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Old 08-05-2006, 04:05 PM   #1
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How do you start improvising over a new song?

Well, today, I learned another song (Bluesette by Toots Thielemans) and since I improvise all my solo's, I have to learn the chords of the song, so that's obviously the first thing I do. Of course, the song has pretty awful chord changes, which are musically beautiful, but freaking hard to play over, especially in the beginning! It changes keys at least once per four measures, but hey, it sounds great, so I keep going at it. I just started out by improvising using only the arpeggio's of the chords all over the neck, and I've got most of them down. After that, I'm going to learn position by position, and slowly mixing them up

Anyway, what is your approach to learning to improvise over it? Just curious how other guys handle this sort of stuff!
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Old 08-05-2006, 05:48 PM   #2
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Well, to improvise over songs, I would learn the chords and either arpeggiate the chords or find a scale that fits with the whole chord progression. Sometimes I'll follow the chords by using a different scale for each chord, but not often, as I'm too much of n00b at improvising.
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Old 08-05-2006, 06:30 PM   #3
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Deffinately find the roots. Then I make sure I know where all the thirds are, thirds are a good place to end a lick. I also find all the scales that outline those chords, ands their modes. That's the pre-solo.

While im soloing, I'm usually thinking about staying in key, and outlining the chords as much as possible. I usually think numerically. And it always just comes out the top of my head. Like 1-7-9-13-3, if this is what I was thinking over a C major7 chord, then I'd be playing C-B-D-A-E. Of course, you can't just think technically, I also put feeling into it, passing tones, things that I think may sound good. So, instead of playing C-B-D-A-E, I might mix it up and play C, slide down to to Bb, slide up to D, play Ab, bend up to A, and then end on E with some vibrato mixed in. Now, I really exaggerated this, but I was just giving some examples. Another thing i like to do is repeat licks in different keys. This can be done simply by using the same fingering, but sliding it up 3 frets. I also like to repeat licks at different times of the song when the same chord is played, this just gives it a catchey hook. Also, use the same rythm but play different notes. Another thing is inverting your arpeggios. Maybe actually start on the 7th of the chord, and then play the 3rd, and the root. (Note that in an inversion, the root is higher than the 7th).

Well, that's most of what I think about when soloing, hope this gives you an idea or two
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Old 08-05-2006, 06:33 PM   #4
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First up I map out the thirds and sevenths, and see where the best lines are. Then I get the arpeggios of the chords down, and see where the key changes are. After a little while working through that I'm usually comfortable "inside" the changes, so I start seeing where I can go "outside"...

Ideally, I would be able to get all of this down in my head or notated quickly in about five minutes so I could do it right the first time, but I'm not at that level yet.

edit: well, with basic rock songs that are 5 or 6 chords I usually can do pretty well the first try: it's jazz songs that I'm referring to.
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Last edited by psychodelia : 08-05-2006 at 06:43 PM.
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Old 08-06-2006, 01:14 AM   #5
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i start by looking at the chords and see if they have a common key i can use. if so, i just kinda take that scale and use it. but i make sure to hit the root of the chord im playing over at least once or twice, and also try to hit other strong notes for the mode of that chord. so like if im in E minor, if i have a B minor chord then it would be phrigian so i would hit the b2 in there to emphasize the mode a bit.

if a chord goes slightly out ofthe diatonic key, i try to find a scale that is as close as possible to the other scale im using and still sounds good. so if im playing in E minor and emphasizing the modes, i might use E harmonic minor over a chord that has a D# in it. if the chords are all over the place and hard to relate to one another, i usually go for just hitting chord tones and notes that sound good as extensions over each chord. so basicly that changes over each chord and im really just moving with the piece. i kinda suck at doing that without much planning, so it doesnt always sound good.
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Old 08-06-2006, 01:19 AM   #6
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Elven, c'mon I thought you knew all I was wondering why I recognized that chord progression on guess that chord or whatever. .. . and why it reminded me of jazz band, turns out I played that song at the Texas State Fair. .. . . and I remember also why I hate that song so badly. I was just surprised that you would actually pose a question. . . . sorry, a post out of the shock.

I realized you were just asking everybody elses approach, so it really isn't a question of theory or anything of relevance.
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