Telling a story when improvising... ideas?

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by ivers, Apr 22, 2005.


  1. ivers

    ivers Member

    Messages:
    3,142
    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2005
    Location:
    Norway
    How do you go about working on this, to be consistent in the ability to 'tell a story' when you improvise a solo? I find this the most challenging aspects of playing these days, and I'm very interested in how people approach it.
     
  2. fyler

    fyler Supporting Member

    Messages:
    1,314
    Joined:
    Apr 25, 2004
    this probably won't be very helpful advice, but i like to do creative visualization when i play. not necessarily in a narrative way, but i'll think to myself "what would someone falling down a flight of stairs sound like?", then proceed to attempt an approximation of that sound. it's not a particularly "technical" approach, but it's fun, and you can come up with some cool ideas/sounds.
     
  3. Dajbro

    Dajbro Member

    Messages:
    2,118
    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2005
    Reminds me of a guitar teacher I had in college. He was teaching a jazz combo class and was getting frustrated with the drummer playing it too safe and traditional. So he threw a chair across the room and said, "Play that!"

    David
     
  4. lhallam

    lhallam Member

    Messages:
    15,484
    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2004
    Location:
    Lost
    Depends upon the style of music and length of the solo.

    For a long jam over easy chords I attempt to approach from the same way a classical composer does. That is, come up with 2-4 note idea and build on it. This is termed an organic approach.

    Play it (statement),(then development) repeat it, repeat it up a 4th, up a 5th, up an 8va. Try playing it backward. Play it with different rhythms. The hardest part I find is to remember the original idea and bring it back later in the solo (restatement).

    Dickie Betts solo on "Whippin Post" on Filmore East is a great example of this technique. Miles Davis also does this as well but it takes some study to figure it out. On Giant Steps and you can hear Coltrane playing the same idea over the changes but in different places.

    For a short "pop" solo I tend to riff off the melody of the song. Garcia did this all the time. This is a great approach for me when I just can't seem to figure out what to play.

    Another approach is stream-of-consciencious where the "glue" is more abstract. For example a repetative rhythmic idea where the pitches are not the same at all but the rhythmic figure is. In something modal you can hit the same 2-3 landing notes with flourishes in between. Zappa did this quite a bit.
     
  5. rwe333

    rwe333 Supporting Member

    Messages:
    15,582
    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2002
    Location:
    Canada's Capital
    Sing when you play, work towards a climax, play off the melody, think rhythmically, emphasis dynamics, alter timbres, expand the harmony, develop motifs, etc...
     
  6. Mr.Hanky

    Mr.Hanky Member

    Messages:
    3,926
    Joined:
    Jan 25, 2005
    Location:
    New Joisey
    Wow, I don't know how you guys do that. I try not to think at all and I live in the moment and just let it happen and take it's course. Ususally the only time I will think about it is before entering, do I want to come in like a freight train, or like a hummingbird, and then go from there.

    For me, not thinking and not knowing is where it is at, you simply get out of the way of the music. I find this fascinating because you WILL play things you have never played before. The trick is to capitalize on them, and not paint yourself into a corner.

    My best analogy is that it is like surfing, every wave is different , you can never predict them, and would be foolish to try.
     
  7. lhallam

    lhallam Member

    Messages:
    15,484
    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2004
    Location:
    Lost
    Just like practicing licks you can learn to formulate the structure of your solo until afterwhile it becomes internalized.

    I agree 100% with you, when you're not practicing. I'm sure in the case of Dickie Betts solo, he'd worked out some of those ideas during jams. Then he put them together just as you describe.

    I never know what's going to come out either and my best playing is when I don't think about it.

    We were just answering his question.

    BTW - great description.
     
  8. Mr.Hanky

    Mr.Hanky Member

    Messages:
    3,926
    Joined:
    Jan 25, 2005
    Location:
    New Joisey
    I agree, in my band I have some solos that are worked out.
    They have come together from a lot of improv, the solo in "Beat Up" is a perfect example of a worked out solo. I wish I could pull one like that outta my arse on a regualr basis.

    But for a blues, nah, just go for it. The more I pratice ( and I have been doing a LOT of that lately) the better my improv becomes (duh!). Most importantly is that the ideas keep coming and there is less repitition, that is what I have found lately.
     
  9. ivers

    ivers Member

    Messages:
    3,142
    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2005
    Location:
    Norway
    Thanks for all the advice, folks, it will be very helpful in tonight's jam. :)
     
  10. Jimmydeez

    Jimmydeez Member

    Messages:
    3,478
    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2002
    Location:
    Havertown, PA (outside philly)
    My favorite is when the whole band is brought into the solo especially drums. I love when a band latches onto a groove or a riff and they rock it out for a bit and then add variations. This really helps us add some cool dynamics to our songs.

    Here is an example:

    Straight forward rock beat..... then Bass, drums, and acoustic lock onto a cool groove while sax and lead guitar are playing a riff together.... then back to the rock beat as I take my solo based on the riff.

    I love hearing this kinda thing. Lots of my favorite bands do something similar when they are jamming. I like to hear the whole band tell a story with the song with my solo just being one part of the story.
     
  11. lhallam

    lhallam Member

    Messages:
    15,484
    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2004
    Location:
    Lost
    Yeah baby, nothing like it when everyone is listening to each other and clicking. I always play rhythm gtr in every effort to enhance the soloist. Sometimes that means not playing at all! Sparse, thick, loud soft, that's how you keep an audience interested.

    Dave Stewart from National Health once said, (paraphrase) "Play compositions like it's improvised and improvise like it's composed". Perfect.
     
  12. rh

    rh Robo Sapien Noise Maker Gold Supporting Member

    Messages:
    6,397
    Joined:
    Oct 31, 2003
    Location:
    New York, USA
    Not trying to be glib, but do you have a story to tell?
     
  13. ivers

    ivers Member

    Messages:
    3,142
    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2005
    Location:
    Norway
    Good question, and I don't know. Perhaps not, but ideas about motif development, use of pauses and dynamics in order to expand a musical idea, and such are always welcome anyway.
     
  14. Mark Robinson

    Mark Robinson Member

    Messages:
    6,710
    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2002
    Location:
    Redondo Beach, California
    A little bit of planning, and a lot of communication can really help.

    I've played with the same crew now for nearly 10 years. We have two drummers, who alternate, based upon availabilty etc. For the material where there are opportunities for some development, beyond a couple bars, I like to discuss the stuff, right before the set starts, to share my intent with the drummer, and other soloists. (We always have keys, and sax, and sometimes, harp).

    One of our drummers, years back, would automatically slam into a ride cymbal thing, at pretty high volume, whenever I would start a solo, this was his way of contributing energy etc. The problem for me was that we had too few options, when opening up at max energy for the section. Over the years we've worked it out, so that now, he'll cut me a break if asked, and reduce his footprint at the beginning of a solo so that I can do something other than blasting at the top of my guitar voice, with nowhere to go.

    In a rehearsed context, some linked ideas, harmonized phrasing instead of riffing, is a good way to get some additional interest going. Trading fours or whatever chunks can be really exciting.

    If there is no rehearsal, then listening is the most important thing I can think of. Frequently the most effective contribution I can make is to lay out, and I'm not joking.
     
  15. Mr.Hanky

    Mr.Hanky Member

    Messages:
    3,926
    Joined:
    Jan 25, 2005
    Location:
    New Joisey
    :)

    Oh man brother, I FEEL your pain. Been there, hated it.
     
  16. KHK

    KHK Silver Supporting Member

    Messages:
    870
    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2004
    Location:
    NS Beach, Fl.
    +1 on singing whether it be out loud or in your head. Tends to make every note a concious, more meaningful one. Singing to yourself trains the brain to compose melodically so you don't go soloing on automatic pilot. Certainly dynamics as someone mentioned are very important...all about building the tension and release. Start slow and low, build and release. Alot of good suggestions.

    The "thinking" aspect of playing is a 'Fine line" type of thing. I understand folks who say that their best playing occurs when they don't think. My best playing occurs when I am in a zone where every thought is about what I am playing, what others are playing and where I want to take it and nothing else. I expect we might be feeling the same thing but to me it is a very concious, thoughtful state.
     
  17. lhallam

    lhallam Member

    Messages:
    15,484
    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2004
    Location:
    Lost
    That delicate balance has always been a tough challenge for me. Relaxed focused awareness open to the cosmos. When you hit it, there is NOTHING like it.
     
  18. Mr.Hanky

    Mr.Hanky Member

    Messages:
    3,926
    Joined:
    Jan 25, 2005
    Location:
    New Joisey
    WERD!!

    I had a night like that on Friday at a gig. Great room, great sound, great crowd and we were psyched to play. Things like that make you grow as a player cause I KNOW I played stuff that I have never played before that night. I should really start taping these gigs.
     
  19. Guinness Lad

    Guinness Lad Silver Supporting Member

    Messages:
    15,476
    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2004
    Location:
    On top a mountain of Chocolate Chips
    Here's my synopsis of a couple guitar lessons I took about soloing.

    1. Think of your playing as speaking with someone. When you meet someone you don't go up to them and speak nonstop for 5 minutes (well maybe some of you do). You greet them first by saying, "Hello". They answer. Then you say "My name is whomever". They respond. Then you start to tell them something. They respond. Then you tell more, etc. The person listening to you is the audience, and this is your time to stop playing and let the band perculate a bit.

    2. Think of soloing as gears in a car. You don't start off driving in 4th gear do you? Start off with little licks and lots of space, gradually build with more complex ideas and intensity.

    Ever since I've done this my playing has gotten way better because I'm playing in the band and not on top of it. :)
     
  20. ivers

    ivers Member

    Messages:
    3,142
    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2005
    Location:
    Norway
    Cool analogies, that's the stuff I need to tell myself, like when I get impatient and eager to use all my different ideas within the first few bars (to exaggerate a bit, of course, it's not necessarily that bad). Thanks! :)
     

Share This Page