#1
I practice to backing tracks and random songs good for improvising almost daily but i haven't been getting much progress. I know all positions of the scale and which ones to use for each key etc. it doesn't sound like I'm playing the scale but it doesn't sound particularly interesting either. Any tips on improving and playing more melodic interesting stuff, i feel like I've been stuck at the same level for a while now in terms of improvising?
#2
improvisation skills don't come from running up and down shapes

learn more music. you learn patterns from hearing them and relating that hearing into your playing.
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#3
Do you hear melodies in your head/are you after a certain sound or do you just move your fingers randomly in the scale shape? Also, have you learned how other guitarists use the pentatonic scale in their solos?

If you want to improvise a good solo, you need to have some kind of an idea. No scale on its own will sound good.

You may want to start with rhythm. Limit your note choice to something like three notes and only play around with the rhythm. Try to find ways to make those three notes sound as interesting as possible.

But yeah, pentatonic scale is just five different notes. Learn how the different notes in the scale sound like. But also remember that good solos are not all about the notes you play. It's also about things like rhythm and phrasing.

Also, maybe record your solos. You may have improved a lot without realizing it. Comparing your old recordings to your newer recordings will show your progress.


Oh, one thing about improvising over backing tracks that I don't like is that the backing track doesn't react to your playing like real musicians do and it also usually just repeats the same thing over and over again. If the backing track stays the same for a long time and nothing happens in it, it may be hard to construct an interesting solo over it. Also, backing tracks are usually not part of any actual song so you don't have a song to give you any melodic material to use in your solo.
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Last edited by MaggaraMarine at Jun 2, 2016,
#4
play a typical 12-bar blues progression. listen to the way the harmony changes. then, with no backing track, try to improvise in a way that still suggests that harmony to the listener. figure out how to do that and you'll have a much better feel for how to give your solos tension and release.

easiest way is to start your phrases with the root note of every new chord change. then venture out from there.
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Last edited by vIsIbleNoIsE at Jun 2, 2016,
#5
Depends what backing you're improvising over. If it's a blues, you can follow the chords, using the same pentatonic off the key of the blues, and playing as near as you can to each chord tone just using the penatonic.

E.g. in A blues (A7, D7, E7),

the 1, b3, 5 and b7 of the Am pentatonic are very nearly the same as the intervals of A7 (which has a 3 rather than a b3). The 4 is a little clashy (for rock no one cares about that). So you can use the pentatonic pretty much unrestrained. If you want to accurately follow the chord, you can only play the 1, 5 and b7 of the Am pent. This is a good discipline

Against the D7, the 1, b3, 4 of the Am pentatonic match the 5, b7 and 1 respectively of the D7. The 5 of the Am pentatonic gives a 9th against the D7. But the b7 of the pentatonic is a little clashy (the 4 of the D7, which clashes against it 3rd). To accurately follow this chord you can play any of the penatonic intervals apart from its b7 )and leave out the 5 if you're being really strict)

Against the E7, the Am pentatonic 1 is clashy (this is the 4th of E7), the b3 of the pentatonic isespecially clashy (the b6 of E7), the 4 of the Am pent is good (the b7 of E7), the 5 is good (the 1 of E7), and the b7 of the pent is a little clashy (the b3 of E7). Here, to accurately follow the chord, you can only use the 4 and the 5 of the Am pentatonic.

If you do the "accurate following", people will get a sense of the underlying backing, even if it's not actually played.

Where i say e,g "the b6 of E7" above, this doesn't mean that interval b6 exists in the chord, rather I ,mean the interval b6 from the chord root. This is one semitone above the 5 of E7, a serious clash.

So, given the above, you can "follow" the chords by being careful about the more clashy notes, or strictly follow the chords.

This can be further developed by then adding in some of the chord tones not present in the pentatonic.

If you want to disguise the pentatonic you can use chromaticism, but really you should learn to express yourself musically without that. That's more about careful note choice against the backing, and especially about phrasing and developing the idea of the phrase. That gives a memorable structure to work with.

If you want to know about the chromatic approach, here's some beginner ideas (not beginner guitarist, but beginner to chromaticism) ... https://soundcloud.com/jerry-kramskoy-1/tips-for-using-chromaticism ... and accompanying lesson that references that track ...
https://www.ultimate-guitar.com/lessons/soloing/chromaticism_and_swing_picking.html
Last edited by jerrykramskoy at Jun 2, 2016,
#6
There's no logical recipe for making good music. The pentatonic scale is an important pattern, minor pent has a certain sound, and major pent has another, and every note within those sounds a certain way. Your job as an improviser, is to create interesting music. You can use these to find where the sounds you want to make are.

Any common habits anyone can tell you, like play thirds, or chord tones, or whatever, will not teach you how to make interesting solos, even though they won't be "wrong" or bad advice, per se. A lot of what makes a solo interesting is the specific timing, and the specific notes you choose, which can literally be any notes at all. Although you wouldn't stand on a passing tone, unless you want to make people cringe.

So, what I would do if I were you, is practice without a guitar. Imagine interesting solos. Think of theory as a tool to locate the notes you want on your guitar, rather than a way to create good music.

Sing the notes you want before you play them, and toy around with your pentatonic, so that you know it well. Not just a pattern you play notes from at random. No matter how complex you create algorithms or reasoning for creating solos, just choosing notes at random like that, will result in a very generic sort of lifeless feel. You need to know the notes, and want them, and use them to accentuate the timing you want.

There is no right or wrong, there is just what you feel. One set of notes might sound incredible with one timing, or bland and boring with another. So you really need to listen and think what the music makes you feel like, and then do that.

I will say this though, I think most people are more concerned about notes and scales when it comes to interesting music, whereas imo, the most important by far, is the timing, and pitch is just an accent for that.

There are only 12 notes, and only 7 of those are in a given key. Not all music is like the blues where you have multiple modes to choose from, and for those, really you kind of are choosing from 7 notes only, really. And what makes it interesting after that, is timing.
Last edited by fingrpikingood at Jun 2, 2016,
#7
Quote by mjpb
Any tips on improving and playing more melodic interesting stuff, i feel like I've been stuck at the same level for a while now in terms of improvising?

Keep an open mind. I usually find listening to Jeff Beck is a good remedy for this sort of thing.

It's also good to listen to music that has nothing to do with guitar playing. Sax players are a good source.

How is your transcribing? Do much ear training? Did any of your previous guitar teachers prescribe ear training exercises?
#8
One thing that may help you is to have a basic rhythm pattern which you will follow once in a while so that your solo sound more structured. Also focus on your target note. Pick up a terget note
and try to reach it in many ways. Finally something very useful for any kind of player when improvising in pentatonic is to use the "blues notes". To do this you'll have to learn the blues pentatonic, don't worry it's not a different scale, just 2 notes more : P
#9
Quote by DHF1234
To do this you'll have to learn the blues pentatonic, don't worry it's not a different scale, just 2 notes more : P


Is it? I've always played the blues scale with a single extra note, between the fourth and the fifth.

The blues scale is great as a dumbed down way to add some spice to your leads. I also recommend learning some blues bends, I think Guthrie Govan had a great video explaining some of those microtonal bends but I can't remember what it was.
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#10
Quote by Kevätuhri
Is it? I've always played the blues scale with a single extra note, between the fourth and the fifth..


A blues player will add all kinds of silly notes. The scale that I use to play blues goes 1, 2, /2, b3, d3, 3, d4, 4, /4, b5, d5, 5, d6, 6, b7, d7, 7, /7. There are like a million extra notes in there and most of them aren't even diatonic.
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#11
Quote by mjpb
Any tips on improving and playing more melodic interesting stuff, i feel like I've been stuck at the same level for a while now in terms of improvising?


1. Find solos you like.
2. Learn said solos by ear. (Which develops your ear)
3. Learn to sing the solo with the recording, then just with you playing, then just you singing (Further develops your ear)
4. Analyze said solo to find concepts to practice (rhythmic ideas, melodic ideas, Harmonic ideas)
5. Make your own exercises to get these concepts into your natural playing.
6. Repeat steps 1-5 for the rest of your life.

The best way to improve at anything is to learn it from someone who already knows it. If you want to be a good improviser you need to study great improvisers (that you like the music of), learn their music (Both so you can get all the articulation, dynamics, phrasing, tone, time feel into your playing, but also to study the language and tradition) and then make your own thing of the tools they used.

With a good ear and the theoretical knowledge to analyze & understand things as you learn them, you can learn pretty much anything given enough time.
Fusion and jazz musician, a fan of most music.

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#12
Here's everyone's lesson for the day. You're welcome.

https://youtu.be/OkaqfgSqtHg
https://youtu.be/Z9Hg4JdwMMg
Last edited by mdc at Jun 5, 2016,
#13
You're off to a good start by knowing your scales. What you need now is a strategy.

Checkout my blog on improvising: http://kevinomusiconline.com/wp/learn-to-improvise-in-three-easy-steps/">Learn to Improvise In Three Easy Steps

The steps are easy, but they will take time. Music operates like a language with an alphabet, vocabulary, grammar, and syntax. You have to put in the hours, days, weeks, months, and years to become truly fluent in it.

Don't get discouraged by that though. Everything little thing you learn, you can use immediately. And you'll always be able to add more.

Hit me up if you have any questions.

Good luck!
#14
Quote by Sickz
1. Find solos you like.
2. Learn said solos by ear. (Which develops your ear)
3. Learn to sing the solo with the recording, then just with you playing, then just you singing (Further develops your ear)
4. Analyze said solo to find concepts to practice (rhythmic ideas, melodic ideas, Harmonic ideas)
5. Make your own exercises to get these concepts into your natural playing.
6. Repeat steps 1-5 for the rest of your life.

The best way to improve at anything is to learn it from someone who already knows it. If you want to be a good improviser you need to study great improvisers (that you like the music of), learn their music (Both so you can get all the articulation, dynamics, phrasing, tone, time feel into your playing, but also to study the language and tradition) and then make your own thing of the tools they used.

With a good ear and the theoretical knowledge to analyze & understand things as you learn them, you can learn pretty much anything given enough time.


This is spot on.
#15
For me, the most important thing is learning the shit out of key scales, and pentatonic, step one. I don't mean just learning the shapes, that's just the first small step. I mean learning all the notes and what they sound like. takes a while. Once you do that, earing out solos should be easy, playing whichever ones you imagine should be easy, and knowing which notes are the in between ones, the outside ones, should be easy. Like what Guthrie was talking about. I mean, it's good information he was giving, but it is not really that useful if you don't know your key scale, and your chords, except for the idea that you can basically always escape out of a missed note by sliding over a half step. And also when he was talking about playing outside scales. Again though, requires knowledge of scales to be applicable.

I did some learning of solos when I was just starting out, and I still ear stuff out now, and it's useful, but knowing your key scale is far more powerful, imo, and without that, then learning solos from different guys is far less useful. I actually never really recycle licks at all. Never really did. I recycle some of my own just because I'm that way, just like I use my own slang and expressions that are kind of me, but I don't learn licks and throw them in. However, it does happen to me sometimes to have an idea that pops into my head, like idk, jurassic park theme, and then I'll play that, but not as a pattern I have memorized, as a sound I know, and finding the pattern is easy, because I know my key scale.

It's like kind of like the difference between feeding a man a fish for a day and teaching him to fish. For me learning licks is really kind of overrated, and learning your key scale is more important. Although, I think that learning licks is definitely something you should do, I would focus more on key scale, and only investigate licks you are really interested to know, and only after you have studied the keyscale, so you can place them in context. Otherwise, you didn't learn much, imo, except for a lick you can throw in every once in a while, which is ok, but to me, the best improv is just whatever you think and feel, rather than accessing a lick library.

It's like if you learn another language you might start with "where is the bathroom?" "how much is this?" "my name is..." you know, just sentences, which is completely different from knowing what all the words mean, and how they are conjugated, and being able to wield them and apply them to say whatever sentence, or meaning you can imagine, with full emotion. like "dude, where is your bathroom, I gotta take the hugest dump." Might be too much information, but at least it's honest you, not just accessing some general sentence that every person just learning the language learns.

Some people do like to learn languages that way. I prefer to go another route that's more directly geared towards giving you freedom of expression. And in music, that can happen very quickly. Faster than learning licks, imo. But learning some licks, like I said, can be a good compliment.