I figured this would be the right place to ask this.
I really want to learn how to improvise on guitar in a systematic way any suggestions. Like scales, modes, chords, I know almost no theory and would really like to learn some.
Where should I start. I've come up with some awesome chord progressions but have never been able to come up with and leads to go over them. I'm pretty overwhelmed by the volume of material on theory out there. Where should I start in terms of theory. Any tips would be greatly appreciated.
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Originally Posted by Tulkas
Stairway is required on any list of anything involving the words guitar or song, I believe Congress amended the constitution in order to put it into federal law.
Start with a sound. I cannot stress enough that you need to start with a sound you want to make. It doesn't matter how many notes it is, but you have to have something to aim for. From there it's a question of transferring that to the guitar. It sounds hard, and it really is at first but it's a question of knowing your guitar well enough that you can hear a sound in your mind and know how to achieve that on the guitar.

The point is that improvising, like writing, should start in your mind and then the guitar is literally nothing more than a tool to get that sound out in to the world.

Learning theory really helps with that though, as long as you approach it in the right way. Watch these:


Freepower really knows his stuff and these videos are a really good place to start from if you're coming from nothing.

Once you've been through those and you know and understand the material then you can move on to these:


I cannot stress enough how important it is to know and really understand any given section before you move on to the next. Theory is built on a really solid foundation of basics and if you don't know those really well then you will never understand the stuff that comes later.

Also, as a final note: when learning all these scales and chords and all that jazz, make sure you really get to know the sounds at every stage. If you don't know how something sounds once you've learned it then it's useless to you; it would be like a painter knowing about brush strokes, composition, types of paint and so on... but not knowing what any colours look like.
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Well, learning theory in general is a good idea. We have a Theory FAQs section in MT here, and musictheory.net is good. The latter has lessons which allow you to actually study things.
Just start with the major scale. Look up the formula and figure out how each scale is spelled. Do the same with chords.

Actual theory, though, is all about the relationship between harmony and form. The scale/chord stuff is just the basic language of it.
We teach it as well, exactly as you stated.

If you have any questions about that, PM me - I am not on here near as often as I used to be (yes my friends, that's why you haven't seen me in what seems to be ages, that and I'm revamping the site which has been the exact same since way back in 2009) I devote as many as 18 hours a day to my online students now. I just happen to have woken up early this morning and...gasp....I have a couple minutes free time. It may be easier to contact me via the website, than here - I haven't even checked my PM's here yet....do I dare?

Wow it just said I haven't been here since July...yeah, don't PM me here, I might respond next February!

But basically the way we do it, and I think its solid, is, if you are looking to play guitar and that's going to be your primary vehicle, I believe that you should be able to have some way to quickly apply what you learn with theory TO the guitar.

If you learn a lot of concepts, but it takes you like 6 minutes to find a 1st inversion triad on the 3rd 4th and 2nd strings:

For example like an Eb/G:

1. then "knowing" theory...
2. or even "knowing" the notes of an Eb chord..
3. or even "knowing" that Eb/G is first inversion of Eb major...

...is going to have limited benefit.

So, my argument, if I were making one, is that it's really only as good as you can apply it in real time. Learn and know the notes on the guitar neck like the back of your hand.

If you can't find your way around the fretboard, the rest doesn't really matter.


Last edited by Sean0913 at Oct 26, 2013,