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notafishmonger
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Join date: Aug 2013
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#1
Improv totally isn't my thing. At least not on the guitar, that's why I prefer planning stuff ahead of time.

I was just wondering how hard is it for improvisers out there to just come up with stuff on the go, right on the stage on the beat. I am astonished by how fast some guitarists can think and come up with shapes without memorizing the fingering itself.

As a bassist, I can tell what notes are in a chord or even memorize it when I walk through a song, but I don't have to memorize where I place my fingers all at once. Is there a trick or something guitar players use??
crazysam23_Atax
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#2
The thing is, most improvisers don't think in shapes. (Try telling a horn player to think "in shapes".) In fact, if you're a musician and don't think in "sound", you're doing it wrong.

While guitar is an instrument where it's easy to get stuck thinking in shapes, no musician should ever do that.
Sickz
Jazz Musician
Join date: Mar 2010
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#3
It's exactly as crazysam said. Good improvisers don't think in shapes, they have worked on the connection between their ear and instrument so much that they can hear a line that sounds good in their head before they play it, and then know exactly how to play it on their instrument.

Playing by ear is what makes the difference between a good improviser and a bad one. You wouldn't believe how many times i have jammed with a group of people and the other guitarist have to ask what key we are in to improvise, while the rest of us just listen and play.

Think in sounds, not frets/shapes.
Fusion and jazz musician, a fan of most music.

Quote by Guthrie Govan
“If you steal from one person it's theft, and if you steal from lots of people it's research”


Quote by Chick Corea
"Only play what you hear. If you don't hear anything, don't play anything."
SandalledSteve
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#4
Since you haven't shared much about your musical background, it's not easy to give you some useful advice. Nevertheless, here is a concrete (although a bit random) suggestion... Try to sing what you play when you're improvising. It will help you do what others refer to as "think in sound". And in time, your fingers will know what movement to make in order to play the intended intervals. Just like your vocal cords know what movement to make in order to sing these intervals. In the end, it's all about practice. You may have a brilliant musical mind. Have all the greatest musical ideas in your head. But still, you will have to practice hard to teach your body to perform these ideas in real time (on whatever instrument).

There are several paths you can take when learning to master guitar in the above described fashion. Learning box shapes is one of them. This is the most recent thread where "to box or not to box" question was raised: https://www.ultimate-guitar.com/forum/showthread.php?t=1612701 To get my opinion, you must read it to it's very end, though.
Last edited by SandalledSteve at Aug 16, 2013,
Jehannum
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#5
Although you shouldn't think in shapes you can still use them. You hear in your mind where you want the music to go; the shape you visualise just helps you to get there accurately.
Blind In 1 Ear
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#6
Quote by notafishmonger
Improv totally isn't my thing. At least not on the guitar, that's why I prefer planning stuff ahead of time.

I was just wondering how hard is it for improvisers out there to just come up with stuff on the go, right on the stage on the beat. I am astonished by how fast some guitarists can think and come up with shapes without memorizing the fingering itself.

As a bassist, I can tell what notes are in a chord or even memorize it when I walk through a song, but I don't have to memorize where I place my fingers all at once. Is there a trick or something guitar players use??

it's actually not that hard to do. it seems hard only because you can't do it. good improvisers are good because they practice improvising all the time. there's no secret, just dedication and a love of making music.
HotspurJr
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#7
The thing is, in addition to note thinking in shapes, it's about not thinking in note names or chord names, either but rather in sounds.

It's about thinking "what sound do I want to hear?" and finding that on your instrument.
Dave_Mc
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#8
yeah it's about knowing how it's gonna sound before you play it. it's not as improvised as you'd think, you've practised it before (or at least practised improvising, if that makes sense).

Also box shapes can help, on guitar anyway. yeah, it's silly to only think of the boxes and get bogged down in them, but refusing to use an actually quite useful shortcut (as long as you realise that that's what it is) is kinda counter-productive, if you ask me.
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HotspurJr
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#9
Well, I think almost everyone goes through a phase of using box shapes, and it's totally useful as a part of your development.

But your goal is to get beyond them, I think.
notafishmonger
Registered User
Join date: Aug 2013
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#10
Quote by SandalledSteve
Since you haven't shared much about your musical background, it's not easy to give you some useful advice. Nevertheless, here is a concrete (although a bit random) suggestion... Try to sing what you play when you're improvising. It will help you do what others refer to as "think in sound". And in time, your fingers will know what movement to make in order to play the intended intervals. Just like your vocal cords know what movement to make in order to sing these intervals. In the end, it's all about practice. You may have a brilliant musical mind. Have all the greatest musical ideas in your head. But still, you will have to practice hard to teach your body to perform these ideas in real time (on whatever instrument).

There are several paths you can take when learning to master guitar in the above described fashion. Learning box shapes is one of them. This is the most recent thread where "to box or not to box" question was raised: https://www.ultimate-guitar.com/forum/showthread.php?t=1612701 To get my opinion, you must read it to it's very end, though.


Wow that post changed quite a bit of how I think of music, good read!

I do understand what some of you mean by guessing the interval and getting sound you want in your head. When I first started playing without any formal musical training. I unknowingly thew in lots of 5ths and octaves because I knew it will sound good most of the time until I realized one day through reading wiki, that point on the scale happens to be in the very basic chord formula(1,3,5).

Overtime, I want to do more and more of that stuff to find out what sounds good with whatever that was printed on the chord sheet handed down to me. VERY early on, I went as far transcribing the entire bassline on tab heard on the CD then analyzing it bit by bit, piecing together the fundamentals of playing in an arpeggio(is that a noun or verb??!).
I then tabbed out my own version of the bassline. 2 years ago, that took an entire day, but seeing a fraction of that work being done in split second in a guitar solo mentally is just astonishing!

I guess in the end it takes practice.
Dave_Mc
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#11
^ yeah it all depends on what you're like. I think acting like box shapes are bad is dangerous- a similar analogy would be saying that you have to learn number theory before learning to count, or learn the international phonetic alphabet before learning to spell. Which is obviously crazy.

that's not to say a few badasses might not be able to do it, but acting like it's wrong for everyone?

Quote by classicrocker01
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crazysam23_Atax
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#12
Quote by Dave_Mc
^ yeah it all depends on what you're like. I think acting like box shapes are bad is dangerous- a similar analogy would be saying that you have to learn number theory before learning to count, or learn the international phonetic alphabet before learning to spell. Which is obviously crazy.

that's not to say a few badasses might not be able to do it, but acting like it's wrong for everyone?


Imho, the only use box shapes really have is building up finger strength and muscle memory. That said, I could go into what I think young/new guitar players should be taught instead of box shapes, but I won't do it here. (I made a fairly decent argument, I think, in the thread that SandalledSteve referenced in post #4.)
Last edited by crazysam23_Atax at Aug 16, 2013,
toddkreuz
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#13
Nobody actually improvises 100 percent. That is, you're never just playing things out
of the clear blue sky that you've never played before.
When improvising, you are pulling from a vocabulary of pre-learned , pre-practiced phrases
and or scales, chords, etc etc...
You are simply putting it together in a new way. But you're not just making it up out of nowhere.
Similar to when you are speaking. when you speak, you're improvising, but you dont
suddenly pull out all these crazy words you've never said before. You're always saying things you've said before, just in a new way, or a new order. We all improvise everytime we speak. Unless we
're reading a script.
Last edited by toddkreuz at Aug 16, 2013,
eric_wearing
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#14
I've been wondering what to learn other than box shapes. Last summer I tried to learn the whole scale on the entire fretboard so I can improvise one day....just guess how that worked out heh
Theory is just...wow. I'm getting a bit over my head by trying to learn so much w/o formal educators

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Dave_Mc
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#15
Quote by crazysam23_Atax
Imho, the only use box shapes really have is building up finger strength and muscle memory. That said, I could go into what I think young/new guitar players should be taught instead of box shapes, but I won't do it here. (I made a fairly decent argument, I think, in the thread that SandalledSteve referenced in post #4.)


an awful lot of classic licks are based on the box shapes though.

the big problem is if you expect people to learn way too much all at once, an awful lot will just quit. Which is obviously not ideal.

that being said i don't really disagree with anything you said in that other thread, either. I agree that learning scale shapes ad nauseum is boring as hell (and i don't even know all the shapes, or close to them, yet i know the intervals of all the major modes etc. which i'd argue is more important).

it's like most education, there's more than one way to skin a cat and you have to find the way that works best for you

Quote by toddkreuz
Nobody actually improvises 100 percent. That is, you're never just playing things out
of the clear blue sky that you've never played before.
When improvising, you are pulling from a vocabulary of pre-learned , pre-practiced phrases
and or scales, chords, etc etc...
You are simply putting it together in a new way. But you're not just making it up out of nowhere.
Similar to when you are speaking. when you speak, you're improvising, but you dont
suddenly pull out all these crazy words you've never said before. You're always saying things you've said before, just in a new way, or a new order. We all improvise everytime we speak. Unless we
're reading a script.


exactly
Quote by classicrocker01
Only on UG would I say I got engaged and bought a jet city and get congratulated on the amp


notafishmonger
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#16
Quote by Dave_Mc
an awful lot of classic licks are based on the box shapes though.

the big problem is if you expect people to learn way too much all at once, an awful lot will just quit. Which is obviously not ideal.

that being said i don't really disagree with anything you said in that other thread, either. I agree that learning scale shapes ad nauseum is boring as hell (and i don't even know all the shapes, or close to them, yet i know the intervals of all the major modes etc. which i'd argue is more important).

it's like most education, there's more than one way to skin a cat and you have to find the way that works best for you


exactly


This got me wondering how Slash's mind works when he does his bluesish solos which I absolutely love. Kinda hard to picture some of the stuff he does is simply based on something like this, something I find incredibly boring in music lessons.

http://www.danbohane.co.uk/blues%20scales.gif

Glad I didn't give up then but I wished that I paid more attention...
crazysam23_Atax
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#17
Quote by Dave_Mc
an awful lot of classic licks are based on the box shapes though.

Kind of, kind of not. A lot of the classic licks are based off of chords really. Guys like Hendrix or Clapton or Page were very good at licks that were based off of chord shapes.
cdgraves
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#18
Everything fits into one box shape or another. The problem is that so many players halt their development after learning just a few "shapes" and get stuck in them.

One trick to fluid improvisation is knowing how to get from one position/shape to another (and knowing how that sounds, of course). Learning the fretboard horizontally is really a big step towards becoming a decent player.

Think in terms of where your hands are now, where you want them to go, and what's in between. Once you're familiar with your scales and triad shapes, getting from the open low E to the 12th fret on the high E is actually pretty easy. It's all about preparing for and executing your accents.
HotspurJr
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#19
Quote by Dave_Mc
an awful lot of classic licks are based on the box shapes though.


I disagree.

A lot of classic licks are based on musical ideas. Shapes are designed with the idea of being shortcuts to playing musical ideas. So a lick may be contained with a shape - minor pentatonic licks are going to be contained within a minor pentatonic shape, of course - but they're not BASED on the shape.

mdc
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#20
Classic rock, modern rock and blues licks are based on shapes, it's the nature of the guitar and people need to get over it.

If you want to learn chord based ideas, then study jazz or country.

Sorry... actually, no I'm not.
Last edited by mdc at Aug 17, 2013,
cdgraves
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#21
Classic rock players are among the laziest when it comes to getting around the fretboard. I'd wager 50% of classic rock guitar solos are done almost entirely in the minor pentatonic root position.

The reason for this is that a lot of classic rock and groove music is based on a static, non-resolving harmony. The chords often are not a progression, rather they are just a sequence that reinforces the tonic harmony. There's no real change in the harmony. Because the harmony is defined by the key signature in those cases, the soloist can just play anything "in key" and it will sound fine - there's no harmonic "pull".

Any music that has actual harmonic changes will force you out of box shapes. Lots of rock music does this, too. You can hear the soloist preparing for and hitting notes on harmony changes.
Dave_Mc
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#22
^ yeah. i mean even an awful lot of the 80s shred solos are, in large part anyway, first position minor pentatonic (or blues).

it's a bit like power chords (if you want to play rock). Should you only learn power chords? No, of course not. But if you're starting out, you can play an awful lot of rock songs (and/or large portions of rock songs) just using power chords. It's the same with minor pentatonic (and blues scale) position 1. You can play an awful lot of rock solos using just that one shape. It seems daft to make it artificially hard on yourself. Sure, down the line, expand a bit, of course you should. But if some person who's picking up the guitar for the first time asks, "how do i get good as quickly as possible? I want to play rock music." you don't (IMO) say, "Right, first things first, let's get you started on hardcore music theory!"

Quote by crazysam23_Atax
Kind of, kind of not. A lot of the classic licks are based off of chords really. Guys like Hendrix or Clapton or Page were very good at licks that were based off of chord shapes.


well, sure. but it still doesn't mean you should ignore the boxes, either.

Quote by HotspurJr
I disagree.

A lot of classic licks are based on musical ideas. Shapes are designed with the idea of being shortcuts to playing musical ideas. So a lick may be contained with a shape - minor pentatonic licks are going to be contained within a minor pentatonic shape, of course - but they're not BASED on the shape.


isn't that kinda semantics?
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Sickz
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#23
I just want to clarify that my post is not meant as "Do not learn scales! ". I think it is important to have that foundation and know your scales, i'm just not a believer in thinking of the scales when improvising.

I think it is a much more healthier approach to learning to improvise to pop on a backing track and then try to hum/sing a phrase and try to play it, or just making something up in your head and trying to play it than to sit and go "Pentatonic ascending, Pentatonic descending". I am not a believer in running up and down scales, and learning new scales to improve your improv. You should always strive to be able to create the sounds you want to hear over whatever is being played without thinking "Uh, pentatonic, Uh, Major," etc.

I never said it was easy. It's probably one of the hardest things to learn, but why not work towards it?
Fusion and jazz musician, a fan of most music.

Quote by Guthrie Govan
“If you steal from one person it's theft, and if you steal from lots of people it's research”


Quote by Chick Corea
"Only play what you hear. If you don't hear anything, don't play anything."
crazysam23_Atax
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#24
Quote by cdgraves
Everything fits into one box shape or another. The problem is that so many players halt their development after learning just a few "shapes" and get stuck in them.

Ermm...what? There's a ton of players who see the fretboard as a whole. I'm one of them. So, stop saying this. It may be how you (and many, many others) think of the fretboard, but it's clearly not how everyone does. I'm not going into more detail than that, but really...this idea isn't universal to how every guitar player thinks. (Some professional examples: Guthrie Govan uses a chord-based way of thinking, in some ways he applies "Jazz ideas" to songs that aren't always Jazz. Steve Vai takes a linear/vertical approach, rarely ever does runs in stereotypical shapes. Paul Gilbert's early work is also more linear than shape-based; look at his stuff with Racer X.)

Quote by Dave_Mc
But if some person who's picking up the guitar for the first time asks, "how do i get good as quickly as possible? I want to play rock music." you don't (IMO) say, "Right, first things first, let's get you started on hardcore music theory!"

No, but it might serve that person's musical development better if you begin to teach them basic theory and eventually progress to complicated theory. Part of the problem with guitar is that a lot of people, when they first start playing guitar, see what their "hero" does and fail to realize that there was years and years of musical developments involved.

Quote by Dave_Mc
well, sure. but it still doesn't mean you should ignore the boxes, either.

I'm not a fan of boxes at all. I could detail it all here, but you'd be better off reading this thread.
Last edited by crazysam23_Atax at Aug 17, 2013,
Dave_Mc
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#25
Quote by crazysam23_Atax

(a) No, but it might serve that person's musical development better if you begin to teach them basic theory and eventually progress to complicated theory. Part of the problem with guitar is that a lot of people, when they first start playing guitar, see what their "hero" does and fail to realize that there was years and years of musical developments involved.


(b) I'm not a fan of boxes at all. I could detail it all here, but you'd be better off reading this thread.


(a) it won't if they get pissed off/bored/frustrated and just quit.

(b) I've read the thread before. I don't agree that they're necessarily bad. It's like saying that scientific advances are bad, when they're neutral. What some people may do with them may be bad, sure, but in and of themselves, not so much.

They're a shortcut, and treated as such, I don't see a problem. "Here's a way to get pretty good pretty quickly, but eventually (or even alongside learning them) you really should move on to proper music theory."
Quote by classicrocker01
Only on UG would I say I got engaged and bought a jet city and get congratulated on the amp


Last edited by Dave_Mc at Aug 17, 2013,
crazysam23_Atax
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#26
Quote by Dave_Mc
(a) it won't if they get pissed off/bored/frustrated and just quit.

Basic theory can be as simple as learning a few chords, scales, what intervals are, etc. You don't teach someone what non-diatonic chords are to start off.

Quote by Dave_Mc
(b) I've read the thread before. I don't agree that they're necessarily bad. It's like saying that scientific advances are bad, when they're neutral. What some people may do with them may be bad, sure, but in and of themselves, not so much.

They're a shortcut, and treated as such, I don't see a problem. "Here's a way to get pretty good pretty quickly, but eventually (or even alongside learning them) you really should move on to proper music theory."

Well, I respect your opinion, even though I disagree with it. Although, I will say I don't see them as a shortcut. Imho, there really are no shortcuts in music; you still have to do work, no matter which method you use. (As many others in that thread pointed out, you still should learn the intervals and notes of the scales, whether you use shapes or what I [and a few others in that thread] suggest. Yeah, you can just learn the shapes without that, but you're not really learning anything other than muscle memory and possibly increasing your finger strength.)
Last edited by crazysam23_Atax at Aug 17, 2013,
Dave_Mc
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#27
Quote by crazysam23_Atax
(a) Basic theory can be as simple as learning a few chords, scales, what intervals are, etc. You don't teach someone what non-diatonic chords are to start off.


(b) Well, I respect your opinion, even though I disagree with it. Although, I will say I don't see them as a shortcut. Imho, there really are no shortcuts in music; you still have to do work, no matter which method you use. (As many others in that thread pointed out, you still should learn the intervals and notes of the scales, whether you use shapes or what I [and a few others in that thread] suggest. Yeah, you can just learn the shapes without that, but you're not really learning anything other than muscle memory and possibly increasing your finger strength.)


(a) of course, but at the same time if someone is adamant that they don't want to learn theory (I'm not saying I agree with them, just they're entitled to their opinion), if you try to force it on them they may get frustrated and quit. I'd rather have someone stick with the guitar, even if they're doing it "wrong" (and "wrong" is subjective, i'd say), than quit because they didn't have the patience to do it "right" (again, "right" is subjective).

(b) I dunno. It's a lot easier to learn a couple of patterns using fret numbers than to get your head around theory if you've never been exposed to theory before. Especially on the guitar, where theory isn't as immediate obvious as it is on, say, the piano.

I would sort of agree that there are no shortcuts, but at the same time there are overcomplicated ways to do things (or just plain not doing things the best/most efficient way), so if you're doing things incorrectly, something more efficient may well, in effect, seem like a "shortcut".

Even just different people learning things in different ways, if you find a way that suits you, that can be, in effect, a shortcut.

Even if that is all you're learning (you're probably helping your ear, too, i'd say), if that's enough for what that person wants to do, that's ok by me.

EDIT: in fact, I would even say that, in some cases, avoiding learning boxes can be a bad thing. I come across a lot of tabs online for lead guitar, and an awful lot of the time, while the notes are correct, they're tabbed out at really weird frets. In a way that most guitar players would really struggle to play, whereas tabbed out in a more sensible way (i.e. related to the box shapes), it'd actually be easy to play.

Obviously you can't say categorically that not learning the boxes was to blame (maybe the person tabbing it out was just an idiot, or didn't try to play what he/she had tabbed), but yeah.
Quote by classicrocker01
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Last edited by Dave_Mc at Aug 17, 2013,
crazysam23_Atax
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#28
Quote by Dave_Mc
(a) of course, but at the same time if someone is adamant that they don't want to learn theory (I'm not saying I agree with them, just they're entitled to their opinion), if you try to force it on them they may get frustrated and quit. I'd rather have someone stick with the guitar, even if they're doing it "wrong" (and "wrong" is subjective, i'd say), than quit because they didn't have the patience to do it "right" (again, "right" is subjective).

If that's their attitude, I would argue they don't want to really learn music. They just want to learn a few songs and chords. If people aren't willing to do the work, then you really can't teach them anything beyond chords and maybe a few basic scales. I mean, why bother, in that case?

(b) I dunno. It's a lot easier to learn a couple of patterns using fret numbers than to get your head around theory if you've never been exposed to theory before. Especially on the guitar, where theory isn't as immediate obvious as it is on, say, the piano.

Yeah, but that's not really learning anything. I know that what you suggest is, frankly, the usual method for new/young guitar players. But it doesn't reinforce or teach any musical concepts. It just teaches memorization of fret numbers, which is about the worst thing, imho.
Dave_Mc
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#29
I think it's dangerous to think the way I do it is the only way to do it. I also don't want to put people off who might be enthusiastic, just in a different way. YMMV.

I'd also query whether someone who comes into you saying, "Oh goody, scales!" is actually that keen on music, either. I don't believe in putting people off who have that spark of interest because they have no interest in the boring stuff. that's counter-productive, if you ask me. maybe those people "don't want to really learn music", as you say. Looked at another way, maybe they have no interest in making music artificially boring, it's meant to be fun after all.

I mean the basic philosophy I have is, if someone wants to learn, that's half the battle won. I absolutely don't want to put anyone off who wants to learn, and it's up to the teacher, as much as possible, to work with that.
Quote by classicrocker01
Only on UG would I say I got engaged and bought a jet city and get congratulated on the amp


Last edited by Dave_Mc at Aug 17, 2013,
cdgraves
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#30
Quote by crazysam23_Atax


I'm not a fan of boxes at all. I could detail it all here, but you'd be better off reading this thread.


I feel like you're fishing for disagreement here. I have never advocated learning guitar via shapes. They were never even part of my learning - I'm a very linear player. Shapes are just a convenient way to relate finger positions to very novice players, before they've learned the concepts behind the fingerings. If they never move beyond that, well that's too bad.

You can impose shapes on just about anything, but it gets useless in a hurry. You'll actually play triad shapes and such all the time, but the "shape" ceases to have any sort of meaning when you're moving through them quickly.
crazysam23_Atax
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#31
Quote by Dave_Mc
I mean the basic philosophy I have is, if someone wants to learn, that's half the battle won. I absolutely don't want to put anyone off who wants to learn, and it's up to the teacher, as much as possible, to work with that.

Well, my thing is (and keep in mind, I don't claim to be a teacher -- though I have taught a few friends some lessons), people have to do the work if they want to learn. Now, some people don't want to learn as much. It's perfectly fine if people just want to learn powerchords, a few basic chords, and whatever so they can learn songs by bands they love. I just tend to distinguish between that and someone who wants to keep learning more and more about music theory and more and more techniques for guitar.

Quote by cdgraves
I feel like you're fishing for disagreement here.

I wasn't fishing for anything. I just tend to be rather wordy and didn't really feel like typing it all out again.

I have never advocated learning guitar via shapes. They were never even part of my learning - I'm a very linear player. Shapes are just a convenient way to relate finger positions to very novice players, before they've learned the concepts behind the fingerings. If they never move beyond that, well that's too bad.

You can impose shapes on just about anything, but it gets useless in a hurry. You'll actually play triad shapes and such all the time, but the "shape" ceases to have any sort of meaning when you're moving through them quickly.

I can agree with all of this.
cdgraves
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#32
Learning your instrument, to me, means figuring it out for yourself, whether through lessons or your own rigor.

I tend not to discount "beginner" stuff because it's still very useful. Basic scale runs are perfect for improvised cadenzas; having pentatonic "shapes" under your fingers makes melodic flourishes easy; triad inversion exercises become lead-in or transition licks. What matters is having tons of those things ready to go when you need them.
Dave_Mc
Chirp and Swirl
Join date: Mar 2005
2,967 IQ
#33
Quote by crazysam23_Atax
Well, my thing is (and keep in mind, I don't claim to be a teacher -- though I have taught a few friends some lessons), people have to do the work if they want to learn. Now, some people don't want to learn as much. It's perfectly fine if people just want to learn powerchords, a few basic chords, and whatever so they can learn songs by bands they love. I just tend to distinguish between that and someone who wants to keep learning more and more about music theory and more and more techniques for guitar.


ah right i see what you mean now, that's fair enough.

I will say though that there are some shortcuts (maybe it's better to call them "different ways of thinking about things which may click better with you") which can help you to progress faster. Used in the right way, I think they can help.

EDIT: I'm no teacher either. I'd have thought that was obvious
Quote by classicrocker01
Only on UG would I say I got engaged and bought a jet city and get congratulated on the amp


20Tigers
1
Join date: Jun 2008
640 IQ
#34
Quote by Sickz
You should always strive to be able to create the sounds you want to hear over whatever is being played without thinking. "Uh, pentatonic, Uh, Major," etc.

I never said it was easy. It's probably one of the hardest things to learn, but why not work towards it?

Fixed.

===

Back to improvising.
Adding to or reinforcing what has been said before, the following can all help (in no particular order)...

1.) Practice improvising daily. Slam on a backing track and go. (LISTEN to what you are doing, figure out how to achieve the sound you want. Record it and play it back to figure out what worked and what didn't.)

2.) Learn a lot of music. (This will give you new ideas for your mind and your fingers.)

3.) Variations on a simple melody. Take a simple melody - nursery rhymes are great for this - and play it and play it and play it. Then start re imagining the melody and let it take you to new places. You should be able to hear the heart of the melody in what you are playing (even if it is unrecognizeable to someone else). I learned this trick off a TV programme in which the guy was playing baa baa blacksheep on sax and turned it into something incredibly soulful. Another example might be Hendrix doing Star Spangled Banner or Stevie Ray Vaughan's interpretation of Little Wing. You will also find that a great many solos seem to be variations of the songs main vocal melody which the soloist uses as a base from which a more elaborate expression of the melody is built.

4.) Ear Training - just helps with everything musical.

5.) Composing. Sitting down and methodically working out new ideas helps your musical mind grow. Taking the time to arrange music and construct musical ideas deliberately and to achieve specific outcomes will help your mind understand music better and improve your ability to improvise new ideas quickly.

6.) Don't be a perfectionist. Improvisation is a matter of making it up as you go a long. The odd bum note, or rhythmically misplaced accent, or complete wrong turn is part of what makes it interesting. Sometimes a mistake can lead to something great. Don't TRY to make a complete hash of it, but don't worry if you do either. Accept that mistakes will happen.

These are just some things you might want to consider to help your improvising skills there are a ton more you might want to try.
Si
SandalledSteve
Registered User
Join date: Jul 2013
42 IQ
#35
Quote by notafishmonger
Wow that post changed quite a bit of how I think of music, good read!

Thanks!

Quote by 20Tigers
3.) Variations on a simple melody. Take a simple melody - nursery rhymes are great for this - and play it and play it and play it. Then start re imagining the melody and let it take you to new places.

I second that. Another (and somewhat related) thing you may want to do is to use repetitions/variations to give your improvisation some structure. Come up with some phrase and remember it. And whenever you feel like it, play it again. Or a variation of it. But don't get ahead of yourself. Start off with simple motifs, 2-3 tones. Also, try to base the repetitions/variations on remembering the music itself rather than on remembering the actual way you played the motif. Attempting to do this is a fun way of getting better. And a step towards truly having things under control.
notafishmonger
Registered User
Join date: Aug 2013
122 IQ
#36
Yeah yesterday, I tried improvising a pretty random guitar line alongside a backing track of my choosing on youtube with the designated scale indicated on the video, and um I do in fact at time feel limited by the note a particular scale allows me to play. I have yet to blend in melodies but through blind experimentation I think I am slowly getting it. The problem is I have absolutely no idea how that music worked and why parts of it sounded good.

I have a bit of trouble memorizing and segmenting my guitar line but I often find myself playing the same progression whenever my mind goes blind. I know structuring things is an important element for jazz, definitely need practice on that one.
crazysam23_Atax
Feuergesicht
Join date: Oct 2009
5,710 IQ
#37
Quote by notafishmonger
Yeah yesterday, I tried improvising a pretty random guitar line alongside a backing track of my choosing on youtube with the designated scale indicated on the video, and um I do in fact at time feel limited by the note a particular scale allows me to play. I have yet to blend in melodies but through blind experimentation I think I am slowly getting it. The problem is I have absolutely no idea how that music worked and why parts of it sounded good.

Then try improvising for short time periods. 30 seconds or less. That way, you have less musical phrases to evaluate.

The thing is, though, you have to record it. (It doesn't have to be a good recording at all -- just clear enough that you can hear the notes. I used to use a shitty tape recorder, lol.) Then, play it back. If a phrase/lick clashes completely with the progression, then think about why. Dissonance can be good, but it needs to be a conscious musical decision (read: you had to have that part clash intentionally).
Flaster011
Registered User
Join date: Apr 2011
22 IQ
#39
Quote by notafishmonger
Yeah yesterday, I tried improvising a pretty random guitar line alongside a backing track of my choosing on youtube with the designated scale indicated on the video, and um I do in fact at time feel limited by the note a particular scale allows me to play. I have yet to blend in melodies but through blind experimentation I think I am slowly getting it. The problem is I have absolutely no idea how that music worked and why parts of it sounded good.

I have a bit of trouble memorizing and segmenting my guitar line but I often find myself playing the same progression whenever my mind goes blind. I know structuring things is an important element for jazz, definitely need practice on that one.


Some of the parts sounded good because you were resolving the phrase on the right notes. Meaning if you have C Major in a progression, you can resolve the phrase on either of the tones that make up that chord (C, E or G) and it will sound good.

What you can do is analyze the progression before you start to improvise and for starters always try to finish the licks on the tonic of the chord that is currently playing. Then slowly add 3rd and 5th and notice the difference in sound it gives.
SandalledSteve
Registered User
Join date: Jul 2013
42 IQ
#40
Quote by notafishmonger
The problem is I have absolutely no idea how that music worked and why parts of it sounded good.

I don't think this is a problem. I mean, you could base your improvisation on thoughts like this: "Ok, so I'm in e minor. Tonic triad is being played. I will play e. It's a safe bet. Next, I will play f#. It will give it some tension. And finally, I will resolve the tension by going back to e. Yes, this will sound OK." Personally, I don't think you should use reasoning like this when improvising/composing. The more you will rationalize it, the more dull and boring music will become. Of course, this is something which is kind of hard to avoid. As you gain more experience, you will inevitably notice principles on which different types of music are built. But still, you shouldn't learn to improvise through rationalizing why this or that phrase sounded good. You don't need this ability to form musical ideas in your head. Now, this doesn't mean you should be oblivious to basic musical concepts like keys and scales. But you don't have to use them to justify your musical thoughts. I hope this makes sense.

To provide you with something concrete. As Flaster011 suggested, you should also develop a feel for the "good" tones. In this context, by "good" I mean the ones of the currently sounding chord. The ones that are "safe". I created some backing tracks which can help you develop this ability. Link is in my signature.

Quote by Blind In 1 Ear
anyone asking how to improvise, watch this.

Thanks for the video! It's great. I'm too tired to write a more profound comment, though. Maybe tomorrow.