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Old 01-27-2023, 10:11 AM
RockyRacc00n RockyRacc00n is offline
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Default Want to understand the mind of someone improvising

I know basic theory, chord/scale shapes, CAGED system but I still can’t effectively solo unless it is something I worked out and rehearsed. If I try to do something on the spot, it’s all a jumbled mess.

For those of you who are experts, what’s going through your mind when you are soloing? Are you hearing what you want to play in your head and your fingers just know where to go? If that’s what needs to happen, should I be practicing trying to hear what I want to play? For example, before I even get to the guitar, should I be able to hum what I want to play over a chord progression first? If I can’t hear it in my head, how can I even play it?

Is that the thinking?

Last edited by RockyRacc00n; 01-28-2023 at 11:51 AM.
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Old 01-27-2023, 11:20 AM
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I think unrehearsed soloing in front of an audience is a myth. I think anyone that tells you otherwise has drunk too much kool-aid.
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Old 01-27-2023, 11:27 AM
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Originally Posted by TBman View Post
I think unrehearsed soloing in front of an audience is a myth. I think anyone that tells you otherwise has drunk too much kool-aid.
no Barry

it's not

I do it all the time,

My problem is when I get asked what I just did, I really can't copy it again unless it was recorded.
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Old 01-27-2023, 11:50 AM
stanron stanron is offline
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It is possible to 'hear' a section of music in zero time and then play it. When I improvised and this happened, it was very satisfying. Other times I would play notes I knew would work, or sound OK, and use that as a basis to go forward.

You could interpret that as using music theory as a basis for improvising, but when I started doing this I had no knowledge of music theory at all. I knew a few scale patterns and I knew which notes made up the chords which were being played but I didn't know that this was called music theory. I simply associated sounds with finger positions on the fret board. And I did it a lot and got better at it.

Many years later I came across music theory and that gave me a vocabulary I could use to talk about it.

I think the most important skill is associating sound with your physical interaction with the instrument plus the ability to imagine the sound in the first place.

Composition is organising sounds that you can imagine. Improvising is composing 'on the fly'.
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Old 01-27-2023, 01:02 PM
Andyrondack Andyrondack is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RockyRacc00n View Post
I know basic theory, chord/scale shapes, CAGED system but I still canÂ’t effectively solo unless it is something I worked out and rehearsed. If I try to do something on the spot, itÂ’s all a jumbled mess.

For those of you who are experts, whatÂ’s going through your mind when you are soloing? Are you hearing what you want to play in your head and your fingers just know where to go? If thatÂ’s what needs to happen, should I be practicing trying to hear what I want to play? For example, before I even get to the guitar, should I be able to hum what I want to play over a chord progression first? If I canÂ’t hear it in my head, how can I even play it?

Is that the thinking?
Wow you got some great questions there, people who ask the right questions usually get to where they want to be.

I'm certainly no expert but I can improvise as well as my technical ability allows. But I started from a different place to you, I never learned caged system or scale shapes and boxes etc. I learned chords as I needed them by working out what notes the chord should contain and then counting the scale intervals up the strings one fret at a time till I had enough notes to make a chord, going through that process over and over meant that the intervals of each chord + the intervals around it got burned into my memory.

So to begin with I didn't know in advance what an improvised phrase would actually sound like but I knew that if I stuck to chord tones they would never sound bad. So to begin with just do that, if you have an interesting chord progression with frequent changes that can be enough to sound good, otherwise you need to introduce non chord tones to get some melodic interest going.

I used to see it as a join the dots picture, the dots are the chord tones which get joined together with passing tones , occasionally play a 2nd or 6th from the chord on a strong beat to get some melodic interest...hear what it sounds like.
Improvise over the chord progression to a song and sing the words in your head, that will tell you where the next chord change is coming round. You can just copy the rhythm of the lyrics, that will get your intervals organised into actual discreet phrases .
Eventually your brain should start to identify the intervals and arpeggios played with the sounds of the phrases.
I think what actually goes through my head is more the song lyrics and the general sound of the chord rather than any precise prediction of the phrase I'm about to play. Though some licks get played over and over , same licks different songs so with those yes I do know what they're going to sound like just because I've used them so many times before. Eric Clapton said in an interview once that he basically does the same thing, use stock phrases and eventually they get to be pretty familiar.
Always know where the 1st beat of the bar is, most of the time that's going to be where the chord changes. At times anticipate that change by playing a pick up note to lead into the new chord.
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Old 01-27-2023, 01:12 PM
jwing jwing is offline
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Did you need to rehearse posing your questions here? Probably not. Could you have written those questions when you were 5 years old? Probably not. The point is that you have to gradually build upon the knowledge and skills that you have already developed.

Here's one skill progression that will move you forward:
1. Start with the key A Major.
2. Know the I, IV, and V chords of that key. Notice that the root notes of those chords can be played on the open 5, 4, and 6 strings.
3. Learn one triad of each those chords on strings 1, 2, 3.
4. Understand how those triads are constructed with the root, third, and fifth scale tones of the root scale. [Ex: The D major triad is constructed of the Root (D), third (F#), and fifth (A)].
6. Build on that knowledge by teaching yourself how to find the scale tones that are closest to each of the triad tones.
7. Play a steady bass-note root with your thumb while you noodle the scale tones based on the triad with your fingers. Play familiar melodies and make stuff up as you go. Repeat one million times.
8. Switch bass notes, go to the appropriate triad and repeat 7.
9. Do Steps 7. and 8 in sequence. Repeat one million times.
10. Add the third chord into the mix and practice one million times.
11. Learn that every major chord has three different triad shapes on the top three strings - learn them.
12. Repeat Steps 6-9, using all nine triad forms - one million times.
13. You did use a metronome for all these steps, right? If not, go back to Step 7 and repeat all while staying in time with a metronome.
13. Congratulations! You now can improvise in the key of A major, playing with the changes, anywhere on the fretboard! Wasn't that easy? The correct answer is: A heckofalot easier than trying to integrate scale shapes and CAGED.
14. Did you discern the hidden secret? All you have to do to is learn the three major triad shapes and where A and D occur on the top three strings. If you know where all the Ds are, then you know where all the Es are, too. Seriously, that should not be difficult. It just takes persistence.

Last edited by jwing; 01-27-2023 at 01:29 PM.
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Old 01-27-2023, 02:17 PM
RockyRacc00n RockyRacc00n is offline
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Thank you all for your responses. There were some helpful answers.
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Old 01-27-2023, 02:53 PM
Gordon Currie Gordon Currie is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TBman View Post
I think unrehearsed soloing in front of an audience is a myth. I think anyone that tells you otherwise has drunk too much kool-aid.
Really? Then why is it called improvisation?

A few generations of jazz players would take issue with this.

Watch this and see if you feel it could have been rehearsed:

Oscar Peterson
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Old 01-27-2023, 02:56 PM
Mandobart Mandobart is offline
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IMO there's a difference between "knowing some theory and scales" and being able to use this knowledge real-time to improvise.

Three things that help me:

1. Know the key I'm playing in - sharps or flats, the flatted 3rd, the flatted 7th, etc

2. Know the fretboard so I know where those notes are. I don't think about boxes, shapes or systems. I simply know "this note at this fret is a G#, which fits the key of A which I'm currently playing in."

3. The many many hours I've spent practicing and performing the first two.
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Old 01-27-2023, 03:14 PM
Gordon Currie Gordon Currie is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RockyRacc00n View Post
For those of you who are experts, what’s going through your mind when you are soloing?
I'm thinking of the chords (if any), the rhythm, possibly the musical style (to incorporate any idioms), and any existing melody.

As important to me as specific notes I play is the PHRASING. That generally relates more to rhythm than to harmony, and I find is often lacking in guitar players learning improv.

I don't pre-hear a lot, but when I do, it might be a little scrap of melody that starts off a line. What I do often hear (or visualize) is a group of POSSIBILITIES which I then instantly pick from.

When I come up with an interesting phrase while rehearsing, I play around with it - slowing it down/speeding it up, changing the emphasis, permutating it through keys and scales. These then become little nuggets that I might remember in the heat of improv.

Fundamentally, I believe one needs to practice improv in order to get better at it.
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Old 01-27-2023, 03:46 PM
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Regarding improvising effectively I would say it's a bunch of patterns (chords, scales, picking patterns) you have played and ingrained in the past and having
a good enough ear for notes, timing and melody lines that you can flow as you anticipate what will come next. Each player has accumulated his own collection
of these things he or she can call on without much thought. It's not just playing a bunch of random stuff. You do have to practice improvising to put the parts
together efficiently (then you get those collections of parts under your fingers).
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Last edited by rick-slo; 01-27-2023 at 03:54 PM.
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Old 01-27-2023, 04:03 PM
jwing jwing is offline
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Check this:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8YuVjrNUWy4
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Old 01-27-2023, 04:44 PM
Robin, Wales Robin, Wales is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RockyRacc00n View Post
I know basic theory, chord/scale shapes, CAGED system but I still canÂ’t effectively solo unless it is something I worked out and rehearsed. If I try to do something on the spot, itÂ’s all a jumbled mess.

For those of you who are experts, whatÂ’s going through your mind when you are soloing? Are you hearing what you want to play in your head and your fingers just know where to go? If thatÂ’s what needs to happen, should I be practicing trying to hear what I want to play? For example, before I even get to the guitar, should I be able to hum what I want to play over a chord progression first? If I canÂ’t hear it in my head, how can I even play it?

Is that the thinking?
Listening to recordings of the type of music you want to play should be a formal part of your practice - to get the sounds in your head. If you want to bluegrass solo, then listen to a lot of bluegrass. If you want to blues solo, then listen to a lot of blues. If you want to jazz solo, then listen to a lot of jazz. And so on.

To practice matching your hand movements to sound try picking some basic but strong melodies like "Danny Boy" or "Tennessee Waltz", or any other melody you can sing, and find it on your guitar.

Finally, a lot of guitar soloing is somewhat formulaic and tends to be built around riffs that "fall to the fingers", particularly from simple chord shapes. So listen out for them when watching others play and you'll soon start to fathom the "mystery" of soloing.
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Old 01-27-2023, 04:59 PM
Italuke Italuke is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TBman View Post
I think unrehearsed soloing in front of an audience is a myth. I think anyone that tells you otherwise has drunk too much kool-aid.
Incorrect. Players do it ALL the time. Inexperienced players do not. Those that have a substantial vocabulary of note combinations (licks, whatever) to draw upon do it regularly.
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Old 01-27-2023, 05:09 PM
Dave Hicks Dave Hicks is offline
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If I "wrote" and rehearsed a solo in advance, not only would I not play it right, but trying to remember what I'd worked out would get me totally tangled up.

I usually play off chord notes, trying to work the melody in, too.

D.H.
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