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post #1 of 12 (permalink) Old 10-29-2009, 05:29 PM Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Jan 2009
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Improvising Question

A little background (This could get long):

I've had 8 guitar lessons in my whole life, 4 at the age of 13 and 4 in my mid 20's, now I'm 53! The first time I had to quit because of no money, and the 2nd time my instructor moved away. If you ask me to play a G everywhere on the neck I can determine where it is based upon the tuning of the 6 strings everywhere on the neck, but not quickly.

Between those ages I didn't really grow much, as you can probably tell. The first guy started out with classic training, here's the single notes in the first position, learn a few easy single-note songs; no tab in those days. So, most of my learning from there on was chord books and trying to learn songs/riffs off of records. I wasn't real good at picking out chords off of records, just simple solo's and riffs, so I sucked and never put the 2 together; chords/solos.

The 2nd instructor, a former high-school classmate, gave me the diagram of the 5 positions C scale going up the neck that is in almost every book nowadays. Shift it and you're in a different key, start on a different note and you're in a different mode, etc. My last (4th) lesson with him I was told to learn where the 3rds and 5ths were and then he said good-bye.

I didn't really think about chord theory, modes, etc. I found that if I played along with records using those patterns shifted to the key of the song, I THOUGHT I sounded pretty good! And for the most part it works, learning later where NOT to go, learning that a sharp 3rd in a blues pattern works 'once in awhile', or that a sharp 7th in a minor works once in awhile, but all the while my 'solos' were very scalar with minimal intervals between notes due to my lack of knowledge of where the heck I was going.

So here's my questions.
1) Like me, when soloing, are you just playing by ear or do you know the chords you're playing over?

2) If you know the chords you're playing over, do you think about individual notes when playing, think about intervals, or just riffs that you've learned and know would work in that place in the song?

3) Given a melody, is there an easy way to determine the chords? Usually I can do this, but some songs are real tough.

4) Where do you think I should go from here first; learn notes in all positions, learn chord tones/arpeggios for those 5 positions, take more lessons, or ? (I don't plan on learning to read music well at this point, but I do farily well with tab.)

And just so you know, music, guitar playing specifically, is the only hobby that I do at least a few hours a week and have never given up, so please don't blast me for not practicing enough, I know I could always do more.

Thanks for enduring my life story!

-cp
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post #2 of 12 (permalink) Old 10-29-2009, 06:08 PM
 
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Re: Improvising Question

Hey CP. I'm not real good at improvisation either, but on the other hand I do know quite a bit of music theory. I was in high school band from 7th grade to senior year in high school. Then, I moved off to college and started off as a music major, but didn't graduate as a music major. I made it up to Theory and Aural II, but the music major really don't appeal to me as much when I started college and I took about 3-4 semesters of Theory and aural learning. So, I got a degree and exersice and sports science/kinesiology instead which is on the total opposite side of the spectrum. Anyways, for me improvising requires a ton of ear training. Learning a lot of the scales (major, minor, harmonic minor, melodic minor, etc) and modes (Mixylodian, Aeolian, etc) and training your ear to pick up the intervals between whole steps and half steps is a biggie. Once you determine the Key of a song and the chord progressions you can improvise around that. I suggest getting familiar (if you haven't already) with the circle of 5ths. That's a good tool for learning major and minor scales in any key. For me, the easiest solos to improvise are minor pentatonics, but you don't you wouldn't want to play those all the time. One thing i've been practicing lately is playing sweeping appregios based on a given chord. As far as ear training, though, I haven't really applied myself to it cuz i'm a slow learner and I just get fed up really quickly. But I want to go back and learn one day when I develop some patience. haha.
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post #3 of 12 (permalink) Old 10-29-2009, 07:01 PM
 
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Re: Improvising Question

1) Usually I'm playing by ear. Don't always know the chords, but I do always know which key, and I'll work out the chords if the progression is a bit weird, becasue in that case knowing the chords is very useful.

2) When I know the chords, I usually target chord tones for the strong beats. A lot of the time though you'll have a natural sounding chord progression, which if you get a feel for by listening to it go round 2 or 3 times, its very possible to sing the solo to yourself as you play it (given you know the scales on the neck well enough to know how to play what you're thinking.. and thats not necessarily knowing what notes your playing, just what they'll sound like, if you get what I mean.)

3) I find it easier to work out chords from the bass line, but it's still possible with the melody, just would be more difficult.

4) Learn the scale patterns and get really familiar with the way they sound. Having a good idea about what your going to play sounds like before you play it makes improvisation a lot easier, I find. I'd also dip into a bit of theory, so that you can work out keys of pieces, from which you'll know where you're at on the fretboard.
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post #4 of 12 (permalink) Old 10-29-2009, 07:02 PM
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Re: Improvising Question

"I can play any note I want to, as long as I play the right note next"
cp
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post #5 of 12 (permalink) Old 10-30-2009, 12:19 AM
 
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Re: Improvising Question

I suck at improvising, but I try to keep this in mind: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I0GzHt3yScM
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post #6 of 12 (permalink) Old 10-30-2009, 04:45 AM
 
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Re: Improvising Question

Real_illusions points are very good.
Improvisation is a mix of 50% real improvisation and 50% percent practice.
You have to have a basic knowledge of the chords and the chord progression in order to sound good (depending on the complexity of the music).
Some people say i suck at improvisation but never practice at it.
Timing also is also important some guys go off and leave the music behind instead of learning when to play and when not to.
I say find a teacher (for me a Jazz teacher helped)and take some lessons and then find some people to jam with.
Be ready to humiliate yourself for the first few times but the more you play the more your ear will develop. Trust your ear even if you do play some wrong notes and beleive it that happens all the time.
Nothing helps you more than going out there and doing it.
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post #7 of 12 (permalink) Old 10-31-2009, 02:17 PM
 
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Re: Improvising Question

Quote:
Originally Posted by frantick View Post
So here's my questions.
1) Like me, when soloing, are you just playing by ear or do you know the chords you're playing over?
2) If you know the chords you're playing over, do you think about individual notes when playing, think about intervals, or just riffs that you've learned and know would work in that place in the song?
3) Given a melody, is there an easy way to determine the chords? Usually I can do this, but some songs are real tough.
4) Where do you think I should go from here first; learn notes in all positions, learn chord tones/arpeggios for those 5 positions, take more lessons, or ? (I don't plan on learning to read music well at this point, but I do farily well with tab.)
Good questions.

1. It is a combination of both.
I know the chords (and if I donít know them before I start do I know them after one turn around on them by hearing what it is) and I use my ears to play what I hear in my head over it, melodies. I never stumble around on the neck to find notes that fit because I donít know what chords it is. I hear what chord it is when itís played and knows what scales that fit.

2. I donít think about intervals, notes, notes or arpeggios when I play (unless it is a studio or live job where I have to get it right the first take). It would be stupid to say that in know all theory over the chords (no one does), but I feel that I know enough, and where they are on my neck, so I donít have to think about it. So if I improvise a solo do I just let my ears guide me on what to play, but not to find the notes on the neck, only to find the notes I hear in my head.

3. It depends on what you think are easy. The best way are to work on your ears, then most of the time the melody will give you the chords without you having to think about theoretically.
It is really the same thing as playing over them by ear, you hear melodies over chords and you hear chords under melodies. If you donít hear the chords move in your head when you play a melody are you probably not playing melodies from your head when you are doing solos (you are most likely just moving your fingers around in shapes they already know).
Donít mean that in an evil way, but it is the exact same ďhearingĒ used. There are theoretical ways too, but it is to much to explain here.

4. Learn notes all over the neck (try to not think of it as positions, just that it is low notes on one side and high on the other). So donít look at it as learn the scales in various positions, look at it as learning were all the notes in that scale are on the neck and what relationship they have to the chords in that key. Think of that as intervals instead of actual note names. Like (in C major) this note (E) is the major 3rd if the I chord (C) are ringing but it becomes 1 if the III chord (Emi) are ringing. And it becomes the 5ht if the VI chord (Ami) are ringing, the 4th if the VII chord (Bmi7b5) are ringing and so on. It will take some time, but it will help you get the control of what notes are in relationship with the chords, both on the neck (and more importantly) in your ears. This will also make it very easy to transpose things (not make the knowledge locked into one particular key). My suggestion are to look at scales in one octave (7 notes), for example E to E in a E major scale (any finger positions will do, 3 notes per string 2 or 4 doesnít matter), then move that same thing to all other E on the neck.

5. Even if not asked for, get yourself a good teacher that can guide you.

Good luck with your playing!

/Magnus
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post #8 of 12 (permalink) Old 10-31-2009, 06:06 PM
 
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Re: Improvising Question

I was classically trained and it put me in a box for many years because I'd look at written rock music and think "That doesn't work." even though it did work. After that I just learned songs that I liked by people I liked to listen to like Satch, Phil Keaggy, Blackmore and a host of others. What I discovered is to "just play" over songs, chord changes, and see what works. Don't be afraid of making mistakes because you will learn from those what does not work. Challenge yourself, but more than anything just enjoy yourself.
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post #9 of 12 (permalink) Old 10-31-2009, 10:15 PM Thread Starter
 
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Re: Improvising Question

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ibanez-Mag View Post
Good questions.

... I never stumble around on the neck to find notes that fit because I donít know what chords it is. I hear what chord it is when itís played and knows what scales that fit.
...
Good luck with your playing!

/Magnus
That is where I want to be!

I have decided to take lessons again. Starting Tuesday.

Another thing I've noticed, is that as a kid all I did was play chords backing up my lousy vocals because I didn't know how to solo. Then, when I learned how to solo a little better, I STOPPED PLAYING CHORDS! Oh, sure, I play bar chords, minors, majors, dominants mostly, but nothing as pretty as Bmi7b5. I know I have to also work on extended chords just so I can hear those notes within them and how that will work in a solo.

Thanks for everyone's comments. Learning is life.

-cp
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post #10 of 12 (permalink) Old 11-03-2009, 10:12 AM
 
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Re: Improvising Question

I've never been able to improvise, if I'm going to solo I'll write the solo note for note before I do anything.
But I still know all the notes and what I can play and what I can't.

Good luck with the lessons, I learn faster from myself but hope you learn what you want to.
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post #11 of 12 (permalink) Old 11-05-2009, 07:33 PM Thread Starter
 
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Re: Improvising Question

Well, I signed up for lessons and had my first one the other night. I had been looking for a book on things like harmonizing the major scale and similar theory. I didn't say a word about that to my teacher, and guess what, that's the first thing he assigned me after asking 'what I knew'. He's a former GIT (MI?) grad, and at least to me he seems to know his stuff.

So wish me luck.

-cp
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post #12 of 12 (permalink) Old 11-09-2009, 05:32 AM
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Re: Improvising Question

i gave up with learning theory years ago,its just not for me.its boring as sin and way to complicated.i never wanted to write music n stuff anyways i just wanted to play covers.for someone whos been playing guitar for 15 years im pretty crap,not really bothered as i just consider guitar playing as a hobby.
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