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  #16  
Old 01-27-2023, 05:17 PM
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Originally Posted by rmp View Post
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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Originally Posted by Gordon Currie View Post
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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Quote:
Originally Posted by rick-slo View Post
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).
^This
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  #17  
Old 01-27-2023, 06:25 PM
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Originally Posted by RockyRacc00n View Post
I know basic theory, chord/scale shapes, CAGED system but I still canít effectively solo unless it is something I worked out and rehearsed. If I try to do something on the spot, itís all a jumbled mess.

For those of you who are experts, whatís 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 thatís 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 canít hear it in my head, how can I even play it?

Is that the thinking?
Hi Rocky, i tend towork out of the chords finding the melody, which can be played exactly or "ragged" as you wish. For basic tunes you can use some pentatonic stuff

I#ve helped quite a lot of folks via one to one zoom meetings, so, maybe I could help you too.

If interested, let me know,
Best, Andy
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  #18  
Old 01-27-2023, 06:44 PM
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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.
It is a skill. Music is a language. If you have been married many years or have lived around a couple who has been married many years, you know that couples can often complete each other's sentences. That is because they have learned each other's ways of thinking and each others rhythm and phrasiology. Soloing is much like this.
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Originally Posted by stanron View Post
It is possible to 'hear' a section of music in zero time and then play it.
"Zero time." I like that. Those who solo in zero time do what is called "dropping into the zone," where you don't think but create intuitively. More below. I actually practice dropping into the zone where I can keep my mind ahead of my fingers and sort of "fire off macros."

I typically improvise over predictable, repeated chord changes. We play a song and then repeat a verse or a verse and a chorus or possibly a vamp but it is predictable. However, I have a friend who, when it is his turn to support as rhythm guitarist, takes the opportunity to improv on the song's progression, making the progression totally unpredictable. I feel like I am being sabotaged because it is virtually impossible to make my solo match up with his progressions. By contrast, when it is my turn to switch to rhythm, I make the progression as predictable as possible so that he, or whatever person is soloing, can turn off his mind and let it flow.
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Originally Posted by rick-slo View Post
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).
Yeah, after starting guitar in 1970, I started to improv in the early '70s working over the Allman Brothers' first three albums because I came to the conclusion that I would have to develop my own voice if I were to have a successful career. I started by learning other people's licks, then learned those licks' context - how to get in and out of them, and then started dropping those licks into my own solos. I also started developing my own licks. It's been a process of creating new licks and learning others ever since.

The song's progression just becomes a "fabric" in your mind. For me it isn't an intellectual thought process, I don't think the names or numbers of the chords, there isn't time for that. It is instead a progression of emotions, flavors, colors, or even internalizations of physical directions (up, down, left, right). You intuit that the song is going a direction and you grab a lead figure from memory and play it in sync with the progression. The fingers have to be so well-trained that you don't have to give them directions, you just shoot them a macro of the memory of the lick and move on to what's coming up. That's about the best I can do for a description.

Bob
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  #19  
Old 01-27-2023, 07:10 PM
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Originally Posted by Bob Womack View Post
It is a skill. Music is a language. If you have been married many years or have lived around a couple who has been married many years, you know that couples can often complete each other's sentences. That is because they have learned each other's ways of thinking and each others rhythm and phrasiology. Soloing is much like this...
Bob
Exactly. It's not as if they've never played a solo before. Stuff just accumulates in the head and finds its way to the fingers. Solo improvising isn't "cold turkey" playing and I think some people may be thinking that it is. It's rehearsed, but not exactly rehearsed.

I remember an older cousin of mine complaining about his accounting fees years ago. I said that I could do it for him free of charge. He declined, saying that his return is "complicated" because he has capital gains. Run of the mill from my perspective as we specialize in high income clients, but his return was unique from his point of view and his decision was made without knowing the full extent of my experience. People see someone "improvising" and only see the tip of the iceberg. They don't see the "miles" of practice and rehearsals that support it.
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Old 01-28-2023, 02:16 AM
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As far as the phrasing goes I treat all phrases as a journey which terminates briefly on a chord tone, some phrases I start with a pick up note a semi tone bellow a chord tone on a week beat, some phrases I start on a strong beat on a chord tone , I think a lot of players do the same thing or that's the way it sounds.
A David Hamburger lesson on swing guitar soloing in an AGM book was very useful to me and especially his introduction to the concept of sequencing ,but as I was always conscious of the intervals I was playing that made me predisposed to drop easily into using that method.
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  #21  
Old 01-28-2023, 05:12 AM
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[This began as an excessively long post, so I've cut it into two]
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Originally Posted by RockyRacc00n View Post
For those of you who are experts, whatís 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?
Partly, yes.

That is, my fingers know their places better than I do! I know all the notes and possible shapes for any chord, and my fingers will go there almost before I think about it.

As you're not a beginner yourself, I'm sure if you see (eg) a "C" chord symbol, I'll bet you see that shape in your head immediately and your fingers are already forming that shape, or ready to anyway. You don't have to think about where to put your fingers! When you play through a simple chord sequence of cowboy chords, provided you have your hand in the right place on the neck, you don't need to look at your fretboard to form the chord shapes.

The more experienced you get, the more you learn the whole fretboard in that way. You know every note, and every possible shape and position for any chord you come across. (Occasionally I have to think for second or two if I see something like Db13#11... - I know the notes it needs, but it's so rare that I have to think about the best shape for it.)

So - what I imagine in my head is not always that clear. There are blues licks which I've played countless times over the decades, and can hear perfectly in my head beforehand - well enough to sing along with them as I play them.

But for other kinds of phrases - more improvised ones, or licks I have played less often before - I can't hear exactly how they will sound. I know all the right notes at all times, of course - I mean, I see the chord shapes on the fretboard, so I know all the options I have for notes that will work. I know that I can hit any of those and they will sound good. I also know the character of individual chord tones and extensions, if I want to hit a specific mood. But what I can't quite hear clearly in my head is exactly how a phrase formed from all those choices will sound.

E.g., if I have a Dmaj7 chord followed by a G, I know all the possible places those chords can be played. I might decide I'm going to go for the 9th on the Dmaj7 (for extra poignancy), make something out of that along with the maj7, and 5th (say), and then lead from there into the 3rd of G. (That's the notes E C# A B). So that's the skeleton of my phrase, if you like - and I do know roughly what that will sound like (very "sweet", "wistful"). But I might fill in with one or two other scale notes - and I will apply a rhythm, I won't play dead on the beat.

That "thinking" process is barely conscious, it all happens in a second or two. Then when I play that phrase, it often sounds a little different from what I imagined. Not vastly different, obviously, but it's like an out-of-focus picture has suddenly become sharp.

I really like the fact that my improvisation can surprise me like that. I think I would be very bored if I could imagine everything precisely in my head beforehand. It's more like I know a whole lot of things that will work, and it doesn't matter too much which of them come out. But as they emerge, they can inspire me in another direction. "OK, that sounds like that, which means I can now play this...." It's a thread I'm following, as it pulls things out of my subconscious into the light. "Ah, OK, we're going this way now...."

Having the chord shapes all mapped out - seeing them before I play them - is an essential foundation for this process. It's like having a map of the territory you are exploring. Not only that, but you have walked around here many times before - you know all the paths, the map is in your head. But there is an infinite variety of routes you could take.
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Old 01-28-2023, 05:27 AM
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[Part two!]
Quote:
Originally Posted by RockyRacc00n View Post
If thatís 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 canít hear it in my head, how can I even play it?
Well, as I say, you don't have to hear it exactly. You can go for any chord tone you like, it will "work".

But there are two things (or groups of things) you need to do.

1. Experiment with playing single notes on various types of chord. Just one note, held or repeated. Every chord has its own character (major, dom7, min7, etc), and every note - out of all 12! - has a character or feeling against the chord. Each chord tone is a strong character in its own right - the 3rd being the most expressive (major or minor!). Then there's 7ths: b7 or maj7? 9ths, 6ths, 4ths. And the five chromatics last.
It's like you're a director and this is your cast of players. Seven to drive the narrative (following the "script" of the chord sequence), five to rudely interject at various points. And this is the kind of play where all the characters can improvise their lines in ensemble, provided they follow the logic of the narrative. I.e., they all know where they need to be at any time, but they make up their own dialogue to that purpose. But it's not chaos! You're directing them! You're in charge because (a) you know the script, and (b) you've known these 12 characters intimately for years!

2. Learn to play more melodies. I.e., what you need for good improvisation is melodic vocabulary: an understanding of how to shape notes into phrases that "make sense", that don't just sound random.
It's really common (even in jazz!) for guitarists to learn chords and play chord sequences, and never play any written melodies at all. The melody is considered to be the singer's job (or the horn player in a jazz group), and the guitar just backs them up. Then when it's the guitar's turn to solo, well they'll just pull out a scale or two they know and noodle around on that. Result: aimless generic improvisation; musically pretty much meaningless. Boring for the player as well as the listener. (Unless you can pull up some astounding technical feats, blinding everyone with science...)

[Personal history follows, in the hope it will be revealing....]

Back when I first started learning guitar, I had no idea what "improvisation" was. When I heard guitar solos, I thought they were just "going crazy", but in a good way! But my obsession at the time was guitar instrumentals (Shadows mainly) - their melodic and rhythmic power - and I was able to read notation, so I would play those melodies from the book. I was also learning folk guitar, so I bought a book of 100 folk songs and played those melodies too.

I also started making up my own tunes, right from the beginning, pulling together simple phrases I'd picked up from various different songs. I.e., some melodic fragments were already in my head, from all the music I'd heard. Melody and rhythm stuck in my head, while chords didn't (my ear was terrible, and I didn't really understand how chords worked). I just wanted to make music that "sounded like that" - like my favourite instrumentals, blues or rock'n'roll sounds. So as well as playing those tunes from books, I messed around on the guitar - clumsily of course, as a total beginner, but creativity was the whole point. The guitar was mine, and I was going to say what I wanted with it!

There are two points to this.

Firstly, it seemed a no-brainer to me to use the guitar inventively - not just to copy stuff. Just as when you give kid a bunch of coloured pencils, they're going to make stuff up. The guitar was my toy. So the drive to be inventive there from the start - in fact even before the start. (Before guitar, I'd messed around with a tape deck making sound collages.)

Secondly, I learned to play a lot of melodies. I soon realised how melodies worked with chords, how they used chord tones, how chromatic passing notes worked (I didn't have all this jargon then of course!). I was learning melodic language, not with any view to becoming a great improviser, but just because I liked melodies! I couldn't sing, so the melodies had to be played!

But it was also clear, listening to blues records, that those guys were making stuff up as they played. Not every version of the same song sounded the same. Not every verse sounded the same; they'd put little fills between the lines. So in learning that music - by ear! "making it sound like that"! - I was learning the habit of "making stuff up" as you played. You strummed a chord sequence, but you could add notes here and there, whenever you felt like it. That was what they did, so that was what I did (as far as my crude technique allowed).
It helped that I joined a band of friends, 9 months after starting guitar, but playing the 1-string bass. The only way to play that was to improvise! Nobody wrote parts for washtub bass! And of course the other guys would improvise their own parts a little. We''d have jam sessions where we almost wrote songs together.

Just to underline - none of this was done with any plan or future goal in mind. It was all about having fun in the present, and doing our best to "make it sound like that" (not just the composed parts of records, but the improvised parts too).

It just so happened that when I finally signed up for jazz courses, around 25 years later, it turned out - with hindsight - that I'd had the perfect foundation. My fellow jazz students - many of them good players and more knowledgeable about jazz than me - were baffling themselves with "chord-scale theory", struggling to improvise, as if they saw it as a complicated art that required formulas: "it's this chord type, so it needs this scale...". For me, it was a no-brainer. Play the melody, mess around with the melody, work up other phrases from the chord tones.

IOW, everthing you need is there is the music in front of you: the melody and the chords. That's your raw material. You still have the chord sequence as the map to follow - you don't have to make that up! No "theory" of any kind is required.

Of course, it goes without saying that you need to know your instrument well enough to find all those notes and chords! Your limitations are only technical - how fast you can get to the notes you want, how many ways you know how to play any chord. That's just a matter of practice. And practising chord arpeggios mainly, not scale patterns. The fretboard is a map of chord arpeggios. Forget scale patterns and learn arpeggios. Melody is nothing but routes between chord tones, broken into phrases with breathing spaces.

And last but not least - it's having that store of internalized melodic vocabulary (from playing 100s of other melodies) that enables you to make something musical out of the raw material of the song. To express yourself in any language, you need vocabulary.
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  #23  
Old 01-28-2023, 07:13 AM
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From an early age I was always a scale guy. I'm not sure it is best practice to think that way but for me I tend to think in terms of scale patterns. Once I knew patterns for the major scale, playing over different chords gave me modes. Then it was important to learn the modes of the melodic minor and harmonic minor scales (I only use two modes for harmonic). Also diminished scale features very heavily for the styles I play, but no modes for that one. I think of chords and scales/modes as the same thing. This makes arpeggios low hanging fruit. For every chord there is a scale and arpeggio; usually several that will work. Harmonic context has a lot to do with what you want, and there is choice of course. Learning this way helped me see how the same devices are used over and over by soloists that I might copy. And I copied a LOT. Cant under-emphasize that in my playing. My goal is to sound good rather than to have my own voice so it does not bother me if I sound like someone else. Actually when you copy so many different players you end up sounding like yourself anyway. So you get a vocabulary that can be applied. But I definitely tend to over-rely on pattern based licks in my playing- not an uncommon criticism for guitar players.

If it is a folk tune where I am using cowboy chords, rather than the above approach I will often pick melody notes around chord tones, often arpegiated or cross picked. Or I will play chords or arpeggios higher up on the neck that use open strings. Thats a nice sound.

For rock I may use blues pentatonic based, which I will call dorian mode if I want to sound pretentious. Mixolydian too... Wait, if we are talking Steely Dan...

When I am in a rut I will copy a solo or an arrangement. If you take any good solo by a great player you will invariably find lots of nuggets that you can get a lot of mileage out of. All the mode/pattern/scale stuff allows me to have a context for understanding these solos/arrangements, so they are not just a jumble of notes. As such I can apply the ideas to other situations.

Last edited by marciero; 01-28-2023 at 07:20 AM.
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  #24  
Old 01-28-2023, 08:41 AM
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Here is some stuff I do.

Foremost listen to the music and what you are playing.
Understand the key that is being played.
know the major and minor scales at least.
Understand how to play out of chords and where their thirds are.

Experience is the next thing.

From there it's all up to what you feel it is you want to do at the time. Every song performance has its own agenda as do all the players.
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Old 01-28-2023, 10:07 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rick-slo View Post
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).

This feels dead-on to me. Two years ago, I couldnít take a solo and didnít try to take solos because I was focused on other aspects of playing. Yes, I had memorized and practiced many solos and melodies, but I didnít improvise.

Then I got serious about learning the fretboard and learning patterns: major scales every which way, major pentatonics, minor pentatonics, and triads. Over time this enabled me to know where I am in the fretboard, it gave places to go to start a soloing idea. So I started trying to improvise, both on my own and with recordings and other musicians.

At some point in a solo, the ear kicks in. I find that, if the progression stays in one key, my fingers ďknowĒ where my ear wants them to go ó if I keep things simple. But soon I get lost, not knowing what box or pattern I might be playing in, because itís all by ear, which can work well. If I feel out of my depth, I recalibrate and go to a comfortable home base again; e.g., a major pentatonic thatís located in a good spot, and start there. Also, knowing ďtheoryĒ is helpful in knowing what your favorite players are thinking when you transcribe their solos. They rely very often on repeated patterns and comfortable boxes or locations and build from there.
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Old 01-28-2023, 07:01 PM
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My last guitar instructor was big into the major and minor pentatonic scales. I played them over and over. I am by no means and expert on it, but I will say that I can not do anything that sounds even half way there without a backing track to play off of. If I just try to riff those scales by themselves, I got nothing. But give me a twelve bar blues backing track to play off of and I surprise myself. For now at least it is all about context.
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Old 01-28-2023, 08:39 PM
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Improvising is hard to talk about, tho many here have explained things well.

To me, while not a perfect analogy, it is easiest to understand if you think about how every one improvises every day - when we have a conversation. As with music, there's a continuum in speaking, from a memorized (or read) speech, to totally off the cuff conversations, and everything in between. Unless you are doing a memorized speech, you probably haven't rehearsed every exact thing you say. You may know what idea you want to convey in advance, or you may not - you may think and speak simultaneously, you may even "speak before you think" and be surprised by what you hear yourself saying.

BUT, a key here is that you are unlikely to say any word you have never learned before. Not only words but phrases, idioms, etc, get repeated all the time. Any time you talk, you are using words and whole phrases that you have used so many times that they are ingrained, and you can pul them out without thinking. But you arrange them in such a way as to say something new with them, an idea or concept you may not have expressed before. Maybe once in a while, you learn a new word, just as you might learn a new lick that you still have to get comfortable with and really focus on, but generally, you are pulling what you know out of your subconscious.

This is the same as improvising. One way or another, a good improviser has learned the language, they know the rules of the musical grammar, including when they can break those rules. They've internalized so many licks that they're no longer aware of them and can string together their "vocabulary" in new ways. Vocabulary is a key element - you probably would not be very good at conversation if all you knew was the alphabet and maybe some rules of grammar - you've developed vocabulary from years of speaking, listening, being corrected, and so on, and that's what allows you to speak fluently.

There was an article in Guitar Player years ago that has always stuck with me, a lesson with Lee Ritenour. Rit said the way to develop an improvisational vocabulary was to take a lick you like, just something short, off a record. Learn it, then transpose it to all 12 keys, learn to play it in 2 or 3 spots on the neck, then if it's major, make it minor or vice versa and repeat. Then play it backwards, mess with the timing, try it over different chords and modify it to fit. You end up with maybe a 100 or more variations. Do that every day with a new lick, and in a year, you'll have built a vocabulary of thousands and thousands of licks that will all blend together and essentially "dissappear", leaving you with the ability to create your "own" on the fly, which are really synthesized from all those licks you internalized. You've basically programmed your internal computer, and of course learned a lot along the way about what various things sound like, where notes are on the guitar, what fits over different chords and so on.

There are of course mechanical things to learn, chords, scales, harmony, various musical idioms, and so on, just as there are rules of grammar. But I think those are best learned as an adjunct to actually playing - you were probably speaking pretty well before anyone made you sit down and learn about nouns and verbs and how to diagram a sentence.
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Old 01-29-2023, 12:53 AM
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Learn your scales and modes.Practice them, then again, and again, and again, get familiar with what note is where on the fretboard.
Log into what ever music service you use and whatever genre you like, do fills in the breaks of the vocal, listen to the solos and try to find them on the fret board and copy them , steal ideas. Then try adding your own solos on the songs.
keep doing it , and then do it some more.
Take a song you know the melody of well, play the chords and using the knowledge you've learned of the scales in that chord or key try to add little single note lines of improvisation linking the chords.
You will have moments of " that wasn't too bad" moments of disaster. But get your ego out of the way, you have to allow mistakes, you have to allow the freedom to really screw up and that ability to create yuk never goes away, when you blow it , smile and laugh and move on.
Find a jam with people that are encouraging, willing to share knowledge, take solo's when they're offered, don't wuss out.
Keep doing it, one day you won't have to think about where the notes are anymore and you'll play what your head hears. But it takes time , practice and a willingness to make mistakes.
The good part is it's fun, even at the beginning.
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Old 01-29-2023, 03:01 AM
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Geez, improvising is NOT a myth - itís where music comes from. Improvising was one of the very first things I ever did with a guitar and what has always kept me coming back for more. The first time I ever did it I probably knew 3-4 chords and couldnít play them well at all. Iíd probably been playing for a few weeks at most. Someone showed me the first position pentatonic scale and I remember a Bob Marley song was playing and I got lucky and stumbled onto the right key and just using one of the little five note ďboxesĒ that contained the whole scale, I just started playing along with the record, making up simple little phrases, kind of clumsily dancing around the beat. Two, three, four notes at a time at first.

From those earliest moments, it was ALWAYS about trying to tell a little story. The early emphasis was on VERY LITTLE stories at first. Very crude, just a few notes in little clusters at a time. But staying within that extremely simple little pentatonic box, I was having a stone BLAST, just making up little phrases as I went along. Not fluidly or in any kind of skilled manor, but right from the jump, it was improvised. Made up, just by feel.

Over the first couple of years playing, I learned the neck really well just using all of the positions of the pentatonic scale in any key, then learning and incorporating the major pentatonic scale and getting comfortable enough with both to start combining them in my improvisations, but doing it all by ear and feel. At first I was always landing on what I came to recognize as the tonic note in the scale, but then learning to play around it, hint at it but hold off on landing on it. Over time I started getting more comfortable with passing notes that were beyond the pentatonics, but the scale was never the point, it was just the vocabulary used to tell whatever kind of story I was trying to tell.

A hint that someone gave me early on, after Iíd learned both the major and minor pentatonics, was to try to carry on a conversation between a man and a woman, using the minor pentatonic for the manís voice, then the major pentatonic for the womanís voice. And then maybe switching roles. I would try to carry that conversation back and forth, at first for just a few measures at a time, but eventually theyíd start interrupting each other, as people in conversation tend to do. I found it a great way to practice and a good way to stimulate the story telling. At first Iíd do it to songs on the radio or from records and tapes. Then Iíd start getting together with other players and trading off playing rhythm and lead, eventually sort of combining the two as we went. These days, after many years, Iíll often jam with myself using a looper, finding a rhythm with a chord progression I like, recording it into the looper, and start playing to it, mining it for ideas, then that may lead me in the direction of a different rhythm, and Iíll record and play to that.

Iíve never moved significantly beyond the major and minor (and combined) pentatonic scales, although Iíve incorporated bits and pieces outside of them. I mean, BB, Clapton, and Peter Green all made a lot of great music (and good money) staying within those contexts. If itís good enough for them, itís way more than good enough for me. On a good day, that never feels limiting - the ideas just flow through and around the notes in those scales. And on the days that I just canít get much going, knowing additional scales and modes would NOT make it better. Probably just confuse the matter even more.

If unrehearsed improvising WASNíT an actual thing, I seriously think Iíd have given guitar up within months - it clearly what I fell in love with first. Over time I went from being a really bad to pretty decent rhythm player, but I could make up and play leads, dead simple ones at first, right from the very start. I loved it from day 1 (or maybe from day 20, but really really early on) and still do.

-Ray
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Old 01-29-2023, 08:51 AM
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Mr. Jelly Mr. Jelly is offline
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A lesson that I use all the time as I return to it again and again is to take a simple song like "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" or whatever and play it by ear, alone, on single strings. There are many things to be learned from this. Improvisation starts when you become bored with the melody and continue playing the song and try to make it interesting.
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