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Old 04-26-2013, 05:04 AM   #1
Elo01
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[Concrete example inside]Need help making my soloing less boring

Alright, so I've recorded this using my looper yesterday:
http://profile.ultimate-guitar.com/...all/play1188722

And while I think that I'm past the beginner-play-scales-upanddown stage, my improv isn't exactly amazing either, there's nothing that really grabs attention

So, this is what I noticed:

*It's just phrase after phrase. I have no idea how I could make the whole thing sound "connected", or rather make it sounds like it's one solo, not lick after lick. Gilmour is pretty much my role model for this, he is able to create really long and meaningful phrases (or multiple phrases that are connected, whereas I only have space between them) without sounding obnoxious. I know that having space is important, but I feel that I have way too much space and don't know how to get rid of it

*I am (almost) always resolving to the same note (tonal center). Whenever I try to resolve, for instance, to the 5th, it just doesn't sound right. But when I resolve to the I over and over after each lick it's just boring

*I am playing from muscle memory. The whole process of improv is still a mystery to me. When I'm playing 16th notes I don't have the time to think about what note might be a good note to resolve to, which is probably connected to my first issue. I need to have the space between the phrases so I can think about what I play next. How do you get to the point where you can actively think "Hm, this might sound good over that chord", WHILE you are playing something?

*I'm always playing in the same position, hence sounding "same"-y. Though I'm already working on playing in other positions
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Old 04-26-2013, 05:31 AM   #2
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Do you think in sound or just the fingerings/notes you are playing?

Also the solo didn't sound that bad. Maybe you are just too critical about your playing.
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Old 04-26-2013, 06:03 AM   #3
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golden rules of improv

1) art ain't no place for a perfectionist
2) listen. your ear will always supersede your finger-feel
3) listen to and learn as much music as you possibly can

keep these in mind and it'll develop naturally. it's not a skill that you can watch a youtube video on and "get", it's not a series of dates you can memorize for a US history test and forget afterwards - it's a dynamic language and an artform that's developed naturally over many years.

so relax, have fun with it. don't be so critical. meditate while you play and find inner piece and focus
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Old 04-26-2013, 06:58 AM   #4
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Yeah man, if i had to rate myself, id say im the same as you, but stuck in rut.

I have recently started to jam along to the tv, helps with transcribing just to work out a chrod progression or riff, then if i like it, throw it into the loop pedal, then listen for a while, rather than just playing, because i can hear things in my head, but they dont naturally flow from my fingers yet, i need afew runs to work it all out.

Also, you dont always have to keep coming back to the root note.
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Old 04-26-2013, 06:58 AM   #5
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Quote:
*It's just phrase after phrase. I have no idea how I could make the whole thing sound "connected", or rather make it sounds like it's one solo, not lick after lick


This only happens when you memorize licks and just try to string them together. You will always get a disjointed sound if you do this. Best thing to fix this is just to play by ear; a lot. Like a lot lot. Like all ****ing day lot.
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Old 04-26-2013, 08:07 AM   #6
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Something else is that instead of resolving all of the licks after a set amount of time, expand on some and shorten other phrases. It'll help, maybe not alot at first, but when you start getting some natural minor scales in there, and then can travel all over the fretboard, it'll help. Also, hold your ending notes sometimes, if you want it to sound more connected that's always a good way.

Last edited by lightdark : 04-26-2013 at 08:09 AM.
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Old 04-26-2013, 08:37 AM   #7
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Old 04-26-2013, 11:27 AM   #8
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Okay, a couple of thoughts:

The reason why it sounds like just a bunch of licks is because it is just a bunch of licks. All good solos start with a melody, and you don't have one.

Listen to the solo to Muse's "Madness." Do you hear how that STARTS with the melody and then embellishes it? Practice doing that. Pick a song you like, create a backing track for it with your looper, and then just play the melody. Do that until it's automatic. And then start to embellish it.

Think of licks NOT as the point of the solo, but rather as the spice. That is to say, in your solo, you're playing a melody, and let's say the melody goes from C# down to A. You could just play that. But that's also a time when, maybe, you have an interesting lick that will take you, in time, from C# down to A - so you can play that lick instead. The lick is a way to get you from note to note in a more interesting way - NOT the point of the solo itself. (And it doesn't matter how much you love a spice, you don't want to each a big mouthful of it with nothing else, right?)

So practice doing solos like the Muse solo. Start with the melody of the song, then embellish it to heighten the emotional journey.

(by the way, if it's hard for you to figure out the melody, then you need to work on your ear!)

Next, you might look at a solo like the solos in "Sweet Child of Mine." Slash is playing a melody here, too. It's not the melody of the song, but you do hear how the more complex later solos are all just variations of the melody which Slash first plays at 1:31, that lasts about fifteen seconds? Later solos are built out of embellished variants of that 15-second melody, repeated (until the outtro bit which is something else entirely).

Another theme-and-variations idea can be heard in Duane Allman's work in "Blue Sky." Duane's solo starts at about 1:08, and ends at about 2:30 when Dickey Betts doubles him. What I want you to listen for here is the way this solo is built out of variations on a little two-bar phrase. Now, he gets pretty far afield (much further than Slash gets in his solo) but I want you to listen to this solo and hear little 8-beat "sentences" and notice how each sentence is related to the previous sentence, just a little more complex, a little more varied. If you listen to the first sentence and the last sentence it's hard to hear the connection, but every step along the road is clearly just a variation of the last one. The moment you start thinking about this solo as a series of connected phrases it becomes easy to understand what he's doing.

You have to practice this stuff to get good at it, so the first step is to start your soloing with a melody. If you sit down without a melody, forget it, you're dead before you even start because all you have is licks. Realize, also, that most great solos are composed. Heck, even if you listen to someone like Miles Davis you'll hear that the improvisation STARTS with something related to the original melody of the song, and using that from a jumping off point (and if you listen to multiple performances, you'll hear that he's often traveling by a lot of the same wayposts).
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Old 04-26-2013, 06:55 PM   #9
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Old 04-26-2013, 08:11 PM   #10
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Here is a video for you...

Quote:
Originally Posted by GottaPracticeMore;14883108
In this video, Hess basically tells a student to stop noodling and focus on developing variations of a single lick. The improvement is pretty remarkable.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?featur...&v=Uq0bUChYhWE#!

Sometimes simple ideas are the best.


Quote:
Originally Posted by MissingSomethin;15384333
I REALLY liked what he says at 1:45

That is exactly what I'd like to move from.
When you play fast solos, it sounds impressive to people, but there is nothing musical there, just mechanical.
My slower solos are then just random notes over a progression.

As Tom says, "less is more".
Listen to the crowd agree at 3:28 !
The kid on the right is a really good sport to put his weak playing under a spotlight. Good for him.
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Old 04-26-2013, 08:16 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sti Eci Tehpor
Learn as many ii-V-I lines as possible.


Can you elaborate?
How does learning a progression like Dm G C help with making solos less boring.
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Old 04-26-2013, 08:41 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Elo01

*I am playing from muscle memory. The whole process of improv is still a mystery to me. When I'm playing 16th notes I don't have the time to think about what note might be a good note to resolve to, which is probably connected to my first issue. I need to have the space between the phrases so I can think about what I play next. How do you get to the point where you can actively think "Hm, this might sound good over that chord", WHILE you are playing something?



Don't be too hard on yourself. You're solo sounds much like David's solo in "The Wall" and that's quite something to be "proud" of.

The muscle memory retained from playing other musicians lines is but natural but I guess true improvisation is about making music IMPROMPTU without deliberately using any pre-practiced scales, progressions or runs and just allowing your true reflexes to take over... and being able to come up with an INSTANT COMPOSITION.

Last edited by ha_asgag : 04-30-2013 at 08:55 AM.
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Old 04-27-2013, 05:58 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MaggaraMarine
Do you think in sound or just the fingerings/notes you are playing?

Also the solo didn't sound that bad. Maybe you are just too critical about your playing.


I try to think in sounds, but I keep coming back to thinking in fingerings/positions. But I mostly don't think at all while doing improv and just noodle / play from muscle memory

Quote:
Originally Posted by mark.bark
Yeah man, if i had to rate myself, id say im the same as you, but stuck in rut.

I have recently started to jam along to the tv, helps with transcribing just to work out a chrod progression or riff, then if i like it, throw it into the loop pedal, then listen for a while, rather than just playing, because i can hear things in my head, but they dont naturally flow from my fingers yet, i need afew runs to work it all out.

Also, you dont always have to keep coming back to the root note.


If it's that easy for you to transcribe things, you're definitely more advanced than me. Working on it, but transcribing something still takes me quite some time

Quote:
Originally Posted by Erc
This only happens when you memorize licks and just try to string them together. You will always get a disjointed sound if you do this. Best thing to fix this is just to play by ear; a lot. Like a lot lot. Like all ****ing day lot.


By playing by ear I assume you mean not playing a lick you know, but rather trying to play something that you make up in your head?

Quote:
Originally Posted by lightdark
Something else is that instead of resolving all of the licks after a set amount of time, expand on some and shorten other phrases. It'll help, maybe not alot at first, but when you start getting some natural minor scales in there, and then can travel all over the fretboard, it'll help. Also, hold your ending notes sometimes, if you want it to sound more connected that's always a good way.


Huh. I haven't even noticed that my phrases more or less all have the same length, thanks


Quote:
Originally Posted by HotspurJr
Okay, a couple of thoughts:

The reason why it sounds like just a bunch of licks is because it is just a bunch of licks. All good solos start with a melody, and you don't have one.

Listen to the solo to Muse's "Madness." Do you hear how that STARTS with the melody and then embellishes it? Practice doing that. Pick a song you like, create a backing track for it with your looper, and then just play the melody. Do that until it's automatic. And then start to embellish it.

Think of licks NOT as the point of the solo, but rather as the spice. That is to say, in your solo, you're playing a melody, and let's say the melody goes from C# down to A. You could just play that. But that's also a time when, maybe, you have an interesting lick that will take you, in time, from C# down to A - so you can play that lick instead. The lick is a way to get you from note to note in a more interesting way - NOT the point of the solo itself. (And it doesn't matter how much you love a spice, you don't want to each a big mouthful of it with nothing else, right?)

So practice doing solos like the Muse solo. Start with the melody of the song, then embellish it to heighten the emotional journey.

(by the way, if it's hard for you to figure out the melody, then you need to work on your ear!)

Next, you might look at a solo like the solos in "Sweet Child of Mine." Slash is playing a melody here, too. It's not the melody of the song, but you do hear how the more complex later solos are all just variations of the melody which Slash first plays at 1:31, that lasts about fifteen seconds? Later solos are built out of embellished variants of that 15-second melody, repeated (until the outtro bit which is something else entirely).

Another theme-and-variations idea can be heard in Duane Allman's work in "Blue Sky." Duane's solo starts at about 1:08, and ends at about 2:30 when Dickey Betts doubles him. What I want you to listen for here is the way this solo is built out of variations on a little two-bar phrase. Now, he gets pretty far afield (much further than Slash gets in his solo) but I want you to listen to this solo and hear little 8-beat "sentences" and notice how each sentence is related to the previous sentence, just a little more complex, a little more varied. If you listen to the first sentence and the last sentence it's hard to hear the connection, but every step along the road is clearly just a variation of the last one. The moment you start thinking about this solo as a series of connected phrases it becomes easy to understand what he's doing.

You have to practice this stuff to get good at it, so the first step is to start your soloing with a melody. If you sit down without a melody, forget it, you're dead before you even start because all you have is licks. Realize, also, that most great solos are composed. Heck, even if you listen to someone like Miles Davis you'll hear that the improvisation STARTS with something related to the original melody of the song, and using that from a jumping off point (and if you listen to multiple performances, you'll hear that he's often traveling by a lot of the same wayposts).


First of all, thanks for the effort you put in your elaborate answer

What you describe is pretty much a completely different approach compared to how I view guitar solos. For instance, I always thought that slash's sweet child of mine solo is cool lick played after cool lick played after cool lick and that he somehow smoothly connects these licks. Never thought about it as a melody that gets repeated with variations. Huh.

Though I do admit that I have problems identifying the melody and its repititions / variations in sweet child of mine. I can certainly hear some repitition / variation, but I fail to see the complete central melody it's based on. Though I guess I just need far more practice in transcribing. But I can hear it in the madness solo and get your point, thanks

I'll start transcribing the vocal melodies of songs and try to build solos around those melodies now. Man, I wish I had asked this earlier on these forums

There should be a sticky with improv tips like yours, I think many people have the problem of "thinking in licks" instead of thinking in melody, repetition and variation

Quote:
Originally Posted by MissingSomethin
Here is a video for you...


Hm, I think that video goes hand in hand with what HotspurJr said and pretty much nails my problem. You know, for all the hate that Tom Hess gets he makes pretty good educational videos

I'll definitely have to revise my approach to guitar solos and think in terms of melody / variation / repetition instead of thinking in licks and positions, thanks

Quote:
Originally Posted by ha_asgag
Don't be too hard on yourself. You're solo sounds much like David's solo in "The Wall" and that's quite something to be "proud" of.

The muscle memory retained from playing other musicians lines is but natural but I guess true improvisation is about making music IMPROMPTU without deliberately using any pre-practiced scales, progressions or runs and just allowing your true reflexes to take over.


Oh man. Yeah, the first lick I played is definitely from the wall, now that I compare it. But that lick just sounds so good, no wonder it got into my playing


Alright, thanks for all the replies. I've got a lot of stuff to work on now, but having a general Idea of what I need to practice instead of just noodling licks over a backingtrack over and over is quite motivating

Last edited by Elo01 : 04-27-2013 at 06:05 AM.
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Old 04-27-2013, 06:22 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lightdark
Something else is that instead of resolving all of the licks after a set amount of time, expand on some and shorten other phrases. It'll help, maybe not alot at first, but when you start getting some natural minor scales in there, and then can travel all over the fretboard, it'll help. Also, hold your ending notes sometimes, if you want it to sound more connected that's always a good way.


This, keep hold of some notes for a while, also try and mix low notes with high notes in to some of the phrasing

It still sounded good though, I thought

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Old 04-27-2013, 09:01 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MissingSomethin
Can you elaborate?
How does learning a progression like Dm G C help with making solos less boring.


Well, it is one of the most common turnarounds in music(if not the most), & can be applied to many situations including blues.

http://www.mattwarnockguitar.com/tr...-m7-triad-pairs

A perfect example is the "Cm7, F7, Bbmaj7 line" that matt talks about; pretty much use that website and you will be better at soloing. There is a ton of material listed for free.
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Old 04-28-2013, 08:04 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Elo01
I try to think in sounds, but I keep coming back to thinking in fingerings/positions. But I mostly don't think at all while doing improv and just noodle / play from muscle memory

So you are not thinking about what you are playing. No wonder it doesn't sound like you want it to sound like because you aren't even trying to make it sound like that. So try to think in sound rather than just fingerings (I know it's hard sometimes).
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Old 04-29-2013, 03:54 AM   #17
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Old 04-29-2013, 08:02 AM   #18
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One of the things that struck me while listening was how many pauses there were. Not just in the solo, but the riff under it. I think if you put less of a gap in the loop it would help some with everything sounding disconnected. Also, instead of coming to a dead stop you could try holding notes longer to bridge the gap between phrases.

Another thing I advise to help with boring solos is to try & incorpate more varying dynamics & articulation. Listen to any great soloist & you'll begin to notice that they vary things up a lot. Some phrases they'll pick hard, some soft, some they'll palm mute, some they'll let ring. Practice some your favorite licks using different articulations or try accenting in different areas of the phrase. Thus will immediately increase the variety of your playing using nothing more than the licks you already know.

This is just advice to get you started so you should also study up on the other advice in this thread as well.
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Old 04-29-2013, 08:15 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MaggaraMarine
So you are not thinking about what you are playing. No wonder it doesn't sound like you want it to sound like because you aren't even trying to make it sound like that. So try to think in sound rather than just fingerings (I know it's hard sometimes).


To illustrate just how much sense this makes, imagine if you had the same approach to talking - you wouldn't just open your mouth and start making random sounds in an attempt to communicate with someone, would you?

Music is no different, it's a language, and as a musician there's always something you're trying to get accross when you play, some kind of message. It may be as abstract as a feeling or an emotion but there's got to be some kind of direction, some motivation for you picking the guitar up and making noises with it. And the only person qualified to decide what sounds are going to convey that message is you, your ears and brain are far more important than your fingers when it comes to playing the guitar, especially where improvising is concerned.

Decide what you want to say, figure out what you want it to sound like and how it should be articulated, then once you have at least some idea of your goal in mind you can start worrying about how that physically manifests itself on the guitar.

Until you actually have an aim it's impossible to play any way other than aimlessly.
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Old 04-29-2013, 02:00 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Elo01
*It's just phrase after phrase. I have no idea how I could make the whole thing sound "connected", or rather make it sounds like it's one solo, not lick after lick.

*I am (almost) always resolving to the same note (tonal center).

*I am playing from muscle memory. The whole process of improv is still a mystery to me.

*I'm always playing in the same position, hence sounding "same"-y. Though I'm already working on playing in other positions


Hope this helps..

1. Connecting phrases... switch up the order of your licks and phrases. Slow it down. Experiment with pauses and no pauses...

* the BEST BENEFIT of this you will gain the fluidity that you seek, LIKE GILMOUR!, but you will come up with new bridges and a sense of what licks and phrases work best and where!

2. Fight AUTOPILOT! Think before you speak. Be deliberate. Start slow then the speed will come. Sounds the opposite of improv, but know to get to the level of improv you speak of, a lot of study and mechanics and routines were done ahead of time. How can a gymnast improvise (add/do something new) on a double back flip when they don't even practice the back flip at all?

3. Finding different positions to start in is a good beginning. Connect all positions so you can not only start in one position but end up in another. This will help with ALL OF THE ABOVE! You'll find yourself not resolving to the same tonal center, but see options of where to start and end that are more INTERESTING.

Have fun!
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