#1
Hi all,
I've been playing guitar for about 5 years now, and I'm pretty decent at it. I can play chords, solo's, fingerstyle... people say I play very nice. Now the problem is, I don't feel like I "understand" music as much as I want. Yes, give me tabs and I can't learn almost anything, give me chords I can play it, but I'd like to understand it all together better, why those chords work together, why is he playing that scale over those chords. And the reason I want to do this is to reach my goal, which is I'd like to learn to jam and improvise. For example, when a friends start playing some song (chord progression), I'd like to know what scales/notes to use to improvise on it.
What I do now is I look at the chords he is playing, I pick one and I play over with the pentatonic scale of that chords (for example, if I see that one of the chords is E minor I improvise with E minor pentatnoic). And sometimes this works well, but I want to discover other, better ways to do this.
#2
Quote by Lukapro
And the reason I want to do this is to reach my goal, which is I'd like to learn to jam and improvise. For example, when a friends start playing some song (chord progression), I'd like to know what scales/notes to use to improvise on it.
What I do now is I look at the chords he is playing, I pick one and I play over with the pentatonic scale of that chords (for example, if I see that one of the chords is E minor I improvise with E minor pentatnoic)


I approach every song differently. Most Blues is the same 3 chord changes so its fairly easy to memorize the change patterns and really work the changes while at the same time time throwing in lots of other ideas like minor pentatonic, mixolydian and diminished arpeggios.

Most rock is pretty easy really. The best thing to do is practice the chord changes first in some positions you like to play in then perhaps throw in some scale patterns on top of that.

Some songs are super easy. Take a lot of Grateful Dead stuff -- you can get a lot of mileage out of just sticking to the mixolydian scale. Same for Jazz modal pieces.

Jazz tunes generally require the most work and practice to figure out how you want to approach a song in terms of a strategy -- at least for me they do -- because of a lot of them have a lot of key changes. Giant Steps is a pretty hard one.

Those are just some things to think about in general.
#3
Ear training.

Learn to play songs by ear, don't always look for the tab. Tabs are good for learning songs fast, but to really understand what's happening, you shouldn't only be looking at the fingerings. When you learn songs by ear, it forces you to use your ears, and at the same time your ears will develop.
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
I've learned theory and still hit the theory books from time to time to keep my stuff fresh - I also teach guitar on the weekend. However, when I'm playing lead with a song, the last thing on my mind is what scale I'm playing. Last weekend, I was demonstrating playing lead for one of my students and he asked what scale I was playing. I told him that I typically mix several different scales to achieve the sound I want. At that point, as I was playing, I gave him an analysis of what I was doing and why.

The point I'm trying to make is - at first, a new guitar player needs to learn scales. But as you develop your ear and learn the notes on the neck, it becomes more important that you "forget" the scales and learn to recognize intervals and use your ears to play. This frees you up to play what you're hearing in your head, instead of just playing a dull and boring scale. Learning to do this is something that takes time and practice. When I'm jamming with my group, all I need to know is the key we're in, then I use my ears to listen to the song and figure out what works and sounds best for that particular tune.
#5
I don't really hear what I'm going to be playing in my head ahead of time when I improvise. Sometimes, maybe a little bit. I don't know if I can really adequately explain it in words. Sometimes, I just kind of get a feeling and then reach for the right note. Sometimes, I just sort of dip my toe in the water with a note, listen to it, then do something from there. Sometimes, I just start off with a physical movement. Sometimes, I'm thinking of a theoretical idea. Explaining it really deeply starts to sound like voodoo and then the explanation of it can start to sound kind of crazy in words.

Basically, if someone tells me that they hear exactly what they're going to play in their head ahead of time when they improvise, I don't really believe them.
#6
Quote by edg
Basically, if someone tells me that they hear exactly what they're going to play in their head ahead of time when they improvise, I don't really believe them.

If you know your both your theory and your instrument enough, you will be able to replicate any idea that you hear in your head at least close enough based on a few factors: intervals, scales, modes, chords, arpeggios, etc. So basically, as my former guitar teacher told me, "if you can sing it, you can play it".
Ayy there
#7
Quote by edg


Basically, if someone tells me that they hear exactly what they're going to play in their head ahead of time when they improvise, I don't really believe them.

That's what jazz improv is all about. However, this takes a lot of practice to achieve. They listen to and transcribe solo after solo, play it on their instrument and figure out why certain licks work over certain chords. This trains their ears, technical ability and theory understanding so that they can play borrowed phrases when appropriate, make up stuff on the fly and be able to play whatever they want at the drop of a hat.

That isn't to say that jazz players don't go on auto-pilot or get complacent in their playing, but being able to connect their brain to their instrument is what's expected out of any working jazz musician.
^^The above is a Cryptic Metaphor^^


"To know the truth of history is to realize its ultimate myth and its inevitable ambiguity." Everything is made up and the facts don't matter.


MUSIC THEORY LINK
#8
Look at Chick Corea here. He's singing every note he plays. Maybe not out loud, but he clearly knows what sounds he's after.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QWjGhZt4Dsk

My friend said that singing at the same time he plays helps him get out of the autopilot mode.

I'm sometimes able to do it, even though my fretboard knowledge is not that great (well, neither is my improvisation). (It depends on my mood.)

I see nothing strange in being able to play what you hear. Especially if it's something simple based on the pentatonic scale. But if you can do it with pentatonic, I don't know why you couldn't do it with more complex stuff.

If you can do it with your voice, why couldn't you do it on your guitar?

This is good stuff:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LVO1pv5Vf5w
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
#9
Quote by edg

Basically, if someone tells me that they hear exactly what they're going to play in their head ahead of time when they improvise, I don't really believe them.

Lol, I got the funny image in my head of a jazz player composing an entire solo in the millisecond before he plays his first note.
#10
Quote by metalhead983877
If you know your both your theory and your instrument enough, you will be able to replicate any idea that you hear in your head at least close enough based on a few factors: intervals, scales, modes, chords, arpeggios, etc. So basically, as my former guitar teacher told me, "if you can sing it, you can play it".


Well, mostly what I'm trying to describe is how I personally do it. I think it its more than likely that is how it works for most if not all players, but I may be wrong about it. I couldn't, in all honesty, tell you how it works for others. I can play way more complicated stuff than I can sing, or even think about ahead of time, for that matter.

The reason I am stressing this, is that I wouldn't want people who are struggling with improvising to think that you have to sing or or hear it in your head to be good at improvising. I don't think it works that way at all. But this is just my opinion because I can't get into anyone else's head. It's how it works for me. And some of my improvising is listen-able if you check out the links in my sig. So, the proof is in the pudding, so to speak if anyone cares to listen.
Last edited by edg at Sep 19, 2015,
#11
When you guys say I should play by ear, do you mean only solos or also chords?
because solo's I can play by ear (not right away, but I figure it out eventually), but playing chords just by hearing them seems really difficult
Can you guys do it?
#12
Quote by Lukapro
Hi all,
I've been playing guitar for about 5 years now, and I'm pretty decent at it. I can play chords, solo's, fingerstyle... people say I play very nice. Now the problem is, I don't feel like I "understand" music as much as I want. Yes, give me tabs and I can't learn almost anything, give me chords I can play it, but I'd like to understand it all together better, why those chords work together, why is he playing that scale over those chords. And the reason I want to do this is to reach my goal, which is I'd like to learn to jam and improvise. For example, when a friends start playing some song (chord progression), I'd like to know what scales/notes to use to improvise on it.
What I do now is I look at the chords he is playing, I pick one and I play over with the pentatonic scale of that chords (for example, if I see that one of the chords is E minor I improvise with E minor pentatnoic). And sometimes this works well, but I want to discover other, better ways to do this.

I agree with MM about ear training - not special exercises, but just playing along with songs you don't know, as best you can.
Try to copy the vocal melody in particular, or play responses to it.

But one significant piece of theory you seem to be lacking is knowledge of KEY - the context which usually links chords together, sharing one scale (mostly). It's like you're not seeing the wood for the trees.
You shouldn't have to read some huge theory tome to get the idea. Just look at the chords of any song you choose, and look at what notes they contain. Add up all the notes in all the chords - or at least in groups of chords in each section. That gives you the scale to improvise with. (Other notes are always possible, but that group of notes is a good place to start.)
Listen for which chord "sounds like home" - the one that sounds like a stable finish; the chord the song is likely to end on, and will probably also start on (although that's less certain). That's the key chord. It will probably suggest a scale based on its root note (major or minor). All the other chords will relate to that.
Last edited by jongtr at Sep 19, 2015,
#14
Quote by Lukapro
When you guys say I should play by ear, do you mean only solos or also chords?
because solo's I can play by ear (not right away, but I figure it out eventually), but playing chords just by hearing them seems really difficult
Can you guys do it?
I can sometimes - but you're right, it's more difficult than wokring out individual notes.
The thing to listen for is root movement - common types of change.
E.g., you probably do know how certain changes sound, but you might not be aware of it.
Try playing C-G, and then D-A, or A-E., or F-C Can you tell they're all the same kind of change? We'd say they're all "I-V", or maybe "IV-I", depending on which chord you feel is the key chord (I).
If you can recognise the sound of that change (when you play it yourself), you should be able to identify it when hearing it in a song.
Likewise, other common changes:
I-IV (C-F, G-C, A-D, etc);
I-vi (C-Am, G-Em, etc)
iv-IV (Am-F, Em-C, etc)
IV-V (F-G, A-B, D-E, etc)
Play these yourself, and listen for the quality each type of change shares, regardless of key.
Also try a few complete common sequences in different keys:
I-IV-V-I (C-F-G-C, or G-C-D-G, or E-A-B-E, etc)
I-V-IV-I (C-G-F-C - work out the others!)
I-V-vi-IV (G-D-Em-C... ditto)
i-VII-VI-V (Am-G-F-E)

When you can hear these kinds of changes in a song, you then only have to work out one of the chords to know what all the others are.
Last edited by jongtr at Sep 19, 2015,
#15
Yeah usually it's the feel of the chord change that matters more than the exact chord thats being played. For example IV-bVI6 (eg. F-Ab6) sounds a lot like IV-iv (eg. F-Fm). Sometimes a suspension resolving(eg. Csus - C) sounds just like a IV-I(eg. F-C) or a I-V.

But if you recognise the sound of the chord change you can very quickly narrow it down to one or two possibilities. It's much easier to figure out chords if you pay attention to the context of the overall harmony.
Last edited by Declan87 at Sep 19, 2015,
#16
Quote by edg
Well, mostly what I'm trying to describe is how I personally do it. I think it its more than likely that is how it works for most if not all players, but I may be wrong about it. I couldn't, in all honesty, tell you how it works for others. I can play way more complicated stuff than I can sing, or even think about ahead of time, for that matter.

The reason I am stressing this, is that I wouldn't want people who are struggling with improvising to think that you have to sing or or hear it in your head to be good at improvising. I don't think it works that way at all. But this is just my opinion because I can't get into anyone else's head. It's how it works for me. And some of my improvising is listen-able if you check out the links in my sig. So, the proof is in the pudding, so to speak if anyone cares to listen.

The singing thing is for learning how to improvise, how to get the notes out of your head and onto the guitar. Instruments allow you to do more than what your voice does, but using your voice as a guide at first gives you a solid foundation to build on. Eventually, you'll get good enough to whatever your brain comes up with, regardless of its singability.

This is an issue for guitarists because guitar doesn't involve your breathing. Lots of guitarists get caught up in doing scale runs and arpeggios without giving proper attention to melody and phrasing because it's really easy to run up and down scales. A sax player can't do that without a lot practice, so they have to start with a singable foundation.
^^The above is a Cryptic Metaphor^^


"To know the truth of history is to realize its ultimate myth and its inevitable ambiguity." Everything is made up and the facts don't matter.


MUSIC THEORY LINK
Last edited by rockingamer2 at Sep 19, 2015,