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#1
I just can't understand it. Like when i improvise, i usually just stick to the pentatonic scale but as of recently ive tried actually learning each fret note by note, so i can make arpeggios easier. I dont understand what im supposed to think when i improvise . Do i just think "here are the notes i can play, play them however it sounds good", or do i say like "oh wow i think playing F E D G A B C will sound good". Before i just played what sounded good in the scale but im trying to improvise better. Sorry if this question is retarded.
I hate when people compare John Frusciante to God. He's
good and all.............but he's no Frusciante.
#2
You play what you feel man. You don't technically think. cuz you know the notes you wanna hear and you play them. It might be really hard for a while, until you get the hang of getting the voice in your head out to your guitar. I would suggest ear training exercises.
#3
When you improvise with the pentatonic scale, do you think? Hopefully not.... and this is cuz you've drilled the shape and therefore, more importantly, the sound into your ears.

Like the rest of us, you've probably been using the scale since you can remember.

Now drill arpeggios, get the sound in your ear, and play. It's just a matter of time.... then you won't have to think about chord tones either, cuz your ear already knows them.
Last edited by mdc at Mar 17, 2012,
#4
Not retarded at all. We all struggle with playing intuitively vs playing technically. A good place to start, especially in a jazz idiom, is to think about chord/scale relationships. Learn the notes that make up up the chords playing and focus on those, especially 3rds and 7ths. After you have that under your belt you can look at what modes are associated with specific chords, like mixolydian and lydian dominant for dominant seventh chords.

But there is ALWAYS something to be said about playing what feels and sounds good. However a solid theoretical backround will make make that all the easier.

Improvising is like jumping in the water. It doesn't matter how long you're down there, or what you do when you're down there, as long as you come up at the right time.
#5
No, I see where you're coming from. Every guitarist has a different approach, and it all just come downs to practice, your style, and what you're trying to achieve.

I really don't know what I think. If im playing chords and strumming, I usually dont think too much about the chords, but try to think of a pattern with groove and rhythm. My right hand just bounces up and down and I try to lock into something catchy.

However, for metal solos, it's totally different. I usually look at the big pictures of the solo, and try to fit what I'm playing into that. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Literally, all i think is, for example "I want a fast bit that goes up in bitch, and then some higher epic sounding bends" SO I have what I'm going for in that section, then I just use my knowledge of scales to pretty much make my note selection as I'm going, but sticking to the general plan I have.

You have to figure out your own way, it just takes practice, but I hope my ideas helped.
#6
Before you solo, have a shape in your head of where you want to go. For example, Start low, for two bars. Then a scalic run to the tonic.
Imagine the solo as a graph (one of those curvy line ones) this gives you shape

Also think about phrase length, do you like long melodic phrases or fast, short shred style.

Just enjoy improvising, make the solo your own
#7
By the way BornToLive, what kind of music are you playing? Each genre has its own methodology when it comes to improv
#8
Its definitely better to just know the notes of the fretboard, but i dont so i just go by what patterrns or notes i know are the safe ones, kinda like that minesweeper game. Some areas of the fret board i may be more familiar with than others depending on the key/chord progression ect but yeah its basically just knowing which notes are in key and just improvising and get a feel for what works.
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Last edited by pawnluv at Mar 17, 2012,
#9
Quote by Phiddler
By the way BornToLive, what kind of music are you playing? Each genre has its own methodology when it comes to improv


Yes, this is VERY important. For example, if im improvising rock rhythm playing, I don't think anything other than "Whats gonna sound the most badass?"
But for like, just one scalar run from one metal solo, I'll be thinking "Should I use straight sixteenths, triplets, or mix it up? Should I stick to the scale, or add out of scale notes to make it a bit more interesting? What notes should they be and how many should I use". That's just a small amount of what goes on when improvising stuff like that.

Just play what you love, and practice, and you'll figure it out.

#10
Thanks everyone for the help and positive input!! i played rock and funk alot but now im starting to play more jazz and blues. I guess improvising is a mix of knowing what notes sound good and then doing whatever you want with them
I hate when people compare John Frusciante to God. He's
good and all.............but he's no Frusciante.
#11
Quote by BornToLive
I just can't understand it. Like when i improvise, i usually just stick to the pentatonic scale but as of recently ive tried actually learning each fret note by note, so i can make arpeggios easier. I dont understand what im supposed to think when i improvise . Do i just think "here are the notes i can play, play them however it sounds good", or do i say like "oh wow i think playing F E D G A B C will sound good". Before i just played what sounded good in the scale but im trying to improvise better. Sorry if this question is retarded.


There are no stupid questions. Just stupid people, but you are not one. This is a question all of us had had. You should be thinking, "What would fit good over this?" Improvisation is something you kind of have to "feel" if catch my drift. It's a lot harder to think "The rhythm guitarist is playing a I-IV-V in C Major in 4/4 timing. I can do a C major arpeggio followed by an F major 7 arpeggio and then I can do a G major arpeggio, but you can also substitute the fifth of the scale with a dominant or minor chord. You could also do a diminished run which then leads back into a quick tapping lick followed by a half-step bend on C up to C#..." than having to think "What sounds good to me?" But this is just my opinion. You probably hate this answer, but there is no one thing you have to think. Everybody thinks differently when improvising.

TL;DR: Just think whatever feels right. There is no one way to think.
#12
Quote by BornToLive
Thanks everyone for the help and positive input!! i played rock and funk alot but now im starting to play more jazz and blues. I guess improvising is a mix of knowing what notes sound good and then doing whatever you want with them


Well, for funk, pretty much what I do is have a bunch of chords that i know and can play, like, a decent size catalog of thing I can call on, and then, apart from that, just think of funky rhythms! Sit down, and play the kind of funky thing you'd want to hear!

I've already explained what I do for rock rhythm playing, but just sit down and experiment and practice. For lead playing, just try play what YOU THINK sounds awesome. You'll get there with practice.
#13
Quote by BornToLive
I just can't understand it. Like when i improvise, i usually just stick to the pentatonic scale but as of recently ive tried actually learning each fret note by note, so i can make arpeggios easier. I dont understand what im supposed to think when i improvise . Do i just think "here are the notes i can play, play them however it sounds good", or do i say like "oh wow i think playing F E D G A B C will sound good". Before i just played what sounded good in the scale but im trying to improvise better. Sorry if this question is retarded.

You should be thinking "What do I want this to sound like?"
Actually called Mark!

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#14
Something very important is to develop your ear and play whatever is inside your head. You should practice your improv. by hitting chord tones and try to apply what you know from music theory so that when you perform it becomes second nature but ultimately you will want to be able to play whatever comes up in your head. Make a distinction between practicing and performing. When performing you should not be thinking about scales and shapes.
#15
Quote by BornToLive
I just can't understand it. Like when i improvise, i usually just stick to the pentatonic scale but as of recently ive tried actually learning each fret note by note, so i can make arpeggios easier. I dont understand what im supposed to think when i improvise . Do i just think "here are the notes i can play, play them however it sounds good", or do i say like "oh wow i think playing F E D G A B C will sound good". Before i just played what sounded good in the scale but im trying to improvise better. Sorry if this question is retarded.

Ideally you should know how each of the 12 notes will sound over the harmony and/or melody of the other instruments. You should have some licks in your head that you can pull out and use in any key if you really need to. You should have a basic roadmap of how your solo should sound, some ideas for a smooth melody throughout the whole thing. DON'T LIMIT YOURSELF TO PENTATONICS. I find that usually people who set out from the beginning to learn all the tricks of becoming a master improviser don't do very well and get very frustrated, so don't try too hard to memorize all the notes, just keep practicing and let it come naturally. Always push yourself and if you're ****ing up and making sounds you didn't mean to, keep the sound in your head that you meant to make and practice it later on your own until it's perfect, then try again next time.

Most of the true greats don't have to "think" too much while playing, they just feel it, but they had to learn by practicing a ton first with several methods of "thinking." I don't use much scale-thinking unless I'm playing fast-tempo jazz or something crazy like that, usually I just understand the harmony and understand how consonant or dissonant each of the 12 notes will sound over it. There are tons of tips and tricks to interesting soloing, but the first step is to just get out of the pentatonic scale and start using the whole major or minor scale all over the fret board.

If the chords are Cmajor to Fmajor, I know that chord tones (C-E-G to F-A-C) sound very consonant, and also very boring. I might start my solo with an arpeggio. Then I know that the major pentatonic scales of each chord add the notes D and A to the Cmajor chord, and add the notes G and D to the Fmajor chord, and I know that these extra notes give me some more stuff to work with around the fretboard and I might start playing some rhythmic licks. Then I know that because the chord progression is in the key of Fmajor, I can use the Bb and E notes over the whole progression for a little bit of tension. At this point I probably have a melody planned out for the song, maybe (in the case of guitarists like Kurt Cobain) it's the same melody that the vocalist was singing before. I start repeating the melody with variations and add in some licks. I might start using some side-stepping or other chromatic methods to add in some dissonance, and by this point I'm playing like a mad-man. The notes might not sound the most pleasant to the ear, but that's the purpose (in my opinion) to a rock solo, you get to a point where the solo is no longer pretty and you move people into a new psychedelic world where the audience loses their previous definition of music: you redefine what is acceptable to hear. Then you bring on back down to some smooth melody playing.

I guess you might classify me as an acid rock guitarist haha, but regardless of your style we can all benefit from that general information.
#16
What to think? NOTHING.

Just play.

The thinking should be done in practice...learning your scales...learning how to play your scales...learning licks that work over chord changes. If you adequately prepare yourself over any song or set of chord changes in practice then you shouldn't have to put much conscious effort into soloing.
Last edited by chronowarp at Mar 17, 2012,
#17
Quote by chronowarp
What to think? NOTHING.

Just play.

The thinking should be done in practice...learning your scales...learning how to play your scales...learning licks that work over chord changes. If adequately prepare yourself over any song or set of chord changes in practice then you shouldn't have to put much conscious effort into soloing.


+1 Since we basically said the same thing :P
#18
Play with rhythm too. Instead of thinking 'ok, which notes sound good together?' try 'how can I make this single note as interesting as possible?'
#19
^ good advice as well. Guitar players tend to get so caught up in "which scale, which note(s)?". Above all else you need to be rhythmically connected to the music. Try using as few notes as possible as a challenge...then start adding more notes.
#20
i really wish people would stop saying "you don't think", you do. you can't just stop thinking. playing music isn't an instinct either so there is obviously thought involved. the thing is, the more you practice and the more you improvise, the FASTER you think, not the less you think. sure you want to be able to play licks, scales and sequences without much conscious effort, but there is still some thinking involved in deciding how and when to use these things in order to make it musical. do you think actors who improvise aren't thinking? of course they are. they are improvising, but it still has to make sense and go along with the scene. same in music. it needs to make sense and go along with the song.

if you want to be a GOOD improviser, you need to think. if you want to follow chords or use arpeggios or be more adventurous with your playing, thinking is required. the only thing "retarded" is that people for some reason think that thinking while playing somehow gets rid of playing with feeling. same as how people think being a more technically advanced player means you don't play with as much feeling. both are just plain wrong.

this all being said, it IS possible to over-think things sometimes. the #1 KEY thing to improvising is to LISTEN. listen to what the players are doing, listen to where the song is going, listen to what's in your head and try to play it. a good improviser has the maturity to know that you don't need to play all your best runs in every song. sometimes a song needs a simple solo, maybe just play a version of the main melody. sometimes it needs a wailing, shredding solo. sometimes it's somewhere in the middle. this is where listening comes into play.

so really when people say to play from the heart, they should say to not be too concerned with trying to be impressive all the time, even to yourself. sometimes just sitting back and not doing much is what the song needs. try to listen to different styles of music and play over a variety of jam tracks and focus on listening to what the song "needs".

also, try to tell a story. granted, some songs sound great with some flashy licks, but to be a great improviser who can play over anything, try to have a start, middle and end to your solos. try to actually go somewhere with it and build up to something rather than just playing runs and licks you know in a row(which is usually how i hear people who say to not think play actually). don't be afraid to take your time either. a lot of really great solos aren't too complicated. again, listen to where the song is going and think about how you want to highlight that.

when it comes down to it, the only way to be a good improviser is to improvise often. it's going to start off sounding not too great, but eventually the more you do it, the more ideas you will have, and the faster you can put ideas together and think on your feet. i hope that was helpful
#21
I don't think when anyone says "stop thinking" they mean to go into a comatose vegetable state and turn your brain off. The overarching message is that you shouldn't be consciously trying to analyze on the fly in a process what you want to do over the chord changes - you should just be able to do it.

Oh shit...we're going to an F#7#5#9...ok...so F# is here...Altered...Altered..uh...k melodic minor, start it on the 7th...F# is the 7th of....G mel. minor. Ok so mel minor, whers G at? Ok? OH **** I MISSED THE CHORD, NOW WE'RE ON Bm6/9.

^ That's the kind of shit you need to avoid, and shouldn't find yourself in a situation.
#22
Alas, for whence thine extemporize, let thine muse lead'eth thee upon differing tales and journeys that fill'eth thine passions, and which thee in turn stoke and then shower'eth upon thine most adoring audience, through blasts of fiery, liquid Rock!

Mayhaps in one ode thee may conjure'th a saga of a rabid, slobbering beast! This goliath's rage 'tis unfettered as it smashe'th and pillage'th all in sight. Through thine string'eth-o-six banshee thee tell'eth ye tale of this monstrosity, and the carnage that he inflict'eth!

In another hymn, perchance thine axe may sing'eth a song of sweet seduction to every wench in ye crowde. Let thine mind focus upon sending sensuous notes to every female lobe, that then travel direct'ishly to theire smouldering vaginas!

This post now concludeth!
WATCH YE TALES OF THIS VERY KNIGHT, AS TOLD IN YE ARTS OF CINEMA AND METAL:
> CLICK'ETH HERE <
#23
Quote by steven seagull
You should be thinking "What do I want this to sound like?"


This 1000x.

Think of music as a language. When you're having a conversation with somebody, you do very little thinking about the words you want to say, much less the letters in those words.

Rather, you think about the content! You think about the meaning, and because you have trained your brain from an early age, you THINK meaning and specific words come out of your mouth, as if by magic.

So the question is, how do you train your mind for music the way you've trained it for language - so that you can think in concepts and you SUBCONSCIOUSLY turn it into specific sounds?

And the answer to that is ear training. Transcribe music. Download and use the functional ear trainer from miles.be, and get a good book on ear training (I recommend Wyatt et al's Ear Training for the Contemporary Musician).
#24
Quote by chronowarp
I don't think when anyone says "stop thinking" they mean to go into a comatose vegetable state and turn your brain off. The overarching message is that you shouldn't be consciously trying to analyze on the fly in a process what you want to do over the chord changes - you should just be able to do it.

Oh shit...we're going to an F#7#5#9...ok...so F# is here...Altered...Altered..uh...k melodic minor, start it on the 7th...F# is the 7th of....G mel. minor. Ok so mel minor, whers G at? Ok? OH **** I MISSED THE CHORD, NOW WE'RE ON Bm6/9.

^ That's the kind of shit you need to avoid, and shouldn't find yourself in a situation.

i'm pretty sure no one thinks that slow unless you started playing last week. and even then i say good, think about it and figure it out. you aren't going to get better unless you do. you need that in order to get to a point where it becomes pretty much instant. but even then you need to be able to recognize the situation, and decide what to play over it and where you want to go in the song.
#25
Quote by HotspurJr

Think of music as a language. When you're having a conversation with somebody, you do very little thinking about the words you want to say, much less the letters in those words.


This 1000x!!!

This really is excellent advise, music IS a language.
#26
I think there are two distinct schools of thought for this process. I'm by no means an expert, as I can barely play over my buddy's progressions when we jam.

1. Just play stuff and if it sounds wrong, try to move it up or down until you find the right notes that fit. This leads you to become more comfortable with playing the guitar, but not understanding the notes, but you can usually figure it out by ear after a while.

2. Try to figure out the theory first and apply it to your guitar playing so that you know what to expect before you play it.

I guess it's like trying to ride a bike when you're a kid, do you just go out and start riding it, or do you read up on exactly what you're going to have to do for every turn you make first? A lot of times it's much easier for people to just "start riding". I know my share of guitar music theory and it still confuses the hell out of me when I try to apply it to the guitar. I think that's because I took the approach of learning before I rode, but I only learned the technical aspects of riding and how it works not how to actually ride.

I know the main thing I've been doing more than I ever did before is taking time out of my practice routines to just run down the fretboard and play these notes and find them on the board: A B C D E F G. No sharps, no flats. Just trying to find the notes on the guitar that sound good by themselves. That has helped me to start adventuring and "noodling" around on the guitar without being bound by shapes. I do also think that having a few good shapes in your arsenal is a huge help though - I know the pentatonic and it is my best friend when I start to expand on an idea once I've found the right part of the fretboard by looking for those "good notes" that sound good by themselves.
#27
Quote by Blind In 1 Ear
i'm pretty sure no one thinks that slow unless you started playing last week. and even then i say good, think about it and figure it out. you aren't going to get better unless you do. you need that in order to get to a point where it becomes pretty much instant. but even then you need to be able to recognize the situation, and decide what to play over it and where you want to go in the song.

Think about it and sort it away in YOUR PRACTICE so that it isn't a conscious thought when you're improvising, it's just a move in your tool bag.
#28
I hate to disagree,but improv is the opposite,antithesis,whatever of thought.I just let it happen.I just forget everything I know and see what comes out.It's like coming to a crossroads and not caring where you turn.You'll end up somewhere.It's hard to put into words......panhead201
#29
Quote by Blind In 1 Ear
i really wish people would stop saying "you don't think", you do. you can't just stop thinking...


Lots of good advice on this thread, but I'd listen to this guy. I'm not too sure of the other posters (not to say that they dont know what they're talking about), but I have heard some of the stuff blind has come up with during the Blues Duels that used to happen earlier, and it's absolutely amazing what he can do with the guitar. He's absolutely amazing in his solos. Listen to him.
Quote by jpnyc
You are what they call a “rhythm guitarist”. While it's not as glamorous as playing lead you can still get laid. Especially if you can sing and play.




Beer is the solutions to the world's problems.

#30
Quote by panhead201
I hate to disagree,but improv is the opposite,antithesis,whatever of thought.I just let it happen.I just forget everything I know and see what comes out.It's like coming to a crossroads and not caring where you turn.You'll end up somewhere.It's hard to put into words......panhead201

That really is utter bolllocks.
It's not magical, it's not spiritual, you don't just close your eyes and let the pissing spirits of rock guide your hands.

It's you and your musical instrument, when you improvise you're using your knowledge, understanding and experience of both the guitar and music itself to create something that sounds good in the context of the rest of the music. It's just a very immediate situation, you don't necesarily get an awful lot of time to think so the more you know and the better you know it the better you'll be at improvising.

Sorry if that's not romantic enough for you, but that's the way it really is.
Actually called Mark!

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...it's a seagull

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#31
Quote by steven seagull
That really is utter bolllocks.
It's not magical, it's not spiritual, you don't just close your eyes and let the pissing spirits of rock guide your hands.

Lol, that made me laugh.

S'true... however, at the highest level... I think it can almost be magical and spiritual to an extent.

A jazz class I had once, a classmate asked our teacher "what's the craziest thing you can play? It's the end of term, man, you might as well just let rip now?"

He said; "The best stuff comes when I'm improvising... but, like... truly... truly improvising."

"It's a state of mind."
Last edited by mdc at Mar 21, 2012,
#32
Oh I agree that when somebody really knows their craft then the results can be pretty special, but it's still only because everything is so ingrained that they can pull stuff out of their bag without having to really think about it at all - and when you get to that level you can focus more on enjoying yourself.
Actually called Mark!

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

...it's a seagull

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i wanna see a clip of a recto buying some groceries.


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#33
I don't care what you say.When I play it's the only time I don't have to think.Maybe that's why I love it.I know what note is gonna come out if I do X.Solos are phrases.If you gotta think about every note you're gonna hit you might as well join Murph and The Murphtones.Do you play every song the same every time?All technique,no talent.It's like being a painter.You think he knows what it looks like before he starts?Sometimes I think you guys are joking,then I read a thread like how to tune your guitar.Unbelievable.Who the hell wants to sound like someone else?I knew a guy once who told me he looked just like Warren Beatty and played guitar just like Jimmy Paige.He did too.And he was proud of it.I playedf with Miles Davis a while and used to get chills when he played.If I'd asked him what he was thinking I'd have been on the curb in 30 seconds.Analyze all of this to death.I feel sorry for you.Maybe your a good mechanic or something.There's a place for everybody.Even me.panhead201 maybe this will get me kicked out
#34
Quote by steven seagull
That really is utter bolllocks.
It's not magical, it's not spiritual, you don't just close your eyes and let the pissing spirits of rock guide your hands.

It's you and your musical instrument, when you improvise you're using your knowledge, understanding and experience of both the guitar and music itself to create something that sounds good in the context of the rest of the music. It's just a very immediate situation, you don't necesarily get an awful lot of time to think so the more you know and the better you know it the better you'll be at improvising.

Sorry if that's not romantic enough for you, but that's the way it really is.

bollocks,my ass.Do you look out the window and say it's daylight,I wonder what means,It is magic and spiritual but analyze it to death.It's a block of wood and some strings but what makes you pick it up and do it?Chicks,adulation,do you want people to think you're cool?WHY do YOU play?panhead....How do you know how it really is?There's nothing romantic about it.It's a lifetime of work,mistakes,bad reviews,hangovers,waking up with somebody who looked pretty damn good the night before.Having to stay in a roach motel because half the guy,s in your band are black.Being in a club and scared to death because you're white?What do you do for a living.You know,Keith Richards went to bed drunk and wasted.He kept a little recorder by his bed,and a guitar.He woke up in the morning and did'nt remember anything.Later he saw something had been recorded.It was SATISFACTION.Angus Young was riding in a cab in NYC and the cab driver told him"I really like you guys but you recorded twelve albums that sound exactly the same".Angus said"I take great offense at that,it was thirteen"Maybe you're a cab driver.panhead
Last edited by panhead201 at Mar 21, 2012,
#35
I've been waiting all day for the duckhead guy to say something.I'm tired and in pain.I'm about the only one left alive of the guys I came up with.I've never done anything else for a living except unload a truck or a ship every now and then.I was'nt ever a smartass.I shut up and listened.I gon't care much for the internet.Faceless punks can say anything.See Ya
#36
Quote by panhead201
Angus Young was riding in a cab in NYC and the cab driver told him"I really like you guys but you recorded twelve albums that sound exactly the same".Angus said"I take great offense at that,it was thirteen"

It was 11 and 12. You muppet.
#37
Quote by mdc
It was 11 and 12. You muppet.

Pardon me,it,s been a long time since I'd heard it,but what's that got to do with the topic?What do you think when you improvise?panhead In the early seventies I'd get invited to sit in on a class at Berkeley in Boston.I never heard an explanation on what to think.I don't think there is an answer to this question.In one sense,Michaelangelo was some guy laying on his back painting a church ceiling.What do you think he was thinking?I hope everybody likes this?panhead
Last edited by panhead201 at Mar 22, 2012,
#38
Hello,you seem to know what you're doing.I'm new at computer and can't ven get a picture to post right.Can you tell me how to post music,some on vinyl,cd,1 1/2 supertape? Any help would be appreciated.Thanks,panhead This was meant for Blind in ! ear
Last edited by panhead201 at Mar 22, 2012,
#40
If I may....

There is a ton of great advice on this thread; different opinions and many unique ways to approach something we have all had to deal with at one point or another. Listen to what everyone is saying and find an approach that works for you.

I do like the language explanation. I look at music as a vocabulary and theory as a dictionary. We all started out learning the pentatonic scale and have thought the same thing: "What can I do?", "Where can go?". No worries! Keep practicing, learning, improvising, go to open jam sessions, watch others improvise, experiment and soon you will be giving the advice to a new guitarist.

In the end, study and practice...where you go from there is up to you.
"Is all that we see or seem, but a dream within a dream?"
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