Fluent improv one of the last things to come?

scottlr

Member
Messages
23,678
OP, you play pretty decent jazz covers. I agree with the simple melody stuff. It can't hurt. I also recommend a Star Trek Next Generation episode where Picard meet a pianist lady that shows him how to improvise with something he's already familiar with. As bad as this kind of show could be, they actually wrote it pretty well for the content.

I have one student, if you want to call him that. He is decent technically, and great in some styles. He started asking me to show him various riffs and licks from songs he liked. Not the whole song, just what moved him in it. As we moved forward, I started showing him how ALL of these riffs and licks are repeated by damn near every artist on the planet. Once he got that, he started to do more improv, using the same **** I showed him, once I had pointed it out in several other songs he was interested in, that used the same stuff.
 

gigs

Member
Messages
10,936
In addition to learning other people's solos... and learning them by ear, not tab...

I would also suggest that you play along to lots of other things. So much music around... background TV and Movie music... just play stuff along with that. Improvising (unplugged electric) over background music is one of my fav things to do and I believe it has really helped my ear training and improv skills. That is, until someone in my family complains about it... then I take it to the basement.
 
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14,871
Thanks for the suggestions everyone. I think the biggest issue for me is that I can't easily play what I hear in my head and the exercise of playing simple melodies should help with that.
Yes, it should and playing what you hear in your head will get easier if you keep working on it.

After all doesn't that exercise just basically allow you to hear the distance between certain notes (or the function within the key) and then know where that is found on the guitar?
The "distance between two notes" is called an interval. A melody is just two or more intervals chained together. Thus, repeated practice of playing melodies you hear (in your head or elsewhere) on the guitar will help you recognize intervals by ear, and also recognize what intervals look like on the fretboard.

This will also carry over to your ability to construct chords on the fly.
 

bgh

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
6,949
The "distance between two notes" is called an interval. A melody is just two or more intervals chained together. Thus, repeated practice of playing melodies you hear (in your head or elsewhere) on the guitar will help you recognize intervals by ear, and also recognize what intervals look like on the fretboard.

This will also carry over to your ability to construct chords on the fly.
Learning to recognize the intervals used in music and then being able to reproduce them on your guitar will enable you to play the melodies that you hear in your head. Once I started paying attention and learning what the intervals sound like (a third as opposed to a fourth and so on), I found that I was able to more faithfully reproduce what I had inside. It eliminated a lot of mistakes (in learning melodies) and it turned scales into a tool, and not a "go to" item.

I found myself playing less notes. Before I learned intervals, I would try to use the scale to "play" the melody. Sometimes I hit the right notes, and sometimes I didn't. When I didn't, I had to slide up or down a fret or two to get to the note I should have been on. Now I slide up or down to a note on purpose - I no longer have to play the unnecessary (because they were incorrect) notes.

Like an earlier poster said, try reproducing a simple melody that you know. "Happy Birthday", "Mary Had a Little Lamb", "Red River Valley" - any song with a recognizable melody. Get to where you can nail them based on the interval from one note to the next. It turns out to be a lot of fun!

Thanks for reading.
 

cantstoplt021

Member
Messages
1,217
Here's a quick improvisation I just did over Tenor Madness. The first three choruses of solos are Grant Green's Cool Blues note for note and then at 1:26 I start improvising

 

splatt

david torn / splattercell
Platinum Supporting Member
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25,180
codi, you sound good to me;
you've got a nice & natural feel for the instrument, and you seem quite capable of making your fingers work for you.

please take my "advice" with a grain or 2 of salt, please, but:
i might suggest that you find a good, suitable, supportive & regular teacher in your general neighborhood.

it seems to me that you need to learn & understand some rudimentary music-theory while simultaneously learning & fully comprehending the fretboard, itself;
this, in order for you to begin confidently negotiating the kinds of tunes to which you seem to gravitate,
and begin expressing your own creativity within that music.

it's just a thought, but..... you really do sound good to me,
you sound on your way to much stronger things, musically speaking, with some concentrated work.

maybe let the magical & mystical stuff happen in & from the music, when it's ready;
right now, maybe it's a great time for you to find the right things to work-on, & to just go at those things steadily & progressively.
 

Belmont

Member
Messages
3,467
^ great advice from a real musician.
op, for three years, you sound great, well on your way.
I think developing your ear is the most important thing to do before (or at the same time) you really dig into theory.
knowing what the next note should be instinctively on the fly, whole tone or semi tone etc., should be a natural thing, whether you're playing within a pattern or not.
I always thought Alan Holdsworths approach was cool, he tries to emulate a sax player, you can really hear it in his phrasing.
 

Flyin' Brian

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
30,115
Really good improvisation is a journey, not a destination.

I'll make a bold statement just to ruffle some feathers: any player satisfied with their improv skills isn't all that good.
Hmmm. Well they might be OK but they aren't going anywhere.

This Metheny quote always said it for me:

"You know... the frustrating thing is every now and then you actually do get it right. It might be every 4th night or every 10th night or every six months or once a year but every now and then you do it. And that makes it worse almost because it's like you KNOW you can do it, you KNOW that you're not crazy. It's there. There is a truth there that can be found. And I think each year that you play you become more consistent or you get closer to that truth that you establish in your mind. But as you get closer to it, it also moves at the same rate higher away from where you are."
 

cantstoplt021

Member
Messages
1,217
Thanks Splatt I appreciate it. Did you listen to all three videos that are on here (the chord melody, the blues, and tenor madness)? I'm only wondering because I think my jazz playing sounds much better than my blues playing however I'm not too big of a jazz fan to be honest. I would much rather be a good blues player than a good jazz player, but at this stage its the other way around.

I do work with a teacher regularly who is a tremendously accomplished player both in blues and jazz. Hell Julian Lage was in town performing last week and him and my teacher had a jam session at his house.

I know basic music theory and I will begin music theory classes for my music major in the fall. How would you suggest fully comprehending the fretboard? I would say that I don't have a good grasp on it really at all. I just know a few of the minor pentatonic scale shapes really and some major scales, but not at a great level. Is really learning the major scale the mecca of understanding the fretboard?

Belmont- Thank you! I'm really pleased with how far I've come along in such a short time. Ive been playing for 3 years, but really the first two years were just kind of dicking around. One summer I barely picked the guitar up because I was too busy doing other things..... But for the past year I have been playing everyday for 5-6 hours (I time myself) and its paying off. I'm just not happy with my improv at this point. My ear to hand connection definitely needs work.
 
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14,871
Here's a quick improvisation I just did over Tenor Madness. The first three choruses of solos are Grant Green's Cool Blues note for note and then at 1:26 I start improvising

Your improv doesn't sound all that bad. I think you're just being too hard on yourself.

Keep working with the teacher you have. Try to be more patient and try to have more fun.
 

Bankston

Member
Messages
16,013
On the nights when I feel like I played well and did a fair amount of improv, I'm feeling the music and listening well as opposed to thinking of what I should play next.

In the words of the Jedi Masters, feel, don't think.
 

DaveKS

Member
Messages
16,709
Listen to Splatt. Also get you a looper with memory/save. Take your lessons, come home, build on those new techniques, make you a riff, when you feel you've got a good one record it, save it, solo over it. Come back to it next day, your mood, aggression may be different a day/week later, you'll come up with stuff that you might not have thought about night before. Improve is about playing in the moment. May be a ambient shoe gaze type riff, but for some reason, tonight that searing, funky Ernie Isley lead just works with it.
 

chill

Member
Messages
485
Chill did you see an improvement in what he described after doing it?
Yes. I'd say I still suck, but I suck much less than before.

Check out this interview with Paul Gilbert, he's talking about how is now working on how to play what he hears.



Here's another interesting clip. It's Richie Kotzen jamming with Char, a Japanese guitarist. (jamming starts at around 2 min). Kotzen very obviously hears music clearly in his head and can play it. Char (God bless him) is recycling riffs he has learned before, trying to make them fit. To use my previous terminology, Char is using echoic and muscle memory whilst Kotzen has music on a functional memory level. If you watch the next clip after this one Richie saying that it had been a long time since he jammed (but he still sounds good). Char, on the other hand has built a career around "jamming."

 

2020jan08

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
4,457
Great thread. This is TGP at its best.

Maybe this has been said already - I haven't read everything - but I'll try: Use the melody as a point of departure. If you listen to great singers, especially "soul" singers, they often play around with the melody. They will sing certain words (notes) louder, let some words linger, accentuate certain syllables (... and I fe-fe-fe-feeeel so-oo gooood ...), etc. Try to sing/hum what you want to improvise, and then try to transfer that to the guitar.

After a while you might be only loosely connected with the melody, but make sure you include chord notes in your phrases that follow the chord progression. That way you keep with the movement of the song. The song is a story, and the story has a plot that goes in certain directions, so it's important to be part of that movement.

Play it like you mean it! That requires that you know the fretboard well, can play the notes you hear in your head without fumbling around, and know how to accentuate notes, play with dynamics, etc. to keep things interesting.

It's great fun. Good luck!
 
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1,807
Great thread!

So much of the pop rock guitar lexicon is/was based on short riffs. Which is great. As an exercise in rebooting the guitar brain, think of guitar like you would a melody instrument (reeds, brass, violin); learn a melody, then embellish it. Listen to how other musicians "weave" a melody. Fiddlers playing a standard like Old Joe Clark or Ragtime Annie, no two will play it the same. Listen to how an orchestra builds on Little Brown Jug. Etc., etc.
 

'58Bassman

Member
Messages
4,920
So I've been playing guitar for three years now with the last year being very serious. I'm making great progress and I'm playing things that I never dreamed I could play just a year ago, however I'm still not too thrilled with my playing. I'm impressed with my ability to play things that I work out and cover, but when it comes time for spontaneous improvisation I feel like I just fall flat. In all honesty I probably just expect way too much from myself at this point. It probably takes years to be able to improvise fluently in your preferred style, no **** I can't solo as well as BB King after a year..... So what say you TGP mystics? Is fluent improv one of the last things to come? Should I just stop having such lofty expectations for myself?
When you listen to music, are you completely passive, meaning that you ONLY listen and don't anticipate what's coming or add notes "in your head"? Do you hum or sing the notes of the melody or harmony parts and add some of your own?

Develop your musical ear. This is absolutely critical- if you can't learn a song easily, it will be hard to think in terms of what will sound good in a solo, in real time. Someone can know which notes work with each chord, but if they don't use there ear, it's very unlikely that what they play will be musically interesting. It is, however, technically correct but who wants to listen to that?

Learn the songs. REALLY learn the songs, inside and out. By this, I mean that you should learn them to the point that you can hum or sing the melody notes, bass lines and harmony parts while it's playing. Once you know it this well, you should be able to think about what could be played over the chord changes. As Capt Midnight wrote, embellish the melody.

Playing an instrument and speaking are similar- if you have a large vocabulary and you listen to everything in the conversation, you'll eventually begin to find that adding to the conversation will become easier, but it's not possible to add anything really meaningful in the beginning.

It takes a long time to become able to form improvised solo parts. Don't let this discourage you- NOBODY sounded good or great at the beginning. When someone improvises, they're really writing part of a new song but they need to hear the rest of the song while they're doing this. They need to know where the song is going and if they don't know where the song is going, they can't play anything that relates unless it's by coincidence.

If you have a way to record yourself, record any major chord and play over it. You'll hear what sounds good and what doesn't. Once you can do this, and you'll need to do this in several keys, do the minor chords, the 7th (natural, major and minor), diminished, etc. Do your arpeggios, too- these are invaluable in a solo and for fills.

You've been playing for three years- Rome wasn't built in a day and a great player didn't learn to create a great solo overnight. Don't rush it- it will come.
 

Luke

Senior Member
Messages
11,898
Get yourself some backing tracks and work with them.

Roland makes this:


You get a bunch of backing tracks within it and then you can add your own MP3s as well

Or go old school and buy one of these off eBay and get the RAM cards.



I have both and use them all the time.
 

jeffmatz

Member
Messages
325
Hmmm. Well they might be OK but they aren't going anywhere.

This Metheny quote always said it for me:

"You know... the frustrating thing is every now and then you actually do get it right. It might be every 4th night or every 10th night or every six months or once a year but every now and then you do it. And that makes it worse almost because it's like you KNOW you can do it, you KNOW that you're not crazy. It's there. There is a truth there that can be found. And I think each year that you play you become more consistent or you get closer to that truth that you establish in your mind. But as you get closer to it, it also moves at the same rate higher away from where you are."
Heavy stuff, similar to what a very good player I know once told me...

"The better I get, the further away 'great' moves."
 




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