Hello, and thank you for reading this article! I got a request to do a lesson on improving solos. But, there is just one problem with that request. You can not learn how to improvise! It can't be taught, as it is your sense of musicianship that determines how well you can improvise. But, I try not to fail on delivery of requests, so I decided to try and compile one of those lists on tips to HELP you improvise solos. This will not say to improvise a solo, do this, it is merely some suggestions to try and help you build up your improvisation skills. PRACTICE is the only thing that will make you good at improvisation, keep that in mind. Anyways, this is Tips for Improvisation, so enjoy!
1. Be Fluent in your Scales
Since improvised solos are based heavily around scales, it is obviously a good idea to know your scales inside and out. The scales that you need to know are largely based on what style of music your improvising. But, it is a good idea to know the basic major and minor scales, as well as the major and minor pentatonic, no matter what your genre is, as those four scales are universal amongst music.
When improvising, you shouldn't have to be thinking about what note comes next. This is probably the main cause of improvisation freeze-up; a guitar player (or any instrumentalist) not knowing their scales fluently enough, causing them to blank out in the middle of their solo.
Another important aspect of being fluent in your scales is knowing the scale up and down the entire neck. If you only play notes between the twelfth and fifteenth fret, for example, you probably won't have the most exciting solo in the world. If your doing a short solo, like eight bars or so, you might
be able to get away with a four fret window, but for extended solos, don't expect to keep your audience amused for very long.
2. Understand Scale Modes
This is kind of the same thing as being fluent in scales. It's a good skill to understand scales modes, and be able to utilize different modes in one solo. It just makes your solos that much more interesting and fun.
Now, I don't believe in memorizing something, but instead understanding
it, so don't study a little piece of paper for hours, trying to memorize each mode. Order the modes in a way that seems logical to you, and it will help you understand scale modes. Practice switching between modes, and find combinations that you like. Scale modes aren't extremely crucial to improvising a good solo; I'm not saying that if you don't use modes in your solos they will suck. I'm just saying the being able to utilize modes is what can separate the good soloists from the great soloists.
3. Know Your Key!
This one is probably the most obvious, and very little needs to be explained. Just please know what key your actually supposed to be playing in. You'd be surprised how many people just start ripping a solo in any key they choose. Also, be sure that if there is a key change, you know it's coming. Trust me, this is coming from a guy who was soloing on stage, and went what? We're in G now! half way through a solo.
4. Know your Genre and Mood
Another thing you should be aware of is the actual style of music your playing, as well as the mood that is set.
As far as genre goes, you should use a scale that is often used in that genre, as it would sound familiar to the audience as that style of music. If your doing some sort of experimental genre-fusion, feel free to ignore what I just said, but otherwise, try and keep it in mind. For example, if your doing a bluesy solo, try using someblues scales. Examine solos by other artists of that genre to get an idea of what kind of scales are used (but don't steal their solos!). Another thing about knowing your genre is utilizing techniques used in that genre as well. If you doing an heavy metal improvisation, feel free to throw some sweeps in. If you doing a blues solo, add some bends and double-stops. Just listening to music can help you improve in this category, as it will give you an idea of how this genre differs from that genre in playing.
Also, you should understand the mood that is set. If the band is play a slow and sad accompaniment, you will probably match it with a minor scales. If the band was play fast and joyously, you would probably match it with a major scale. It also helps if you put yourself in that mindset. You might notice that when a guitar player is doing a happy, up-beat solo, he or she has a smile on their face, and is probably moving around the stage, playing very joyously. You might also notice that when a guitar player is doing a sad, depressing sounding guitar solo, he or she is probably frowning, and is quite stationary on the stage. What ever mood it is, just get into it!
5. Don't Think Too Hard!
Yes, when you are improvising a solo it is possible to think too hard. Another major cause of improvisation freeze-up is when the guitar player starts to think what note would sound the best next? A main part of improvisation is just going for it. You need to realize you probably won't have the most melodic solo, especially on your early attempts at improvisation. But, if you know your scales well enough, you can guarantee yourself that you won't go out of key, and you can just let your fingers do all the thinking! Be bold, and trust yourself! If you mess up, keep going! It happens, so don't look back! If you stop when you mess up, it will just make your mistake a million times more obvious. Just go for it!
This is easily the most important tip of the six. As I said before, the only way you will ever become good at improvisation is through practice. Find some backing tracks on the internet, and play over those. One thing I do often is improvise solos over some of my favourite songs. Another thing you can do with a group of people is what's called passing solos. Just get a group together, think of a basic progression in any given key, style, or genre, get a rhythm going, and just take turns soloing over it (you can make it even more interesting by improvising the backing instrumentals). You can do this in any scenario, from you and friend with two acoustic guitars, to a full band passing solos in your garage (remember, drummers can solo too!). One thing is for sure thoughPRACTICE!!!
Well, hopefully that helped you get into the groove of improvisation. Just keep those six tips in mind, and feel free to expand on them. That's all for today's lesson, so get out there and start passing those solos! And remember, PRACTICE!
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