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post #1 of 10 (permalink) Old 07-31-2012, 02:57 PM Thread Starter
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Having Problems when I try to improv solo

Hey everyone, just wondering if I could get some tips on Soloing/learn from scratch again. I taught myself so I have very little theory. When I try to improv solo it gets very repetitive and bland, just wondering if anyone could help me spice things up and learn the theory that will help me become a better improv player.

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post #2 of 10 (permalink) Old 07-31-2012, 03:54 PM
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Re: Having Problems when I try to improv solo

The absolute most important thing any guitarist that wants to get into music theory can do is learn the note names for the whole fretboard. It may sound like a huge chore, but if you're methodical about it and devote maybe half an hour a day to it, you'll be getting pretty competent within a couple of weeks. After all, it's just the same 12 notes repeating.

Once you're familiar with that, the next logical step is to learn the seven positions of the major scale. If you eventually want to move on to modes, you'll be glad you did this first. While you are familiarising yourself with the fingering patterns, be mindful of the intervals between each note, the note names and how many steps in the scale each note is from the root.

This all sounds boring because well... it is boring. But it is pretty much the basic building blocks behind all music and will open up enormous potential for improvisation. The key here is to set aside some time after each session to stick on a backing track and just play and have fun. Incorporate a little of what you've been learning into your playing each time and it will really help you digest and make practical use of all the theoretical stuff. Seeing your own progress will also help to keep you motivated.

Good luck!
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post #3 of 10 (permalink) Old 07-31-2012, 06:48 PM
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Re: Having Problems when I try to improv solo

Wild_Child is correct. Learning theory will help you express what you "think" into what you play. It takes only a small(but dedicated) portion of your regular practice time to notice progress.

While there are many ways to memorize the fretboard, I can offer a tip that was shown to me years ago. Set your metronome to a slow tempo and play a particular note at every position on the neck in time with it. Gradually increase the speed as you are able to recall each note without error. Initially, while practicing at a slower pace, say the note aloud as you play it. This helps with note recall, timing and aural skills.
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post #4 of 10 (permalink) Old 07-31-2012, 06:56 PM
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Re: Having Problems when I try to improv solo

I don't like jamming much but here's a small advice, listen to the backing track and play melody in your head before guitar (don't just dive into it). Try to make a musical track out of it like beginning with an intro...
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post #5 of 10 (permalink) Old 07-31-2012, 11:54 PM
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Re: Having Problems when I try to improv solo

www.jamcenter.com got me kickstarted into learning the modes. Not only will they show you the scale but they have backing tracks you can improv with.
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post #6 of 10 (permalink) Old 08-01-2012, 06:07 AM
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Re: Having Problems when I try to improv solo

What are you trying to improv over (chords and key)?

What scales do you know so far and do you know them in more than one key all over the neck or just one or two keys?
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post #7 of 10 (permalink) Old 08-04-2012, 06:16 AM
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Re: Having Problems when I try to improv solo

If you can be a tad more specific with your question I think you will get better answers.
Like answering some of these?

What kind of improv are you thinking of? Swing? Bebop? Blues? Modal? Rock and Roll?
How well do you know the fretboard?
How are your practicing your improv?
What kind of solos material are you working on?
Who do you want to sound like? (REALLY IMPORTANT)
Are you looking for speed?

I think answering some of those would really help us help you. You dig?
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post #8 of 10 (permalink) Old 08-04-2012, 09:45 AM
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Wink Re: Having Problems when I try to improv solo

Know the Chords you will play your solo over is the main thing here i guess.

And know the theory of scales & chords that will help for sure.
But the greatest tool you have is your ears,so use them.
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post #9 of 10 (permalink) Old 08-08-2012, 05:33 AM
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Re: Having Problems when I try to improv solo

All the above advice is good. I agree with it, but I have something to add.

I had an online guitar lesson from Dave Weiner a couple of years ago and it helped me immensely. I was asking exactly the same question; how can I improvise well.

This is what I got from that lesson:

Don't be tempted to use speed or flashy stuff to get you out of trouble. Don't bring out chops that you aren't completely fluent with.

Stick to a motif from a few notes or one musical idea and develop it over the course of the solo without making it unrecognisable.

Consider the dynamics of the music and use different dynamics in your playing style to develop and resolve the solo around your original idea.

Learn the blues.

I would heartily recommend a lesson with Dave. He is very good.
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post #10 of 10 (permalink) Old 08-08-2012, 06:03 AM
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Re: Having Problems when I try to improv solo

Ears > scales. Scales are good for what they are, but your improv will not sound good if you think scales/shapes/boxes. They are not musical on their own. I have asked several great players the same question, and none has so far said they think scales when they improvise. If anything they think intervals and they know what the next note will sound like. A good question to ask yourself is "what happens if I...?" and then experiment with tonality, creating a combination of notes you like (which can be any scale or not). Try to sing the notes you play, or sing first and try to play what you sing. Many ways to do it, but I would recommend knowing the scales, but not to play them.
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