#1
I know there are many threads on modes probably, but i wanted to address my own problem/question. When watching some of my inspirations jam and improvise, I'm baffled by their ability to remember what modes to play when, what the chord progression of the song is, etc. The main person I recognize this with is Trey Anastasio.

I know several scales well, and a few modes, but I don't understand the ability to think it all through, on the spot. Obviously he is an amazing guitarist and theorist, and has been playing along time.

Any insight on how it is done, or ways to improve my own knowledge of theory when it comes to improvisation?
#2
Study Chord Scale Theory, if you want to know all of this.


BUT...keep in mind that chord scale theory isn't necessarily for everything.
#3
Quote by mrocha
.....When watching some of my inspirations jam and improvise....

Are you sure they are improvising? Or have they played that piece a gazillion times in practice and we just "think" they are improvising....?

Theres a huge difference.

As the uninitiated viewer/listener... hollywood, tv, etc etc leads us to believe that the musical world is full of these magical situations where "The Artist" just simply constructs a makeshift guitar out of a broken surfboard and some leftover cheeseburgers....then simply "Sits In" with "The House Band" and produces the most mind blowing improvisational piece.

The truth is far from this idealised scenario.

Sure.... we could all jam and do the monkey-with-typewriters thing.... but the truth is that many publicly performed pieces are extensively rehearsed

There may be some improv and variation in there...but 90 percent of the piece is going to be the same each time.

So I'm saying that the improv happens behind the scenes most of the time- during the creation of the piece.
Quote by AlanHB
It's the same as all other harmony. Surround yourself with skulls and candles if it helps.
#4
I would say just learn as much about the modes as you can as this stuff is only really useful when it becomes second nature like Trey. I mean, he's probably thinking about what to have for lunch meaning that he's at the point where it's a reflex action and there's not too much thinking involved.
#5
Quote by mrocha
I know there are many threads on modes probably, but i wanted to address my own problem/question. When watching some of my inspirations jam and improvise, I'm baffled by their ability to remember what modes to play when, what the chord progression of the song is, etc. The main person I recognize this with is Trey Anastasio.


Admittedly I'm not overly familiar with his stuff, but after watching several vids of him on youtube, he largely sticks to the minor and major scales (no modes).

Can you perhaps provide an example of a song where you think he's playing modes?
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
Soundcloud
#6
Quote by mrocha
I know there are many threads on modes probably, but i wanted to address my own problem/question. When watching some of my inspirations jam and improvise, I'm baffled by their ability to remember what modes to play when, what the chord progression of the song is, etc. The main person I recognize this with is Trey Anastasio.

I know several scales well, and a few modes, but I don't understand the ability to think it all through, on the spot. Obviously he is an amazing guitarist and theorist, and has been playing along time.

Any insight on how it is done, or ways to improve my own knowledge of theory when it comes to improvisation?

The thing is, most of the time when people improvise, they don't think "now I'm going to play this phrygian lick that leads to this mixolydian lick and then I'm going to play a locrian scale run". They know the sound and can think in sound. They have a melody in their head and they play it on their guitar. Guitar is like their singing voice. When you sing, you don't need to know any scales. You just sing what you hear in your head (considering that you can sing pretty well). You don't need to think about the scales or the notes you are singing. You just sing them. Good guitarists can do the same on guitar.

You should train your ear. Start learning songs by ear. Listen to the sounds, don't just look at your fingers.
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

Gear

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Last edited by MaggaraMarine at Aug 4, 2014,
#7
Quote by mrocha
I know there are many threads on modes probably, but i wanted to address my own problem/question. When watching some of my inspirations jam and improvise, I'm baffled by their ability to remember what modes to play when, what the chord progression of the song is, etc. The main person I recognize this with is Trey Anastasio.

I know several scales well, and a few modes, but I don't understand the ability to think it all through, on the spot. Obviously he is an amazing guitarist and theorist, and has been playing along time.

Any insight on how it is done, or ways to improve my own knowledge of theory when it comes to improvisation?


Think about how easy this post was for you to write.

Now think about how hard it would have been for you to write in Chinese.

I mean, you could have done it. You could have painstakingly worked through google translate, experimented, and so on ... but it would not have worked well.

Probably, after taking two years of high-school chinese, it would have been a lot easier. Still a lot harder than writing it in English, but you probably could make it work, with time and planning and a dictionary by your side.

Music is a language. Start thinking of it like one. It's hard to remember all that stuff because you don't speak the language fluently.

It's important to understand that the music of language is not spoken in mode names. If I'm describing something in English words, I'm not SPEAKING in music, I'm describing it.

A musician like Trey is speaking in music. He's not thinking, "Oh, I'll start in major and then throw in some locrian licks" and then playing that - that's the equivalent of you writing something in English and then translating it into chinese! Hard! No native chinese speakers do that! Instead he just knows what he wants to say the same way YOU know what you want to say when you speak English, and the words just naturally flow out of you.

Getting there isn't about memorizing theory it's about internalizing sounds. Now, learning theory is a tool that HELPS you internalize sounds, but it's the tool not the endpoint. Recognize that you do not know a piece of theory until you can hear it in practice. Only then do you "know" it, and have you internalized it.

One mistake a lot of young musicians make is to think they've learned theory because they've read a book on it and have "memorized" it. But you're not speaking chinese fluently if you first think of everything in English and then translate it. Same with music. You have to internalize the sounds. Only then do you know it.
#8
Quote by mrocha
I know there are many threads on modes probably, but i wanted to address my own problem/question. When watching some of my inspirations jam and improvise, I'm baffled by their ability to remember what modes to play when, what the chord progression of the song is, etc. The main person I recognize this with is Trey Anastasio.

I know several scales well, and a few modes, but I don't understand the ability to think it all through, on the spot. Obviously he is an amazing guitarist and theorist, and has been playing along time.

Any insight on how it is done, or ways to improve my own knowledge of theory when it comes to improvisation?



A large majority of the time they are only playing in one basic tonality. For instance if they are in A major and the whole piece is in A major then they just go hog wild with the many patterns they know. In that case there is no question of "what mode to play when" etc.

Other times the piece will be in only one tonality except for one particular chord so they simply switch on that chord....so really there still isnt much thinking on the feet going on. They are simply expressing themselves using their well known patterns

Other songs may only have a very sparse chord structure...for instance a bass player thumping an "e" lol. In that case the soloist has a lot of freedom of choice so that may be one time when they have to think on their feet. Of course the flipside to that is that you wouldnt really know if they made a "mistake" unless they grimaced etc lol

Of course, jazz type progressions can feature a lot of chord substitutions and/or tonality/key center changes blah blah but again that type of musician is just working with ideas that he is familiar with
Last edited by JohnProphet at Aug 4, 2014,
#9
Quote by HotspurJr
Think about how easy this post was for you to write.

Now think about how hard it would have been for you to write in Chinese.

I mean, you could have done it. You could have painstakingly worked through google translate, experimented, and so on ... but it would not have worked well.

Probably, after taking two years of high-school chinese, it would have been a lot easier. Still a lot harder than writing it in English, but you probably could make it work, with time and planning and a dictionary by your side.

Music is a language. Start thinking of it like one. It's hard to remember all that stuff because you don't speak the language fluently.

It's important to understand that the music of language is not spoken in mode names. If I'm describing something in English words, I'm not SPEAKING in music, I'm describing it.

A musician like Trey is speaking in music. He's not thinking, "Oh, I'll start in major and then throw in some locrian licks" and then playing that - that's the equivalent of you writing something in English and then translating it into chinese! Hard! No native chinese speakers do that! Instead he just knows what he wants to say the same way YOU know what you want to say when you speak English, and the words just naturally flow out of you.

Getting there isn't about memorizing theory it's about internalizing sounds. Now, learning theory is a tool that HELPS you internalize sounds, but it's the tool not the endpoint. Recognize that you do not know a piece of theory until you can hear it in practice. Only then do you "know" it, and have you internalized it.

One mistake a lot of young musicians make is to think they've learned theory because they've read a book on it and have "memorized" it. But you're not speaking chinese fluently if you first think of everything in English and then translate it. Same with music. You have to internalize the sounds. Only then do you know it.
HotspurJr at it again. -Great post.
Si
#11
Quote by 91RG350
Are you sure they are improvising? Or have they played that piece a gazillion times in practice and we just "think" they are improvising....?

Theres a huge difference.




Fish is a jam band - Trey definitely improvises his solos.
#12
Quote by reverb66
Fish is a jam band - Trey definitely improvises his solos.


I missed that comment earlier, but yeah. Phish improvises excessively. Sometimes it's within the structure of the song, but they also improvise new changes into the structure of the song. They record and sell every set from every tour, so you can hear different versions of different songs. Some songs change a little, some songs change a lot. Songs like "You Enjoy Myself" which is sort of their flagship have some sections where are very precisely defined, and other sections where almost anything can happen.
#13
I don't know. All I can say is, when you hear a chord progression, try to hear a tune that fits and try to play it. That's all.
#14
Quote by HotspurJr
Think about how easy this post was for you to write.

Now think about how hard it would have been for you to write in Chinese.

I mean, you could have done it. You could have painstakingly worked through google translate, experimented, and so on ... but it would not have worked well.

Probably, after taking two years of high-school chinese, it would have been a lot easier. Still a lot harder than writing it in English, but you probably could make it work, with time and planning and a dictionary by your side.

Music is a language. Start thinking of it like one. It's hard to remember all that stuff because you don't speak the language fluently.

It's important to understand that the music of language is not spoken in mode names. If I'm describing something in English words, I'm not SPEAKING in music, I'm describing it.

A musician like Trey is speaking in music. He's not thinking, "Oh, I'll start in major and then throw in some locrian licks" and then playing that - that's the equivalent of you writing something in English and then translating it into chinese! Hard! No native chinese speakers do that! Instead he just knows what he wants to say the same way YOU know what you want to say when you speak English, and the words just naturally flow out of you.

Getting there isn't about memorizing theory it's about internalizing sounds. Now, learning theory is a tool that HELPS you internalize sounds, but it's the tool not the endpoint. Recognize that you do not know a piece of theory until you can hear it in practice. Only then do you "know" it, and have you internalized it.

One mistake a lot of young musicians make is to think they've learned theory because they've read a book on it and have "memorized" it. But you're not speaking chinese fluently if you first think of everything in English and then translate it. Same with music. You have to internalize the sounds. Only then do you know it.



That's beautifully explained and very insightful. Thank you.