#1
Hey guys,

I learned how to properly improvise over a certain progression with a certain scale a while ago now.

I have been doing a lot of blues and rock jams with some basic scales (pentatonic, major, minor, harmonic minor). Now it's just getting boring, i know all the notes and i just keep on using the same licks after a while.

Anyone has some tips to spice up my improvs? maybe some new music theory i should learn? (i'm not that far yet in music theory).

Thanks!
RIG:

Yamaha EG112
Fender Frontman 25R
Boss DS-2



Soon:
ESP LTD MH-50
Peavey Vypyr 30W
#3
Do you mean something new as a new lick or riff or as a new piece of music theory?

Thanks
RIG:

Yamaha EG112
Fender Frontman 25R
Boss DS-2



Soon:
ESP LTD MH-50
Peavey Vypyr 30W
#4
Quote by Stereojunkie

I have been doing a lot of blues and rock jams with some basic scales (pentatonic, major, minor, harmonic minor). Now it's just getting boring, i know all the notes and i just keep on using the same licks after a while.


Usually this happens because you are improvising with your fingers rather than with your mind. You have a "bag of tricks" that you play pretty much on autopilot. As you get more advanced, it may be a bigger bag of tricks, and you may be more conscious about which trick you're reaching for, but it's still a bag of tricks.

The standard advice for how to fix this problem is to develop your ear so that you're not relying on a bag of tricks at all. You are simply feeling the music, responding intuitively to what you're hearing. Imagine that you were improvising by singing: just pure reaction to the music, not mediated by technical considerations.

That's the idea of ear training - you develop your mind's ability to think in sounds, so that you respond to the changes in the underlying track not technically but musically.

Think of it like learning a foreign language. A beginner has learned a bunch of stock phrases ("Donde esta la biblioteca?"). An advanced beginner has learned enough stock phrases that they are reasonable functional with the basic tasks put in front of them - they can ask where the library is, and understand the answer even if it's a little complicated. An intermediate speaker thinks in English and then translates it - that's like an intermediate musician who understands the concepts but still approaches them from a place of language which needs to be translated ("Going to the dominant and descending chromatically to the tonic would sound cool over that change"). An advanced speaker thinks in the language they want to communicate in without needing to reference everything back to English.

Developing your ear is the only way to move into that third group musically.
#5
Quote by HotspurJr
*Advice worth weight in gold*
Plus motherfucking one. Forget all the boxes and patterns you've programmed into your fingers. Start with one note and go from there. Feel the direction at which the song (or backing track) is going. Inspire a mood or emotion. This kind of improv is where you will find the most reward and escape from boring, rehashed licks.
I can't wait till my fro is full grown.
#6
Quote by FishStik
Plus motherfucking one. Forget all the boxes and patterns you've programmed into your fingers. Start with one note and go from there. Feel the direction at which the song (or backing track) is going. Inspire a mood or emotion. This kind of improv is where you will find the most reward and escape from boring, rehashed licks.


Ok, i have heard this a lot. Just go with the feel.
If i do this though, I don't get the right sound.
I play a lot notes that don't go with the song if i let go of the scales.
RIG:

Yamaha EG112
Fender Frontman 25R
Boss DS-2



Soon:
ESP LTD MH-50
Peavey Vypyr 30W
#7
Quote by HotspurJr
Usually this happens because you are improvising with your fingers rather than with your mind. You have a "bag of tricks" that you play pretty much on autopilot. As you get more advanced, it may be a bigger bag of tricks, and you may be more conscious about which trick you're reaching for, but it's still a bag of tricks.

The standard advice for how to fix this problem is to develop your ear so that you're not relying on a bag of tricks at all. You are simply feeling the music, responding intuitively to what you're hearing. Imagine that you were improvising by singing: just pure reaction to the music, not mediated by technical considerations.

That's the idea of ear training - you develop your mind's ability to think in sounds, so that you respond to the changes in the underlying track not technically but musically.

Think of it like learning a foreign language. A beginner has learned a bunch of stock phrases ("Donde esta la biblioteca?"). An advanced beginner has learned enough stock phrases that they are reasonable functional with the basic tasks put in front of them - they can ask where the library is, and understand the answer even if it's a little complicated. An intermediate speaker thinks in English and then translates it - that's like an intermediate musician who understands the concepts but still approaches them from a place of language which needs to be translated ("Going to the dominant and descending chromatically to the tonic would sound cool over that change"). An advanced speaker thinks in the language they want to communicate in without needing to reference everything back to English.

Developing your ear is the only way to move into that third group musically.


<3
#8
Quote by Stereojunkie
Ok, i have heard this a lot. Just go with the feel.
If i do this though, I don't get the right sound.
I play a lot notes that don't go with the song if i let go of the scales.


did you even read what Hotspur wrote?
#9
Quote by Stereojunkie
Hey guys,

I learned how to properly improvise over a certain progression with a certain scale a while ago now.

I have been doing a lot of blues and rock jams with some basic scales (pentatonic, major, minor, harmonic minor). Now it's just getting boring, i know all the notes and i just keep on using the same licks after a while.

Anyone has some tips to spice up my improvs? maybe some new music theory i should learn? (i'm not that far yet in music theory).

Thanks!



This is common when people learn how to "improvise". The focus shifts from what you feel to things like what scale to use over what chord. Knowing that C is the #9 over an A7 is great, but it's not what you're song is about.... it's not what you're trying to say.... so you when you're actually playing music, it's probably the last thing you should be thinking about.

study theory, but when you play, focus on the expression.

+

get lots of experience playing solos. absorb the feel, develop your technique, use your knowledge to make sense of them.

Eventually you'll actually be able to improvise music and not just noodle through shapes and/or random theoretical concepts.
shred is gaudy music
Last edited by GuitarMunky at Apr 17, 2012,
#11
one thing i've been doing lately to spice up my improv is to structure it a bit (ultimate irony, right?) By that i mean, i'll play a chord or a 'bass line' for a measure, and then solo for a measure, then go back to my rhythm part and repeat this process until it's time for the next one.
Only having one bar for a solo/lick has helped me alot because i was a compulsive improv wanker; i would sit down and fiddle around for 15 minutes without taking a break, and it made my solos rather bland; there was no sense of urgency. But narrowing it down has helped me fit more into each measure in terms of melodic quality.
#12
Quote by Stereojunkie
Ok, i have heard this a lot. Just go with the feel.
If i do this though, I don't get the right sound.
I play a lot notes that don't go with the song if i let go of the scales.
Take it one step at a time. If you've been relying on patterns to improvise, it'd be kinda dumb to just forget all that and wing it.

Baby steps: Begin with telling yourself that you won't use that one lick you use in every single one of your solos. Continue using those patterns you feel so comfortable with, but avoid using the same riffs that seem to come out every other bar. Keep in the back of your mind that you want to stray away from those patterns, but don't forbid them (just yet).

Next, restrict yourself to a few choice notes and think of creative ways to use that restriction. When you only have so many notes to play, you force yourself to try and make that interesting, whether that comes from rhythm, note quality, etc.

After enough practice, you'll finally be able to hear what you play before you actually play it. That's the key: Think about what notes you want to play and then play them, not the other way around.
I can't wait till my fro is full grown.
Last edited by FishStik at Apr 17, 2012,
#13
The scale-pattern approach that a lot of guitar players are initially taught (or self-taught) does seem to be a bit of a curse, as when that translates to improv the tendency is to do something linear that sounds imposed over the music - particularly if you aren't really working with the chord changes, simply playing scale licks. It's pretty obvious when someone is doing this, and it will come off as amatuer to a perceptive enough audience, because it will not flow.

I hate to be the guy who keeps bringing this up, but introduction to the notion of chord tones is vital. And the chord tone approach does not just mean playing arpeggios (although that could be part of it). It's simply a guideline of what the strong notes are going to be when you're working with chord progressions, and it breaks one out of the habit of just running scales without listening to what's going on. And that's really what's most fundamental - listening and reacting.

In a sense, I do take the perspective that people should break out of scalar thinking and approach music more in terms of a palette of intervals. This is especially the case when you're working with anything that involves chromaticism. The usefulness of scales begins to break down and you inherently have to consider the notes themselves more generally.

Even something as simple as a pretty regular chord progression in a minor key - it is generally misleading to think you're ever using harmonic minor as a scale, if you're really just raising the 7th as a leading tone in context. One is either just adjusting notes to the changes or being melodically free in a way that isn't bound by scales. In this way, scales as such are a limitation on melodic freedom, and therefore melodic possibilities.
Last edited by Brainpolice2 at Apr 17, 2012,
#14
The only real bit of advice I have for u is to LISTEN to
as much music as possible and copy the sounds you hear that you like.
Scales only provide a limited amount of information
Listen to great players of all kinds of music and all instruments and internalize the sounds you like to hear
Eventually it'll start to come out in your playing
#16
Quote by mdc
^ I swear I heard that somewhere else.



Indeed.
Though I'm not trying to parrot someone else - 'LISTEN' is my default response to most improv questions, unless there is a specific chord or genre in question. Even then my general guidelines are to simply listen, transcribe, copy, understand, create.
There really is no excuse these days to not explore and listen to everything - music is so easy to find.

#17
Thanks guys!
I will try to develop my ear so i can actually hear what i play before i even play it!

Thanks again!
RIG:

Yamaha EG112
Fender Frontman 25R
Boss DS-2



Soon:
ESP LTD MH-50
Peavey Vypyr 30W
#18
Quote by GuitarMunky
This is common when people learn how to "improvise". The focus shifts from what you feel to things like what scale to use over what chord. Knowing that C is the #9 over an A7 is great, but it's not what you're song is about.... it's not what you're trying to say.... so you when you're actually playing music, it's probably the last thing you should be thinking about.

study theory, but when you play, focus on the expression.

+

get lots of experience playing solos. absorb the feel, develop your technique, use your knowledge to make sense of them.

Eventually you'll actually be able to improvise music and not just noodle through shapes and/or random theoretical concepts.


Agree but B# is a #9 over A, not C. I know you know it and likely dumbed it down contextually to make a point, but...

Best,

Sean
#19
Quote by Sean0913
Agree but B# is a #9 over A, not C. I know you know it and likely dumbed it down contextually to make a point, but...

Best,

Sean

I don't consider that dumbing it down. I knew some people would try and pick it apart based on semantics, because that's what people do here, but as you pointed out, you understood the point I was making, so there was no need.

and to your point.... it's obvious that C is a b3rd, but there are times when a b3rd is actually sounding as a #9. For example, the scale A minor pentatonic has the notes, A C D E G (not A B# D E G) which is often used over an A7 chord. If you hang out on that C, it functions/sounds as the #9. Now you could call it a B#, but that wouldn't be consistent with common practice.
shred is gaudy music
Last edited by GuitarMunky at Apr 19, 2012,
#20
I'm not sure I follow your reasoning entirely. One instance where I'd say it sounded like a b9 is if it were in an upper voice as a compound interval against the A7. Put it a semitone before the Major 3rd and you have the sound of "mud", in my opinion, if it's part of the chord voicing, as opposed to a passing tone.

Best,

Sean
Last edited by Sean0913 at Apr 19, 2012,
#21
Quote by Sean0913
One instance where I'd say it sounded like a b9 is if it were in an upper voice as a compound interval against the A7. Put it a semitone before the Major 3rd and you have the sound of "mud", in my opinion, if it's part of the chord voicing, as opposed to a passing tone.

Best,

Sean


a C would sound like a b9 against an A7??? probably meant #9 right?

and yeah you can play it down low so to speak and it's still a #9. The mud factor is irrelevant.
shred is gaudy music
#22
There are a tonne of ways you can make your improvisation more interesting. Trying playing a melody you like. Make it REALLY simple. I mean really, like 2 notes over a change. Then try to figure out little embellishments. Bends, vibrating, quick runs up to the note, little bit of outside playing to make it sound like a stronger resolve. You'll have top think of these things at first, but eventually your little licks will become second nature.
Quote by Zaphod_Beeblebr
Theory is descriptive, not prescriptive.


Quote by MiKe Hendryckz
theory states 1+1=2 sometimes in music 1+1=3.
#23
Quote by GuitarMunky
a C would sound like a b9 against an A7??? probably meant #9 right?

and yeah you can play it down low so to speak and it's still a #9. The mud factor is irrelevant.


That's correct, good catch I meant #9....I hate when I do that Oh well happens to us all

Best,

Sean
#24
Play random sounds. I'm serious. Seems like you're focused too much on if what you play fits the rest of the music. Don't be afraid to make mistakes, otherwise you'll never get out of that vicious circle.