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#1
Pretty much as the title says. I've recently developed an interest in improvising and writing my own music after listening to some Guthrie Govan and Buckethead. The thing is, every time I sit down and fiddle around with a scale it sounds like garbage. What skills/techniques and or theory do I need to learn to make my playing sound musical and good? Is this the sort of thing I have to just suck at until I get decent? Because I do usually stop out of embarrassment within a minute
#2
A solid understanding of theory will be a great asset here. Scales, chord construction, and how to harmonize over a chord progression. Other than that, it's mostly just a lot of practice and trial and error. You have to discover how to get the sound you're looking for. Listen to the backing track and try to hear what you want to play in your head. Then, try to apply that to the guitar.

As for writing your own music, well, everyone has a different way of doing it. One way I do it is once a week, I'll just play around for 2 hours, not playing anything in particular, and I'll record it. Then later, I'll listen to it all again and pick out some good things and try to connect them. And sometimes it just happens randomly. I have a few riffs that initially started out as mistakes I made while playing something else.
Quote by Geldin
Junior's usually at least a little terse, but he knows his stuff. I've always read his posts in a grouchy grandfather voice, a grouchy grandfather with a huge stiffy for alternate picking.
Besides that, he's right this time. As usual.
#3
Listen to Too many Humans by Buckethead. It's a slow blues in E minor.( i guess you know what it means?) then learn maybe 3 different small licks in it, by ear if you can.
Then put a backing track on in say A minor and play the same licks. Then maybe you could mix the order of the 3 licks around or mix them together, play them at different speeds etc
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#4
Two key concepts in being effective at improvising are melodic composition and phrasing. Think about it as not just about playing random notes and patterns in a scale, it's about developing an alternative melody line. If you dissect a melody line you'll see it's a combination of a variety of notes, length of notes, and pauses between notes and phrases. Silence within an improvisation can often say more than notes ever could. This is what you're after. Think about it that way and you'll eventually begin to sound more like a composition than random patterns.
#5
Moved to MT because it's really a composition question, not really a technique issue.
Actually called Mark!

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#6
Yeah to a large degree it's something you have to suck at until you get better.

The main things are having a good ear so that you can hear if what you are doing is working with the music that is going on.

Many guys get away with just this and a whole lot of experience under their fingers and it's more than enough.

However, there are things you can focus on to help you along the way.

Know the chord progression. Know where all the roots are for each chord and the arpeggio for each chord. Targeting and emphasizing chord tones is a great way to get a feel for improvisation.

Practice using melodic sequences and scale runs as well.
Don't be afraid of repetition either.

But mostly put on some jams and practice. Play each chord in a different place on the neck too (as many places as you can).
Si
#7
You need ear. That's the most important thing.

No matter how good your technique or knowledge of scales is, you won't play good melodies without using your ears.
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
#8
Junior, Tigers and MM got it down.

You need a good understanding of theory to help you, but that is only your foundation to build on. Learning how scales, chords etc work is great, but solely that is not going to make you a great improviser.

You also need a lot of ear to pull it off. That means knowing your scales, arpeggios, intervals etc by ear. Learning songs, solos and phrases by ear to feed your musical mind and start bridging the gap between what you can hear and what you can play. The aural tradition has taught everyone before you, it will teach you as well.

Keeping learning songs by your favorite musicians (by ear), learn to sing the things you learn (as well as fundamentals such as scales and chords), write music (no matter if it is good or bad) and keep trying to feed your mind and ear new sounds.
Fusion and jazz musician, a fan of most music.

Quote by Guthrie Govan
“If you steal from one person it's theft, and if you steal from lots of people it's research”


Quote by Chick Corea
"Only play what you hear. If you don't hear anything, don't play anything."
#9
Buckethead is my favorite guitarist. I think he knows some cool tricks.

I think if I were to program a robot how to improvise this is what I would teach it.

All 7 scale mode shapes to all 12 keys.
All 5 scale mode shapes to all 12 pentatonic scales.
All 4 naturally occurring 7th chords (Maj7, 7, m7, m7b5) as chords and all 4 inversions (1, 3, 5, 7 as root)
All 4 naturally occurring 7th chords as arpeggios and all 4 inversions.

For the scales arpeggios, you should be able to go up and down 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, & 12 (&16) notes.

That's pretty much it. The only difference between clicking randomize and clicking "play with meaning and purpose" is a human has their own definition of meaning and purpose.
#10
I would programme it to recognize rhythm and how consonance and dissonance relate to a sense of tension and resolution.
Si
#12
Tension generally comes from dissonance, as well as things like jarring rhythms, building volume, faster tempos, etc. I'd argue that the only "music" with absolutely no tension would be just a single prolonged note. As you add things like rhythm and more notes it adds at least some tension. You could make something extremely consonant using pentatonics and extremely stable chords and it would still have some level of tension. There are varying levels of tension, like a perfect fifth isn't very tense at all, while some crazy diminished chord with tone clusters being played sporadically would be extremely tense, and then there's everything in between.

What makes music go places and do things is the way the song uses tension and resolution. It's why that V chord sounds like it wants to go somewhere and why if you play the I chord after the V it feels resolved. It's why after an awesome build up in a song a drop off to something soothing can be so comforting and you're like "yea, that just happened"

Without any tension in the music it's like nothing is happening. How the tension and resolution in a song work together is what determines the feel of the song.

Same with a movie or a story. Without conflict what's the point?
#13
To improvise over a song I:

1. Identify the key of the song.
2. Improvise using the appropriate scale/s for the key.

So learn:

1. How to identify the key of the song.
2. Scales (major, minor and blues to start)

And then you can improvise.

All the wanky other stuff that people talk about is really using accidentals to add notes to or alter the major or minor scales, or just using your ear.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
Soundcloud
Last edited by AlanHB at Feb 21, 2016,
#14
Quote by jrcsgtpeppers
Do you need tension to enjoy music?

Not necessarily, but it's an inherent part of making music that will illicit a response from the majority of your potential audience.

Of course everyone is different, one size doesn't fit all, but for the majority of music listeners those things The4thHorseman has outlined are one of the fundamental reasons they enjoy listening to music. Obviously if you don't have a musical background you may not be able to articulate those concepts, but as a listener you'll absolutely be responding to them.
Actually called Mark!

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#15
Quote by Cheeseshark
Pretty much as the title says. I've recently developed an interest in improvising and writing my own music after listening to some Guthrie Govan and Buckethead. The thing is, every time I sit down and fiddle around with a scale it sounds like garbage. What skills/techniques and or theory do I need to learn to make my playing sound musical and good? Is this the sort of thing I have to just suck at until I get decent? Because I do usually stop out of embarrassment within a minute

To write your own music, you need to:

1. Study other people's music. That will teach you the skills, how to put chords together, what makes good melodic phrases, etc. The greatest songwriters spent years copying other people's music, and stealing anything that worked.

2. Have some ideas of your own. You need a reason to write a song, either something you want to sing about, or some cool-sounding melodic idea you just found. Much of this comes from #1 above - the more stuff you steal and commit to memory, the more it will cross-fertilise in your brain and spew out new combinations.
Usually just noodling around will bring that stuff out.
You may well still find that most of it is "garbage". That's why you should record yourself all the time, because maybe 1% of the time a neat lick or riff will emerge and you may just lose it.
It's true that some theory knowledge can help you clean up the "garbage", polish it into something that's at least sensible. But it probably still won't sound very inspired.

Remember: the Beatles and Bob Dylan (to name only two of the 20th century's best and most prolific songwriters) never studied theory at all. But what they did study was other people's songs - 100s of them; they ripped-off way more other writers than anyone else dared to do; so many that it became hard to identify individual influences in their work, because they mixed so much disparate stuff together. That explains both how they sounded "original", and how they could write so much stuff.

Improvising is different (slightly - and here I'm pretty much with AlanHB.
In a sense, everything begins from "improvisation", if you mean just noodling aimlessly, searching for something that sounds good. That may lead to a "composition" if you find something worth keeping and developing.

But more usually "improvisation" means working from an existing piece of music, that may have been written by someone else. There's a whole industry of BS written about methods of improvisation (and occasionally some good stuff written about it!), but essentially it's really simple:
You take the material the composer has given you, and you make something else out of it.
That's the jazz tradition. (The blues tradition is similar, except that blues tends to be handed down, and the composer - even if known - is irrelevant. To generalise, blues works with folk forms, while jazz works with popular forms.)
You usually keep the given chords, but try to make new melodies to fit them.
Starting from the given melody is the traditional jazz method: "embellish the melody" in various ways, and work your way from there to the chord tones.
You need no theory knowledge for this, but you do need to be able to identify the material in the tune: to learn its melody and to follow its chords. If your ear is good, and your fretboard knowledge good (chord shapes more than scale patterns), that's really all you need.

As with composition, the more melodies (other people's) that you've learned and played (including riffs and licks), the bigger the vocabulary you can draw from when making your own.
You're learning to speak a new language, and you need both the vocabulary (riffs, licks, motifs) and the grammar (stylistic habits in different genres, often known as "theory"). That doesn't come magically from inside you - at least not until you've crammed a load of other people's music into your brain to start with!
Last edited by jongtr at Feb 21, 2016,
#16
Quote by jrcsgtpeppers
Buckethead is my favorite guitarist. I think he knows some cool tricks.

I think if I were to program a robot how to improvise this is what I would teach it.

All 7 scale mode shapes to all 12 keys.
All 5 scale mode shapes to all 12 pentatonic scales.
All 4 naturally occurring 7th chords (Maj7, 7, m7, m7b5) as chords and all 4 inversions (1, 3, 5, 7 as root)
All 4 naturally occurring 7th chords as arpeggios and all 4 inversions.

For the scales arpeggios, you should be able to go up and down 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, & 12 (&16) notes.

That's pretty much it. The only difference between clicking randomize and clicking "play with meaning and purpose" is a human has their own definition of meaning and purpose.

The thing is, the notes that you hear in your head are not random. Of course if you are not using your ears and just playing inside a scale shape, it's more random, but even then you are most likely going to follow some patterns that your fingers are familiar with and not play actual random music. A human can't play completely random music unless they are rolling the dice to decide what notes to play.

Now, I'm pretty sure you could program a computer to play melodies that make sense but you would need to make the computer analyze a lot of music. I'm pretty sure it would be possible for a computer to learn some common practices. But that takes more than just teaching a computer some scales and chords.

(Actually, this was done in Finland in the 60s - this melody was "composed" by a computer that analyzed all songs from a Finnish tango singer.)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k4M0DeAy78g


The melodies we tend to like have many things in common. I mean, you know what a "melodic" melody sounds like when you hear it. Well, you don't always want to be "melodic"...


Also, there's more to music than just notes played one after another. Playing the right notes in the right rhythm doesn't necessarily sound good if you lack expression. How you play something is sometimes even more important than what you play. You can make a three note phrase sound awesome and you can make it sound boring depending on the way you play it.


But the main point is, there's more to improvising than notes and chords. Improvising is all about playing what you feel (musically). Improvising is not random. It's not about playing scales. Scales are just a tool to find the notes you are looking for.


So, what your list is missing is actual music. The problem with a robot would be that I don't think it would be able to create anything new. It couldn't really apply the skills it has learned. You could program it to play licks and you could program it to combine licks. But a robot can't hear what's happening in music and it can't react to music like a human can. If I hear somebody play something, it may inspire me to play something else. This is what improvisation is all about - it's a musical conversation. In jazz music the rhythm section is improvising as much as the soloist is improvising - many times the rhythm section is changing the way they are playing depending on what the soloist is playing. And when the rhythm section changes the way they play, it may inspire the soloist and so on - it works both ways. It's all about listening and reacting to what you hear. A robot just can't do that.


Scales and chords are just tools to find the notes that you are looking for. Even if you knew all the chords and scales in the world all over the fretboard, it doesn't necessarily result in good improvisation. You need to know how to use all that stuff. They are just tools. Some people only know the pentatonic scale and three chords. But sometimes that's all you need. If you can use those tools well, it is enough. Well, of course that was an exaggeration.

The thing that's more important than scales and chords and all that stuff is actual music. You learn a lot from listening to and playing actual music. If the only thing you play is technical exercises and scales up and down, you won't learn to play actual music.
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 Feb 21, 2016,
#17
Quote by MaggaraMarine
The thing is, the notes that you hear in your head are not random. Of course if you are not using your ears and just playing inside a scale shape, it's more random, but even then you are most likely going to follow some patterns that your fingers are familiar with and not play actual random music. A human can't play completely random music unless they are rolling the dice to decide what notes to play.

Now, I'm pretty sure you could program a computer to play melodies that make sense but you would need to make the computer analyze a lot of music. I'm pretty sure it would be possible for a computer to learn some common practices. But that takes more than just teaching a computer some scales and chords.

(Actually, this was done in Finland in the 60s - this melody was "composed" by a computer that analyzed all songs from a Finnish tango singer.)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k4M0DeAy78g


The melodies we tend to like have many things in common. I mean, you know what a "melodic" melody sounds like when you hear it. Well, you don't always want to be "melodic"...


Also, there's more to music than just notes played one after another. Playing the right notes in the right rhythm doesn't necessarily sound good if you lack expression. How you play something is sometimes even more important than what you play. You can make a three note phrase sound awesome and you can make it sound boring depending on the way you play it.


But the main point is, there's more to improvising than notes and chords. Improvising is all about playing what you feel (musically). Improvising is not random. It's not about playing scales. Scales are just a tool to find the notes you are looking for.


So, what your list is missing is actual music. The problem with a robot would be that I don't think it would be able to create anything new. It couldn't really apply the skills it has learned. You could program it to play licks and you could program it to combine licks. But a robot can't hear what's happening in music and it can't react to music like a human can. If I hear somebody play something, it may inspire me to play something else. This is what improvisation is all about - it's a musical conversation. In jazz music the rhythm section is improvising as much as the soloist is improvising - many times the rhythm section is changing the way they are playing depending on what the soloist is playing. And when the rhythm section changes the way they play, it may inspire the soloist and so on - it works both ways. It's all about listening and reacting to what you hear. A robot just can't do that.


Scales and chords are just tools to find the notes that you are looking for. Even if you knew all the chords and scales in the world all over the fretboard, it doesn't necessarily result in good improvisation. You need to know how to use all that stuff. They are just tools. Some people only know the pentatonic scale and three chords. But sometimes that's all you need. If you can use those tools well, it is enough. Well, of course that was an exaggeration.

The thing that's more important than scales and chords and all that stuff is actual music. You learn a lot from listening to and playing actual music. If the only thing you play is technical exercises and scales up and down, you won't learn to play actual music.


Amen.
#18
Quote by jerrykramskoy
Amen.


Seconded again.

One thing I found invaluable is learning just simple major and minor arpeggio and just following the chord changes. A single finger position will suffice and just a few notes. If you can play well and follow the changes with just a handful of notes you're on to something. Simplify!
#19
Knowledge is just a bunch of tools at your disposal. You can improvise without any tools, if you want, but it will go about as well as trying to fix your car's engine with bare hands.

You want to play complex music competently, you need an array of tools. Some of those will be very specialized tools that don't work anywhere else, and some will be very broadly applicable. I'd say learn the broadest ones first and then work on developing new skills as you learn more music you enjoy.

Most importantly, you need to be familiar with the musical idiom you're improvising in. Bringing pentatonic metal riffs to a jazz session isn't going to work. The melodic tendencies, the rhythms, the tones... when improvising you need to speak the same accent as the people in your conversation, even if you are using different words.

The concepts that every guitarist should know to play competently:
All 12 major/minor scales
The diatonic chords for all of those scales
Arpeggios for all chord qualities
Circle of 5ths resolutions

Those are the things nearly universal to popular music. Leave them out and you risk pigeonholing yourself stylistically.
Last edited by cdgraves at Feb 21, 2016,
#20
Wow, thanks for all of the suggestions. Aside from most of the chords, I am working on most of the theory mentioned here so that's good. The thing that pretty much everyone seems to say, from Guthrie Govan and Bryan Beller to you guys, is that I need to learn music by ear to learn my fretboard properly. I think I'm finally gonna have to do this then. Can anyone recommend songs/solos to practice this with? Considering I have no experience and a garbage ear I'm worried I'll begin with something far too complicated.
#21
Quote by cdgraves
...

Most importantly, you need to be familiar with the musical idiom you're improvising in. Bringing pentatonic metal riffs to a jazz session isn't going to work. The melodic tendencies, the rhythms, the tones... when improvising you need to speak the same accent as the people in your conversation, even if you are using different words.

...


I love that analogy ... well put!!
#22
Quote by Cheeseshark
Wow, thanks for all of the suggestions. Aside from most of the chords, I am working on most of the theory mentioned here so that's good. The thing that pretty much everyone seems to say, from Guthrie Govan and Bryan Beller to you guys, is that I need to learn music by ear to learn my fretboard properly. I think I'm finally gonna have to do this then. Can anyone recommend songs/solos to practice this with? Considering I have no experience and a garbage ear I'm worried I'll begin with something far too complicated.


You don't have to have a perfect ear ... knowledge helps.

But, to get going, you want to learn to recognise the tonal centre of a (section of a) tune. I suggest the simplest start to this is by learning to sing intervals (initially, 1,2,3,4 and 5) and then test yourself ... imagine a short melody using these, and sing each.

At the same time, listen to nursery rhymes, national anthems, folk tunes ... ideally ones that you can memorise, and then analyse these. Sing it (even just in your head) and figure out the intervals.

Later add in the b3, and do similar. Then gradually expand (add 6, 7, b7). That's most of it done by then.

Main thing is to be measuring relative to the tonal centre, rather than measuring an interval from one note to the next.
#23
Quote by Cheeseshark
The thing is, every time I sit down and fiddle around with a scale it sounds like garbage.


Maybe you're not using enough rosin.
There's no such thing; there never was. Where I am going you cannot follow me now.
#24
Anyone can do anything the first day. It just depends how good you want to be. You could take 2 notes and improvise with that.

My advice is to learn scales in context, step by step, learning each one to some very high degree of comfort, and then move onto the next one.

What you need to know in terms of theory depends on what sort of guitar you want to do. If you want to be Guthrie Govan good, you will need a number of things.

You will need to spend hours and hours on your guitar, learning a number of scales and how they work, and how they can fit together, and getting your dexterity up. You will need to learn a number of different fretting techniques and picking techniques and get those flawless. You will also need a lot of natural talent.

But the whole sum of stuff you need isn't really important. What's important is the next thing, because you can't learn a whole sum of things at once. You will need to go step by step, for hours every day for years to get to that level.

You sound like you're confused as to how to use scales. Start with understanding one of them. The major scale, and use that one. Or major pentatonic.

The music really determines what scales you can use. It's not just a bunch of scales you can use whenever you want for different flavours. They work a certain way, and sound a certain way, and you need to learn that from experience. Not from text on a page. And for that, I would recommend learning one thing at a time, and learning the shit out of it before moving to the next thing.
#25
Quote by Cheeseshark
Wow, thanks for all of the suggestions. Aside from most of the chords, I am working on most of the theory mentioned here so that's good. The thing that pretty much everyone seems to say, from Guthrie Govan and Bryan Beller to you guys, is that I need to learn music by ear to learn my fretboard properly. I think I'm finally gonna have to do this then. Can anyone recommend songs/solos to practice this with? Considering I have no experience and a garbage ear I'm worried I'll begin with something far too complicated.
If you want something simple to practise picking up by ear, I suggest vintage guitar instrumentals (late 50s/early 60s). Go for Duane Eddy, Shadows, Ventures, that sort of thing.
Make sure you learn the chords too - in fact chords first is a good idea, so you have a context for the melody notes (key scale, chord tones). But really just try to pick up anything you can; it's all pieces of the jigsaw.
Those old tunes are great for understanding the links between melody and chords, and the power of sturdy melodic phrasing.
I'd also suggest trying to learn vocal melodies from songs of the same era (or any era!). The difference between timbres of guitar and voice can make that harder, but of course you have a much greater choice of melodies to learn. Melodic vocabulary is the best tool in your improvisation bag.
#26
One big part of improvising is being able to change gears. Going from a flowing melody to a legato passage, going from fairly flat lines to angular lines, quiet to loud, etc
This is one of the big things that makes the difference between meaningless scale noodling and improv worth listening to.
#27
Start with a song that you don't know how to play (obviously)
But one that you know very very well.
Ideally it would have a fairly clean guitar that is up front and obvious.

If you the song has a clean guitar that is very easy to hear and relatively simple then it would also be a good choice - even if you don't know it already.

Nursery rhymes or traditional familiar melodies that you know but don't currently know how to play are also good exercises to use. ThreeBlindMice, Twinkle Twinkle, Amazing Grace, Swing Low Sweet Chariot etc

Some really easy pop songs to figure out are
Hey There Delilah - plain white ts
Love Yourself - Justin beiber
Thinking out loud - ed sheeran
they all have really clear guitar parts that are pretty simple but chicks love these songs

You can use your computer to slow down or repeat parts of more difficult songs. Try starting with a single lick that you like from a song and repeat it then see if you can figure it out.

In some songs with multiple guitars it can be helpful to isolate either the left or right channels as the guitar(s) are often panned to one side or the other. Isolating the channel can help you get some of the other instruments out of the way so you can hear the guitar more clearly. (The Doors and Guns n Roses are two that immediately spring to mind but this panning concept is extremely common.

Also sing the notes on your guitar and play and sing through intervals
Si
#28
I'm not that great of an improviser but I have a couple tips. First you may want to find a friend or good teacher and jam with him/her (it's a great way of coming up with melodies and can extend your vocabulary). I second learning the melodies to songs (I like to learn bass versions of the vocal melody and switch between that and the riff and/or bassline) along with the bassline (or riff if you're a guitarist). This can really help your playing as both a guitarist and a bassist.

You'll definitely want to learn barre-chords (almost essential for chord progressions), ear training (even mild ear-training can get you a long way), intervals (obviously), and knowing the fretboard by heart (as in without looking).
"I don't know what you're trying to suggest. There's no shame in taking what you need to hold your position!"

Super Buu (DBZ) on assimilation (it could also apply to blues guitar and guitar soloing in general).
#29
With improvisation, it has to do a whole lot with having an ear and doing more listening than thinking. A good ear is the most crucial thing to being a great guitarist and musician.

Understanding chord functions in a key, how to play arpeggios (triads and sevenths, at least) of each chord, and basic minor pentatonic scale can all be very helpful theory knowledge. But, even with this knowledge, you'll have to fall back on point one.

Like anything, it takes practice to become better at it, and these are just some tools to make that practice a bit easier for you. I also agree with a few other people saying to learn some licks in your favorite solos and apply them to your improvisation.
Skip the username, call me Billy
#30
Quote by aerosmithfan95
With improvisation, it has to do a whole lot with having an ear and doing more listening than thinking. A good ear is the most crucial thing to being a great guitarist and musician.




I find that's the case with most things. People tend to ask "How do I do that?" But I think things are less about doing, less about action, and more about reaction. Less doing, and more listening. For a lot of things, from sports to martial arts, to music.

And that always makes me think of Bruce Lee's water video.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cJMwBwFj5nQ

But before you can do that, you need to master the basics. If you play dodgeball, dodgeball is easy, but first you need to be able to walk, and run, and then you think of where you are going, not how to go, and you just listen, and react. And walking and running is so simple and easy for you, that you've got it right when you want it, without hesitation.

And that makes me think of another bruce lee video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yN1o51iuWUY


That's really soloing to me, those videos. But there is a lot of training you need to do on guitar to be able to solo that way. And that's learning how music works, the key, and scales, exercising your fingers knowing where all the chords are on the fretboard and all that. Learning all of these things in order to easily have access to honest expression. Along the way, that might be learning some licks and stuff like that, just like Bruce Lee learned patterns of movement for kung fu, but just going through the patterns, or doing dazzling runs is like he was talking about, that showy stuff with a cocky feeling, but truly what you want is honest expression.

And you can sort of do that from day one even. You can give me two notes, and I can honestly express myself using only those, but the more I learn, the broader of scope of my expression becomes, and the more sort of precise I can express myself, like learning a lot more vocabulary, until you can truly say exactly what you mean anytime.

But every instrument is a little bit limiting. We only have 10 fingers. Guitar has only 6 strings, you can only play one note per string, really, and the logistics of what you can or can't do are limiting, and all you can do is as much you can. And a lot is ultimate possible, a hell of a lot, but you can't literally do anything, you are always a bit limited at least, the same way like if you limit yourself to 2 notes, except with a much much larger realm of possibility.
#31
What someone was saying upthread about the context you're going to be improvising in is also hugely important. The style (jazz, rock, blues, country, avant garde) will dictate how you prepare. Also consider who you're going to improvise with. Just you and a drummer? A group with drums, bass, another guitar, keyboard and a singer? Different formats require different skills, and may allow for different degrees of flexibility when it comes to improvising.
#33
Quote by AlanHB
To improvise over a song I:

1. Identify the key of the song.
2. Improvise using the appropriate scale/s for the key.


A good start, but it's important to note that what constitutes "melodic" to human ears is very much influenced by how the melody interact with the chords. Take a a great melody for example, and put that over a different chord progression even within the same key and it might not sound so great anymore. So learning chord tones, how to anticipate and target them in your solo can really bring the solo to the next level.
#34
Quote by donfully
A good start, but it's important to note that what constitutes "melodic" to human ears is very much influenced by how the melody interact with the chords. Take a a great melody for example, and put that over a different chord progression even within the same key and it might not sound so great anymore. So learning chord tones, how to anticipate and target them in your solo can really bring the solo to the next level.


Yeah for sure. A good solo/improv at it's heart is a matter of hitting the chord tones and finding ways to get from one to the other. You need to be aware of the harmonic context whilst you're improvising.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
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Last edited by AlanHB at Mar 21, 2016,
#35
Chord tones are great, and present in every great solo, but I find thinking about playing chord tones or using any sort of logic or reasoning to solo, can hurt the intangibles that make an improvisation great.

So, for me, theory-wise my mind thinks just like if I was singing an improvisation. Just the sound of the notes in my mind, and listening to the music. All the theory served to transform the guitar into a conduit to directly externalize my thoughts, the same way my voice can do for single notes.

So.sure. the contrast with the harmony etcetera, matters a lot, but for me, not so much from a theory point of view, but just from a sound point of view. So you react to the feel, and not numbers and figures.
Last edited by fingrpikingood at Mar 21, 2016,
#36
Here's a little trick I learned that will help you master C Major (once you do that, you'll be great at improv and melodies). C Major might have 7 diatonic tones but I believe it actually has 10 useful tones. They are Eb/D# (adds a hint of C Minor), F# (good for a Lydian flavor or tasty dissonance), and G# (augmented 5th is great for tasteful dissonance and/or a spacey feel). I still haven't actually mastered C Major myself and may never do it (too many possibilities). The trick is to utilize the C Major triad and keep the accidentals under control.

Chord tones are good but don't stick to them religiously (that will just be unoriginal).
"I don't know what you're trying to suggest. There's no shame in taking what you need to hold your position!"

Super Buu (DBZ) on assimilation (it could also apply to blues guitar and guitar soloing in general).
#37
Quote by RonaldPoe
Here's a little trick I learned that will help you master C Major (once you do that, you'll be great at improv and melodies). C Major might have 7 diatonic tones but I believe it actually has 10 useful tones. They are Eb/D# (adds a hint of C Minor), F# (good for a Lydian flavor or tasty dissonance), and G# (augmented 5th is great for tasteful dissonance and/or a spacey feel). I still haven't actually mastered C Major myself and may never do it (too many possibilities). The trick is to utilize the C Major triad and keep the accidentals under control.

Chord tones are good but don't stick to them religiously (that will just be unoriginal).


If you mean Cmajor the chord, then the surroundings notes that are stronger and more useful, depend on where in the key the Cmajor chord is.

It can also depend on the sort of music. In blues, you'd be fine playing the flat 3rd, that's part of the minor pent, but that doesn't work so well in other types of music.
#38
Quote by fingrpikingood
Chord tones are great, and present in every great solo, but I find thinking about playing chord tones or using any sort of logic or reasoning to solo, can hurt the intangibles that make an improvisation great.

So, for me, theory-wise my mind thinks just like if I was singing an improvisation. Just the sound of the notes in my mind, and listening to the music. All the theory served to transform the guitar into a conduit to directly externalize my thoughts, the same way my voice can do for single notes.

So.sure. the contrast with the harmony etcetera, matters a lot, but for me, not so much from a theory point of view, but just from a sound point of view. So you react to the feel, and not numbers and figures.

When you are actually playing a solo, just play. The point of learning all of the chord tones and scales and stuff is to be able to forget about them and just play. When you have theory to explain the sounds, it's easier to internalize the sounds. If you practice targeting chord tones, you will also naturally start coming up with melodies that target those chord tones and you don't even really have to think about it.
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

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#39
Quote by MaggaraMarine
When you are actually playing a solo, just play. The point of learning all of the chord tones and scales and stuff is to be able to forget about them and just play. When you have theory to explain the sounds, it's easier to internalize the sounds. If you practice targeting chord tones, you will also naturally start coming up with melodies that target those chord tones and you don't even really have to think about it.


Ya sure, learn where the sounds are. I'm just saying that soloing while thinking of whether or not you're playing chord tones, or designing a solo with a plan to hit chord tones or whatever, I find hurts the process.

A good phrase is a good phrase, and it will or it won't have whatever number of chord tones in it. The quality of the phrase is in the phrase. Just like a poetic quote is not good because it uses a metaphor, or two, or an adjective or three, or some number of verbs. It is good because of the specific journey those specific words take you on.

You can train your fingers to run through chord tones and given scales at given times, but to me, that impedes the magic from doing its thing. For me, it's the idea as a whole, specifically. The specific way the specific notes interact with the rest. All of their character, vibrato, note length, bends, how they syncopate with the rest of the music and contrast with the harmony.

Whether it is chord tones or not makes no difference to me. What matters is the phrasing, how it sounds and feels. All the theory is the location of the sounds you want to access. The phrasing is separate. It's an idea you can have with or without an instrument. With or without any knowledge of music theory whatsoever.

But an idea like that can only be sung, or exist in your mind, unless you learn where the sounds are on an instrument. And to me, that's theory. That's what it is for. Not so much how to create music, or write good solos or harmonies or whatever.

But a way to show where the ideas you've written are located, so you can play them

For me a chord tone is a chord tone, and if I want to play a chord, then it has that meaning, then it is related to a chord. Any other time, it is a note in the key, or beside it, or in a scale, and I play the one I want. It doesn't ever ocur to me whether it is a chord tone or not. I don't really care either. It not important to me. The phrase is, and as long as I can play it, I'm good. Chord tones or not overcomplicates things for me. Especially on guitar, where I might run through chord tones which don't belong to chord grips I tend to use.

It's just not significant information to me, and never was. But learning chords obviously is, lots of way to play them obviously is, I certainly frequently use chord tones when i solo also. I run through arpeggios too, but not always of the chord that's playing. I run through those on a key relative basis as well. For me the key is the big map that shows me where the sounds are. Chords are groups of those.

But I also frequently don't. It is what it is. A chord tone sounds like what it sounds like, every specific one sounds a specific way, same for all the other possible notes. You either want that sound or you don't. But that's what you're doing, right? Choosing the timing of specific tones.

So, for me, just learn where the sounds you want are, and play those. They will or won't be chord tones. It doesn't matter, as long as you choose the one you want.

If you solo by singing or in your mind, then you are free of logic and patterns and theory, and that's when you can truly freely practice your phrasing. And the idea of whether or not you sing or imagine a chord tone, will never cross your mind. Most likely anyway, and if it does, then your mind wasn't where it should have been, imo. Right? You can sing an improvisation over a rune without any knowledge of theory whatsoever. The design doesn't need that information, the execution does.

So, sure, solos use chord tones, and it will often happen that you settle on one on a chord change, especially one of the heavier ones, like a multiple of 4 bar. But if you phrase phrases you like, and you know where they are on your fretboard, then whatever number of chord tones that was, is exactly the perfect amount.

I just don't find it a useful thing to focus on. I'm sure that's different for different people, and everybody should do what suits them, and what they enjoy. But that's my philosophy.
Last edited by fingrpikingood at Mar 21, 2016,
#40
Quote by fingrpikingood
Chord tones are great, and present in every great solo, but I find thinking about playing chord tones or using any sort of logic or reasoning to solo, can hurt the intangibles that make an improvisation great.

So, for me, theory-wise my mind thinks just like if I was singing an improvisation. Just the sound of the notes in my mind, and listening to the music. All the theory served to transform the guitar into a conduit to directly externalize my thoughts, the same way my voice can do for single notes.

So.sure. the contrast with the harmony etcetera, matters a lot, but for me, not so much from a theory point of view, but just from a sound point of view. So you react to the feel, and not numbers and figures.


I understand - basically just listen and feel. Regardless of the approach you'll find the stuff you like involves hitting certain chord tones, whether you do it consciously or subconsciously.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
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