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Improvisation Course

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(@caliban4)
Eminent Member
Joined: 12 years ago
Posts: 27
Topic starter  

I joined the forum today and spent the better part of the day using the search function to look for a topic exactly on point. apologies if this has already come up, but I am looking for a comprehensive course on how to improvise. Most of the stuff I have seen out there that calls itself improv but is just comprised of a series of technical exercise such as bending, vibrato, etc with some scales or chords and not much more. No one I have come across has a structured ordered method of improv itself. If anyone knows of such a course, preferably in DVD or with interactive software though print would suffice, I would really appreciate the heads up.


   
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(@alangreen)
Member
Joined: 22 years ago
Posts: 5342
 

All those technical exercises and skills are essential - without them your improvisations will sound very ordinary. Bland. Boring. Take time to work on them.

You don't need all of them on day 1 though.

Start here: https://www.guitarnoise.com/lessons/turning-scales-into-solos-part-1/ - a 9-part series

"Be good at what you can do" - Fingerbanger"
I have always felt that it is better to do what is beautiful than what is 'right'" - Eliot Fisk
Wedding music and guitar lessons in Essex. Listen at: http://www.rollmopmusic.co.uk


   
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(@caliban4)
Eminent Member
Joined: 12 years ago
Posts: 27
Topic starter  

Thanks, Alan. I should have elaborated a little, my fault. I already have a good foundation of the technical related stuff, both theory and practice, as they relate to guitar. I have also in the past done the usual Royal School exams in piano and violin so I know one has to break down one's preactice time into technique, repertoire, sight reading and aural components.

However, the electric guitar is more of a wild west type of scene with what seems to be a heavy emphasis on improv work. It was more in this direction I was taking the question. I would have thought that an improv course would be split into modal and tonal improv and then structured in such a way that a person can undertake a series of graduated exercises against chord changes, etc and more indepth improv ideas.

My learning so far has taken me into the jazz area, albeit with a great degree of reluctance and resistance. Jazz for me is like beer, the Aussies equivalent of the English cup of tea. Everyone says how great it is, praises its qualities but no matter how I try, I cannot acquire the taste, and it just tastes like ...well....something that should be excreted. Same for jazz. I know it might be naive or somewhat puerile, but I can't quite listen to more than a few minutes of jazz. However, certain ideas behind jazz such as playing with the changes, voice leading, etc are very interesting and I can see they might be very useful for improv.

Finally, personally for me, it's much easier to learn visually or interactively, hence the reason for asking about video or software related improv material.


   
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(@peaveyusa)
Estimable Member
Joined: 13 years ago
Posts: 75
 

Um thats what improvising is. Taking the mixture of stuff you know and improvising with it. And without the bends and other techniques, you will just sound flat. Bends maket he guitar talk!


   
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 cnev
(@cnev)
Famed Member
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 4459
 

Yea sounds like you have the skills you need it's just a matter of sitting down with some backing tracks and improvise.

At first it's not going to sound like much but eventually it will. I don't think you'll find a course such as you are looking for that will somehow guide you step by step and increasing the difficulty.

At this point it's all pretty much up to you especially if you know your scales etc. You can try copying some of your favorite licks from other players maybe change the rhythm or whatever and try and incorpoarte them into your playing.

"It's all about stickin it to the man!"
It's a long way to the top if you want to rock n roll!


   
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(@alangreen)
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Joined: 22 years ago
Posts: 5342
 

I have also in the past done the usual Royal School exams in piano and violin so I know one has to break down one's preactice time into technique, repertoire, sight reading and aural components.

This seems to be the biggest stumbling block with people who have loads of theory. Like you, I've done all my Grades (mine in Classical Guitar), and I have a music related degree so I can harmonise Bach chorales in my sleep; but improvisation is part composition, and has been known to make people run for the hills (including a couple of guitarists who tried out for the Big Band I work with before I joined; they were happy to pump out chords in any number of finger crunching shapes but dried up at the bits that said "Guitar Solo").

Where to start? All you need is a framework like the Renaissance musicians used to use when they embellished the repeats, or like Chopin (or was it mozart?) used in his live improvisations.

Improv on the guitar starts with the A minor pentatonic. Get yourself a blues backing track in A - there are heaps on the internet, you don't need to pay for them.

Where I start with my students, and they're aged around 11 or 12 when I do this, is to have them play the notes at the 5th and 7th frets of the 3rd and 4th strings. I don't show them the notes, I just play them individually and ask them to "Find this sound". Then I play a short phrase of no more than six notes using those four sounds and have them listen and play it back to me. After a few of those I have them listen to my phrase and play back something different.

The last phrase I play in this part of the exercise consists of one single note. My students usually respond with a four or five note phrase.

Then I play a chord sequence and have my students make up lots of short phrases of no more than six notes each using just those four sounds. They're sometimes a little self-conscious at first, but one they realise they can't play a "wrong" note they fly.

There are ads all over the internet from people who will "teach" you to "Play killer blues with only four notes" and want a ton of money for the pleasure. This is roughly what they'll have you do, so save your cash.

But do learn the Zakk Wylde hammer on from nowhere/ pick hand tap/ bend/ pick hand pull off/ release bend special because it's fun.

Chordal improv doesn't have to mean jazz, but it's a good way to aproach it. At which point I'll hand over to the others cos I'm not a jazzy either.

"Be good at what you can do" - Fingerbanger"
I have always felt that it is better to do what is beautiful than what is 'right'" - Eliot Fisk
Wedding music and guitar lessons in Essex. Listen at: http://www.rollmopmusic.co.uk


   
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(@caliban4)
Eminent Member
Joined: 12 years ago
Posts: 27
Topic starter  

Thanks for the help, guys.

Alan, I had a small eureka moment there - your advice on what you do with your students actually makes a lot more sense than anything I have come across, teaching wise, and is a structure I can defnitely work with. I appreciate improv must seem unconfined by structure but one's approach to understanding how to do it requires structure, in my small opinion anyhow. Also, embellishment is something I can at last understand - I just knew the darn thing by the various formal names assigned to the bits and bobs - trills, mordents, reverse mordents, etc. I appreciate the need for a good ear as well which I definitely have to work on. With printed music you tend to fall into the habit of relying on what's on the page and not what's in the ear. Gotta learn this different language now.

It's relevant that the composers who were also performers of their instruments were also great improvisers (Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Chopin, Liszt come to mind). Unfortunately, this is not a skill that is taught to any great extent anymore in the usual classical field. I did classical guitar for a short while in the past and it was no different. On the other hand, electric guitar I have found is just the opposite and requires a more than heavy dose of improv and underlying knowledge. I am actually amazed at the grasp that the average guitarist has of scale and related theory as well as improv fundamentals compared to his or her counterparts in other musical fields.


   
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(@caliban4)
Eminent Member
Joined: 12 years ago
Posts: 27
Topic starter  

Just a short follow up. Following your great advice on your personal way of teaching improv, Alan, I have also gone through the first 3 parts of the 9 part lesson series in the link you provided earlier and the approach is starting to make much more sense. I guess I just needed a simple way that could take me in an understandable way forward. Strange how small minds like mine work.


   
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(@caliban4)
Eminent Member
Joined: 12 years ago
Posts: 27
Topic starter  

Start here: https://www.guitarnoise.com/lessons/turning-scales-into-solos-part-1/ - a 9-part series

These lesson series are excellent. Part 9 refers to a part 10 which deals with how to practise soloing. Does anyone know whether part 10 is available or when it might be expected?


   
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