#1
So I write music, but my improvisation skill isn't that good. I can improvise, but not that good. Anyway, I don't feel the need to improve my improvisation skills. I mean, why would I need to improve it? How will it help me in life or in music? I don't understand... I can already write music, so why would I need to learn how to improvise well?

Anyway, learning it also seems way too complicated and hard to me (though to be honest I've never tried to learn/improve it). I don't know the scales, and I can't read notation very well (though I can read tabs), but yet I do write music. I write what sounds right to my ear. And people who hear my music like it and say I have a musical talent/musical ear.

If you think being able to improvise, especially in metal, is really important, then can you tell me why? What makes it so important? And if you think it's essential that I improve my improvisation skills, then do you guys have any tips of how I should start out and how to follow through with it? But anyway, I'd prefer not to improve it for the time being. I believe that it will come by time, and when the time is right... But do you guys think I shouldn't wait for the right time and start now?

Thanks

P.S: I play and write metal, mostly melodic death metal.
#2
In the future I would seriously try and take a couple college level music courses if I were you. If you put some knowledge behind that natural musical ear, you'd open up doors you never knew existed. Music Theory I would give you an extra surge of music writing adrenaline. It would also help with the improvising, giving your music flair and keeping it from getting monotonous.
#3
Well, learning to improvise can only make you better. Even if it makes you a 0.5% better player then you should learn how?

Lets say you are jamming with a band or some buddies and they say start playing a D5 C5 F5 C5 progression. Without the ability to improvise you are just going to be playing random stuff hoping it will sound good.

If you know your natural minor, minor pentatonic, minor blues sclaes etc and you know where your root notes are then you can come up with interesting mleodic ideas and because you're playing in key it's gauranteed to work, it might still sound boring but it's better than playing random notes hoping it will work.

You may also want to improvise a solo when playing live instead of playing the same stuff all the time
Last edited by mrbabo91 at Sep 10, 2011,
#4
Well, guys, I think I'm underestimating myself a little bit. I can actually improvise pretty well, but when I'm alone. If there would be like a rhythm guitarist it would be hard for me to get along and start playing with him/her. I have in fact tried jamming with some buddies and could play along with them, but it wasn't easy.

Anyway, what I want to say is I think I can improvise well, but if there is a second guitarist it becomes hard for me..

EDIT: Oh, and is it possible to attend a few days improvisation lessons by some guitar teacher? I've never asked about this, but I think it might help me if it's possible.

And by the way, I've been playing for 4 years.
Last edited by Ameer27 at Sep 10, 2011,
#5
Quote by Ameer27


EDIT: Oh, and is it possible to attend a few days improvisation lessons by some guitar teacher? I've never asked about this, but I think it might help me if it's possible.


Yea, look around for places that give lessons, music shops, college, etc. Talk to the people up there and tell them your goals and what you want out of the lessons. And you can go from there.

There's been points where I've went and got a teacher for a month because I was stuck or wasn't seeing improvement.

It's one of those things that you can "learn" a lot on your own, but you might not necessarily be able to apply what you think you know to the actual instrument. And that's where a teacher's guidance can come into play.

Or even get some advice from some fellow guitar players you said you were playing with.
#6
If you already know what sounds good, improvisation is just knowing that a few seconds earlier. Improvement of what you already have, alongside establishment of a solid theoretical foundation, can only help you in the long run.
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#7
Just keep playing everything you know, and it'll all coalesce in time.
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#8
id seriously guess you've probably practiced writing (by writing) more then you've practiced improvising. dont just play everything you know, but find ways to use that as a jumping point into other stuff--also when you practice improvising, you should be highly focused, mindful and focused on thought process, which is what distinguishes meaningful practice of improvised music to guitar masturbation. focus on doing something, and then in real time on your instrument find every conceivable way to do it. (for example, if im working on jazz improvisation, I may pick a rhythmic pattern, like a set of quarter note triplets, followed by a set of eighth notes and make that work through the form of a song, while still focusing on everything I'd do normally--mainting form, playing the changes/targeting chord tones, making melodies, good tone production). one of the best improvisation excersizes is taking a song (or in metal, more likely a section), and improvising over the harmony by playing for a pre-determined amount of beats and then resting--starting with something basic like playing for four measures and resting for 4 to something like playing for 3 and resting for two and two beats--while still mainting form, harmony and melody.
moreover, if your improvising alone--to the point where you can't do it with others, I'd be more likely to call that noodling, probably the most important part (IMO) of musical improvisation is considering the song and group you are playing with--and using it and them to make something really meaningful---so that you are enhancing everyones performance and enjoyment, not merely indulging yourself on a freewheeling musical tangent.
all the best.
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Last edited by tehREALcaptain at Sep 11, 2011,
#9
Honestly -

I don't know anyone who studied music formally a little bit - somebody like you who doesn't know scales - who put some time into study and didn't learn and improve from it.

Will learning the scales help you improvise? Definitely. It'll help your writing, too. (There may be a period of transition where you struggle to integrate your older way of working with your new knowledge, that's common, too). But it's also something you have to commit to. A lot of people learn the major scale, how to harmonize it, and say "that's it?" and feel like there's nothing more to it, so it feels limiting. But really it's a pretty deep well which, well, I wont' speak for anyone else but for me, every time I learn something new, expands my ability to create.

Why would you want to learn how to improvise? Group improvisation is one of the most fun things you can do with your instrument. It's a blast, really vibrant and fulfilling.
#10
Why learn to improvise? So you can stand up in front of a crowd with a guitar doing a I V VI progression and make it interesting without having rehearsed anything.

You can write good. Use that I V VI progression in G maj and think in your head what notes you would play over it. Then go play those notes on your guitar. Now do that to a backing track in realtime = improv.

It's really not difficult, you just have to get used to thinking as you play. As opposed to thinking then playing.
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#11
I think I know where my main problem is... Say, when someone is playing some chords and you need to improvise a solo that will fit to these chords, I find this pretty complicated. I've once been at a live performance of a band from the village I live in, and the lead guitarist improvised a decent solo.

I mean, this seems very complicated. How do they know which is the right note to start the solo from? I mean let's say the rhythm guitarist is playing a chord progression starting with E, how does the lead guitarist know where is the right fret to start the solo on the fretboard? How does he know this note is an E, and how does he know the rhythm guitarist is playing an E chord when he can't even see him? How does his hand go automatically to the right spot on the fretboard? This really confuses me... But anyway, I guess this all comes with practice. Or no? Can anybody please explain to me this "dilemma"?
#12
There's nothing "wrong" in music you're free to do what you want, so figure it out by yourself.

You should work on your impro though else you'd be a pretty boring musician imo
#13
Quote by Ameer27
I think I know where my main problem is... Say, when someone is playing some chords and you need to improvise a solo that will fit to these chords, I find this pretty complicated. I've once been at a live performance of a band from the village I live in, and the lead guitarist improvised a decent solo.

I mean, this seems very complicated. How do they know which is the right note to start the solo from? I mean let's say the rhythm guitarist is playing a chord progression starting with E, how does the lead guitarist know where is the right fret to start the solo on the fretboard? How does he know this note is an E, and how does he know the rhythm guitarist is playing an E chord when he can't even see him? How does his hand go automatically to the right spot on the fretboard? This really confuses me... But anyway, I guess this all comes with practice. Or no? Can anybody please explain to me this "dilemma"?


YOu don't know anything about scales, do you?

I think that's where you should get started, try to use the pentatonic scale
#14
Quote by Ameer27

I mean, this seems very complicated. How do they know which is the right note to start the solo from? I mean let's say the rhythm guitarist is playing a chord progression starting with E, how does the lead guitarist know where is the right fret to start the solo on the fretboard? How does he know this note is an E, and how does he know the rhythm guitarist is playing an E chord when he can't even see him? How does his hand go automatically to the right spot on the fretboard? This really confuses me... But anyway, I guess this all comes with practice. Or no? Can anybody please explain to me this "dilemma"?


This is about improving your ear and knowing more theory.

Most musicians have to be told what key a song is in, although a lot of guitarists can make educated guesses by picking out specific chord voicings to orient themselves. The band is playing the song, and it's in Em, say.

First of all, an experienced musician (who's worked on these parts of his musicianship) can hear all the chords relative to the tonal center. So one he's knows your in E, he hears a chord which sounds like a V, and he knows, "That's a B!" This is because he knows what a V sounds like.

Then, when it comes to improvise a lead line, the experienced guitarist knows what different notes and scales sound like. So again, we're in Em, and he wants a certain feel and he'll say, "Oh, E Dorian would work well here." This is actually a very complex area of music, because there are tons of different scales and there are many scales you could fit against any given chord progression. But most people start with the minor pentatonic, then add the major and minor scales.

(The minor pentatonic is a great first scale because it's very intuitive and hard to go wrong with.)

At their core, all these scales are is collections of notes that tend to sound good together. So even before you really know what each note is going to sound like relative to the key center, you know "okay, well, I know the E minor scale is safe here - nothing is going to sound wrong."

Yes, when you're on your own, and have plenty of time to compose, you can experiment. You can futz around until you find something that works. The novice improviser uses theory to help him orient himself. The more experienced improviser has used theory to help him develop his ear so that he knows what sound he's going to create before he creates it.

Ultimately, that's the goal. Because the guitar can be learned physically - in terms of shapes on the fretboard - a lot of guitarists never make that last leap, but it's the key to really creating music. You study theory and work on your ear so you can get to that point.

Some stuff that happens in group improvisation can seem almost magical. eg, a lot of musicians understand how a V7 chord really wants to resolve to the tonic. So when one player plays a dominant 7th chord, everybody else may recognize "tonic coming!" and they can all make the leap together in the next measure without saying anything. I can't claim to be good enough to have this sort of thing happen to me regularly, but when musicians are really listening to each other and know what they're doing, this sort of thing does happen.

(That stuff about V7 chords is probably greek to you, but that's okay. For fun, play the following chord progression: C, F, C, C7, F. Notice how early, the C feels like "home" and that the F feels a little unresolved - like it wants to go back to C. But after you play the C7, all of a sudden the F feels more resolved, and if you repeat the progression that first C feels a little unresolved. Interesting, huh?)

I suspect that you compose, at this point, largely by trial and error - you stumble across a chord combination which you find pleasing. What you will find is that developing your ear and your theoretical knowledge (and these things should go hand-in-hand) will greatly shorten the process, removing the trial and error and get you to the place where you're thinking in musical ideas.
#15
Learn some scales, learn technique, learn how to play in time and then find a jam track online.
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#16
Quote by HotspurJr
This is about improving your ear and knowing more theory.

Most musicians have to be told what key a song is in, although a lot of guitarists can make educated guesses by picking out specific chord voicings to orient themselves. The band is playing the song, and it's in Em, say.

First of all, an experienced musician (who's worked on these parts of his musicianship) can hear all the chords relative to the tonal center. So one he's knows your in E, he hears a chord which sounds like a V, and he knows, "That's a B!" This is because he knows what a V sounds like.

Then, when it comes to improvise a lead line, the experienced guitarist knows what different notes and scales sound like. So again, we're in Em, and he wants a certain feel and he'll say, "Oh, E Dorian would work well here." This is actually a very complex area of music, because there are tons of different scales and there are many scales you could fit against any given chord progression. But most people start with the minor pentatonic, then add the major and minor scales.

(The minor pentatonic is a great first scale because it's very intuitive and hard to go wrong with.)

At their core, all these scales are is collections of notes that tend to sound good together. So even before you really know what each note is going to sound like relative to the key center, you know "okay, well, I know the E minor scale is safe here - nothing is going to sound wrong."

Yes, when you're on your own, and have plenty of time to compose, you can experiment. You can futz around until you find something that works. The novice improviser uses theory to help him orient himself. The more experienced improviser has used theory to help him develop his ear so that he knows what sound he's going to create before he creates it.

Ultimately, that's the goal. Because the guitar can be learned physically - in terms of shapes on the fretboard - a lot of guitarists never make that last leap, but it's the key to really creating music. You study theory and work on your ear so you can get to that point.

Some stuff that happens in group improvisation can seem almost magical. eg, a lot of musicians understand how a V7 chord really wants to resolve to the tonic. So when one player plays a dominant 7th chord, everybody else may recognize "tonic coming!" and they can all make the leap together in the next measure without saying anything. I can't claim to be good enough to have this sort of thing happen to me regularly, but when musicians are really listening to each other and know what they're doing, this sort of thing does happen.

(That stuff about V7 chords is probably greek to you, but that's okay. For fun, play the following chord progression: C, F, C, C7, F. Notice how early, the C feels like "home" and that the F feels a little unresolved - like it wants to go back to C. But after you play the C7, all of a sudden the F feels more resolved, and if you repeat the progression that first C feels a little unresolved. Interesting, huh?)

I suspect that you compose, at this point, largely by trial and error - you stumble across a chord combination which you find pleasing. What you will find is that developing your ear and your theoretical knowledge (and these things should go hand-in-hand) will greatly shorten the process, removing the trial and error and get you to the place where you're thinking in musical ideas.


Wow thanks for the explanation, although to be honest I didn't understand everything you said.

Ironically though, I do speak Greek. Haha So you can say it sounds Chinese to me. But really, what is all this "V" stuff? It really seems Chinese to me...

And yes, I rely heavily on trial and error in my writing. But I mostly rely on my ear. What sounds good to my ear, I write it.

Anyway, all this seems way too complicated to me... I mean all this music theory and scales, etc. I'm somewhat afraid to take guitar lessons because of them. They seem like rocket science to me. Though to be honest I've only attended lessons for the first 6 months, and then I was on my own. I didn't get so far with lessons. Should I take lessons now? How can I overcome this fear? It really seems like a scary science to me...
#17
Quote by Ameer27
Wow thanks for the explanation, although to be honest I didn't understand everything you said.

Ironically though, I do speak Greek. Haha So you can say it sounds Chinese to me. But really, what is all this "V" stuff? It really seems Chinese to me...


A V is the fifth of the scale you're playing in. So if you're playing in C, the fifth is G. (C = 1, D=2, E=3) etc. Although you have to start learning theory to understand how the sharps and flats fit in.

And yes, I rely heavily on trial and error in my writing. But I mostly rely on my ear. What sounds good to my ear, I write it.


That's not what musicians mean when they talk about developing your ear. Rather, what we mean is making it so that you know what something is going to sound like before you play it.

Where you are is where lots of people start writing music. You stumble, mostly by trial and error, into things that sound good. People often rediscover some basic theory doing this on their own ("gee, G, C, and D seem to go well together!").

But you want to develop to the place where you can understand how something is going to sound before you play it. The discovery is happening in your head - and the intrsument is just used to express it.


Anyway, all this seems way too complicated to me... I mean all this music theory and scales, etc. I'm somewhat afraid to take guitar lessons because of them. They seem like rocket science to me. Though to be honest I've only attended lessons for the first 6 months, and then I was on my own. I didn't get so far with lessons. Should I take lessons now? How can I overcome this fear? It really seems like a scary science to me...


Lessons are a good place to start.

You overcome the fear by not running away from it. There's no trick to it. You just say, "okay, I'm afraid, but my fear isn't going to stop me."

In fact, sometimes the fear is a good thing. It tells you what you need to work on. "I'm scared of that ... oh, guess I better work on it, then, so it no longer bugs me."
#18
honestly, you might find that by being able to improvise well you may become a better composer. most good composers can improvise as well.

if you dont see a need, then thats fine. but personally, i find it helps a lot. the more you improvise, the more you understand how to use the scales and the better, and faster you can come up with things. no offence, but if you dont know scales, and cant really read notation, i think you may not be as good a composer as you may think. maybe your stuff sounds fine, but it could most likely be better.
#19
Thanks for the replies everybody.

Anyway, if I want to take lessons, will I be forced to learn standard notation? It's not that I don't want to learn them, I already do know standard notation, but not that much. However, I would prefer to stick to tabs.

I feel that standard notation doesn't go well with metal. I feel metal music and standard notation are kinda enemies. And as I said, I play metal, and mostly melodic death metal.
#20
Quote by Ameer27
Thanks for the replies everybody.

Anyway, if I want to take lessons, will I be forced to learn standard notation? It's not that I don't want to learn them, I already do know standard notation, but not that much. However, I would prefer to stick to tabs.

I feel that standard notation doesn't go well with metal. I feel metal music and standard notation are kinda enemies. And as I said, I play metal, and mostly melodic death metal.


No you don't have to learn to read music if you don't want to. But i would seriously recommend you take lessons because it sounds like your the kind of guy who won't grasp this stuff easily on his own.
#21
Quote by Ameer27
Thanks for the replies everybody.

Anyway, if I want to take lessons, will I be forced to learn standard notation? It's not that I don't want to learn them, I already do know standard notation, but not that much. However, I would prefer to stick to tabs.


No, but you're limiting yourself.

Inherent in standard notation is an understanding of music. I suspect that you dislike it because you have such a poor understanding of theory so you don't see how standard notation actually helps you compose.

Tabs are easier. They also contain much less information and are far more limited.


I feel that standard notation doesn't go well with metal. I feel metal music and standard notation are kinda enemies. And as I said, I play metal, and mostly melodic death metal.


I think if you want to improve you probably need to let go of your preconceptions about a lot of this stuff.
#22
Quote by Ameer27

I feel that standard notation doesn't go well with metal. I feel metal music and standard notation are kinda enemies. And as I said, I play metal, and mostly melodic death metal.



Why?

Seriously, why?

Don't tell me that metal is too cool for dusty, old standard notation, or something like that.