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Old 08-16-2013, 12:27 AM   #1
notafishmonger
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Improvisers...

Improv totally isn't my thing. At least not on the guitar, that's why I prefer planning stuff ahead of time.

I was just wondering how hard is it for improvisers out there to just come up with stuff on the go, right on the stage on the beat. I am astonished by how fast some guitarists can think and come up with shapes without memorizing the fingering itself.

As a bassist, I can tell what notes are in a chord or even memorize it when I walk through a song, but I don't have to memorize where I place my fingers all at once. Is there a trick or something guitar players use??
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Old 08-16-2013, 12:41 AM   #2
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The thing is, most improvisers don't think in shapes. (Try telling a horn player to think "in shapes".) In fact, if you're a musician and don't think in "sound", you're doing it wrong.

While guitar is an instrument where it's easy to get stuck thinking in shapes, no musician should ever do that.
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Old 08-16-2013, 02:19 AM   #3
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It's exactly as crazysam said. Good improvisers don't think in shapes, they have worked on the connection between their ear and instrument so much that they can hear a line that sounds good in their head before they play it, and then know exactly how to play it on their instrument.

Playing by ear is what makes the difference between a good improviser and a bad one. You wouldn't believe how many times i have jammed with a group of people and the other guitarist have to ask what key we are in to improvise, while the rest of us just listen and play.

Think in sounds, not frets/shapes.
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Old 08-16-2013, 05:52 AM   #4
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Since you haven't shared much about your musical background, it's not easy to give you some useful advice. Nevertheless, here is a concrete (although a bit random) suggestion... Try to sing what you play when you're improvising. It will help you do what others refer to as "think in sound". And in time, your fingers will know what movement to make in order to play the intended intervals. Just like your vocal cords know what movement to make in order to sing these intervals. In the end, it's all about practice. You may have a brilliant musical mind. Have all the greatest musical ideas in your head. But still, you will have to practice hard to teach your body to perform these ideas in real time (on whatever instrument).

There are several paths you can take when learning to master guitar in the above described fashion. Learning box shapes is one of them. This is the most recent thread where "to box or not to box" question was raised: http://www.ultimate-guitar.com/foru...d.php?t=1612701 To get my opinion, you must read it to it's very end, though.

Last edited by SandalledSteve : 08-16-2013 at 05:57 AM.
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Old 08-16-2013, 06:03 AM   #5
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Although you shouldn't think in shapes you can still use them. You hear in your mind where you want the music to go; the shape you visualise just helps you to get there accurately.
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Old 08-16-2013, 10:46 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by notafishmonger
Improv totally isn't my thing. At least not on the guitar, that's why I prefer planning stuff ahead of time.

I was just wondering how hard is it for improvisers out there to just come up with stuff on the go, right on the stage on the beat. I am astonished by how fast some guitarists can think and come up with shapes without memorizing the fingering itself.

As a bassist, I can tell what notes are in a chord or even memorize it when I walk through a song, but I don't have to memorize where I place my fingers all at once. Is there a trick or something guitar players use??

it's actually not that hard to do. it seems hard only because you can't do it. good improvisers are good because they practice improvising all the time. there's no secret, just dedication and a love of making music.
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Old 08-16-2013, 11:54 AM   #7
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The thing is, in addition to note thinking in shapes, it's about not thinking in note names or chord names, either but rather in sounds.

It's about thinking "what sound do I want to hear?" and finding that on your instrument.
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Old 08-16-2013, 12:16 PM   #8
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yeah it's about knowing how it's gonna sound before you play it. it's not as improvised as you'd think, you've practised it before (or at least practised improvising, if that makes sense).

Also box shapes can help, on guitar anyway. yeah, it's silly to only think of the boxes and get bogged down in them, but refusing to use an actually quite useful shortcut (as long as you realise that that's what it is) is kinda counter-productive, if you ask me.
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Old 08-16-2013, 12:43 PM   #9
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Well, I think almost everyone goes through a phase of using box shapes, and it's totally useful as a part of your development.

But your goal is to get beyond them, I think.
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Old 08-16-2013, 12:57 PM   #10
notafishmonger
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SandalledSteve
Since you haven't shared much about your musical background, it's not easy to give you some useful advice. Nevertheless, here is a concrete (although a bit random) suggestion... Try to sing what you play when you're improvising. It will help you do what others refer to as "think in sound". And in time, your fingers will know what movement to make in order to play the intended intervals. Just like your vocal cords know what movement to make in order to sing these intervals. In the end, it's all about practice. You may have a brilliant musical mind. Have all the greatest musical ideas in your head. But still, you will have to practice hard to teach your body to perform these ideas in real time (on whatever instrument).

There are several paths you can take when learning to master guitar in the above described fashion. Learning box shapes is one of them. This is the most recent thread where "to box or not to box" question was raised: http://www.ultimate-guitar.com/foru...d.php?t=1612701 To get my opinion, you must read it to it's very end, though.


Wow that post changed quite a bit of how I think of music, good read!

I do understand what some of you mean by guessing the interval and getting sound you want in your head. When I first started playing without any formal musical training. I unknowingly thew in lots of 5ths and octaves because I knew it will sound good most of the time until I realized one day through reading wiki, that point on the scale happens to be in the very basic chord formula(1,3,5).

Overtime, I want to do more and more of that stuff to find out what sounds good with whatever that was printed on the chord sheet handed down to me. VERY early on, I went as far transcribing the entire bassline on tab heard on the CD then analyzing it bit by bit, piecing together the fundamentals of playing in an arpeggio(is that a noun or verb??!).
I then tabbed out my own version of the bassline. 2 years ago, that took an entire day, but seeing a fraction of that work being done in split second in a guitar solo mentally is just astonishing!

I guess in the end it takes practice.
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Old 08-16-2013, 01:41 PM   #11
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^ yeah it all depends on what you're like. I think acting like box shapes are bad is dangerous- a similar analogy would be saying that you have to learn number theory before learning to count, or learn the international phonetic alphabet before learning to spell. Which is obviously crazy.

that's not to say a few badasses might not be able to do it, but acting like it's wrong for everyone?

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Old 08-16-2013, 01:46 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave_Mc
^ yeah it all depends on what you're like. I think acting like box shapes are bad is dangerous- a similar analogy would be saying that you have to learn number theory before learning to count, or learn the international phonetic alphabet before learning to spell. Which is obviously crazy.

that's not to say a few badasses might not be able to do it, but acting like it's wrong for everyone?


Imho, the only use box shapes really have is building up finger strength and muscle memory. That said, I could go into what I think young/new guitar players should be taught instead of box shapes, but I won't do it here. (I made a fairly decent argument, I think, in the thread that SandalledSteve referenced in post #4.)
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Last edited by crazysam23_Atax : 08-16-2013 at 01:50 PM.
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Old 08-16-2013, 03:40 PM   #13
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Nobody actually improvises 100 percent. That is, you're never just playing things out
of the clear blue sky that you've never played before.
When improvising, you are pulling from a vocabulary of pre-learned , pre-practiced phrases
and or scales, chords, etc etc...
You are simply putting it together in a new way. But you're not just making it up out of nowhere.
Similar to when you are speaking. when you speak, you're improvising, but you dont
suddenly pull out all these crazy words you've never said before. You're always saying things you've said before, just in a new way, or a new order. We all improvise everytime we speak. Unless we
're reading a script.

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Old 08-16-2013, 03:47 PM   #14
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I've been wondering what to learn other than box shapes. Last summer I tried to learn the whole scale on the entire fretboard so I can improvise one day....just guess how that worked out heh
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Old 08-16-2013, 04:13 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by crazysam23_Atax
Imho, the only use box shapes really have is building up finger strength and muscle memory. That said, I could go into what I think young/new guitar players should be taught instead of box shapes, but I won't do it here. (I made a fairly decent argument, I think, in the thread that SandalledSteve referenced in post #4.)


an awful lot of classic licks are based on the box shapes though.

the big problem is if you expect people to learn way too much all at once, an awful lot will just quit. Which is obviously not ideal.

that being said i don't really disagree with anything you said in that other thread, either. I agree that learning scale shapes ad nauseum is boring as hell (and i don't even know all the shapes, or close to them, yet i know the intervals of all the major modes etc. which i'd argue is more important).

it's like most education, there's more than one way to skin a cat and you have to find the way that works best for you

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Originally Posted by toddkreuz
Nobody actually improvises 100 percent. That is, you're never just playing things out
of the clear blue sky that you've never played before.
When improvising, you are pulling from a vocabulary of pre-learned , pre-practiced phrases
and or scales, chords, etc etc...
You are simply putting it together in a new way. But you're not just making it up out of nowhere.
Similar to when you are speaking. when you speak, you're improvising, but you dont
suddenly pull out all these crazy words you've never said before. You're always saying things you've said before, just in a new way, or a new order. We all improvise everytime we speak. Unless we
're reading a script.


exactly
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Old 08-16-2013, 04:52 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave_Mc
an awful lot of classic licks are based on the box shapes though.

the big problem is if you expect people to learn way too much all at once, an awful lot will just quit. Which is obviously not ideal.

that being said i don't really disagree with anything you said in that other thread, either. I agree that learning scale shapes ad nauseum is boring as hell (and i don't even know all the shapes, or close to them, yet i know the intervals of all the major modes etc. which i'd argue is more important).

it's like most education, there's more than one way to skin a cat and you have to find the way that works best for you



exactly


This got me wondering how Slash's mind works when he does his bluesish solos which I absolutely love. Kinda hard to picture some of the stuff he does is simply based on something like this, something I find incredibly boring in music lessons.

http://www.danbohane.co.uk/blues%20scales.gif

Glad I didn't give up then but I wished that I paid more attention...
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Old 08-16-2013, 05:11 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave_Mc
an awful lot of classic licks are based on the box shapes though.

Kind of, kind of not. A lot of the classic licks are based off of chords really. Guys like Hendrix or Clapton or Page were very good at licks that were based off of chord shapes.
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Old 08-16-2013, 07:19 PM   #18
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Everything fits into one box shape or another. The problem is that so many players halt their development after learning just a few "shapes" and get stuck in them.

One trick to fluid improvisation is knowing how to get from one position/shape to another (and knowing how that sounds, of course). Learning the fretboard horizontally is really a big step towards becoming a decent player.

Think in terms of where your hands are now, where you want them to go, and what's in between. Once you're familiar with your scales and triad shapes, getting from the open low E to the 12th fret on the high E is actually pretty easy. It's all about preparing for and executing your accents.
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Old 08-16-2013, 08:26 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave_Mc
an awful lot of classic licks are based on the box shapes though.


I disagree.

A lot of classic licks are based on musical ideas. Shapes are designed with the idea of being shortcuts to playing musical ideas. So a lick may be contained with a shape - minor pentatonic licks are going to be contained within a minor pentatonic shape, of course - but they're not BASED on the shape.

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Old 08-17-2013, 03:21 AM   #20
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Classic rock, modern rock and blues licks are based on shapes, it's the nature of the guitar and people need to get over it.

If you want to learn chord based ideas, then study jazz or country.

Sorry... actually, no I'm not.

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