#1
I've been working on upping my speed for over a year now, with pretty great results. However, I feel like I've just become better at exercises, and my playing has suffered in musicality because of it. I try to learn solos sometimes and try to add licks from those solos to my playing, but when I try to improvise, my playing still feels like a bunch of exercises in the right key.

How do i play more musically? Especially while improvising? And how do I accurately improvise long runs that don't sound so mechanic?
#2
it all has to do with what's called phrasing.its the little things like where you put in a bend, how long you hold a note, finger vibrato etc that make the notes sound musical.

one of the things i do is play along to vocal lines. forget what's going on in the song guitar wise just play along to the vocal lines and try to get the same flow with your guitar.
#3
Thanks, monwobobbo. I know a bit about phrasing. I think the hardest part for me is creating something musical on the fly, since most of my playing and especially my practice is in the confines of improvisation. When I try to improvise, it sort of sounds like noodling rather than an actual musical solo that adds to the song.
#4
Quote by RyanMW2010
Thanks, monwobobbo. I know a bit about phrasing. I think the hardest part for me is creating something musical on the fly, since most of my playing and especially my practice is in the confines of improvisation. When I try to improvise, it sort of sounds like noodling rather than an actual musical solo that adds to the song.


yeah it takes some time to find your groove so to speak. i rarely practice scales i just play along with whatever and see what i can come up with. being able to just play lines that sound musical and fit whatever i'm playing is what i concentrate on these days.
#5
Work on your ear and learn concepts and ideas from the musicians you like.

One of the best things you can do is start singing everything you play. Initially you will be following the notes of the guitar (playing and then copy with your voice) but as you become more comfortable you will be able to do the opposite (sing an idea and copy with your guitar), and that is when the magic starts to happen.

Then the most important thing becomes feeding your aural imagination. Learn phrases of players you like and learn to sing them over the chords. Once you've learned the phrase, learn why it works, what are the building blocks of that line (most of the time, this will be looking at the chord tones in the line and see how they are approached).

If you want to be able to have musical ideas popping up in your head while playing rather than noodling around scales/arpeggios, you need to pre-rehearse a lot of material and get it into your ear, so you can recall it and alter it on the spot. It is really a matter of the old phrase "play what you hear", years ago when i started this i didn't hear any ideas, because my ears were bad. So i had to slow down records and pick out phrases and such and sing them in order to develop it. Now i can often do the opposite, put on a track, sing it, and then play it on my instrument.

Work on your ear, transcribe music you love, analyze why it works. That is what you need to do in order to become more musical, and lots of it.
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#6
Quote by RyanMW2010
I've been working on upping my speed for over a year now, with pretty great results. However, I feel like I've just become better at exercises, and my playing has suffered in musicality because of it. I try to learn solos sometimes and try to add licks from those solos to my playing, but when I try to improvise, my playing still feels like a bunch of exercises in the right key.

How do i play more musically? Especially while improvising? And how do I accurately improvise long runs that don't sound so mechanic?


Tell a story with your solos that compliments the lyrics of the song. The best novels have a beginning that sets the scene, plot development, happiness and sadness, a climax, and an ending or resolve. The greatest solos have many of these same elements. Crafting a great solo is much like crafting a novel or screenplay. Having a conversation with the listener takes you away from just notes and scales.

Scales and chords are the vocabulary. The story is where great music happens.
"Your sound is in your hands as much as anything. It's the way you pick, and the way you hold the guitar, more than it is the amp or the guitar you use." -- Stevie Ray Vaughan

"Anybody can play. The note is only 20 percent. The attitude of the motherfucker who plays it is 80 percent." -- Miles Davis

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#7
Exactly right, Cajundaddy. I think that many young "shredders"would do well to listen to the solos of Mark Knopfler. He creates little orchestral pieces. Standouts are the solos from "Tunnel of Love" and "Speedway at Nazareth."
#8
Quote by Bikewer
Exactly right, Cajundaddy. I think that many young "shredders"would do well to listen to the solos of Mark Knopfler. He creates little orchestral pieces. Standouts are the solos from "Tunnel of Love" and "Speedway at Nazareth."


Brothers in Arms, Sultans of swing etc all of his solos are gold for phrasing - studying his style transformed my playing.
#9
Listen to players like Mark Knopfler, David Gilmour, Billy Gibbons, Jeff Beck who play a lot of melodic stuff and try to start learning some of their leads. Jimmy Page was never considered a very melodic player, but Stairway to Heaven is a great melodic lead and not that hard to learn. A lot of Joe Walsh leads too.

Then start incorporating their ideas into your own improvisation. I've been getting ideas from those and Duanne Allman, Van Wilks, Johnny Winter, Eric Clapton for years. Gradually I started to develop my own leads once I stopped worrying about playing fast as hell and tried to play melodic guitar and make every note count. Copying some of theirs helped a lot, it gave me the feel for some of the melodic type parts I'm after.

Most of the stuff I play with my current band I want to come as close as possible to the original lead. Doobie Brothers Rockin Down the Highway just doesn't sound right unless the lead is the same. Ditto for Sultans of Swing. But for a few, I can improvise. I pick where I want the first note to be and from there I can generally hear in my head what I want to do. As long as my fingers can actually do it...it's cool...
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#10
I dont really see music as musical in the way most everyone else seems to. I see it as a balance. I just play as many notes as I can as fast as I can in patterns I enjoy that fit the chord progression. It is musical when the notes are outlining the chords correctly. Pretend you are a piano player. Dont think about bends or vibrato or playing pentatonic box shapes. Play scales in interesting patterns in key and it will always sound good.
#11
Think about what happens when you speak - do you simply chuck out a load of random words and hope something good comes out? Of course not, you think about what you want to say and choose words that will convey your message in the right way, making sure you use the right tone of voice and volume to ensure the person understands not only what you're trying to say, but how you're trying to say it. There's actually a hell of a lot of work that goes into speaking, but you've been working on it every day since you were born so it's instinctive.

The principles for playing a good solo are exactly the same - just as you wouldn't use words without knowing what they mean you don't simply pick a note on the fretboard or lick without knowing how it's going to sound first. Now admittedly that's hard, you're probably not at that stage yet but that's understandable because you've not been playing the guitar as long as you've been speaking. It's one of those things you have to work at, and it'll be frustrating because as you said it's an aspect of your development you've been negelecting by focussing too heavily on the mechanics of playing. There's a lot of trial and error involved in the early stages but you have to consciously make the effort to improve which means a constant cycle of playing, listening, then playing something better based on what you learned the previous time.
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#12
Quote by jrcsgtpeppers
I dont really see music as musical in the way most everyone else seems to. I see it as a balance. I just play as many notes as I can as fast as I can in patterns I enjoy that fit the chord progression. It is musical when the notes are outlining the chords correctly. Pretend you are a piano player. Dont think about bends or vibrato or playing pentatonic box shapes. Play scales in interesting patterns in key and it will always sound good.


Nice Troll
#13
Steven Seagull posted one the best responses I have ever read on this forum. It is a perfect analogy. Shooting off fast licks and shreds that serve no melodic purpose or relation to the song itself is like someone just babbling incoherent words. Neither make much sense. Good one.
Yes I am guitarded also, nice to meet you.
#14
Quote by RyanMW2010
I've been working on upping my speed for over a year now, with pretty great results. However, I feel like I've just become better at exercises, and my playing has suffered in musicality because of it. I try to learn solos sometimes and try to add licks from those solos to my playing, but when I try to improvise, my playing still feels like a bunch of exercises in the right key.

How do i play more musically? Especially while improvising? And how do I accurately improvise long runs that don't sound so mechanic?


1) start learning solos by ear.
2) learn some Mark knopfler solos - he's a phrasing goldmine. Albert King as well. Study some players that actually use silence.
3) do not play long patterns- stick with small bursts/clusters and eventually you'll be able to combine them to make longer phrases that actually mean something.
#15
When you first start out, think bigger picture. You may not know exactly what each note is going to sound like, but you can say stuff like, "I want this part of the solo to be aggressive, and this part sweet, and this part sad, etc." As you get better, you can dwindle that down to individual notes.

Really, all this being said, good improvisation is rare and an incredibly hard thing to do. Almost all of us are continually getting better at this no matter where we are in our playing. This includes many professionals.
#16
Quote by SpiderM
Nice Troll



He actually had a decent point about pretending you are a piano player. Sometimes a piano style solo sounds great, and not every solo needs a lot of bends and vibrato. He went a little overboard with the "playing scales in key as fast as possible" bit though.
#17
Quote by jlowe22
He actually had a decent point about pretending you are a piano player. Sometimes a piano style solo sounds great, and not every solo needs a lot of bends and vibrato. He went a little overboard with the "playing scales in key as fast as possible" bit though.


I'm pretty sure piano players don't just press the keys though, fairly sure those pedals do something? ;-)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piano_pedals
#18
Quote by jlowe22
When you first start out, think bigger picture. You may not know exactly what each note is going to sound like, but you can say stuff like, "I want this part of the solo to be aggressive, and this part sweet, and this part sad, etc." As you get better, you can dwindle that down to individual notes.

Really, all this being said, good improvisation is rare and an incredibly hard thing to do. Almost all of us are continually getting better at this no matter where we are in our playing. This includes many professionals.


nice summery. i do exactly that when working on my own music. i'll just noodle to the backing track (i always record at least the drums and usually a scratch bass part first) eventually i'll come up with parts that fit and then map out the actual solo.
#19
Quote by SpiderM
I'm pretty sure piano players don't just press the keys though, fairly sure those pedals do something? ;-)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piano_pedals


They don't have nearly as many ways to color their playing as guitarists do. Sure, you have to learn how to properly accent on the piano and use the pedals properly, but things a guitar player can, especially an electric one, are almost infinite.

Besides this, my point was that not every solo needs to be overly colored and nice passages can be presented without doing so. I'm not saying use no inflection whatsoever, but sometimes its best kept simple. Guitar is slightly different though. Anyone can press a key on the piano and produce a note with good tone and accurate pitch. Its much harder to do that on guitar, and guitar notes rarely sound good with zero inflection unlike the piano. Don't misunderstand what I'm saying though, piano has its own host of challenging techniques that take years to master.
#20
Quote by jlowe22
They don't have nearly as many ways to color their playing as guitarists do. Sure, you have to learn how to properly accent on the piano and use the pedals properly, but things a guitar player can, especially an electric one, are almost infinite.

Besides this, my point was that not every solo needs to be overly colored and nice passages can be presented without doing so. I'm not saying use no inflection whatsoever, but sometimes its best kept simple. Guitar is slightly different though. Anyone can press a key on the piano and produce a note with good tone and accurate pitch. Its much harder to do that on guitar, and guitar notes rarely sound good with zero inflection unlike the piano. Don't misunderstand what I'm saying though, piano has its own host of challenging techniques that take years to master.


you're right. piano does have it's own methods to do more than just push down a key but it is way more instant than guitar for sure. you have to have "the touch" tobe a great piano player but it's much easier to be a hack than guitar.

a good solo is often a simple one played with perfect phrasing. nothing crazy needed.
#21
Quote by monwobobbo
a good solo is often a simple one played with perfect phrasing. nothing crazy needed.


Yep absolutely agree with jlowe and your good self, solo's don't have to be massively complicated and knowing when not to play is just as important.

TS, you could try using just a handful of notes to a backing track but try to make them more interesting than just eight notes. Hold on to them a bit, bend a bit, use double stops, vibrato, muting, the odd quicker run, etc. I know that when I first started improvising every note had the same value and was also 'mechanical' as you put it. This is for exercise though and you don't have to throw everything into each solo.

Enjoy.
Last edited by SpiderM at Jun 16, 2015,
#22
Quote by SpiderM
Yep absolutely agree with jlowe and your good self, solo's don't have to be massively complicated and knowing when not to play is just as important.

TS, you could try using just a handful of notes to a backing track but try to make them more interesting than just eight notes. Hold on to them a bit, bend a bit, use double stops, vibrato, muting, the odd quicker run, etc. I know that when I first started improvising every note had the same value and was also 'mechanical' as you put it. This is for exercise though and you don't have to throw everything into each solo.

Enjoy.


good advice. when i was teaching a exercise i gave students that were just starting leads was to pick a spot on the neck and only use 4 notes (2 on 1 string and 2 o the next string down. this forms a simple box but you'd be suprised what you can get out of 4 simple notes in an easy pattern. bends, finger vibrato and just how long you hold a note all go together to make a good solo. as mentioned what you don't play can be just as important. metal guys are the most likely to throw evey lick they know into a solo when first starting, not the plan. space can work for you better than a flurry of notes. the use of short repeating patterns that build is also a tried and true method of building a solo.