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Thread: Improvising without the knowledge of scales chords etc?

  1. #1
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    Question Improvising without the knowledge of scales chords etc?

    Hi all, is it possible to improvise without knowing scales, chords etc? I've been trying to learn scales and chords to improvise with for the past couple of months and it has been a real frusterating task... been collecting bits and pieces of information about improvisation over the internet and books, but now I just wanna play the damn guitar! as in downloading tabs for my favorite songs to play along with. NO MORE SCALES CHORDS THEORY!

    Will this hurt my ability to play with other musicians or even becoming a musician? I've been thinking of starting a band or joining one, but I hear learning how to improvise is important esp. when playing with others.

  2. #2
    Registered User roel's Avatar
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    hey man, you can't just "play" guitar. Real musicians take time learning how to get the sound they want. It depends on you what kind of a musician you want and could possibly be. If you want less work, you'll sound cheap. well, no offense there. just look at this site. there are Lots of advice, articles, licks, what else can you ask for? all material in this site is soooooooo useful, you just have to do your part to discover them, practice, and make music. You can listen to your idol play, he could probably tell you great ideas, but he can't do it for you.
    Guitars Only blog http://u.bb/116565/guitarsonly

  3. #3
    Laiho's heir guitarist wild_child's Avatar
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    i dont think it is essential to know scales and whatever to improvise, as long as you have a decent ear and you know where the notes are on the fretboard, you can just play whatever sounds good, just like you could hum a melody over a bassline without having a clue what scale you are using. EVH is a good example of that, allegedly he knows little about scales and whatnot..
    HOWEVER having a good ear and knowing your whole fretboard is a much more daunting task than just learning scales and chords IMO. just approach it however you want, but i'm afraid theres no shortcut to becoming a good musician.
    "Remember, it's all good, everything goes and there ain't no damned rules or boundaries. So get off! Tear it a fresh ***, tear it hard, rip gaping holes in it! Make tracks, leave marks!

    "forever stronger than all" - Dimebag Darrell

  4. #4
    I love Guitar. UltimaRage's Avatar
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    I don't use scales to improvise. You just need the burning desire to succeed. When you have that, you can do anything. I am obsessed with playing my guitar, and I am learning something everyday. I am getting to the point where I know what sounds like what and where on the fretboard. It is possible. You just ALWAYS have to have a positive attitude about it! Having a positive attitude is THE MOST ESSENTIAL ingredient to your growth as an artist. I don't necesarrily consider myself a guitarist, maybe more of an artist. I express myself with my craft of music.
    ~UltimaRage~

  5. #5
    Registered User LarryJ's Avatar
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    Eventually you develop little patterns, and realise 'shapes' that work, even if you dont know the actual scale your in. I think improvising is mostly about that.

    In fact, it seems to me that you couldn't actually think enough to improvise. You couldn't say "ooh, a minor chord progression, i bet F lydian would sound great during this shift! F Lydian is located on these frets closest to this scale I'm in now so if i shift position" bla bla bla or whatever. Knowing the patterns is one thing, but knowing the theory behind it is a complete other.

    Theres 'correct scale patterns' and theres 'not correct scale' patterns, but theres no 'wrong patterns'. Some notes just sound better with other notes and chords, but that doesn't mean you can't somehow make any note work. Playing the scales would begin to sound pretty cliche if you didn't change things up anyways...

    Having said that, knowing them and what your doing can give you a great insight to what your playing and why, if you stop and think about it before hand or after anyways. Rarely do you go in cold on an improv, and do one completely unrehearsed in some way. As mentioned you probably know the chords, maybe tried a few things over it before, or at leats have some of your own little patterns/fills/licks to throw in. Everything else is just piecing it together.

    At least, thats my 2. If its causing you grief than take a little break for a while, let it sink in, have some fun, and go back when you feel your ready/want to advance, it can only help you acheive what you want quicker, unless of course you have that magical ear and know what notes will fit over a scale and sound sort of sad or mellow or whatever to match the mood your looking for....

  6. #6
    I love Guitar. UltimaRage's Avatar
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    Originally posted by LarryJ
    Eventually you develop little patterns, and realise 'shapes' that work, even if you dont know the actual scale your in. I think improvising is mostly about that.
    True! True.
    ~UltimaRage~

  7. #7
    Registered User loveguitar's Avatar
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    hi Username,

    I think scales are still useful. I don't know how EVH figures without knowing scales, maybe he already knows hitting what note gives you what sound instinctly. That's a lot of listening to tune the ear.

    It's too daunting to reach that stage when we just begin (he is professional, and very talented )

    I think as a start if we can play around say, a major scale, we are confined to only a couple of music intervals, which in a way is more predictable. You can still think of a melody and play them. And that trains the ear too. And I would say even restricting it only to a 5 note pentatonic scale, to be able to play instinctly what you hear isn't easy At least, it wasn't for me.

    This is what I am doing now. If I do get better and better, I might try to "forget" about the scale boxes and try the more challenging task of playing any intervals that I feel is suitable. But I think that is a long way for me.

    One method I try is start by thinking of a melody, and playing it. When I get better (ie without hitting a lot of wrong notes), I start playing along with the song. (which is a lot more difficult because the song don't wait for you)

    Start with slow and easy songs. That gets me more motivated as I see result. If I have chosen to start with difficult songs like Eric Johnson's Cliff of Dover or EVH's Eruption, I guess my guitar would have been in the storeroom now.

    Transcribing, with or without the guitar, is also very good practice. And practice Solfege

  8. #8
    Registered User Spin 2513's Avatar
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    What i believe , and what Paul Gillbert teaches , is start with one key , A Minor , and learn C major scale/Mode patterns in all positions , 2 ocataves 3 notes per string , and three positions of A minor 2 octave Arpeggios . Use these scales to improvise over A minor progressions , like whats on Metallica , "Reload " or an Ac/dC album
    Play Loud

  9. #9
    Mode Rator Zatz's Avatar
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    I guess we had similar discussion here:

    http://www.ibreathemusic.com/forums/...highlight=ugly

    Zatz.
    Zadd9 -> A6 -> T#9b5 -> Zmaj7

  10. #10
    Afro-Cuban Grunge-Pop Bongo Boy's Avatar
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    Yes...that thread is one of the iBreathe jewels I think. We could have covered a few more topics if we had tried harder, I suppose.
    Pulsing the System with Confirmed Nonsense.

  11. #11
    Mode Rator Zatz's Avatar
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    Yea, Bongo Boy,

    Now I have read it over and felt suprised why the heck we had stopped there
    Zadd9 -> A6 -> T#9b5 -> Zmaj7

  12. #12
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    I think that, like someone else was saying, maybe one of the only alternatives to learning scales, arps, and theory in general is to develop your ear really well. All of the rules of theory are just what the name implies- theory. It's a tool that you use, not vice versa. However, I would definitely argue that learning scales, etc. is substantially faster and easier than trying to do it all by ear. Also, it can be fun to practice those types of things - kind of like a little zen meditation exercise. Well, that might sound dumb, but I think of it that way sometimes.

    I thought EVH studied classical piano before taking up guitar? That must have led him to some knowledge of theory. PLus, his father was a jazz clarinetist, I think?

  13. #13
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    Wholeyyyyyyy Cowwwwww !!
    ......I follows the first link to a great, and darn funny discussion (I always thought theory went, really good with beer)..........
    ...Then, I follows the second link and here's szulc, speaking in tongues ......
    .....oh, hell ! I'm goin' back too Smoke on the Water !!!!!!!!

    :Mike




    .....They all came out too Montreux.........
    .....They ??? what a rube ! I'll add some more "classics" Like They're an American band...........
    Last edited by mjo; 03-03-2004 at 09:59 PM.

  14. #14
    StringsBreaker Wolfgang's Avatar
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    King Eddie is a classically trained pianist too, and he said that he's always played the piano by ear too!!! He played Mozart, but he wasn't able to read the music sheet for it, so he played it exactly like he heard it in his head.

    Yngwie, who has perfect pitch too, could name each note on the guitar by ear the first day he got a guitar. BUT he learned all the scales in all positions, and even today he says that learnin' the scales is the best way to become a great guitarist (well, you need many other things too... =)

    I think you should learn all the scales, let them become second nature for you, so that at a certain point you just know where all the 'right' notes are, and concentrate on the music.

  15. #15
    Registered User tom_hogan's Avatar
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    i have spoken to alot of people and basically u learn all the theory play it day in day out and u kinda forget about it as you begin to know what notes sound good to your ear

    perfect pitch helps aswell tho!!!

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