#1
...so do you guys have any tips. i know quite a bit of theory. i can compose songs and i know my scale forms and all that, but i just can't improvise. it always sounds really dumb and doesn't flow at all. does anyone have a tip or two? i have checked out the lessons on this website, but they don't really help me that much.
#3
I think you should take it back a step. If I said you were playing major/minor scales (instead of pentatonics) would I be right? Well take a step back and start playing the simple pentatonic scales.

Once you've learnt a few shapes (2 or 3 is fine) of the pentatonic scale, you probably should try to focus on what you feel is the right next note and play REALLY slow. Try to listen to some of those slow expressive blues solo's to get what I mean. Whilst doing this, try to become proficient at moving around the fretboard and between shapes. Aim to be able to slide between 3 or 4 notes on the same string.
Copying a singers phrasing and rhthym is generally a good idea to when learning how to improvise. And I dont mean metal singers/screamers, who sing really fast. Copy something slow. This is how people started writing those slow blues solo's.


Doing this will get your phrasing (by copying those singers) and your technique (by moving between shapes) ready for doing some real solo's (as in, stuff that sounds good).


Than after you've got all that down and when you're good enough to say that you personally enjoy what you're playing (it took me a couple of years to enjoy my pentatonic wankery), you'll be ready to move on. Than study the major scale, the intervals behind it, the way these intervals create harmonic/melodic consonance and dissonance and watch melodic control by marty friedman. Pretty much look for and study as much theory as you can eat. And analyse solo's, ask yourself, why do they sound good?
At this stage you should start realising that the same note can sound better or worse over different chords and some notes sound better or worse when followed (or preceeded) by some notes. Exploiting this will enable you to control what you're solo's are going to feel like, instead of blindly looking for the right note.
#6
Practice alot on a jam track. For instance: Compose a track like E5 - G5 - B5, with drums and stuff. And play it. Grab your guitar and play in the Em scale. Try things like bending, bending helps really much for abetter solo.Just practice, and also without a track so you`re just playing a scale. But keep the variation.
#7
Quote by :-D
Watch and apply the concepts from Marty Friedman's "Melodic Control", it's quite a good video.


It's a great video, but I'd say it's for someone who's actually got a grasp on improvising already.

My advice. Steal other people's licks.

Figure out what style you'd like to incorporate into your playing and figure out their licks.

Say if you want to be doing some blues/classic rock kind of stuff, grab a bunch of Licks from guys like Stevie Ray Vaughan and Eric Clapton or any of a hundred other people. Learn their licks, figure out how to play them in different keys, and then practice them over some kind of back track. Maybe something you wrote or just something from the net. Practice stringing the various licks you've learned together into one solo, and practice phrasing each lick in different ways.

You can also just record and loop yourself playing a single chord. Then pick three notes, or even two notes, and practice improvising using only those two notes (obviously you can bend them however you want too). Once you're comfortable with that, try three notes, and so on.

If you're into metal it'll be slightly more difficult. Maybe start your way up by coping Kirk Hammett (It's mostly Em Pentatonic, so it's the easiest place to start) then work your way up to Marty Friedman.

Most guitar players get their styles because they tend to emulate their favorite guitar players, and your own style develops out of that.

So. Steal licks, and make em your own.
#8
^An entire solo with just stolen licks will teach you nothing and wont transmit the feeling you are feeling when imporivising. Sure licks are great when you get uncreative, but dont use them as a crutch
Quote by MaXiMuse
Try things like bending, bending helps really much for abetter solo.Just practice, and also without a track so you`re just playing a scale. But keep the variation.
Bending is a way of getting from one note to another smoothly. If your bending the wrong notes you could wreck the feeling you were trying to achieve. Like if you wanted a bright-ish love song, and you bent the root note of the chord playing, it would create a b2 with the chord causing a really dark feel.

If you really want to bend, bend out of scale notes and keep bending untill they sound intune.
#9
demon gave some good advice for lead playing. also LOTS and i do mean LOTS of practice. also interval training. which is being able to identify the space between notes, this can really help you translate what you hear in your head to the guitar and the better you get the more natural it becomes. nobody goes from n00b to stevie ray/gilmour/satch/insertfamousguitaristnamehere overnight. personally i'm only decent at improv'ing leads and i've been doing it for the better half of 10 years now.

all this information is valid to both leads and rhythm.
#11
I'm working on my improvision too, I just get a jam track going on power tab and find stuff that fits well. Also, steal a little bit from your influences. Not directly, just types of styles.
#12
Quote by :-D
icronic: If he has the theory side down, I'd say that video will help him regardless of current improvising ability.


You might be right, but here's how I look at it:

The concepts in that video require a lot of thought while playing. When I watched it the first time, I noticed that I was already doing a lot of the things he talked about naturally simply because I could hear the right notes, the video simply made me more aware of what I was doing, but I also started to think about it while playing.

Thinking and improvising aren't really a great combination. Ideally we should be able to feel the music instead.

If you can feel the flow of someone elses music, and you copy them, it reduces the thought involved, especially if you've spent a good deal of time practicing it.

You simply don't introduce someone who can't solo, to the concept of soloing with chord tones. It puts people in the mindset of "I can't" or "I Shouldn't" do this.

Why learn an advanced concept when your basic skills are lacking?

You can play some damn fine solos in a single pentatonic box, without ever paying the slightest bit of attention to the chord you're playing over.

Of course to play truly spectacular solos you'd definitely need to apply the concepts in that video, but we've got to be bad before we're good, and good before we're great.
#14
alright so i will watch melodic control and start using pentatonic scales. i already know the intervals. looks like i better start lawl. thanx guys
#15
Quote by icronic
You might be right, but here's how I look at it:

The concepts in that video require a lot of thought while playing. When I watched it the first time, I noticed that I was already doing a lot of the things he talked about naturally simply because I could hear the right notes, the video simply made me more aware of what I was doing, but I also started to think about it while playing.

Thinking and improvising aren't really a great combination. Ideally we should be able to feel the music instead.

If you can feel the flow of someone elses music, and you copy them, it reduces the thought involved, especially if you've spent a good deal of time practicing it.

You simply don't introduce someone who can't solo, to the concept of soloing with chord tones. It puts people in the mindset of "I can't" or "I Shouldn't" do this.

Why learn an advanced concept when your basic skills are lacking?

You can play some damn fine solos in a single pentatonic box, without ever paying the slightest bit of attention to the chord you're playing over.

Of course to play truly spectacular solos you'd definitely need to apply the concepts in that video, but we've got to be bad before we're good, and good before we're great.
Well I believe that post just lowered my IQ a few points.

Writing good music involves writing with your mind (as in what you know sounds good), your heart (as in what feeling your conveying) and your ear (as in what your music sounds like).

You need to take in account each aspect equally. How can you write sad music if you dont know what makes music sad? How can you write sad music if your not sad yourself? How can you write any music if your deaf? Truth is, you can't.
#16
Quote by :-D


What?

The whole idea is to be able to turn your mind off and simply feel the music, without spending a single thought on "Am I hitting the proper chord tones" "What are the intervals I'm playing" "what scale am/should I play?" or whatever.

There was an interview with Clapton I read somewhere that said exactly that, and did he happen to hit a note that sounded wrong he'd simply bend it until it sounded right.

I'm not sure how my saying that is worthy of a facepalm. Maybe it's a traditionally blues type of mindset, but in my experience the more you're thinking about what you're playing, the worse you'll play it. Basically you psyche yourself out.

So as I said, I figure the best way to do it is in a way that you'll introduce small and easy things step by step, practicing each part until it becomes natural and no longer needs to be included in your thought process.

I'm assuming since he's saying he sucks at improvising that he can't even play a decent solo that pleases him with the oh so common minor pentatonic box. I'm assuming that his phrasing is also lacking. Neither of those requires significant knowledge of theory. Neither requires a significant amount of thought.

I've run into a lot of players with a knowledge of theory that far surpasses my own, and a great many of them can't play a solo to save their life. They're too busy trying to analyze the notes they're playing, what works over what chord and so forth, and they choke and die when it's their turn to take a solo. Meanwhile they can write awesome song arrangements. Until you reach a a certain level of competency the more theory you try to apply to your imrpov, the worse you'll tend to do.

Ear, feel and touch are more important than theory. They come first. Theory comes in to refine and polish the rough edges. Those 3 thing's do not actually involve any coherent thought aside from: This sounds good, or this sounds bad.
#17
Quote by icronic
What?

The whole idea is to be able to turn your mind off and simply feel the music, without spending a single thought on "Am I hitting the proper chord tones" "What are the intervals I'm playing" "what scale am/should I play?" or whatever.

There was an interview with Clapton I read somewhere that said exactly that, and did he happen to hit a note that sounded wrong he'd simply bend it until it sounded right.

I'm not sure how my saying that is worthy of a facepalm. Maybe it's a traditionally blues type of mindset, but in my experience the more you're thinking about what you're playing, the worse you'll play it. Basically you psyche yourself out.

So as I said, I figure the best way to do it is in a way that you'll introduce small and easy things step by step, practicing each part until it becomes natural and no longer needs to be included in your thought process.

I'm assuming since he's saying he sucks at improvising that he can't even play a decent solo that pleases him with the oh so common minor pentatonic box. I'm assuming that his phrasing is also lacking. Neither of those requires significant knowledge of theory. Neither requires a significant amount of thought.

I've run into a lot of players with a knowledge of theory that far surpasses my own, and a great many of them can't play a solo to save their life. They're too busy trying to analyze the notes they're playing, what works over what chord and so forth, and they choke and die when it's their turn to take a solo. Meanwhile they can write awesome song arrangements. Until you reach a a certain level of competency the more theory you try to apply to your imrpov, the worse you'll tend to do.

Ear, feel and touch are more important than theory. They come first. Theory comes in to refine and polish the rough edges. Those 3 thing's do not actually involve any coherent thought aside from: This sounds good, or this sounds bad
Sorry if this sounds pretensious, but only noobs worry about if they're hitting the right notes or not. There are no right notes. So many jazzers have said "hit one wrong note, and its a mistake, hit two wrong notes and its cool," or something. Improvised solo's are completely subjective, dont worry about sounding bad.

Theres nothing wrong with applying intelligence and previously gained to improvisation.
#18
Quote by demonofthenight
Well I believe that post just lowered my IQ a few points.

Writing good music involves writing with your mind (as in what you know sounds good), your heart (as in what feeling your conveying) and your ear (as in what your music sounds like).

You need to take in account each aspect equally. How can you write sad music if you dont know what makes music sad? How can you write sad music if your not sad yourself? How can you write any music if your deaf? Truth is, you can't.


There are plenty of famous and very rich songwriters who "claim" to have no knowledge of theory. Also, as I recall Beethoven was deaf, and he wrote some rather good music. Of course, the counter argument is he did know his theory and he wasn't always deaf.

That said, and this is the important part. You're talking composition. I'm talking Improvisation.

Composition, sit down and write a song at whatever pace you choose

Improvisation, here's 12 bars, you've got a single shot to play a good solo.

Besides, I'm confused "how can you write sad music if you don't know what makes it sad". I don't know, I for one could tell fairly easily that a minor chord sounded sad, and a major chord sounded happy before I ever picked up an instrument.

And what, did you think music theory existed before music itself? How did people ever write songs? Theory exists to explain how music works, but that came a long time after music did. Yet people still managed to write songs that conveyed emotion without ever knowing why.

I'm not sure where you're coming from though, we're talking two entirely different things, and you're acting like I said Theory is bad, ignore theory. I didn't, I said it's a bad time to try to apply advanced concepts when you fail at the simple ones.

I sometimes think the people in this forum have become so advanced that they completely forget that there's a learning process. They answer a simple question, asked by a person with an obviously limited understanding with something incredibly complex and difficult to grasp.

If learning were a 10 step program, and the original person has steps 1 and 2 covered, people jump to 8-10 without ever considering that maybe he needs to fill in the middle.

In this case, with the limited information we have, he's got the first couple steps covered, and since he knows his theory he's got the later ones covered. You guys are suggesting one of the final steps instead of bothering to fill in anything in the middle.

I don't disagree with anything anyone is suggesting, I simply disagree with the priority it's being given.

Quote by demonofthenight
Sorry if this sounds pretensious, but only noobs worry about if they're hitting the right notes or not. There are no right notes. So many jazzers have said "hit one wrong note, and its a mistake, hit two wrong notes and its cool," or something. Improvised solo's are completely subjective, dont worry about sounding bad.

Theres nothing wrong with applying intelligence and previously gained to improvisation.


edit: to avoid making another post I'll simply expand this one.

You're totally correct.

But the key phrase is, applying intelligence and previously gained to improvisation.

From the sounds of it he's lacking previously gained abilities. You need that first.

And to clarify, I believe at some point even the most advanced concepts can be performed without having to think about it. After you do it enough, your ears and your fingers simply take over from experience.

I think that's where we're having a misunderstanding, the Melodic Control video did amazing things for my playing. The thing's talked about are incredibly important. But, I could already improvise quite well beforehand. That's the difference, and that's my key point.
Last edited by icronic at Jun 21, 2008,
#19
Gonna try to side step the ^ back and forth and say...

Mess around with it a lot. Stick on one note. Stick on one lick. Find a lick you like and just play that with tiny variations over and over. Don't be afraid to just pre bend and bend one note over and over and over again. It isn't about being a technically proficient guitarist, improv is about feeling the music. So relax and start having fun with it.
#20
Maybe just try to pick a simple scale, maybe the blues scale, don't put on a backing and start to mess with some basic licks. If you need to steal a few licks, thats fine. Then just mess round with changing the timing of the notes in the licks. Try bending some different notes, just put time into messing round with the notes of the scale to find short phrases that sound good.

I think stealaing a couple of licks is fine if you then use them to find some phrases of your own, do this enough and it should become more natural to create phrases more spontaniously and will evolve into longer melodic lines rather than just licks.

Once you're comfortable with this, start mixing it up over a backing track.

Then expand into more scales over more complex backings.

Give yourself a saftynet first of a few basic licks and not having to keep up with a backing track, when your comfortable finding some nice phrasing in a "free form" mode, then put it in time over different backings.

Thats what I tend to think will help.
#21
i just have a quick question. lets say i make a chord progression in the key of Am. Can i solo over it i Am pentatonic? also i checked out the vid of marty friedman and its seems helpful but i don't have the time to watch it right now.
#23
Quote by icronic

The whole idea is to be able to turn your mind off and simply feel the music, without spending a single thought on "Am I hitting the proper chord tones" "What are the intervals I'm playing" "what scale am/should I play?" or whatever.


Yeah, when you're improvising there's a different process going on. It might seem
like it's not "conventional" thinking compared to the type of linear, rational
processes you'd normally associate with thinking. That's just too slow to be of
much use. It is a type of thought in the sense you're thinking more about what
you want to say, than how. The how part needs a lot of time in the woodshed and
I think many people take too much of the how for granted. Whether you realize it
or not, the limits you have on how place direct limits on what you can say. You
may have a lot you want to say, but you can't say it because you don't know how.
Conversely, if you can't think of anything to say, it doesn't much matter how well
you can say anything.
#24
Quote by icronic
There was an interview with Clapton I read somewhere that said exactly that, and did he happen to hit a note that sounded wrong he'd simply bend it until it sounded right.

Are you sure that wasn't an interview about Jimi Hendrix? I'm pretty sure in my Jimi Hendrix dvd there was a part when someone (don't remember who. it might be Clapton) said that about Hendrix.
“Science cannot solve the ultimate mystery of nature. And that is because, in the last analysis, we ourselves are part of nature and therefore part of the mystery that we are trying to solve.”


-Max Planck

☮∞☯♥
#25
Also, what I found helped my improvisation, is to take a song, and when you get to the solo, play the first bars like the original recording, then go from there(as long as you know what scale they're using.)
If you want to work on your Pentatonic scales, Iron MAn and Stairway to heaven both use the pentatonic scale in their solos, so just try to make up your own solos in those songs. I find it helps because if gives you the feel and the scale, you jut need to make it your own.