#1
when i try to improvise everything sounds almost the same. i dont understand how people can come up with thousands of riffs with one scale, well atleast not with my level of playing. also i always find myself starting on the first couple of notes of whatever scale as well as playing the notes in order if you get what im saying. any tips?

also not to use up another thread im have problems with timing. it takes me forever to get what im trying to play to sound right. i mean i have the sheet music for a song but i end up playing it along with the track to get the rhythm right

thanks for any help
#2
Well, do you use the same backing track when playing? Maybe that's why you sound the same. I do too sometimes, but I always sound some what different when playing along with another backing track..
#3
For timing, use a metronome and make sure you're deadly accurate. Start slow and play it EXACTLY when it should be played. You have sheet music, you say? I assume you can read the rhythm then. It's just a matter of practice.

About improvising: If everything sounds the same, try doing something different. If you're playing in A minor and you're stuck at that 5th fret shape, then try going somewhere else on the fretboard. You can use any natural note in A minor. Try following chords. That means try to land on chord tones on down beats. You don't have to play a million notes per second, either. My band teacher always used to tell me that a whole note is the hardest note to play. This is because so much is going on with just one held note, that can make or break a solo. So try different rhythms. Instead of straight eighths, try some triplets. Throw some rests in. Play long notes. Make the guitar talk. Nobody talks without stopping, why would you solo (essentially making your guitar talk for you) without rests? See if that helps. Other tools to spice up your solos would be skips and leaps. Instead of playing in totally stepwise motion (going note-by-note up the scale), try jumping two or three notes. Learn how different intervals sound and you'll really be adding some interest to your playing.

Also, listen to some solos you think sound good and listen to them. Even if you can't play them, study how they're built, and why you like it. Study the phrasing and intervals.

An fun way to build your improvising skills is by this fun exercise. Get a backing track (12 bar blues or some simple rock progression, it doesn't have to be hard). Now, take 2 (or 3, max) notes from your scale. Say, the root and the second. Now, make a solo out of those two notes. you can use different octaves, and you can do any rhythm you want. But being forced to use only two or three notes really helps develop the rhythmical aspect of your soloing.
#4
If you want to take my word for improvisation, take one word: modes. Learn the modal shapes well and use riffs derived from modes/modal chords. I use this method all the time and I never find riffs getting repetitive. The modes essentially give you a bunch of different patterns of a scale while never taking you off key. Thus, you can experiment with various intervals in a scale to get new sounds while working off a single scalar framework.
more on modes: https://www.ultimate-guitar.com/forum/showthread.php?t=1042392

As for timing, it's not wrong to listen to the song to get the rhythm down. But if your goal is to become good at reading and getting rhythmic patterns down with just the sheet music at hand, start practising with a metronome. Simple as that. Get a feel of all the different note durations and tuples while working with a steady pulse.
#5
Quote by edgarvanburen
If you want to take my word for improvisation, take one word: modes. Learn the modal shapes well and use riffs derived from modes/modal chords. I use this method all the time and I never find riffs getting repetitive. The modes essentially give you a bunch of different patterns of a scale while never taking you off key. Thus, you can experiment with various intervals in a scale to get new sounds while working off a single scalar framework.


You're not playing modes, you're playing the same scale in different positions. You've learned modes wrong (which is understandable). Modes are NOT shapes.
#6
To improve your timing, practice with a metronone or click track.

To improve your improv, improvise...a lot. Fool around for hours (this will be quoted out of context, especially after my "Fuck me" comment). You're not performing for people. Don't worry about whether or not something might sound good; play it and see what happens. You'll gradually build a "bag of tricks", from which you can pull many licks. Also, watch the Friedman video in my sig.

Quote by timeconsumer09
You're not playing modes, you're playing the same scale in different positions. You've learned modes wrong (which is understandable). Modes are NOT shapes.
Seconded, thirded...nthed.
#7
What timeconsumer and BGC said!

To get over the 'straight up and down the scale' thing I'd do two things:
Practice the scale in different patterns and coils, so you are practicing things that you can use when you're improvising, and start limiting yourself to just 3 or 4 notes when you improvise. Pick the root and a couple of notes near it and just use them - that was you don't have to worry what note comes next, you can just focus on your rhythm and phrasing. When you are comfortable either add in a note or do the same thing in a different part of the neck.

Whenever you come up with a lick you like, write it down or record it. That was you can use it again. Same with when you learn other peoples solos - if there is a lick you really like that you think you can adapt and use yourself, write it down. That way you start to build up an arsenal of licks you can fall back on. Funny thing I've found is the bigger my list of written down licks gets, the less I need to use them

Edit: Just reread the thread and realised I just reiterated what timeconsumer and bgc said already. D'oh. Sorry
Last edited by zhilla at Jul 25, 2009,
#8
It helps if you know what chords (progression) you are playing over. There you have a set of notes that's relavant to the chords.

BGC has a point, experiment! You'll find that the wrong notes played at the right time will sound good.
Parker PDF30
Vox VT40+
#9
Quote by timeconsumer09
You're not playing modes, you're playing the same scale in different positions. You've learned modes wrong (which is understandable). Modes are NOT shapes.


i'm pretty sure my knowledge of modes is right. perhaps i didnt get my point across clearly. e.g, playing an e phrygian over a progression in c major would give you an interesting sound provided you could have a strong resolution to the root (not too easy for the phrygian mode). By saying modes are shapes i meant that even though the e phrygian mode is essentially the c major scale (played e to e), the shape would be inherent to the phrygian mode, viz., for e phrygian, frets 7,8,10 on the a string, 7, 9, 10 on the d string and 7 and 9 on the g string (and so on for phrygian modal SHAPES rooted in other notes). Listen to some improvisations by DT: they play a lot of stuff where chords implying modes are played under solos done by petrucci or ruddess which utilize playing through modes. But they stay solidly rooted in a given key. If you still dont get it, then whatever.
Last edited by edgarvanburen at Jul 25, 2009,
#10
No it wouldn't, you'd just be playing in C major.
Actually called Mark!

Quote by TNfootballfan62
People with a duck for their avatar always give good advice.

...it's a seagull

Quote by Dave_Mc
i wanna see a clip of a recto buying some groceries.


stuffmycatswatchontv.tumblr.com
#11
Meh, you don't need grand scales and modes for improvising at a basic level. Just stick to what you know when you start off. Modes won't give you thousands of magical ideas all of a sudden.

Say you only know pentatonics(I don't know if it's the case), stick to them, but listen to what you're doing. I remember at a jazz course I went to, the guitar teacher convinced us at one point in the class to try and improvise only using pentatonics. We sounded alright and he sounded amazing. Apart from the years of experience playing complex jazz, he was doing another thing. He was listening to what he was playing.

It sounds sort of elementary, you know, listening. Duh, everyone listens. You can tell when a guitarist is just playing licks and when a guitarist is listening to his playing, making a melody. He might still use licks, why not? they're really helpful. But so is listening. You can only make really beautiful and true music if you listen to the notes you're playing.

So step down a level, stick to a scale and a progression you find easy and comfortable. And play over it a lot, listen a lot, make nice melodies. If you come up with something really nice, try to remember it and play it again next time around. Vary it. Less is more. If you can't think of anything to play, don't just fumble for notes, it'll be better not to play anything at all and wait for the right moment to jump back in to come around.
#12
Quote by edgarvanburen
i'm pretty sure my knowledge of modes is right. perhaps i didnt get my point across clearly. e.g, playing an e phrygian over a progression in c major would give you an interesting sound provided you could have a strong resolution to the root (not too easy for the phrygian mode). By saying modes are shapes i meant that even though the e phrygian mode is essentially the c major scale (played e to e), the shape would be inherent to the phrygian mode, viz., for e phrygian, frets 7,8,10 on the a string, 7, 9, 10 on the d string and 7 and 9 on the g string (and so on for phrygian modal SHAPES rooted in other notes). Listen to some improvisations by DT: they play a lot of stuff where chords implying modes are played under solos done by petrucci or ruddess which utilize playing through modes. But they stay solidly rooted in a given key. If you still dont get it, then whatever.


What you're referring to about DT, they use a lot of accidentals. A lot of Petrucci's newer riffs utilize a b2 and b5's, but he's not playing modal, he's just playing accidentals. Accidentals =/= modes. The root in a song defines what you're playing in. If your root is C, and it's a major progression, you can't play E phrygian over it. Ever. EVER. If you still think you're right, then I'm sorry. =/
#13
Another thing to do is vary your rhythm. You are probably playing a lot of 16th notes without pausing, or changing up your rhythm. Experimenting with rhythms can help add variety to your playing.
#14
I had the same problem too. It helps to talk to other people you play with. Somethings I picked up.

1) Don't play everything as fast as you can. You can run out of notes very quickly sometimes. Have some slow jams and some fast ones.
2) Don't be afraid to repeat a phrase or pattern either consecutively or later on in the solo. Like the unison bend in the pentatonic. Some people do it like 20 times in a row.
3) Don't try to solo for 20 minutes at a time, you will run out of stuff to do.
4) Know where every note in the scale you are playing is. Sometime shifting up an octave is enough to make it interesting.
5) Experiment with stuff. Improvising is basically using stuff you know. Not just randomly making stuff up on the spot. Like if you are messing with pentatonic boxes use a pattern from one and go into the other. Try things that don't necessarily make sense and see if they work. Sometimes it is best to just **** around and see what happens.

And not that I 100% agree with this but I heard John Frusciante once said "There are no wrong notes, just better choices". So, yeah...
Earth without ART, is just Eh...
Last edited by metalzeppelin at Jul 25, 2009,
#15
In my opinion it depends very much on what you're trying to improvise. Trying to improvise shred is different from trying to improvise a riff or a melody.
- When improvising I tend to pick out one thing that I will use a lot, for example, a common one is to pedal on the open E string (or any fretted string) during riffs.
- For something more melodic you might decide that you're going to throw in a lot of bends or repeat a phrase every so often. Another thing for a melodic sound is to get similar sounds in your phrases, so if the first phrase is 4 notes and rises in pitch for the first 3 and goes down in pitch for the last note then you could repeat a similar idea again. Break things down into phrases and the whole task become a lot easier.
- When shredding I generally find a pattern that I like, e.g. play the first 4 notes of C major starting on the root, then play 4 notes starting on the second and so on. So using that pattern you'd have C, D, E, F, D, E, F, G, E, F, G, A, F, G, A, B and then you're back to the first note cluster of C, D, E, F. That's a very simple pattern but it was just to demonstrate the idea of patterns. Stuff like that can make it very easy to come up with fast runs to use in e.g. a solo.
Hope I helped somewhat.
#16
Quote by timeconsumer09
What you're referring to about DT, they use a lot of accidentals. A lot of Petrucci's newer riffs utilize a b2 and b5's, but he's not playing modal, he's just playing accidentals. Accidentals =/= modes. The root in a song defines what you're playing in. If your root is C, and it's a major progression, you can't play E phrygian over it. Ever. EVER. If you still think you're right, then I'm sorry. =/


ok w.r.t. the last statement, i'd like to know why E phrygian does not work. I'm not arguing here: may be I know less theory than you... so just a polite question
#17
Because it doesn't exist in that context - if the chord progression is in C major then that's what the music resolves to, therefore if you use the notes C D E F G A B those notes will also resolve to C and that's the C major scale. That's regardless of the order they're in or the physical pattern you're playing, those things are irrelevant when it comes to determining if a piece of music is modal.
Actually called Mark!

Quote by TNfootballfan62
People with a duck for their avatar always give good advice.

...it's a seagull

Quote by Dave_Mc
i wanna see a clip of a recto buying some groceries.


stuffmycatswatchontv.tumblr.com
#18
Ignore modes
Master pentatonics and then experiment with the out of scale note.
Phrase like a singer (hurr, copy a singer) and sing with your guitar
Repeat motifs (little nice phrases you've found) with slight variations each time
Use as much chord tones of the chord playing as possible
Use chord tones on stressed beats
If you use a nonchord tone, only move one or two semitones from or to this note, preferably to a chord tone
Do not rhythmically accentuate nonchord tones.

Just my two cents. The lower the item is in the list, the less important I believe it is.
        ,
        |\
[U]        | |                     [/U]
[U]        |/     .-.              [/U]
[U]       /|_     `-’       |      [/U]
[U]      //| \      |       |      [/U]
[U]     | \|_ |     |     .-|      [/U]
      *-|-*    (_)     `-’
        |
        L.
#19
In my experience the chops and licks you build up can be used to 'speak' in a solo individually as sort of 'sentences', and then thrown together to form pieces. Very rarely is someone actually making it up on the spot. However, if you're not very advanced at this then i find it helps to listen to the music, and play what feels and sounds right. Try and 'get in the zone' if you will, i can't think of a way to describe it. Kinda like where you're staying in key but you're not thinking about the notes in the key, you're just playing which notes in the key 'speak' in the lead...damn i'm shít at explanations.
#20
Quote by Ikonoklast
In my experience the chops and licks you build up can be used to 'speak' in a solo individually as sort of 'sentences', and then thrown together to form pieces. Very rarely is someone actually making it up on the spot. However, if you're not very advanced at this then i find it helps to listen to the music, and play what feels and sounds right. Try and 'get in the zone' if you will, i can't think of a way to describe it. Kinda like where you're staying in key but you're not thinking about the notes in the key, you're just playing which notes in the key 'speak' in the lead...damn i'm shít at explanations.


Whenever I improvise, I usually make almost everything up on the spot... I really only use licks that I knew before when I'm transitioning between sections of my solo.
#21
like ikonoklast said...

when people are improvising i honestly doubt every single lick they play came off the top of their head when they were playing. it's a lot like when rappers "freestyle" the lines may be new to the audience, but i'm sure they though of the lines before.

when someone improvises, the solo as a whole is more or less something new that they threw together on the spot, but a lot of the licks are just signature licks that they've learned to string together as needed.
"... and on either side of the river was the tree of life, with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of this tree were for the healing of nations.
#22
Don't lie timeconsumer....to play with any speed at all it's got to be preconceived. If you try and play a Paul Gilbert lick at 148bpm that uses a fingering that's completely alien to you you WILL fail. Yes slow little bits can be totally improvised, but for the main part it's just pieces of runs, whole runs or techniques we already know.
#23
Quote by Ikonoklast
Don't lie timeconsumer....to play with any speed at all it's got to be preconceived. If you try and play a Paul Gilbert lick at 148bpm that uses a fingering that's completely alien to you you WILL fail. Yes slow little bits can be totally improvised, but for the main part it's just pieces of runs, whole runs or techniques we already know.


Who says improvising has to be uber-fast licks? You can improvise a great solo without playing anything faster than an eighth note, or even a quarter note. It's all about what you do with the notes. And I disagree, I think the great players like Paul Gilbert can certainly improvise fast licks or runs without practicing them before. They know the fretboard so well and have enough control that it would be like an intermediate guitar player improvising a little sixteenth note lick. Don't tell me I'm lying about improvising a solo when you've never even heard me play. Maybe YOU lack the creativity and practice to come up with anything other than some fast licks you practice and string together, but that doesn't hold true for me.
#24
Yes, but 90% of licks they do they have practiced the fingering for. Or are putting two licks together to form one big one. If someone does a run on the 9th fret then slides up and does something else on the 5th, you can bet they either practiced the slide or the two licks on their own then just added them together - but have selected the licks in positions that will compliment the piece.
#25
And Ps, Gilbert wasn't born 'great', the reason he's considered great is because of the vast repertoir of licks he's built up, played to perfection. To say he's capable of just stringing together things that even he's not practiced is wrong. It's like saying you totally improvised vibrato because you can feel the music. Yes, you may have thrown vibrato in, but to say that you could without ever practising it is absurd!
#26
Don't double post.

I realize nobody is born inherently good at guitar, and I didn't imply that in my post. There aren't that many patterns to a guitar, most of us have probably played almost all of the usual fretting patterns at least once or twice. But these aren't "licks strung together". Playing a slide and then another note after that isn't considered "licks strung together". That's three notes, and I don't know how you could divide that into two licks. If you have a good ear, you know what intervals sound like, and you can use that knowledge on the fly. If you're playing in Am and your next chord is an E7 followed by an Am, you're going to aim for that G# to A resolution, but that doesn't mean you need to have pre-made licks for that scenario. If I were improvising and that came up, I would just know where the notes I need to hit are and just play what I felt around that.

Playing with feeling does exist. It's like talking. You have to practice and practice, but when you practice enough, you don't have to think about what you're doing to convey your emotions. When you talk, you don't construct a sentence in your head before you say it, you just talk. When you improvise, if you're comfortable enough with the scale/setting you're playing in, it's just like that. You know what sounds you want to make, and you make them. There's no preconstruction, you just do it.
#27
Quote by timeconsumer09
Don't double post.

I realize nobody is born inherently good at guitar, and I didn't imply that in my post. There aren't that many patterns to a guitar, most of us have probably played almost all of the usual fretting patterns at least once or twice. But these aren't "licks strung together". Playing a slide and then another note after that isn't considered "licks strung together". That's three notes, and I don't know how you could divide that into two licks. If you have a good ear, you know what intervals sound like, and you can use that knowledge on the fly. If you're playing in Am and your next chord is an E7 followed by an Am, you're going to aim for that G# to A resolution, but that doesn't mean you need to have pre-made licks for that scenario. If I were improvising and that came up, I would just know where the notes I need to hit are and just play what I felt around that.

Playing with feeling does exist. It's like talking. You have to practice and practice, but when you practice enough, you don't have to think about what you're doing to convey your emotions. When you talk, you don't construct a sentence in your head before you say it, you just talk. When you improvise, if you're comfortable enough with the scale/setting you're playing in, it's just like that. You know what sounds you want to make, and you make them. There's no preconstruction, you just do it.


Saying being able to hear intervals means you can play intervals 'on the fly' means you just mugged your argument off. You're wrong.
You might as well have said 'concert pianists can jump straight on a guitar and 'feel' it'.

Anyway, i don't want to get on the wrong side of you, you might tell me off again.

UG'ers are so fun.
Last edited by Ikonoklast at Jul 27, 2009,
#28
Quote by Ikonoklast
Saying being able to hear intervals means you can play intervals 'on the fly' means you just mugged your argument off. You're wrong.
You might as well have said 'concert pianists can jump straight on a guitar and 'feel' it'.

Anyway, i don't want to get on the wrong side of you, you might tell me off again.

UG'ers are so fun.


??? Being able to play the intervals you hear in your head on the fly is true improvisation. It isn't preconceived, it just is.
#29
And my argument is if you've never rehearsed the movements required to play said intervals EVER before to some degree, it's nigh on impossible to do.

Hence why we practice the guitar. Anyway, have fun kids, i'm off to break my hands with 9th and 13th chords. Ouch.
#30
Quote by timeconsumer09
Whenever I improvise, I usually make almost everything up on the spot... I really only use licks that I knew before when I'm transitioning between sections of my solo.
I hope I can do that one day - my 'improv' is probably 70-80% licks I've used before atm. Which is 20-30% more made up on the spot than a couple of months ago, so hey

TS, don't be afraid to adapt other peoples licks to use in your improv, or to sit down and write some of your own to use, and practice scales in different patterns instead of straight up and down, to come up with other things you can use. And don't expect yourself to come up with something amazing straight away.

Its almost like learning a language - at first you just string odd words together, and kind of get your meaning across if you're lucky, but over time you get better and better at communicating until eventually you can come up with something completely original - a set of lyrics, a poem, a story, or just a conversation - off the top of your head.
#31
Quote by Ikonoklast
And my argument is if you've never rehearsed the movements required to play said intervals EVER before to some degree, it's nigh on impossible to do.

Hence why we practice the guitar. Anyway, have fun kids, i'm off to break my hands with 9th and 13th chords. Ouch.


Except your original argument was that solos rarely consist of anything made up on the spot (i.e. mostly pre-written licks chained together).

#32
Quote by zhilla
I hope I can do that one day - my 'improv' is probably 70-80% licks I've used before atm. Which is 20-30% more made up on the spot than a couple of months ago, so hey

TS, don't be afraid to adapt other peoples licks to use in your improv, or to sit down and write some of your own to use, and practice scales in different patterns instead of straight up and down, to come up with other things you can use. And don't expect yourself to come up with something amazing straight away.

Its almost like learning a language - at first you just string odd words together, and kind of get your meaning across if you're lucky, but over time you get better and better at communicating until eventually you can come up with something completely original - a set of lyrics, a poem, a story, or just a conversation - off the top of your head.


there's nothing really wrong with using licks you've used before. hell i've heard pros reuse licks a lot of the time. sometimes they just remix it a little to fit the context of the song. sometimes they do it in the same song just to bring the whole thing full circle. if you do it right it's really not that bad and you probably notice it more than other people do.

now i'm not saying to just go and use the same 3 licks over and over

people might catch on to something like that, but if you reuse one here and there i don't think it's that bad especially if you're varying up the way you play it. the same lick played the same way would get old fast, but lately i've been practicing figuring out how many different ways i can play a lick. accenting different notes, etc.
"... and on either side of the river was the tree of life, with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of this tree were for the healing of nations.
#33
Quote by konfyouzd
but lately i've been practicing figuring out how many different ways i can play a lick. accenting different notes, etc.
ooh cool plan I'll have to try that
#34
Yes....the order in which they'e presented are hardly made up on the spot. Because to be truly made up on the spot it's got to be a movement you've NEVER used before. Once you use it once it will never again be improvisation. Once you've been playing a few years it's nearly never a fingering, pattern or lick you've 'made up on the spot', it's just that you've gotten better at stringing together what you know. A bit like how once you learn to speak you can use sentences depending onthe situation. If you still don't get my point you should facepalm yourself. Now, goodday.
#35
Quote by Ikonoklast
Yes....the order in which they'e presented are hardly made up on the spot. Because to be truly made up on the spot it's got to be a movement you've NEVER used before. Once you use it once it will never again be improvisation. Once you've been playing a few years it's nearly never a fingering, pattern or lick you've 'made up on the spot', it's just that you've gotten better at stringing together what you know. A bit like how once you learn to speak you can use sentences depending onthe situation. If you still don't get my point you should facepalm yourself. Now, goodday.


You're basing your whole argument on an incorrect statement. Making something up on the spot (improvising) does not mean every single movement you make is new. It means you draw the ideas, themes, patterns, etc. from scratch (from how you feel, or how you want it to sound).
#36
Timeconsumer make sense. It is a collection of ideas and damn the theory.
Parker PDF30
Vox VT40+
#37
i think ikonoklast and timeconsumer are almost saying the same thing in different ways. i can kind of see where both of you are coming from.

it's entirely possible that you've heard a lick before and still use it in an improvised solo. while the lick may have been rehearsed, the solo was not. hence, the solo was improvised.

even if you improvised a solo that consisted ENTIRELY of licks you've already played before, if the entire solo was not already written then it's technically improvised.

if someone told you to draw a picture off the top of your head you wouldn't say the picture wasn't totally off the top of your head simply because you've drawn a line before, would you?
"... and on either side of the river was the tree of life, with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of this tree were for the healing of nations.
#38
Quote by konfyouzd
i think ikonoklast and timeconsumer are almost saying the same thing in different ways. i can kind of see where both of you are coming from.

it's entirely possible that you've heard a lick before and still use it in an improvised solo. while the lick may have been rehearsed, the solo was not. hence, the solo was improvised.

even if you improvised a solo that consisted ENTIRELY of licks you've already played before, if the entire solo was not already written then it's technically improvised.

if someone told you to draw a picture off the top of your head you wouldn't say the picture wasn't totally off the top of your head simply because you've drawn a line before, would you?


I would, though. Because it's not the conventions of drawing that are coming off the top of your head, it's the idea and the overall image of the drawing. See what I'm getting at?