Thinking ahead (or hearing ahead) while playing lead

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by mcmurray, Nov 28, 2017.

  1. Sascha Franck

    Sascha Franck Member

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    Hm, to be honest, this doesn't sound all that much like "anticipated playing" to my ears. It's pretty much bog standard "let's see where the right notes are and do something with them". Doesn't mean it's bad or anything, just not very elaborated when it comes to "plausible" lines and such.
     
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  2. brad347

    brad347 Member

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    I don't conceive it as "thinking ahead" or "hearing ahead." Improvising is very much in-the-moment; not premeditated in any way.

    It's exactly the same sensation as extemporaneous speech; carrying on a conversation with a friend, etc. You're responding to what's happening around you. Your fluency just "takes over" and you just speak. The "conception" and the "execution" are one and the same. The only "preparation" is all of the language you've learned and your lifetime of education. So it is in music.

    When I'm conversing with my friends, I'm not "thinking a sentence ahead" in the conversation or anecdote. I'm just improvising. I may have a broad idea of what I'm trying to communicate, or I may just be responding to ideas others are throwing out. I'm always working within a framework (the general practices and conventions of the English language). But I'm never "thinking ahead" to the exact construction of what the next sentence out of my mouth will be. That sounds exhausting!

    And crucially, it's always obvious to everyone around if I've got a new vocabulary word or smart-sounding sentence I'm contriving to use. It's always obvious and wooden. True conversation relies on improvisation. The same thing happens if you try to squeeze in some newly-practiced lick or pattern. It always sticks out, because it breaks the flow of ideas. In this way, I can't think of a worse thing to do than premeditate a line... even if the premeditation occurs only seconds before.
     
  3. ZeyerGTR

    ZeyerGTR Supporting Member

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    What's helped for me is working on classical pieces. It's not my background or forte at all, so it's challenging on both the reading and execution side. Once I've got the tune basically memorized, I find I play it much better thinking a measure ahead. That's been good practice for other music more in my wheelhouse. When I keep my focus on the current note or phrase I tend to flub a lot more frequently because I'm "not ready" for what's next, especially if it's a challenging part.

    +1 to feeling what 4 bars or 8 bars is like. I've gotten much better at that learning standards and improvising over them, as opposed to a static backing track where I can safely noodle for 30 minutes without paying attention. :)
     
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  4. StevenA

    StevenA Member

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    I like to think of it as being well prepared despite not knowing exactly what you will be playing. Say you go to a bar to meet women, you may or may not be prepared to have an improvised conversation with them. A guy like me would end up like Steve Carell
    in 40 YOV during his first date at Speed dating. OTOH, a guy like Tucker Max would go in and completely clean up, leaving with whoever he wants whenever he wants. Very well prepared!
     
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  5. Average Joe

    Average Joe Member

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    Actually, I think it's more about listening to what you just played than actually thinking ahead. The idea should be: What can I play next that adds to what I just played. It's a sort of active listening and responding to yourself, rather than just running a bunch of licks
     
  6. Sascha Franck

    Sascha Franck Member

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    Well, while we are at comparing improvisation to talking (which I happen to find being a nice approach): When you start a sentence, you pretty much know a) what you'll try to get across, b) how you'll start and c) almost exactly how you'll end. It's usually not that you'd line up a bunch of subjects and forget about any verbs or so.
    Ideally, it should be pretty much the same when improvising.

    (Unfortunately, as English is just some weird stuff for me (I'm german), I can't describe it any better.)
     
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  7. JustABluesGuy

    JustABluesGuy Member

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    You explain it quite well @Sascha Franck. Many of us English speakers couldn't even begin to explain it in ANY other language.
     
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  8. dewey decibel

    dewey decibel Member

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    I gave it a listen, made it about 4 minutes. As others have said, phrasing is very important. But not note-to-note, it's about the phrase as a whole, and where it fits. You need to think in terms of themes and motifs. He keeps bringing back the initial theme he plays right from the start, in both melody and rhythm, but not verbatim. For example you'll notice he rarely plays over the 4th bar of the progression, he let's that just hang until much later in the tune, which adds some suspense and eventually release. As for the chords, you're right it is a repeating vamp, but there are some more complicated chords happening. It's basically the Hey Joe changes, but lots of extensions floating around, especially over that last one (would be Ab in Hey Joe but not sure if the same key) which has some #11 and 9th action happening. Truth is, if anything that actually makes it easier to stay in minor pent land as it lessens the sting of Ab over Cmin; you don't need to try and make the changes as much. That said, there are changes, and even if you can't play over them it's important to understand that they have weight, the Ab sound/feels different from the Cmin. The Ab provides some tension, but it's more of a suspended, hanging kind of thing and not the usual tension/release we usually think of, and then the Cmin brings you back home. Or something like that...

    As I type this I thought of another iconic solo featuring these changes; Stairway to Heaven. Jimmy actually starts the solo in a similar way, laying off of bar 4. Because harmonically that's the hardest bar to play over. And when he does finally get to it he's repeating a line that he'd played over the previous changes, and after that he introduces another guitar line to play call and response with, making the sting of that 3rd chord even less. Just some observations...


    Edit- Realized I was rambling and lost my initial thought, but don't have time to go change it. My point was, although the chord progression isn't used as a guide so much in a harmonic sense, it is in terms of rhythmic placement and phrasing.
     
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2017
  9. mcmurray

    mcmurray Member

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    Not rambling, it actually makes a lot of sense and has given me a lot to think about. Thanks!
     
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  10. gennation

    gennation Member

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    Something I hear when listening to someone like pianists Bob James is he is always playing measures ahead of where he’s at. I don’t have note for more examples but kind of put it together in my head listening to a couple of his improvs. What I hear is he’s either playing over the next chord or the V7 of the next chord almost immediately when a new chord starts, some times its measure ahead. I’ve tried it and it has some promise.

    Another thing I did once at a free jazz band recording session was...

    We played Moments Notice with the lead sheet but we didn’t want to play it straight, we wanted it very free, improvisational, etc...what I did for my “interpretation” was I played a chord fragment solo moving the chords in double time. So I went through the tune twice before the rest of the bands once. With everyone taking things outside it worked perfect.
     
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2017
  11. tweedster

    tweedster Supporting Member

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    I find working off of chord arpeggios and inversions + riffing off of CAGED fingering grids to be my best approach.

    Also a simple line with vibrato, tone, confidence, and phrasing helps. Call and response licks are also great.

    Blowing over recorded changes and vamps for an hour a day works wonders.

    Usually I will practice chords, fingerings, naming the notes I'm playing on the guitar, taking songs apart etc. for an hour. Then another hour over changes.
     

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