#1
I'm learning all the notes on the fretboard... and I'm keeping my spirits high by reminding myself how much I sucked in the first year of guitar when I started, and look where I am now.

I do this for a hobby, and believe it or not I started teaching myself where each note was on the fretboard a short while ago (a few weeks to a month on/off when I get the time). Figured despite being a hobby, I was just shooting myself in the foot and not where I should be. I've started to really like classical and jazz improvisation so much that I feel like a shit guitarist (again :p).


The reason it's a bit demoralizing is I see people doing perfect chord progressions and saying they can just whip anything out of thin air.

Are they doing this because they've played so much that they just know every shape, every inversion, every chord? Or do they actually go "Alright E minor 2nd inversion sounds nice... *instantly processes what an Em 2nd inv. sounds like on the neck from whatever string they want and make it flawlessly in an improv scenario*.


What is the best way to go about becoming Mr. Improv who can pick stuff out of thin air? I know the first thing is to obviously know all the notes on the guitar... but should it be instant recall for any note in any location? Keep in mind I'm seriously considering/attempting the improv way so I want to make myself as good (of a musician) as possible.


*NOTE: I haven't had the perfect time to set aside for guitar due to fun RL stuff, but I'll start to have a nice load of free time and would be more than glad to sink a few hours into what you propose be the best way for myself to tackle this.

PS: How long do you think it takes? Months? Years? To become fluent that is. If it takes years... I'm mentally prepared for the long road.
: )
#2
If you haven't yet, learn CAGED. You'll be improving like a Jazz virtuoso in no time!*

*Well, maybe not no time but you'll undertstand their improv style and see it's not so impossible.
#3
This is just how I improvise

1. Learn the scale
2. Learn 3 note per string patterns
2. Learn arpeggio shapes
3. Learn positions

Knowing the CAGED system is great for improvising chords, though. I highly reccomend it.

All in all though, remember it takes a different amount of time for everyone and you're never really "finished" with anything when it comes to guitarplaying. The people who you see who whip out things out of thin air are thinking to themselves "wow, X guitar player can whip THAT out of thin air! How does he do it?!!". Just take it easy, play a lot of guitar and spend a lot of time improvising over different backing tracks and it will make you a lot better though, that's for sure.
#4
To the above two:

I do have CAGED down (I agree, it's awesome <3), but I feel like I can't in the middle of a caged system determine what it is. I shot myself in the foot by learning it from the root note on my 6th string. I can pick out A aeolian, or D# pentatonic minor anywhere if I know where the root note is and start from there, but if I was to start at the middle of the scale/arpeggio/whatever (well maybe not arpeggio since they're a lot easier in some ways for me :p), I'd not know which one I shifted to (for example I may be playing in C# Dorian by accident and convince myself I'm in another mode/key).

Plus one problem I have is sitting down going "alright E major consists of E, F... shit, F#, G#, A, B... uh, C#, D#", which already around 4-5 seconds have passed and during a live show would make everyone go O_o
: )
#5
I find it's best to not force it out. Just sit back, chill out, clear your mind, get high (if you're into that stuff) and let your hands do the talking. Theory knowledge helps obviously, but I find it helps me in a more subconscious manner. I don't think to myself "now I'm going to use this scale or this progression" I just use it without thinking.
#6
Certain chords sound good together becuase they belong to the same key. Knowing which chords belong together will allow you to improvise coherent chord structures on the fly. Look into harmonising the major and minor scales if you'd like to learn more.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
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#7
people who are good at improvising are good at improvising because they do it a lot. dont let anyone tell you otherwise. sure they may claim to "pull it out of thin air" but they really didnt. if you study ANY player, you will notice patterns over time. every guitarist has things they fall back on. once you know how certain things sound and you have played them a lot, you can give the impression of pulling it out of thin air because you have done it before. it might seem like something you will never quite get now, but trust me it will come with time and practice.
#8
It's not about the shapes, patterns or systems...it's about knowing what things sound like. All the stuff you've been doing is great because it will help you find your way around the fretboard, locate scales easier and construct chords on the fly.

...but if you don't actually know what those things sound like, how are you supposed to know when to use them? Also take your example of getting "lost" in the a minor scale, forget about modes because they're not going to be any help to you at this stage. You lost your bearings because you've learned how to run through a shape, you've practiced a finger exercise and if you don't do things in the same way your fingers get confused. Focus more on the sounds within that scale, not the shapes. What matters most is the intervals because that's how we classify the difference in sound between two notes, and that's all a scale is, a bunch of intervals strung together.
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#9
Quote by Cjk10000


PS: How long do you think it takes? Months? Years? To become fluent that is. If it takes years... I'm mentally prepared for the long road.


Going it alone, took me 12 years, and if you are determined to learn it by doing everything solo and based off free resources etc, then yes, expect it to take many years. You sound like you are ready for that, and that's the appropriate attitude to have. You need to mentally prepare yourself for the long road, or possibly not ever getting there at all.

If I'd had options that I could have used, I'd have taken those instead of 12 years. But then, had I done it that way, I'd never have made my own observations which now allow me to teach things to others in a progressive and accelerated manner, I'd have been stuck in the same old teaching paradigm that is still out there.

Everything happened for a reason, but it cost me 12 years of my life of not knowing much. I wouldn't want to go through it again.

Best,

Sean
Last edited by Sean0913 at Jun 24, 2011,
#10
I play jazz and I can tell you this,

you have to listen! to tons of jazz.
you have to know how to construct rhythmic phrases of the genre in this case swing.
you need to be able to sing/scat the improvisations not playing the instrument.
you have to transcribe your favorite solos and work on licks you like, but you MUST understand how the lick functions in the harmony so it can be used as a basis for alterations
you need to know your arps (chord tones and more important guide tones to help you navigate the changes)

This is just a partial list.
I suggest you get a good teacher !
#11
Learn your scales, chords and notes on the fretboard, but above all use your ear. Improvising is not about playing a bunch of notes in key, it's about using your ear to hear & feel the changes and then playing the melodies you come up with over them.
#12
Chord progressions are actually pretty easy to construct... it's soloing over them that's a pain in the neck. But, even that comes easier with time as you get to know your scales better.

For example, a chord progression that's really common in pop music is I IV V. In A, that's A, D, E. Hmm, I wonder what would happen if I snuck an extra A in there? Oh, nice - A, D, A, E. Sounds great. Think I'll write a song around it.

That's how it goes, really. If I wanted to spice it up I might get saucy and substitute minor chords so I'd have Am, Dm, Am, Em. That sounds pretty good, too. Think I'll write a song around it. (Oh wait, I did - it's called "Flowers for Shetal" and you can find it on my profile.)

There are some rules (guidelines, really) on what chords sound best coming after whichever chord you're on, but honestly... it's really just picking a number from 1 to 7 a few times and hoping you like how it sounds.
#13
Quote by CarsonStevens
honestly... it's really just picking a number from 1 to 7 a few times and hoping you like how it sounds.


No, respectfully that is incorrect...you can certainly approach it that way should you wish, in ignorance, but there are things that make chord progressions work, and principles of chords that lead further from the tonic and chords which direct back to the tonic.

Things like Cadences, modulations, and voice leading are intelligent applications, as opposed to hit and miss, hunt and peck. The only thing I'd agree with is, yes always use your ears. If you want to arrive at a progression randomly, then do so, but that's not to suggest that's "how it works". That's how it works, once you know a few things, and yet don't have a bigger picture of how it all fits together.

And I'm not saying this against you Carson, you can think how you like, but for anyone that falls into your words, and believes this is how it works, that's who I wish to explain this to.

Best,

Sean
#14
Quote by Sean0913
And I'm not saying this against you Carson, you can think how you like, but for anyone that falls into your words, and believes this is how it works, that's who I wish to explain this to.

Best,

Sean


Well, yes, that's why I went on to say that there were rules for chord leading... but you don't have to follow them rigidly. Like anything else in music, they're guidelines.

I don't pretend to have even a fraction of your knowledge or experience in music theory, and I can create chord progressions. It's not rocket science, like the OP seems to think. That's all I was getting at.
#15
Quote by CarsonStevens
Well, yes, that's why I went on to say that there were rules for chord leading... but you don't have to follow them rigidly. Like anything else in music, they're guidelines.

I don't pretend to have even a fraction of your knowledge or experience in music theory, and I can create chord progressions. It's not rocket science, like the OP seems to think. That's all I was getting at.


you're correct in saying it can be done -- i'd be foolish to argue against that point.

but what you're doing here in essence is just trial and error. and who wants to say that they wrote a spectacular piece using the guess-and-check method? i mean, eventually, yeah, your ears will improve, and it'll be less of a guess. but that makes my point no less valid.
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#16
I think the reason most of these people claim they just pull it out of the air is because they don't realize they're actually using the bulk of impov experience they have. Your best bet is to just get together with a couple other people and jam on a regular basis.
#17
Quote by AeolianWolf
you're correct in saying it can be done -- i'd be foolish to argue against that point.

but what you're doing here in essence is just trial and error. and who wants to say that they wrote a spectacular piece using the guess-and-check method? i mean, eventually, yeah, your ears will improve, and it'll be less of a guess. but that makes my point no less valid.


Well, I hope nobody thinks I'm saying that's all it is, or that I'm trying to contradict any of the more knowledgeable posters. I mean, it's a bit of a gross oversimplification to say that I just pick chords at random, 'cause I don't, and I wasn't trying to suggest that the OP do that, either. What I, personally, usually do is either grab a 'known' progression and go from there, invent something based off a known progression (I'm a bit guilty of leaning on the I-IV-V stuff a little too much, a habit I'm trying to break), or come up with something based on my understanding, such as it is, of chord leading. I think I've internalized that to the point where I don't think about it, because I used to improv a lot of crap when I first started out.

Ultimately, what I was trying to get across to the OP was that, yes - people can in fact pick chords out of thin air while improvising, and it's not really very hard. Not in the realm of "must have 20 years of jamming experience" hard, anyway.
#18
Play what you feel. Learn the scales that fit certain keys but try playing what you tell yourself