
    on different pages. (the yahoo group has filed a lot of stuff also).
    my question now is if you know if there are more fusion / shred style tunes out there in the biab format.
    i have only come across a lot of jazz and country tunes. a few pop and rock classics as well, but
    nothing really "high-tech guitar" specific. holdsworth, gambale and stuff like that.. :-(
    any hints and links?

    thanks!!

  10. #10
    Resident Curmudgeon szulc's Avatar
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    Thanks for the kind words. I have written quite a few articles as well. (To find them look under SCHULTZ)

    BiaB is a full blown Sequencer.
    You can create you own styles complete with alternate parts.
    Most of the stuff I have found on the web for BiaB is jazz standards, but I have used it to create some of my own tunes as well.
    You can play around with the style creator and probably come up with a lot of stuff.

    I believe it is a GREAT learning tool since you can spend months learning to improvise over a given chord change and it never gets tired of backing you up.
    "Listen to the Spaces Between the sounds."
    Szulc's Site

  11. #11
    Experimentalist Koala's Avatar
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    I have to agree with Phantom, Szulcs posts are Must reads most of the time....

    But sometimes he just freaks me out

    Getting bnd in a box as i type, id nevre heard of that.

  12. #12
    Resident Curmudgeon szulc's Avatar
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    But sometimes he just freaks me out
    Why?
    and When?
    "Listen to the Spaces Between the sounds."
    Szulc's Site

  13. #13
    Experimentalist Koala's Avatar
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    how bout now? LOL

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