#1
Hi everyone!

Wanted to ask for some advice on how to progress with my guitar playing. I've been playing guitar for 6.5 years now, yet I haven't been moving very much for the past 4.

I've been learning how to play songs from all my favourite bands and guitarists (Andy McKee, Marty Friedman, God Petrucci, Paul Gilbert.etc) ever since I started. I can play them quite ok (not too good, yet not too shabby), but when it comes to improvisation, I'm completely lost and don't know where to start. I got a looper pedal to practise, but I don't have any proper direction and tend to fiddle with a certain chord and scale for a bit, then move on to something else.

I'm actually very interested in learning Marty Friedman's and the jazz fusion style of improvisation, yet I lack direction and feel very uncertain about what I'm doing. I can't identify chords properly (eg. is it a sus2 chord or 1st inversion of a sus4 chord?) And I learnt some scales (major, both minor, blues, kumoi) but I don't know how to use them effectively. I also can play many songs, yet don't know the scales I'm using when playing them.

Anyone have any advice on how I can progress to what I want to achieve? (Besides lessons, I'm kinda broke Haha)

Any help is greatly appreciated!
#2
Bookmark some good backing tracks, or try guitarBT for downloads. Get lots of styles, not actual songs. Record your practices with them, try to create completely new leads, not riffs you already know. If you know your major/minor/pent well, should be fun and easy...sounds like your scales/theory is weak though,maybe start with pent blues, minor blues and rock ballads in Emin or A minor
Last edited by Tempoe at Aug 18, 2015,
#3
Have you ever learned songs by ear?

To be good at improvising, you need to have a good ear. Improvisation is not moving your fingers inside a scale shape. Good improvisers know how what they are going to play is going to sound like before they play it (or at the same time they play it). It's like singing with your instrument. So maybe start with listening to a backing track. Or there doesn't even need to be a backing track, but backing track may give you some ideas. Just listen to what you hear in your head. If you hear something, try to play it on your guitar. If this is hard, make sure you can sing the notes you are hearing. Then try to match the pitch of your voice on your guitar. This is what improvising is all about. But to be good at it, you need to be able to do it a lot faster. In real life you don't have much time to think.

But yeah, learning some theory is not going to hurt. Giving names to sounds is going to help you use them.

That way you can also analyze what's happening in the songs you have learned to play. But you also need to use your ears for that. Improvisation is a lot about using your ears.

So when you want to analyze songs, learn them by ear. Listen to what's happening. Sounds tell more about music than words.
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
#4
Quote by robboster
Hi everyone!

Wanted to ask for some advice on how to progress with my guitar playing. I've been playing guitar for 6.5 years now, yet I haven't been moving very much for the past 4.

I've been learning how to play songs from all my favourite bands and guitarists (Andy McKee, Marty Friedman, God Petrucci, Paul Gilbert.etc) ever since I started. I can play them quite ok (not too good, yet not too shabby), but when it comes to improvisation, I'm completely lost and don't know where to start. I got a looper pedal to practise, but I don't have any proper direction and tend to fiddle with a certain chord and scale for a bit, then move on to something else.

I'm actually very interested in learning Marty Friedman's and the jazz fusion style of improvisation, yet I lack direction and feel very uncertain about what I'm doing. I can't identify chords properly (eg. is it a sus2 chord or 1st inversion of a sus4 chord?) And I learnt some scales (major, both minor, blues, kumoi) but I don't know how to use them effectively. I also can play many songs, yet don't know the scales I'm using when playing them.

Anyone have any advice on how I can progress to what I want to achieve? (Besides lessons, I'm kinda broke Haha)

Any help is greatly appreciated!


Fusion is maybe a bit far for now. You need to learn to apply what you have learned. If you want to improvise, then imo, you won't want to spend much time playing in odd tunings, like guys such as Andy Mckee like to do.

Study and truly observe the songs you've learnt within the context of the theory you've learnt.

It would be easier if I could see exactly how you play, and could show you exactly.
#5
Thank you all for the advice!

Yeah my theory is pretty bad, I read some beginner jazz books so I know things like the notes in a scale and how scales are constructed, yet I know the theory without having linked it to what's actually going on when I play. I'm actually trying to figure out a Marty Friedman song (I love you, from Tokyo jukebox 2) by ear, and I've done it before (picture, from bad DNA), but I found the notes without finding the underlying chords, which I find a lot harder when they aren't just 1 - 3 - 5 chords. Should I be figuring the chords out before figuring the notes out?

Also, my playing extends to like... a few pentatonic/blues/Dorian licks that I came up with over the years, and I kinda just throw them at everything (and I'm completely lost when it comes to major scale improvisation) so there's really not much to see :P

Thanks once again
Last edited by robboster at Aug 18, 2015,
#6
Do you understand keys? Do you know how to determine the key the song is in? Do you know about chord functions? Do you know how to construct any major or minor scale? Do you know how to construct any major or minor chord? What about 7th chords? Do you know how major and minor keys differ from each other soundwise (ie, can you tell if a song is in major or minor)? If you hear a chord, can you tell if it's minor or major by ear? Can you hear the function of the chord? If you hear a melody, can you hear what scale degrees or chord tones it uses?

Those are all important things. When you understand them, you already know a lot.

What helped my ear was learning about chord functions and scale degrees. If I need to figure out a melody, I think in scale degrees. If I need to figure out a chord progression, I think in chord functions, which is kind of related to thinking in scale degrees. I usually listen to what scale degree the bass is playing. It tells a lot about the chord. Then I figure out the rest of the notes in the chord. Bass will most of the time play roots. And when it's not playing the root, it's usually playing the third of the chord, sometimes the fifth or the seventh. But root is the most usual note in bass.

Whether you should figure out the melody or chords first is really up to you. It is good to know what the chords behind the melody are, because it may make you understand the note choices better and why the notes in question work so well. When you play over a chord progression, you want to play chord tones. Your ear should guide you. If you know the sound of the chord progression, it is pretty easy to hear things that work well over it. It is a lot harder to hear things that sound dissonant over the chord progression.
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
#7
your objectivity will serve you very well. it's important to know your weaknesses and address them, an endeavor in which i notice many guitarists fall flat.

learning theory will begin to get you where you want to go, but not if you can't hear it. train your ear first (or do both simultaneously if you have the time to invest). sing everything you play, and i do mean everything. analyze what you're playing theoretically, so that you know what it is and have a sound to match it with. think about those few licks that you've come up with and throw at everything. i'd wager you've played them enough to know what they're going to sound like in any situation. you want to be able to get to that level with everything. it's going to take time, but the more you do it, the easier it becomes to identify, internalize, and recreate general concepts and specific sounds.

i'd suggest figuring notes out first before chords, since chords are built from notes. if you can put together the fundamental building blocks, you'll be able to identify the chords.

it looks like you're into a lot of rock and metal, given that you mention friedman and gilbert et al. as influences. these are truly world-class players that have absorbed a tremendous amount of music, and by this i mean not just rock and metal. they have heavy influence outside those genres (appropriate that jazz *fusion* came up), and, as such, once you get a slightly better foothold in theory, a stronger ear, and, therefore, a more well-rounded command of both your instrument and music in general, start looking to other genres and see what all the fuss is about. find something you like and spend time integrating it into the way you play. that's how players like the ones you mentioned got so good, and were able to add complexity and flavor to the inherently simpler genres of rock and metal, and that's a big part of the reason why they're known as being holyshitamazing.

spend a lot of time addressing your weaknesses. it's tempting to fall back into the comfortable, but if you're not doing something you have to actively think about, you're not really learning anything new.
Anfangen ist leicht, Beharren eine Kunst.
#9
Quote by robboster
Also, my playing extends to like... a few pentatonic/blues/Dorian licks that I came up with over the years, and I kinda just throw them at everything (and I'm completely lost when it comes to major scale improvisation) so there's really not much to see :P

Thanks once again


It also sounds like you need to learn some licks! There are plenty of youtube vids out there, just start off with simple minor and major pentatonic licks to get used to how to phrase them (look up some of the phrasing "masters" of these kinds of licks, like B.B. King, Clapton, Billy Gibbons, etc.), then learn where all of the bends are contained within a scale. In other words, where you can apply bends, whether they're a whole step, a half-step, quarter-bend, etc. Those will get your lead licks "singing" and sounding more musical.
#10
Quote by robboster
Thank you all for the advice!

Yeah my theory is pretty bad, I read some beginner jazz books so I know things like the notes in a scale and how scales are constructed, yet I know the theory without having linked it to what's actually going on when I play. I'm actually trying to figure out a Marty Friedman song (I love you, from Tokyo jukebox 2) by ear, and I've done it before (picture, from bad DNA), but I found the notes without finding the underlying chords, which I find a lot harder when they aren't just 1 - 3 - 5 chords. Should I be figuring the chords out before figuring the notes out?
Notes first is fine, and should help with the chords. Listen for bass notes as well. (software which raises the octave is handy there). I use this:http://www.seventhstring.com/
Quote by robboster

Also, my playing extends to like... a few pentatonic/blues/Dorian licks that I came up with over the years, and I kinda just throw them at everything (and I'm completely lost when it comes to major scale improvisation) so there's really not much to see :P

Thanks once again
What you're lacking is vocabulary.
Improvisation is about constructing melodic and rhythmic phrases, and you can't do that (confidently and reliably) unless you've already learned to play a good number of melodies and licks, and you understand how they connect with the chords.
The more melodies you hear (and really listen to), the more easily you'll be able to imagine your own; and the more melodies you play, the more they'll get under your fingers.
The bigger your vocabulary of stolen licks and phrases, the easier it is for you to pull out fragments and build your own.

Find songs you like - not BTs, unless they come with vocals! - and play along with them. Try to copy the vocal on guitar (rhythmically at least, if you can't find the notes), and enter into a dialogue with the singer, playing fills between the phrases. If you hear a phrase that jumps out at you (in the vocal, or any solo instrument), learn what it is, and how it fits the chords.
It's really important to build your vocabulary from stuff you like. That's how you develop a personal voice - because no one else will steal quite the same mix of stuff!

For any specific song you want to improvise on, make sure you learn it thoroughly. Not just the chords, but the melody (ideally by heart). Get really intimate with it. You have to feel you have something you want to say about this tune, a musical opinion on it, how it makes you feel. Otherwise you're just going to be filling space for the sake of it.
Last edited by jongtr at Aug 19, 2015,
#11
Wow there's quite some excellent advice here now! Thanks everyone

What exactly does one mean when one speaks of the function of a scale? As in how bright or dark it sounds? Oh and how do you tell what chords are being played when there's a lot of like... add, sus, G/D kinda chords going on in the background? I hear them a lot in jap songs and they influence the feel of the songs quite a bit, so I'd suppose knowing them would be very helpful to my playing?

I think I'm gonna start with the playing what you sing and stealing melodies things, thanks once again everyone
#12
Quote by robboster
Wow there's quite some excellent advice here now! Thanks everyone

What exactly does one mean when one speaks of the function of a scale?
Scales don't have functions (technically). Chords do.
The function of a chord is the role it plays in a progression - whether it sounds stable, or whether (more likely) it's leading somewhere else.
Chords are labelled according to the scale degree of the root. E.g., a "V" chord (root on 5th degree of the scale) is called the "dominant", and its function is to lead to the "tonic", or "I" - the stable, home chord.
Quote by robboster

As in how bright or dark it sounds?
The brightness or darkness of a scale or mode is dependent on its interval structure relative to the keynote.
The brightest mode is lydian, and modes get darker by flattening notes.
So the minor scale (aeolian) is darker than major (ionian) because 3 of its notes are flatter.
Quote by robboster

Oh and how do you tell what chords are being played when there's a lot of like... add, sus, G/D kinda chords going on in the background? I hear them a lot in jap songs and they influence the feel of the songs quite a bit, so I'd suppose knowing them would be very helpful to my playing?
Well yes!
Working chords out by ear is an important skill to learn. And the kind of chords you mention do make it harder. But take your time - and maybe use a slowdowner - and you can do it, note by note if necessary.
It's OK to use tab or chord charts - if you can find them - instead of your ear, to build up some knowledge of common chord sequences, but always check they sound right. The more songs you learn - and the more instances you hear of those complex chords - the more you'll start to recognise them.
#13
Quote by robboster

What exactly does one mean when one speaks of the function of a scale? As in how bright or dark it sounds?

It's not really about "brightness" or "darkness".

When I talked about functions, I meant that for example C is the 4th note of the G major scale and E is the 4th note of the B major scale. C will sound the same in a G major song as E will in a B major song.

Similarly C is the IV chord of G major and E is the IV chord of B major, and they will have the same sound.

Same sound = same function.


The 4th note of any major scale will sound the same. The IV chord of any major key will sound the same.
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
Last edited by MaggaraMarine at Aug 19, 2015,
#14
^^^ Just to add to the above, scales aren't inherently bright, dark, happy or sad. Many of the saddest and happiest songs are in major keys.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
Soundcloud
#15
Wow, I've learnt quite a fair bit from you guys, thank you so much!

Hmmmm so some questions that pop into my mind from what I'm reading:

1. Do the chords always stick to their specific functions? Can't you have a V chord not followed by I? And what do musicians mean when they say the word "resolving" with respect to chord changes and melodies?

2. How do you pick out those complex chords (G/D, F/C.etc)? (Pardon me if this is actually a very silly question for which the answer is simply to practise more)

Thanks once again!
#16
Quote by robboster
Wow, I've learnt quite a fair bit from you guys, thank you so much!

Hmmmm so some questions that pop into my mind from what I'm reading:

1. Do the chords always stick to their specific functions? Can't you have a V chord not followed by I? And what do musicians mean when they say the word "resolving" with respect to chord changes and melodies?

2. How do you pick out those complex chords (G/D, F/C.etc)? (Pardon me if this is actually a very silly question for which the answer is simply to practise more)

Thanks once again!


A V-I is a functioning dominant. A V-something else, is not. There are no rules where chords may go, but they will often have a sort of pull that wants to take you somewhere. Satisfying that pull, is a resolution. But you can go elsewhere with it, if you want, and that can be really cool, since something else other than what was expected happens and sounds nice.

The best way to understand resolution, and chord function, is experience. Listen to these things, and you'll see. You would not understand "salty" unless you tasted salty, no matter what I said.
#17
Quote by robboster
Wow, I've learnt quite a fair bit from you guys, thank you so much!

Hmmmm so some questions that pop into my mind from what I'm reading:

1. Do the chords always stick to their specific functions? Can't you have a V chord not followed by I? And what do musicians mean when they say the word "resolving" with respect to chord changes and melodies?

2. How do you pick out those complex chords (G/D, F/C.etc)? (Pardon me if this is actually a very silly question for which the answer is simply to practise more)

Thanks once again!

1. Any chord can be followed by any chord. It's quite common that the V chord is not followed by the I chord. The most common chords to follow the V chord are I, vi and IV. But that's not a rule, that's just how it's normally used.

2. Well, what G/D means is just a G major chord with a D in bass. You listen to the bass, and you listen to what the other instruments play. If you hear a G major chord, but the bass is playing a D, you know it's a G/D.
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
#18
Ultimately, often the name of the game is that a chord progression draws attention to a specific pitch (the tonal centre). This may be the same tonal centre for an entire tune, or less. In some forms of Jazz, the tonal centre is changing frquently (every few bars or less), and the progression will hint at that.

Basically, a scale gives you a palette of notes to draw from most of the time, to make chords from, and to build melodies from. These work together to create the sense of the tonal centre (the start note the scale is built on to).

More colour can get added by sparingly using non-scale notes, both into the chords and the melody. This sort of stuff is so fleeting it doesn't detract from the tonal centre.

You have to consider how you use these non-scale notes rhythmically. Put one at the start of a bar, play it loud, and hold it for a bar or so, and everyone is going to be begging you to resolve it to the nearest scale note (e.g. try C# against a C triad). But smuggle it in as an off-beat, of short duration, and resolve it then, it sounds cool.

Take a look at note resolutions within say the major scale ... this will help you.

cheers, Jerry
Last edited by jerrykramskoy at Aug 21, 2015,
#19
Thank you for all your help and advice everyone! It is greatly appreciated! I think I have enough information to keep me occupied for quite awhile now haha. Do keep the advice coming though, I love how I'm learning new things every day. I also hope this thread helps others who find themselves in my situation.

Thanks once again
#20
Scat sing along with what you are playing. This will get the actual notes into your head better and in time you will know what something sounds like before you play it.

I have a friend I played a lot with many years ago, fine lead player. As he played you could see his bottom lip moving along with it :-)