Lyrics & Knowledge Personal Pages Record Shop Auction Links Radio & Media Kids Membership Help
The Mudcat Cafemuddy

Post to this Thread - Printer Friendly - Home
Page: [1] [2]


Music Question: Improvisors?

Related threads:
Time Signatures: 2/4 or 4/4 time.... (60)
12 tone music explained -- 30 min vid. (1)
Question about musical notation (47)
Music Theory: Who is W.A. Mathieu? (6)
Why Only 7 letter names? (31)
Unequal temperament (46)
Helmholtz: Die Lehre von den Tonempfindungen... (7)
harmony vs. melody (51)
Online printable music paper source (55)
Basic Music Theory Question (62)
Time Signature help needed... (7)
tone vs pitch (36)
help with music theory (19)
Origins of music: new theory (18)
stupid notation question (11)
Scared of Music theory? Faggggedaboudit! (120)
Music Theory:Number Notes Need? (30)
2 ideas for technique/theory study (3)
Tunes rule OK? Or chords? (34)
How to train one's ear? (8)
Music Theory/Arrangement Question? (38)
Another Music Theory Question (6)
Theory questions that make me nuts-- (24)
US / UK differences - music theory (12)
Link for music theory and tunings (3)


Peter T. 27 Apr 01 - 09:39 AM
Mary in Kentucky 27 Apr 01 - 09:45 AM
Lady McMoo 27 Apr 01 - 10:00 AM
Justa Picker 27 Apr 01 - 10:39 AM
GUEST,Tom 27 Apr 01 - 01:05 PM
Grab 27 Apr 01 - 01:28 PM
jeffp 27 Apr 01 - 01:46 PM
Jim Krause 27 Apr 01 - 01:47 PM
Chicken Charlie 27 Apr 01 - 01:47 PM
Justa Picker 27 Apr 01 - 01:49 PM
Bernard 27 Apr 01 - 01:53 PM
Whistle Stop 27 Apr 01 - 01:54 PM
Rick Fielding 27 Apr 01 - 01:56 PM
M.Ted 27 Apr 01 - 02:22 PM
M.Ted 27 Apr 01 - 02:30 PM
Peter T. 27 Apr 01 - 02:33 PM
Rick Fielding 27 Apr 01 - 02:34 PM
Rick Fielding 27 Apr 01 - 02:39 PM
M.Ted 27 Apr 01 - 03:54 PM
Peter T. 27 Apr 01 - 06:22 PM
Rick Fielding 27 Apr 01 - 07:08 PM
John Hardly 27 Apr 01 - 09:28 PM
Justa Picker 27 Apr 01 - 09:49 PM
John P 28 Apr 01 - 08:32 AM
Marion 24 May 01 - 01:11 AM
Callie at work 24 May 01 - 03:03 AM
John P 24 May 01 - 09:08 AM
hesperis 24 May 01 - 10:32 AM
Rick Fielding 24 May 01 - 11:20 AM
Ebbie 24 May 01 - 11:24 AM
Willie-O 24 May 01 - 11:47 AM
Marion 24 May 01 - 12:20 PM
hesperis 24 May 01 - 12:29 PM
Willie-O 24 May 01 - 12:31 PM
Jim Krause 24 May 01 - 01:10 PM
Grab 24 May 01 - 01:39 PM
M.Ted 24 May 01 - 02:47 PM
Justa Picker 24 May 01 - 04:50 PM
death by whisky 24 May 01 - 05:52 PM
dr soul 25 May 01 - 12:02 AM
Justa Picker 25 May 01 - 12:52 AM
dr soul 28 May 01 - 02:45 AM
Peter T. 28 May 01 - 11:12 AM
death by whisky 03 Jun 01 - 04:16 PM
Marion 30 Sep 01 - 01:23 AM
GUEST,Frank 30 Sep 01 - 03:48 PM
John Hardly 30 Sep 01 - 05:46 PM
Marion 30 Sep 01 - 11:15 PM
Steve in Idaho 01 Oct 01 - 03:18 PM
Amos 01 Oct 01 - 11:56 PM
Share Thread
more
Lyrics & Knowledge Search [Advanced]
DT  Forum
Sort (Forum) by:relevance date
DT Lyrics:









Subject: Music Question: Improvisors?
From: Peter T.
Date: 27 Apr 01 - 09:39 AM

I am edging into improvisation (guitar), and wonder if any improvisors out there have any tips. For instance, Rick Fielding swears by (and occasionally at) the use of the major pentatonic scale as a fail-safe method for most improv (e.g. in the key of C: C, D, E, G, A, C, avoiding the 4th and 7th) where you can't really make anything sound too terrible. I would also be interested in how people envisage improvising: do you see the various lines that you and others are playing spread out visually, do you do it all by pure instinct, or occasionally have to go into chord structure theory as you play, junk around with the melody and hope for the best, or what?

yours, Peter T.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Music Question: Improvisors?
From: Mary in Kentucky
Date: 27 Apr 01 - 09:45 AM

Young piano students that I've taught seem to do best with playing duets and hitting arpeggios of the underlying chords and then letting them evolve into a melody.

One fella now does a blues scale (his guitar teacher taught him that one and I really don't know what it is...maybe the same as Rick's.) He's writing his "own" blues song using one of the 12 chord blues chord progressions and throwing in stuff from the blues scale, some he's heard and just imitates, others seem quite spontaneous.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Music Question: Improvisors?
From: Lady McMoo
Date: 27 Apr 01 - 10:00 AM

I personally do it by pure instinct and find the best results come from "bouncing off" other musicians. I have no formal ideas on improvising, it tends to be spur of the moment with me and therefore different on every occasion.

mcmoo


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Music Question: Improvisors?
From: Justa Picker
Date: 27 Apr 01 - 10:39 AM

Mr. Fielding's advice is wise, and I agree with it. You need to have some sort of working knowledge of scales, both diatonic and chromatic, in order to be able to improvise using "pure instinct". Course it all depends on the level and simplicity/complexity of how and what you want to improvise.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Music Question: Improvisors?
From: GUEST,Tom
Date: 27 Apr 01 - 01:05 PM

I tend improvise mostly from ear, meaning I don't really know what scales I'm working off of (not that I'm proud of it)but if you can play the melody line and then improvise around that it gives you a base to return to and I think is pleasurable for the listener. Many jazz players I know use that approach. But definetly, the more fluent you are with scales and being able to play them anywhere on the neck will be very valuable to you. Good Luck. Tom


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Music Question: Improvisors?
From: Grab
Date: 27 Apr 01 - 01:28 PM

Pentatonic major/minor is a good basis, but extra stuff to add variety also works - the "nuts in the brownie" syndrome, if you like. It's a good idea to get a jam track tape/CD to play along to, then you can find what works and what doesn't - training your "pure instinct", in other words. But pentatonic is the "bread-and-butter" of blues playing.

Pentatonic A minor/C major scale is { A, C, D, E, G, A }. Blues A minor scale adds D#, often used as a "passing note" between D and E. Blues C major scale adds F#. If you're playing in a major key you can use the D#/Eb as well to get the major/minor switching thing going that blues uses a lot of, and adding the F# to minor keys works pretty good as well (but don't overuse it). You can also add in lots of minor sevenths when playing in a major key (in C, get your Bb finger working!) - you don't often use major sevenths though, except as a passing note between Bb and C.

In other words, think pentatonic as a basis, but add in whatever you damn well feel like! And if you ever drop a real bum note, just keep going in that direction and ppl will think it was intentional! :-) If you really can't think how to get out of it, convert it into a chromatic run up or down to somewhere safe and pentatonic - that always sounds good so long as you use it sparingly. Graham.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Music Question: Improvisors?
From: jeffp
Date: 27 Apr 01 - 01:46 PM

A wise man once told me, "There are no wrong notes; just correct ones and passing tones."

jeffp


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Music Question: Improvisors?
From: Jim Krause
Date: 27 Apr 01 - 01:47 PM

What imporvising I do is usually worked out, sorta, in advance. Sounds like a contradiction in terms, but it isn't, really. I tend to use the blues scale quite a bit. In the key of C for instance that would be C,Eb, F, F#, G, Bb, C.

I say "worked out,sorta, in advance" because I find that I don't play the imporvised passage exactly the same way twice, cause I can't remember sometimes how I played it the first time around. At other times, I just slip in a little hot lick that I worked out a long time ago in place of the melody. That I can play the same way time, after time.

For me, the key to imporvisation strange as it may sound is based on my familiarity with the piece. There's all sorts of stuff I can do on Forked Deer or the old hymn What a Friend We Have in Jesus because the melodies and chord progressions are so familiar.
Jim


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Music Question: Improvisors?
From: Chicken Charlie
Date: 27 Apr 01 - 01:47 PM

Not having a really developed "ear" yet, I have to have a safety net in place if I'm going to try anything but what's on the page. A long time ago, somebody showed me where a blues-type scale is on the guitar, and if you stay on that you're safe. I take it you are already doing that. A second safe technique I'm finding is with an open tuning--I've been fiddling with G and a bit with D on the guitar, and with 'single,' 'double' and 'triple C' on the banjo. That way all I have to worry about is my melody line, so I can concentrate on it. Last trick is to play my mandolin along with records and see what baselines and fills I can come up with. Warning--some guys do weird things in the studio like tweak everything a tad faster, therefore higher in pitch. But "normal" folks I can play along with. For those of us to whom this does not really come naturally, there seems to be hope because the more I do this, the more I CAN do it. At least I can hear things in my head & it just takes time to learn to get them from brain to fingers--less time for some of us, more for others.

CC


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Music Question: Improvisors?
From: Justa Picker
Date: 27 Apr 01 - 01:49 PM

As Guest-Tom says, you can most definitely improvise without necessarily knowing what you're doing. Chances are though you'd be using some derivative of some sort of scale in doing so. Nothing, wrong with that. Hell some of what are considered the world's greatest guitarists can't read a note of music, and might even take a few seconds to figure out and tell you what chord(s) they're playing.

Anything you can do to add some sort of spin or variety to the songs you are playing, is improvising. Don't get too caught up in the semantics and the search for the greater understanding of it all. (That'll just get in the way of making music.) Just go for it. There's nothing to lose and everything to gain.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Music Question: Improvisors?
From: Bernard
Date: 27 Apr 01 - 01:53 PM

The art of improvisation evolves in a hit and miss way - the secret is to keep all the misses to yourself!

Your technique - scales and/or chords to base your improvisations on - depends on the style and flavour of the music you are trying to produce.

You also need a good memory... when you make a complete Albert Halls of it, you then have to repeat it exactly so that people think that you meant to do it that way!! ;o)


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Music Question: Improvisors?
From: Whistle Stop
Date: 27 Apr 01 - 01:54 PM

I'm an improvisor of long standing. One thing you might want to try is starting with the melody, and then making small incursions outside of it until you get comfortable enough to be more adventurous. This gives you a familiar point of reference that you can always return to if you end up too far out on a limb. It also helps plant the harmonic structure in your head, so that you have the intuitive kjnowledge of it to go along with the "book learnin'" that Rick suggests. Have fun -- improvising is one of life's great pleasures.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Music Question: Improvisors?
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 27 Apr 01 - 01:56 PM

Might be worthwhile to mention that the scale Peter mentioned, is at the absolute beginner level on the "improvisational roller coaster" (or else you'd have some very boring and predictable improvisations) but you have to start somewhere.

A great deal of improvisation is actually NOT. It means having licks, scales, alternative chord forms, timing variations, and a range of dynamics secured away IN YOUR HEAD. These are things that you've learned through the structured process of:

A. steal (or invent), and then ammend to your own style.

B. Practice, practice, practice.

At that point, a good (and inventive) improvisor can instantly drop one or more of these entities into any song at any given time, simply because they FIT the chord structure of the moment. With experience, the player can start to ammend (add or subtract a note etc.) WHILE they are using the entity.

And don't forget, that if you make a mistake...you can always just tell the critic "Hey man, it's JAZZ, you wouldn't understand". Just don't furrow your brow and grimace when you hit a "clam"!

Rick


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Music Question: Improvisors?
From: M.Ted
Date: 27 Apr 01 - 02:22 PM

Far be it from me to disagree with Mr. Fielding on anything, so I'll let that pentatonic thing stand--I will add to it something though, and that is: if you find a simple, short rhythmic phrase, and fool around with it in your pentatonic scale, you'll be surprised at how much more "improvising" you can do--

Another thing to remember, most "improvisation" is not totally spontaneous--the player has some ideas that they have worked out in advance,(meaning that they know how to play a lick or a riff or even just a scale, and know what sort of places that it will fit) and also knows what parts of a song or arrangement that they will have to work with--

There are a few famous rock guitar players out there that have created amazing careers by just sticking the same phrase in every song that the play, so it is probably OK for you to do it too--


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Music Question: Improvisors?
From: M.Ted
Date: 27 Apr 01 - 02:30 PM

When I opened the thread, Rick's post wasn't there--I posted my post and when I went back, I discovered that he brought up most of the things that I did--just call me:

A day late and a dollar short


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Music Question: Improvisors?
From: Peter T.
Date: 27 Apr 01 - 02:33 PM

Thank you improvisatoreadors. Any other hints? I would love it if someone could just talk about how they moved from absolute beginner up -- was it just letting go, learning more scales, doing it a ton, copying someone? It would also be interesting to know how improvisers feel about other improvisers, including strugglers -- do they give people a lot of leeway, tell them to get out of the way, take what someone else did and show off with it, or what? Oh yes, and what is the etiquette? Is someone to signal when it is your turn, and do you make it easy for the next person to come in or just do your own thing? And so on.

yours, Peter T.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Music Question: Improvisors?
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 27 Apr 01 - 02:34 PM

I should perhaps add that ANTICIPATING the next chord in any song that your improvising is crucial. This skill can be learned, but training your ear can be frustrating to the beginner.

A good way to start is to listen to Hank Williams recordings. Most of his songs use a 1,4,5. chord structure, with the chords in random order. Sit down with a recording and see if you can "hear where he's going next" Don't be frustrated if you're wrong 50% of the time. It'll get better.

Of course you HAVE to know what the "1,4,5." ARE, in any of the keys you play in. That's just memorization.

For example: Take the key of "F" and memorize that F is "one", Bb is four", and C is "five". Now play to a simple recording in the key of F. Do it again....and again....and aga........well you get the picture.

When your ear intantly HEARS the 1,4,5, carry on to the "2" chord (G, in the key of F). Pretty soon (maybe three or four months) you'll be able to "hear" the whole range of major chords. Start on "minors", then "diminisheds", augenteds, minor sixes, major sevenths etc.

You're right, it can take a lifetime, and you still won't know it all....but that's the fun of it.

A little sidebar.

A tremendously accomplished jazz improvisor I know tried to play along with "The Wild Colonial Boy" and simply "couldn't hear the changes". (She said "they're TOO simple!!?") Yahh, right! So don't be intimidated because you play "folky" music, and think it's really unsophistocated next to jazz. It's just "different".

Rick


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Music Question: Improvisors?
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 27 Apr 01 - 02:39 PM

Ted. I LOVE you!! Will you bear my children!!!?

Let's take Peter to a deserted shack on Route sixty six and improvise at him IN STEREO, til he's ready to play along with Train!

Rick

Damn. She who is glady obeyed has decreed we need toilet paper...so I'm outta here!


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Music Question: Improvisors?
From: M.Ted
Date: 27 Apr 01 - 03:54 PM

Back in Philly, we would just get him a bit drunk, stuff him in the back of somebody's Tercel(with instruments) and take him to Ortlieb's. where half of the audience were trombone players, waiting all nite, horn in hand, for a chance to play a couple of choruses of Satin Doll--

Anyway, I get a feeling that PeterT (and most people, for that matter) get "improvising" confused with "following". Following simply being a situation where you don't know how to play the song, but get through by ear, using whatever cheap tricks you might have learned--"improvising" is creating a part or a solo extemporaneously--

The key here is that you can and should know how to play the songs that you plan to "improvise" on "inside-out". I have in fact, had people (real jazz musicians--some of whom actually knew Bill Cosby) sit out tunes that they did not know--

As to ettiquette--improvisation is a group effort--the ground rules are generally layed out at the beginning (choice of tune, key, tempo, what the vamp for soloing will be--how the soloing will end, and what the end will be, and can extend to what the riff that the players work with will be and what kind of scales they use--on into the nite)--depends on the personalities, tastes, and skill of the players. The better the player, the easier they are to play with (if they want to be!) The thing is, when you play, communication is the key--it should be a group effort--when it isn't, its a mess!

Also keep this in mind--it is way harder to play the melody than to create a solo that fits over the chords-


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Music Question: Improvisors?
From: Peter T.
Date: 27 Apr 01 - 06:22 PM

Is this Trane to whom you are referring, O MASTER OF THE TEN DIRECTIONS, THE SEVEN SEALS, THE EIGHT WALRUSES, THE CORRECT FINGERED G CHORD, AND OTHER MASONIC MYSTERIES?
yours, Peter T. (P.S. continuing thanks) P.P.S. Gee, I got lots of Hank Williams! Time to go to work....


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Music Question: Improvisors?
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 27 Apr 01 - 07:08 PM

Yes Peter. But we music instructors are allowed to call him "train". Or actually "Train Sir". I understand you "book larnin" types call the Bard of Avon, "Shakey".

Rick


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Music Question: Improvisors?
From: John Hardly
Date: 27 Apr 01 - 09:28 PM

There is a Stephan Grossman produced video called "75 hot licks". The premise behind which is learning just as Rick suggests,

"A great deal of improvisation is actually NOT. It means having licks, scales, alternative chord forms, timing variations, and a range of dynamics secured away IN YOUR HEAD. These are things that you've learned through the structured process of:


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Music Question: Improvisors?
From: Justa Picker
Date: 27 Apr 01 - 09:49 PM

These too. Scroll down to the 2nd and 3rd from the bottom. (per John's post.)


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Music Question: Improvisors?
From: John P
Date: 28 Apr 01 - 08:32 AM

Like any other skill, you get better at improvisation by doing it a lot. The most important thing is that you can do it at all. Many muscians can't.

I have a lot of different techniques for improvising, depending on the type of music that's being played, the other musicans present, my mood, the instrument I'm playing, and my current state of mental clarity. Often, I am pretty much in the scales. If you know the scale for the chord that is being played and can imagine a melody, you can just go with that. It requires you to be mentally present so you can keep track of the chord changes, although a lot of songs/genres of music don't really go outside of one scale even when they change chords.

Simple chord patterns can use the pentatonic scales and require less paying attention to the details. For me at least, that means I can give more attention to coming up with nice melodic phrases. It also means I can be fairly mindless with it if I want (or need) to be. I often seem to find myself in an Em pentatonic scale -- E, G, A, B, D, E. This will work well over any song with the chords of Em, D, G, A, Am, or Bm -- in short, half the rock songs in the world. Switch the G to a G# in the scale if you need to be in a major key.

I suppose I have the tool bag of tricks that Rick was talking about, although I don't really think about it that way. That part of it happens on an unconscious level now, but I seem to remember in my deep dark past sitting and working out things that sound good and then practicing them over and over.

Getting the feel of the music you are improvising to is as important as getting the right notes. The nuances of timing and "feel" are different for different genres of music and wil probably take you farther toward sounding good than knowing exactly what scale to play. You can improvise off of three notes if you have to, as long a they fit the rhythm and style of the music.

Although I play jazz a bit, and have been playing the blues since I was a kid, and spent many years playing in rock bands, I am really a player of tradtional folk music and as such am more turned on by a beautiful melody than by anything else. When I improvise, one of my goals is to make melody, not just a bunch of notes that happen to fit the song harmonically and rhythmically. There is a room in hell all prepared for me with saxophones playing atonal jazz improvisations.

John Peekstok


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Music Question: Improvisors?
From: Marion
Date: 24 May 01 - 01:11 AM

Thinking out loud here, so to speak...

Suppose I have a song in G, and the only chords it contains are G, C, and D. One way to improv on it would be to play around in the G major scale in those bars where the chord is G, play around in the C major scale when the chord is C, and use the D major scale when the chord is D.

Or, if I take the G major scale and leave out the C because it would contradict the C# in the D scale, and leave out the F# because it would contradict the F in the C scale, what I'm left with is G A B D E G - a pentatonic scale. So presumably I can play around in this scale during the whole song with contradicting any of the chords?

Is that the idea of using a pentatonic scale for improvising - the notes it contains are the ones that are common to the song's basic chords?

If so, then maybe a major pentatonic scale is in order for a I-IV-V song, and other kinds of pentatonic scales are predictably associated with other predictable chord patterns?

Or have I got this all wrong - did you mean that I'm supposed to play in G pentatonic during the G chord bars, in C pentatonic during the C chord bars etc.?

Thanks, Marion


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Music Question: Improvisors?
From: Callie at work
Date: 24 May 01 - 03:03 AM

I beg to differ with those who reckon that it is ok to learn licks and use them in an impro. You can see that kind of premeditated stuff a mile away. It goes against the philosophy of improvising. Sure the chords mights be same, but a good improvisor will play a different kind of solo depending on their mood, the audience's mood, the other musicians, the venue, etc etc.

The way I have approached it is:

1. know what chord you are playing and what key you're in. Even if you don't read music, it's not hard to figure out what notes sound good with a D chord and what notes don't.

You'll start to notice things like if you're playing a 12 bar blues in C, an "Eb" will only fit the F7 chord (the second chord in the sequence).

2. Play with someone else. get them to play the chord sequence, and you just run scales up and down that fit with those chords. Once that's second nature, think of ways of varying those scales (rhythm, articulation, leaving some notes out.

3. Don't play anything you can't hear first! Hit and miss doesn't work. Singing scales and chords is a good way of finding out whether you know them as well as you think you do.

4. Eventually, you can start to play around with different kinds of sounds and modes.

That's my story anyway!

Good luck!


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Music Question: Improvisors?
From: John P
Date: 24 May 01 - 09:08 AM

Marion,
Yes, that's the idea. As you get more practiced at it, you can start adding in the other notes where they are appropriate. Always remember that deciding what to do according to theoretical strictures isn't always best. The best thing is what sounds good, and that doesn't always make perfect sense from a music theory point of view. Be willing to try other things -- but not on stage, please . . . I agree with Callie that hunt and miss doesn't work.

John


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Music Question: Improvisors?
From: hesperis
Date: 24 May 01 - 10:32 AM

Since you guys all have so much technical information on how to improvise, let me write about the attitude.

When you are improvising, there is NO SUCH THING AS A MISTAKE!!! The gol-durn things just don't exist for as long as you are improvising. What there is, is an interplay between dissonance and resonance... (Otherwise known as "clangers" and "harmony notes".)

Any so-called "clanger" adds tension. Some notes add more tension than you would like, but that happens. Any "harmony note" is a release of tension...

This happens in life, too. You go along, minding your own business, and sometimes you're happy (harmony note), and sometimes you're not (not-quite good note), and sometimes you get in an argument (clanger), but then maybe you resolve it (harmony note) until the next time (not-so harmony note), or maybe you agree to disagree (not-so-harmony note).

There is a philosophy I use when I improvise, that everything is in the right moment... it's almost religious. (But don't tell anybody... shhhh!)

Improvisiong is just creating a flow of tension and release over the duration of the song. That's all.

After that, you can learn the scales, and add them into the philosophy, so that you can craft the amounts of tension and release that you want to put into it. But if you have that philosophy, then you will love improvising, and it will be a lot easier for you.

(If anybody can understand what I'm saying?)


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Music Question: Improvisors?
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 24 May 01 - 11:20 AM

You bet I understand what you're saying. Whether in the music or life, the "clams" make it interesting! My friend Tony Quarrington, after hitting a "clam" would just mumble "it's a jazz thing, you wouldn't understand"! (he'd smile, though)

Rick


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Music Question: Improvisors?
From: Ebbie
Date: 24 May 01 - 11:24 AM

Is it too simplistic to admonish: Be sure your improvisation fits the chord structure? You'll send your backup into a disbelieving spin if you don't.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Music Question: Improvisors?
From: Willie-O
Date: 24 May 01 - 11:47 AM

What Marion said. The first part, anyway, saved me the trouble of writing it out. To facilitate learning to play over particular chords in an interesting and jazzy manner, learn major scales in all possible inversions so you have the whole fingerboard covered.

I'd have to say that I feel there can be mistakes made when improvising. My definition of a mistake is based on the premise that you can play absolutely any note in any key, but your phrase has to have a beginning and and most important, an ending in context of the chord structure. So the weird notes can be great and make you look highly advanced, but that can't be the end of the phrase, and usually shouldn't be held for more than a half-beat or so. Also, it can be a mistake if it is not timed correctly to mesh with the rest of what's being played...

The phrase you are playing should end on a note (or notes) that is part of the chord being played or implied, and within that there is a choice of notes to set different moods--the 1st to resolve, the 5th to leave it set up to return to the 1st (as in, end of break, sing next verse) and things like the 7th to make it bluesy or one of my favorites, the diminished progression--which has a peculiar alchemy whereby it breaks most of the rules about righ and wrong notes, but you still need to know where you're going...

W-O


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Music Question: Improvisors?
From: Marion
Date: 24 May 01 - 12:20 PM

Willie-o, you agreed with the "first part" of my post; where did the first part end? :)

Marion


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Music Question: Improvisors?
From: hesperis
Date: 24 May 01 - 12:29 PM

The first part ended in the middle, with this: "Is that the idea of using a pentatonic scale for improvising - the notes it contains are the ones that are common to the song's basic chords?"

And - yep!


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Music Question: Improvisors?
From: Willie-O
Date: 24 May 01 - 12:31 PM

The part I don't go with is using the pentatonic scale on different chords. Maybe it would work, I just haven't tried it. It tends to be one that I want to play the same scale throughout a song, switching it sounds weird.

Check your PM's, I just sent you my phone number after I tried to call you. Are you at the library or something?

Bill
Not A Stalker


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Music Question: Improvisors?
From: Jim Krause
Date: 24 May 01 - 01:10 PM

Peter, When improvising, I find it is very helpful to be very familiar with the melody and its chord progression. I tend to use either major diatonis scales, or blues scales when improvising. An example of each is: Major Diatonic Scale in C: C,D,E,F,G,A,B,C.
Blues Scale in C: C, Eb, F, F# A, Bb, C.

Quite often one can use a blues scale as a substitute for a pentatonic scale. I say quite often, but perhaps not always. Your own sense of aesthetics will tell you when it will work, and when it won't. Use of the blues scale often creates a jazzy element to what you are playing. This is how those Texas fiddlers create Western Swing out of traditional fiddle tunes like Forked Deer, for example, or Billy In The Lowgrownd.

If instead you are playing straight ahead Old-time music, then you may want to limit your use of the blues scale to those country rags, like Natural Bridge Blues, or Hawkins Rag, etc. In the final analysis you need to be familiar with the kind of music you are playing. Trying to be jazzy in a stringband is going to raise some eyebrows, to say the least, but will work fairly well in a bluegrass setting for instance.
Jim


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Music Question: Improvisors?
From: Grab
Date: 24 May 01 - 01:39 PM

Marion, somewhat, but not all the way otherwise it sounds a bit odd.

I'm having to relearn improvising since we've got a piano and I'm learning how to boogie-woogie. It uses the same baseline as guitar blues, but to take that across needs me to work out exactly what it was I'd learnt to do on the guitar! :-)

One thing for sure is chord changes. Marion's point on totally changing keys works OK, but it gets a bit mechanical. Try phasing your melody into the new chord _before_ it happens, then you don't have a sudden "jump". Or to build tension and work up to a real screaming solo, it's easy to play the same thing with slight variations. For a truly world-class example of this, listen to the end of Sultans of Swing on the Alchemy (live) recording - starting from a very basic backbeat, MK plays a Dm arpeggio over Dm, Bb and C chords with just slight alterations to fit the new chord, and he keeps this going for bloody ages as the band ramps up behind him until the solo just explodes out with the tension. That tactic works rather well for emphasising a passage when you're working up to really going for it.

Graham.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Music Question: Improvisors?
From: M.Ted
Date: 24 May 01 - 02:47 PM

I just want to second Jim's comment about being familiar with the kind of music you are playing--in some music, you can be really out there (meaning playing notes and rhythmic phrases that create a lot of tension against the original chords and melody) and in other music, you cannot--

A fairly common trick in jazz is to play the same melodic phrase over each of the chords in a progression to get a variety of harmonies--this could get you killed if you tried it with tradtional music--

For those of you who are curious about this effect, try playing the bass notes or chords to Frere Jaques in C, and play the melody in a couple of other keys, like D, or G, and end up trying it in F#(easy on piano, but slightly more diverting on guitar)


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Music Question: Improvisors?
From: Justa Picker
Date: 24 May 01 - 04:50 PM

Hesperis said :Improvisiong is just creating a flow of tension and release over the duration of the song.

I agree, but would equate this definition more akin to jazz, but the concept is relative. I believe it was Tony Quarrington who had one of the best definitions of "jazz music" I've ever heard. Jazz is "creating problems, and then solving them."

This can be applied to all forms of improvisation methinks. It's just a question of the simplicity or the complexity of the created problem.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Music Question: Improvisors?
From: death by whisky
Date: 24 May 01 - 05:52 PM

Free yourself from the shackles and chains of chords ,scales and modes. Ther are two exercises I use to help me "relax",which is important if your going to improvise: 1.Scribble....play as fast as you can.No scales,modes or tempo...play soft,play,loud.Give your scribble dynamic but dont restrict it. 2.Ghost...copy the sounds around you.As soon as you hear it.Again try not to structure your interpretaion of the sound.

Eyes closed please,lets not get distracted with visuals. Have fun.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Music Question: Improvisors?
From: dr soul
Date: 25 May 01 - 12:02 AM

Peter T. I think of improvising, in the most general sense, as playing single note phrases during a solo. The pentatonic scale is a great basis for blues/folk improvisation. Here's a couple of tricks I've picked up to help make it easier.

First, I'm very visual, and early on someone showed me the PATTERN of the pentatonic notes on the neck. I've heard this called "playing the box". If you figure out the pattern for E (i.e. where the notes of the pentatonic scale are in relation to to the E string) you'll be able to transpose the same pattern for any key.

Second, for those good bluesy notes, the best note to bend is the 4 of the scale. Just push that string up listen to her moan.

(Forgive me (a) if I'm repeating something someone's already suggested - I tend to skim over the long threads, and (b) for being so doggoned inarticulate about music theory)


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Music Question: Improvisors?
From: Justa Picker
Date: 25 May 01 - 12:52 AM

For me, the most basic form of improvising and usually where I start is to take any song play it through once and then start syncoping it in a different way, than how it should "normally" be played. From there, the ideas seem to spawn.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Music Question: Improvisors?
From: dr soul
Date: 28 May 01 - 02:45 AM

Peter T, I was just over at your thread on G sharp minor in an open tuning, and realized how far, far beyond "play the box" you are. Please accept my apologies for the lame post a couple above this. So . . . here's some slightly deeper thoughts on soloing:

1. When you solo, or improvise, you're telling a story.

Every song, every audience, is a different story.

Your job, as an improviser, is to find the story that best fits the song, the audience, the band at that moment.

2. The most basic story IS the melody - think of the original musical instrument as being the human voice. Playing the vocal part, with every note in _just_ the right place, can be an incredible "improvisation".

3. If it fits the song, a really fun thing that many r&b sax players do is play a nursery rhyme at the head of their solo, and vary that in the second phrase. Nursery rhymes are melody that is (a) familiar to the audience, so you hook them, and (b) familiar to you, so you can play it easily.

4. Two great inspirations are Miles Davis and Lester Young. They have many lessons to teach, but first among them is: Take your time. When it's time to solo, don't jump in right away. Think about the feel of the song, where you'd like to go, how you might get there, and where you're going to start. When you're ready, go get it.

5. It does help to practice patterns. Having "canned" riffs that you can build on is useful, and very basic to many solos. DANGER: speaking from personal experience, you can get to the point where, because it doesn't require thinking, you end up playing solos composed entirely of set riffs.

6. It's all about what you want to say. The most important things are to swing (so the audience digs it) and to have fun (so you enjoy it).


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Music Question: Improvisors?
From: Peter T.
Date: 28 May 01 - 11:12 AM

Thank you all for the continuing high quality of your thoughts and advice. It is a true pleasure.
yours, Peter T.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Music Question: Improvisors?
From: death by whisky
Date: 03 Jun 01 - 04:16 PM

1. Yes.If your playing to a set piece. 2.What about the rythm/percussion.3.holding back ?4.jOHN sTEVENS.5.Practice is a good use of time.Patterns in themselves can be restrictive.6.Yes.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Music Question: Improvisors?
From: Marion
Date: 30 Sep 01 - 01:23 AM

A question about the effective practice of scales:

I've been devoting half an hour a day to scale practice, with four goals: building dexterity, building familiarity with the fretboard, laying the groundwork for improvisation, and being able to claim that I'm keeping up with Doc Watson in at least one respect.

What I'm doing is practicing seven major scales, each in several boxes up the neck, and in several patterns other than the straight scale.

On my keener days, I try to name the notes in my head as I go, in the interests of learning better where the notes are on the fretboard. But on my lazier days, I drop this mental part of the exercise. And I've found that I can play the scales and exercises much better if I'm not thinking about the note names, and even better if I'm thinking about the geometric pattern of the scale and intervals.

(By geometric pattern I mean things like: the major third above a given note is one string up, one fret back, and the octave above a given note is two strings up, two frets up...)

So my question is: what is the most useful thing to be doing with your brain while practicing scales, with the object of learning to improvise? Think about the note names? Think about the spatial patterns? Or not think about it at all?

Thanks, Marion


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Music Question: Improvisors?
From: GUEST,Frank
Date: 30 Sep 01 - 03:48 PM

Here's an idea. Take a tune, learn to play it. Next, play the first phrase as is. Then, take the second phrase and make something up. Then take the third phrase back on the melody again. Fourth phrase, make something up. You can hang on the tune to tell you where you are.

The best improvisors know the changes. If you know the chords of a song by memory, then you can relate to them in two ways. 1. Scalar or horizontal. 2. Chord arpgeggios or vertical.

To be able to hear the harmonies of a song, take the chords and change them to roman numerals. Then transpose them to as many keys as you can stand. Eventually, you will be able to hear the chord relationships independent of any specific key and express them numerically.

Once you hear the harmonic line independent of the melody of a tune, you are better able to fit your improvisation to it and you will always know where you are in the song without depending on the melody.

Frank


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Music Question: Improvisors?
From: John Hardly
Date: 30 Sep 01 - 05:46 PM

Marion<
Boy, do I admire your discipline!

I'm sure there will be lots of advice to your question but let me step in and say that I think that there is some value in not thinking about anything (or thinking about other things--TV, other distractions)for at least as some of your practice time. You're already doing the discipline end of things--actually learning the scales, notes and all.

It seems I have to train both sides of my brain---what I'm learning through conscious effort, and what I learn by mindless doing. Ever get into a performance situation and can't go forward because, as dead as you knew the material on one side of your brain, the other side just forgot it?

What I'm getting at is making it so that the movement becomes second nature. Some of my most productive "muscle memory" training time has been while watching basketball games on TV. I can go on forever---ONE WARNING

Don't practice with a baseball game on-----nobody can stand THAT much practice!


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Music Question: Improvisors?
From: Marion
Date: 30 Sep 01 - 11:15 PM

Joh: not discipline, opportunism! I'm working as a babysitter at the moment, which means that I'm in the rare and enviable position of getting paid to practice my guitar. And the job only lasts three more days, so soon I'll be a professional practicer and can play even more.

But baseball games? Basketball games? If I put those things on, I wouldn't be able to stand any practice.

Cheers, Marion


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Music Question: Improvisors?
From: Steve in Idaho
Date: 01 Oct 01 - 03:18 PM

When I first started I was taught a couple of tunes by a good friend. After that it was a matter of playing with people, watching (and hearing) what they were doing, and then finding my own space. I try to follow the melody line - sometimes just playing in a Carter style until I figure out the line, and then filling in between those major notes with what I call filler notes. Sometimes crosspicking does that, hammer ons, pull offs, stumming the chord (quickly or slowly), and finding a high and low line to follow.

I can't read music but have found tablature to be a viable alternative for fiddle tunes. I don't always get the timing right but after I listen to someone else do the tune I can correct for those minor errors. I have a good sense of timing and have found that metronomes can help if you don't have one.

My philosophy on people just learning is simply this - if you want to try it I'm game to help you out. I have very grateful memories of someone standing behind me calling out the chords to "Blackberry Blossom" while others played it. I have found that the more I learn about this fretted instrument the less I know. So playing is a virtual learning experience for me.

Someone earlier posted the two rules for them as 1)Pleasing yourself and 2)pleasing your audience. I go for rule one and find that I am my own worst critic - Two rarely applies as I don't normally perform. The notable performing exceptions are an occasional supporting role with a couple of friends at local Farm Bureau, Cattle Assn., 80th Birthday celebration, type events. Always free - so there are no critics. At least none that I have noticed and everyone says it was good.

Music is fun - I Love to play and sing. I can't say that I am all that good but I can manage to entertain myself and family/friends with a lot of what we call "good clean fun." So if it isn't fun I don't participate - at least not for long. I've been blessed with a pile of good friends that also happen to love music and it has made for an adventuresome time. We all take turns at a tune with everyone given an opportunity to give it a try. Endings have always been much debated, amid roars of laughter at odd endings, for the most part when the originator of the tune decides it is time to end it - that person sticks their foot out towards the center of the group and we know the end is coming.

I don't know if this has answered your question but I certainly have enjoyed this posting - Peace - Steve


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Music Question: Improvisors?
From: Amos
Date: 01 Oct 01 - 11:56 PM

Two bits more:

The apparent complexity of good improv is built, like all complexity, on simpler elements with growing numbers of interactions; when the interactions reach a critical number, a whole new order of complexity emerges.

You learn how different strings interact with each other in couplets, for example, and how that interacts with major and minor chords in a given key; you accumulate a lot of these little observations, and all of a sudden, shazaam -- the order crystallizes, and you are improvising complex chord sequences or runs or slides.

You never know when some little three-note relationship you noticed two years ago is going to suddenly line up with six other things and make a whole new song!

A


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate
Next Page

  Share Thread:
More...

Reply to Thread
Subject:  Help
From:
Preview   Automatic Linebreaks   Make a link ("blue clicky")


Mudcat time: 22 September 3:54 AM EDT

[ Home ]

All original material is copyright © 1998 by the Mudcat Café Music Foundation, Inc. All photos, music, images, etc. are copyright © by their rightful owners. Every effort is taken to attribute appropriate copyright to images, content, music, etc. We are not a copyright resource.