#1
I've been playing guitar for a few years, and I really want to improvise. However I don't know how to start...
I can improvise a bit with pentatonics, other people say that it sounds good when i play it, however I know it's random and i don't like it.
So, does anyone have any good tips or links for how to start improvising?
#2
Train your ear so that you can play what you want and not just play random notes. Learn the intervals and their sound. You need to be able to think in sound to improvise well. Because if you don't know how what you play will sound like, it's just random and you might play good things but there's also a possibility that you play things that sound awful.
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

Gear

Bach Stradivarius 37G
Charvel So Cal
Fender Dimension Bass
Hartke HyDrive 210c
Ibanez BL70
Laney VC30
Tokai TB48
Yamaha FG720S-12
Yamaha P115
#3
Train your ear so that you can play what you want and not just play random notes.


Yup. There is a certain art to improvisation that not many master. It is a lot like talking, or giving a soliloquy


EDIT ---> Mostly it is about expression; usually in the communication of an idea.
#4
Practice playing along with backing tracks or songs that you like. There isn't any secret to it really. Phrasing is key to being able to improv well and is a skill you'll develop with time.
#5
learning scales has been a huge help to improving my improvising. pentatonics are a great spot to start, learning it all the way up the fretboard makes a big difference. then learning the major/ minor scales that correspond to the pentatonic scales is a good step. and like others have said, playing with backing tracks is a huge help.
#6
Try to keep your licks short and sparse to start with, record your self and check that what you play fits the backing both in "key" and also in "time". Try to pair licks into "question" and "answer". Develop this so that sets of licks amount to a journey out and back again. Learn to resolve to the root. Train your ear to hear the chord notes and use the none-chord notes less, blue notes every less. Bend accurately to a note in the scale. Develop a "nice" vibrato.

What else?
Last edited by PSimonR at Jul 14, 2013,
#7
Quote by 6th
I've been playing guitar for a few years, and I really want to improvise. However I don't know how to start...
I can improvise a bit with pentatonics, other people say that it sounds good when i play it, however I know it's random and i don't like it.
So, does anyone have any good tips or links for how to start improvising?

how often do you practice improv? it better be every day. it also better be the majority of your practice. if not, then that's your problem.
#8
try slideing into the root or do an octave chord, maybe try a bend to the root or start with a lick that is in the key and is slow so that you have time to think of the next thing to play
EXPERIMENTING is the key to success
dont be afraid to throw in a random note that is not in the scale, it might sound off to you because your ear expects something else but for other people it will be something different from what you have played earlier and take their attention
#10
Practice.
I found getting a loop pedal and just practicing improv over back up tracks really helped
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#11
Personally my advice is don't think of shapes of the guitar like pentatonic shapes and what not and do like some of these other guys said and train your ear. Also try improvising on one string to eliminate the shape problem i told you about when doing solos, i cant remember where heard that piece of advice, maybe it was in a UG lesson or a video somewhere but i can't seem to place it .Moreover Oud players are known to be able to improvise so ask them for advice and maybe learn some of their techniques and apply them to guitar. Hope this helped!
#13
i know this is some hippie shit here but just play music man. You should be recording your improv sessions and be honest with your self does it suck and if it does find out why. I practice improv every time i pick up the guitar but it is not practice really i am just having fun and jamming. Also find a buddy, u must know someone who plays a instrument of any kind do not be shy and ask them if they want to jam. Having real music in front of you being played by real people in real time is something you'll grow from a lot.
#14
The pentatonic and major scales that happen to form shapes on the fretboard are important from a theoretical perspective. But the way they are often taught may lead some people to fall into the trap that if you just play in that scale you will make music. You ignore other elements like timing, phrasing, rhythm, background chords, to name a few. There are other things going on theoretically and scales are worthwhile to know, but they are just one part of the bigger picture to figure out why things work.

Blues musicians probably hung around each other back in the day and they learned how to speak the blues by imitation and then you learn the logic of the language and the next phase is that you put your own spin on these licks.
#16
Quote by sweetdude3000
The pentatonic and major scales that happen to form shapes on the fretboard are important from a theoretical perspective. But the way they are often taught may lead some people to fall into the trap that if you just play in that scale you will make music. You ignore other elements like timing, phrasing, rhythm, background chords, to name a few. There are other things going on theoretically and scales are worthwhile to know, but they are just one part of the bigger picture to figure out why things work.

Blues musicians probably hung around each other back in the day and they learned how to speak the blues by imitation and then you learn the logic of the language and the next phase is that you put your own spin on these licks.

Yeah, actually the notes you play aren't as important as how you play them. A good player can play a good solo with just three notes. That's because he can use rhythm and techniques well. Rhythm is really important and makes your soloing sound a lot more interesting. Instead of playing 8ths and 4ths all the time, use syncopation, triplets, whatever. And use breaks. That's also important.

And yeah, learning the intervals is pretty important if you want to train your ear. If you hear a sound in your head, you can just recognize the intervals in the melody and play it.
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

Gear

Bach Stradivarius 37G
Charvel So Cal
Fender Dimension Bass
Hartke HyDrive 210c
Ibanez BL70
Laney VC30
Tokai TB48
Yamaha FG720S-12
Yamaha P115
#17
Quote by MaggaraMarine
Train your ear so that you can play what you want and not just play random notes. Learn the intervals and their sound. You need to be able to think in sound to improvise well. Because if you don't know how what you play will sound like, it's just random and you might play good things but there's also a possibility that you play things that sound awful.


All summed up, right there.

Improvising is all about getting so comfortable with your instrument and music in general so you know how it's going to sound, before you play it. Being able to come up and execute ideas right on the spot.

As said, train your ear. There are lots of ways you can improve your ear and improvising. Learning songs by ear is great, especially stuff that might not be guitar. Learning piano lines/sax lines/violin lines, all is good.

Also practicing what i'd like to call "call and response" improv is really great. Basically playing a chord, or a short chord progression, and then singing/humming a line over it, and then try to replicate it on the guitar. Your goal should be to be able to do this instantly, but it will take time to develop.
Fusion and jazz musician, a fan of most music.

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"Only play what you hear. If you don't hear anything, don't play anything."
#18
Quote by 6th
I can improvise a bit with pentatonics, other people say that it sounds good when i play it, however I know it's random and i don't like it.

If it's random then that may be b/c you're relying on the scale shape rather than the specific sound of a note over a particular chord.
#20
Quote by mdc
If it's random then that may be b/c you're relying on the scale shape rather than the specific sound of a note over a particular chord.

Mhmm...this is why I've preached so hard against the use of box shapes on this forum. I fell into the trap, and we all know that countless other new guitar players will also fall into this trap. This is why, imho, teaching the intervals of the scales is a much better idea.

@TS:
Do you know how the different intervals sound? For instance, what sound does going from the root to the 5th make? And so on? If not, I'd start out with the following:
http://www.musictheory.net/lessons/30
http://www.musictheory.net/lessons/31
http://www.musictheory.net/lessons/32
http://www.musictheory.net/lessons/33

On all of these lessons, I recommend you click the piano button in the upper right corner. This will bring up a popup piano interface that allows you to click on the piano "keys" and hear notes. So, when lesson 30 there shows you what a 2nd is, play a 2nd. (So, play a key and then the key directly to the right of the 1st key. This will train your ear AND your mind.) And so on...

By understanding how moving from one interval to the next sounds, you can guide the sounds of your songs/solos/improv/etc. In time, this will become 2nd nature, and your ears and fingers will naturally work in sync to create expressive improvisation.
Last edited by crazysam23_Atax at Jul 15, 2013,
#21
crazysam, the "box shapes" are a physical representation of a scale. You learn the intervals in relation to the root/tonic of the scale so you are more conscious of note choice. They are important. Does that mean you are only limited to the notes in that scale? Not at all. Sources don't always point that out.

But they are one piece of theory, like you said, learning the intervals is a next step and then more theory is added on top of that, if you want to learn more theory.
#22
^ But if you can't get rid of the box shapes, it's not good. It's easier to go on "autopilot mode" if you only think about box shapes. You'll more likely end up playing licks your fingers are familiar with and don't necessarily play what you would like to play. And most of the time people only learn the fingerings and start "improvising" with them. Like TS, they feel like it's just random what they play, and that's true - it's random.

They aren't useless but I think people learn them the wrong way. I notice that when I don't think in box shapes, I play better. At least I play what I want to play.
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

Gear

Bach Stradivarius 37G
Charvel So Cal
Fender Dimension Bass
Hartke HyDrive 210c
Ibanez BL70
Laney VC30
Tokai TB48
Yamaha FG720S-12
Yamaha P115
#23
Quote by 6th
I've been playing guitar for a few years, and I really want to improvise. However I don't know how to start...
I can improvise a bit with pentatonics, other people say that it sounds good when i play it, however I know it's random and i don't like it.
So, does anyone have any good tips or links for how to start improvising?



What is your song repertoire like?

Best,

Sean
#25
Quote by MaggaraMarine
^ But if you can't get rid of the box shapes, it's not good. It's easier to go on "autopilot mode" if you only think about box shapes. You'll more likely end up playing licks your fingers are familiar with and don't necessarily play what you would like to play. And most of the time people only learn the fingerings and start "improvising" with them. Like TS, they feel like it's just random what they play, and that's true - it's random.

They aren't useless but I think people learn them the wrong way. I notice that when I don't think in box shapes, I play better. At least I play what I want to play.


True. I agree it's taught the wrong way more often than not and it's particular usage.

Note choice is important depending on what you style you want to play, unless you are going for some hybrid of sounds from multiple styles. Maybe it's best to use your ears and maybe learn the note names? I don't know. So it begs the question, what is improv? Building up a musical vocabulary by carefully listening to other musicians and putting your own spin on it. If the TS isn't learning other people's solos by ear, and then playing around with those musical phrases then that's part of the problem.

Looks like Sean asked the right question..