Page 2 of 4 FirstFirst 1234 LastLast
Results 26 to 50 of 89

Thread: Improvising

  1. #26
    Lurkist dhergert's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Blue Zone, California
    Posts
    1,204
    Blog Entries
    1

    Default Re: Improvising

    Quote Originally Posted by Br1ck View Post
    ... I also think starting with a melody and gradually wandering away from it is a solid path.
    I'm going from the opposite direction, I build the chords first for backup support, than find the melody or close-melody within the chords which my left hand is already forming. Coming from deep chord-melodic banjo playing for improv, this seems to be the natural direction for me, and of course my non-standard mandolin tuning helps me with that, although I would think that any tuning that is well known would do the same... So for me the key is knowing the neck, no matter what tuning is involved.

    I suspect though that there is no single way to get into improv, but once you have it you'll never want to stop. It's totally fun and really gets those neural synapses humming. From what I read, once a person is "in the groove" with improv, the brain releases more than normal levels of dopamine, the satisfaction hormone.
    -- Don

    "It is a lot more fun to make music than it is to argue about it."

    2002 Gibson F-9
    2016 MK LFSTB
    1975 Suzuki taterbug
    (plus a large assortment of banjos, dobros, guitars, basses and other noisemakers)
    [About how I tune my mandolins]
    [7/29/2019 -- New Arrival!!!]

  2. #27
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Location
    Tangent OR
    Posts
    666

    Default Re: Improvising

    I also find that the ease with which one can follow the chords for a break and still approximate the melody depends a lot on the song. For instance, one of the songs we perform is a cover of The Weight (by The Band). Every time we perform that song (we play it in key of G), I 100% improvise my break, and for the most part it comes out pretty well. On other songs I have to do a more up-front planning and parts of my break have to be more rehearsed.
    -2012 Collings MT, Honey Amber Gloss with Tone Gard
    -Big Muddy MW-0 is here!
    -Proplec Picks


    Follow the Flatt Stanley Incident on Facebook

    Song Samples from CD from my old band The Kindreds

  3. #28

    Default Re: Improvising

    Quote Originally Posted by Br1ck View Post
    I'm at the point where I can play most any fiddle tune off a site like mandolessons.com in a couple of days, and I have quite a few licks I can throw in here and there at the end of the vocal line of a bluegrass tune. If someone gives me some notice I can work out a basic solo break. What has been happening is my rehearsed solo break never seems to get played. I start it off but end up throwing in the intro licks , or something else that works. If not as well thought out as what I've practiced, it isn't generally a car wreck. Is this how improvising starts happening? I've played scales and arpeggios from day one, and sometimes play the right arpeggios over the changes. Is it just a matter of learning a bunch of licks you can string together cohesively?

    I'm working my way up the neck too, with scales and arpeggios learning where to shift, ans also making up fiddle tune variations that take me there in order to shift in a musical context. Anything else to push my improv skills? I know, play with others a lot....
    Learn the core melody notes, then play other scales, patters, arpeggios, etc. and hit a core melody note at key times so people know what song you're playing.

  4. #29

    Default Re: Improvising

    Something to think about as you get more advanced is creating a structure to your solo.

    Does it have a beginning, middle and end? Is there tension and release? Are you developing any motifs? Is there variation in dynamics and tone? Are you using a tasteful variety of techniques?

    These are the types of compositional elements that separate a well-crafted solo from stringing together licks and patterns. Do a search for "best guitar solos" and listen to what is going on. Take the solo on "Hotel California", for example. What is going on there that makes it so compelling?
    Object to this post? Find out how to ignore me here!

  5. The following members say thank you to JonZ for this post:


  6. #30
    Lurkist dhergert's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Blue Zone, California
    Posts
    1,204
    Blog Entries
    1

    Default Re: Improvising

    To me, the reason it's so great is that it was improvised, on the fly, at least at first. The artist didn't sit down and consider all the compositional elements to include before he played it. It came from inside.

    To me, that's the beauty of improv. It's the artist's inner soul making the music. You never know exactly what to expect.

    To do this, a musician has to know their instrument well enough to play without thinking about technical details. Having a rich toolset to pull from is also important. And knowing the basic melody of the song helps. Mostly, the instrument has to become an extension of the mind.
    Last edited by dhergert; Nov-15-2019 at 12:06pm.

  7. The following members say thank you to dhergert for this post:


  8. #31
    Phil Goodson Philphool's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Location
    Statesville, NC
    Posts
    3,159

    Default Re: Improvising

    Quote Originally Posted by dhergert View Post
    To me, the reason it's so great is that it was improvised, on the fly, at least at first. ... It came from inside.

    ... Having a rich toolset to pull from is also important. And knowing the basic melody of the song helps. Mostly, the instrument has to become an extension of the mind.
    1. I don't care whether the player thought about his solo yesterday or he made it up as he played. To me, it sounds the same. (I recognize that it's not really 'improv' if it was previously considered.)

    2. "A rich toolset" is often talked about and the usual advice to to "listen to lots of music from your genre..." Unfortunately, many of us are not good at listening and recognizing the bits and pieces of solos that can be taken and used later in our own solo. I know that it takes repetition and time, but I'd love to hear if anyone has any personal approach to absorbing, recognizing, and piecing together those 'tools'.
    Specific advice appreciated.
    Phil

    “Sharps/Flats” “Accidentals”

  9. #32
    Lurkist dhergert's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Blue Zone, California
    Posts
    1,204
    Blog Entries
    1

    Default Re: Improvising

    Quote Originally Posted by dhergert View Post
    ... Mostly, the instrument has to become an extension of the mind.
    Quote Originally Posted by Philphool View Post
    ... I'd love to hear if anyone has any personal approach to absorbing, recognizing, and piecing together those 'tools'.
    Specific advice appreciated.
    This is probably going to be a little controversial, but it is my experience...

    I remember as a very young kid, before I played any instruments, hearing songs and repeating them by whistling or humming or singing or even just breathing a tune if I was in that situation. And with complicated songs, I'd come close, and then embellish the song to make it more similar to the original. These are the most simple and natural, "extension of the mind" instruments that people have. Short of having an instrument in my hands, this is naturally still how I improvise today.

    From years of teaching music, I've observed that if a person can hear a tune and do this kind of simple repeating and improvising using these natural instruments that are part of their bodies, they can pretty easily transfer that to the instruments that they play. I've had a lot of students who can do this naturally. I've had some students who with time and effort have been able to learn and practice it. And I've had a lot of students who despite lots of time and effort, just can't come close to it -- I've worked closely with some of this last kind of students for years trying to gently teach improv, unsuccessfully, and eventually improv can become a source of frustration. But happily there are other ways...

    My personal conclusion is that if a student cannot do this kind of simple natural improvising after three to six months of serious effort, it probably isn't one of the natural talents and abilities that they've been provided, and a different track for their music learning is going to be more successful. That doesn't mean they cannot enjoy music and in fact they can still become excellent and even great musicians, but improv is probably not going to be one of those things that they excel at.

    Part of this mix is also ear-pitch training, which is also a natural ability related to music, and which can also be taught to some extent for many people.

    The long and the short of it is that music can be successfully learned by ear, and/or it can be successfully learned by using a form of written music such as sheet music or tablature. Learning which, or what combination of these tracks works the best for each of us as individuals is probably the first and most important task that a person who wants to learn music, and eventually improv, can accomplish.
    -- Don

    "It is a lot more fun to make music than it is to argue about it."

    2002 Gibson F-9
    2016 MK LFSTB
    1975 Suzuki taterbug
    (plus a large assortment of banjos, dobros, guitars, basses and other noisemakers)
    [About how I tune my mandolins]
    [7/29/2019 -- New Arrival!!!]

  10. The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to dhergert For This Useful Post:


  11. #33

    Default Re: Improvising

    Quote Originally Posted by Philphool View Post
    ....2. "A rich toolset" is often talked about and the usual advice to to "listen to lots of music from your genre..." Unfortunately, many of us are not good at listening and recognizing the bits and pieces of solos that can be taken and used later in our own solo. I know that it takes repetition and time, but I'd love to hear if anyone has any personal approach to absorbing, recognizing, and piecing together those 'tools'.
    Specific advice appreciated.
    Simple specific exercise given to me by my teacher:
    a. Create a simple 4 bar progression on a backing track. Progression could be I-IV-V-I or I-iim-V-I.
    b. Choose 4 notes from the home key using 2 chord tones and any two other scale tones.
    c. Loop the progression multiple times and play against that using only the 4 tones to create melodies.
    d. Choose 4 different notes, again using 2 chord tones and 2 other scale notes and repeat steps b and c.
    e. Repeat from a using a minor key progression.
    f. Try new found insight on a simple tune.
    g. Repeat until competent

    This is just a start to create motifs on which to create breaks. You can always use more sophisticated progressions or any number or variety of notes including no chord tones. Some choices will sound better than others, that would be part of the learning. There is a Berklee DVD on creating motifs using only 3,4 and 5 notes which may prove useful as well.

    For me specifically, I find its overwhelming at my level to have to choose from all of the available notes on the instrument and all the possible rhythmic variations. By limiting my universe I am strangely given more freedom to experiment without feeling lost. While having only 4 notes seems limiting, the use of repetition and rhythmic variety makes it possible to confidently develop lines that provide insight into useful items for soloing on more complex pieces.

    "Any damn fool can make it complicated"-Norman Blake talking to David McLaughlin about a simple blues tune.

    Ymmv.
    Play it like you mean it.

  12. The Following 3 Users Say Thank You to Bill McCall For This Useful Post:


  13. #34

    Default Re: Improvising

    Quote Originally Posted by Philphool View Post
    1. I don't care whether the player thought about his solo yesterday or he made it up as he played. To me, it sounds the same. (I recognize that it's not really 'improv' if it was previously considered.)

    2. "A rich toolset" is often talked about and the usual advice to to "listen to lots of music from your genre..." Unfortunately, many of us are not good at listening and recognizing the bits and pieces of solos that can be taken and used later in our own solo. I know that it takes repetition and time, but I'd love to hear if anyone has any personal approach to absorbing, recognizing, and piecing together those 'tools'.
    Specific advice appreciated.
    I think the most efficient approach is to use an outside resource to explain the tools that are commonly used in your genre, be it a teacher, a book or a video. Then spend a lot of time experimenting with the tools, creating interesting music. Many people find outside feedback, from a knowledgeable person, on their attempts helpful. With only very rudimentary music theory, you will be able to more easily figure out what is going on in most of the popular music genres.

    Learning to improvise is just like anything else. You start slowly, work on narrow objectives, and produce poor workmanship at first. We set too high of a bar for ourselves, because most of the examples we are exposed to are at a professional level. This can lead people to incorrectly believe that they just don't have the talent for it.
    Object to this post? Find out how to ignore me here!

  14. The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to JonZ For This Useful Post:


  15. #35
    Phil Goodson Philphool's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Location
    Statesville, NC
    Posts
    3,159

    Default Re: Improvising

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill McCall View Post
    Simple specific exercise given to me by my teacher:
    a. Create a simple 4 bar progression on a backing track. Progression could be I-IV-V-I or I-iim-V-I.
    b. Choose 4 notes from the home key using 2 chord tones and any two other scale tones.
    c. Loop the progression multiple times and play against that using only the 4 tones to create melodies.
    d. Choose 4 different notes, again using 2 chord tones and 2 other scale notes and repeat steps b and c.
    e. Repeat from a using a minor key progression.
    f. Try new found insight on a simple tune.
    g. Repeat until competent

    This is just a start to create motifs on which to create breaks. You can always use more sophisticated progressions or any number or variety of notes including no chord tones. Some choices will sound better than others, that would be part of the learning. There is a Berklee DVD on creating motifs using only 3,4 and 5 notes which may prove useful as well.
    ...
    Thanks Bill. This looks useful to me.
    And is that Berklee DVD available anywhere?
    Phil

    “Sharps/Flats” “Accidentals”

  16. #36

    Default Re: Improvising

    I'm with dhergert – can you sing what you want to play? Can you imagine what you want to play in your head, and play what you're imagining?

    Ya, learn all your scales and chords and arpeggios so that your fingers will know where to go, but like Grisman says, it's all composition – mastering the "tools" is a necessary step, but it won't give you the ability to compose.

  17. The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to Jim Bevan For This Useful Post:


  18. #37
    Phil Goodson Philphool's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Location
    Statesville, NC
    Posts
    3,159

    Default Re: Improvising

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Bevan View Post
    I'm with dhergert – can you sing what you want to play? Can you imagine what you want to play in your head, and play what you're imagining?

    Ya, learn all your scales and chords and arpeggios so that your fingers will know where to go, but like Grisman says, it's all composition – mastering the "tools" is a necessary step, but it won't give you the ability to compose.
    Yes, I can sing what I plan to play. I can imagine some things in my head and then play them. I've got scales and arpeggios.
    The problem is that the ideas that are in my head are very limited. Someone else might play a break and I'll wonder why I didn't think of that.

    I look down into my bag of tricks and ideas and just don't seem to see nearly enough. Most of my breaks sound very similar in overall sound and approach, even if the melodies are different.
    I'm not very creative. Help!!!
    Phil

    “Sharps/Flats” “Accidentals”

  19. The following members say thank you to Philphool for this post:


  20. #38
    Stop the chop!
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    europe
    Posts
    1,296
    Blog Entries
    1

    Default Re: Improvising

    Quote Originally Posted by Philphool View Post
    1. I don't care whether the player thought about his solo yesterday or he made it up as he played. To me, it sounds the same. (I recognize that it's not really 'improv' if it was previously considered.)

    It does? When I first encountered jazz, after about half a year of playing the guitar, more than 60 years ago, I was immediately struck by two things. 1) Most of the time the repeats and sequencing in the composition were not reflected in the improvisation. 2) Rests and long notes often did not appear in the "expected places". In the beginning that was very confusing, but in time it became the first step towards understanding the true nature of improvisation. There is, of course, much more to it, but I'll save that for a later post.

  21. #39

    Default Re: Improvising

    That's super helpful Pete, thank you!
    I play:
    * Saltarelle Bourroche chromatic button accordion
    * Ozark 2240 Mandolin
    In my spare time I run https://www.mudchutney.co.uk selling folk music and celtic themed t-shirts, hoodies etc.

  22. #40
    Phil Goodson Philphool's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Location
    Statesville, NC
    Posts
    3,159

    Default Re: Improvising

    Quote Originally Posted by ralph johansson View Post
    It does? When I first encountered jazz, after about half a year of playing the guitar, more than 60 years ago, I was immediately struck by two things. 1) Most of the time the repeats and sequencing in the composition were not reflected in the improvisation. 2) Rests and long notes often did not appear in the "expected places". In the beginning that was very confusing, but in time it became the first step towards understanding the true nature of improvisation. There is, of course, much more to it, but I'll save that for a later post.
    Ralph,
    You have to know that I'm not really a jazz guy. Although I enjoy some jazz, my ignorance is overwhelming. So I'm not noticing all those things that are obvious to you, but not noticeable at all to me. Would that it were different.

    So I'm listening to pretty rough country stuff and never know how much time the guy spent preparing his break. Either way, I'd sure like to sound a lot better and since I'm too lazy and forgetful to create, store away in memory, and recall a section of music for everything I play, I prefer to depend on hearing SOMETHING in my head and playing it in real time. It's just that it usually turns out to be very trite. Sort of like my attempts at writing the American Novel.
    Phil

    “Sharps/Flats” “Accidentals”

  23. #41
    Registered User Tom Wright's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    Location
    Rockville, MD
    Posts
    1,611
    Blog Entries
    7

    Default Re: Improvising

    Quote Originally Posted by Philphool View Post
    Ralph,
    You have to know that I'm not really a jazz guy. Although I enjoy some jazz, my ignorance is overwhelming. So I'm not noticing all those things that are obvious to you, but not noticeable at all to me. Would that it were different.

    So I'm listening to pretty rough country stuff and never know how much time the guy spent preparing his break. Either way, I'd sure like to sound a lot better and since I'm too lazy and forgetful to create, store away in memory, and recall a section of music for everything I play, I prefer to depend on hearing SOMETHING in my head and playing it in real time. It's just that it usually turns out to be very trite. Sort of like my attempts at writing the American Novel.
    I would venture that you need to learn/store a lot more than a solo break for every tune.

    I find a riff or solo appealing, and then try to learn the interesting bits for myself. In order to have something interesting to say (play) you need an interesting subject and an effective delivery. Extemporaneous speakers, and improvisational artists, practice their craft by learning the elements, and by trying to perform them in practice sessions.

    So when listening to that rough country music latch onto one figure. Learn to play that little riff in a few places, and always practice it when you play at home. Then add another one you hear and like. Repeat forever.

    As time goes by you will find opportunities to use those “words” in your conversation. The larger your vocabulary and stock of useful phrases, the more likely it is you can add something more than cliche to the jam. It keeps getting easier to contribute, and you find you can comment on what others play, by echoing their last few notes and making it the beginning of your solo. (BTW, that is something you can practice at home, taking the end of some good recorded solo as your starting point.)

    Everything good is practiced — all great players are using riffs from their personal stock. What is new is the conversation, not the words.
    Blog--Miniature Orchestra
    Sound Clips--SoundCloud
    Videos--YouTube
    The viola is proof that man is not rational

  24. The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to Tom Wright For This Useful Post:


  25. #42
    Registered User bradlaird's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    Americus, GA
    Posts
    212
    Blog Entries
    1

    Default Re: Improvising

    Grisman nails it in that video. It's something I have muttered many times. I might have even said it clearly a time or two to my students or on the podcast. "Improvisation is just high pressure, high speed composition." Learn to write a tune or compose a good solo, regardless of the time it takes, and you are on the path to doing it quicker which we all call improv. Thanks for that video in Post #15.

  26. The Following 3 Users Say Thank You to bradlaird For This Useful Post:


  27. #43

    Default Re: Improvising

    When I studied jazz improvisation (with Adolph Sandole), there was a lot of emphasis on composition and on ear training. My takeaway from that is that improvisation is the art of combining the ability to compose (in your head) with the ability to instantly recognize what the notes of what you just composed are.

  28. The following members say thank you to Jim Bevan for this post:


  29. #44

    Default Re: Improvising

    Overthinking is the downfall of successful improvising, in my view. What works for me is to start with a rhythmic pattern that I can play easily. Then "populate it with notes". This advice, which I'm sure I read somewhere, works for me. Even a few basic notes - the tonic, the third, the fifth - can sound good if they're played with a confident rhythm.

  30. The following members say thank you to Tate Ferguson for this post:


  31. #45
    Lurkist dhergert's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Blue Zone, California
    Posts
    1,204
    Blog Entries
    1

    Default Re: Improvising

    Quote Originally Posted by Tate Ferguson View Post
    Overthinking is the downfall of successful improvising, in my view. ...
    I totally agree with this. 95% of the time when I'm improvising, whether it's going to be a break or a short backup riff, I have no idea exactly what I'm going to do a minute before. Within 10 seconds before, yes, I'm starting to think about how to support the melody enough that it can be recognized, and the harmony enough that it sounds tasteful. While playing I'm usually thinking a least a few measures ahead of where the song is currently. When it's time for the break, or for the riff, I just go into the mode and do it, feeling like it is happening somewhat seamlessly and naturally.

    And perhaps as an example, my experience with improv is this: I arrange everything I play, there are no note-for-note copied arrangements from any written material or from any recordings. If I listen to an arrangement or read an arrangement, it is solely for the purpose of re-arranging it in my own playing styles. These re-arrangements are all at least originally improvised and then when playing in public, the songs are possibly re-played in those same re-arrangements, or possibly re-improvised on the fly. And to be clear, when playing in public, I'm always improvising and I never play a song exactly the same.
    -- Don

    "It is a lot more fun to make music than it is to argue about it."

    2002 Gibson F-9
    2016 MK LFSTB
    1975 Suzuki taterbug
    (plus a large assortment of banjos, dobros, guitars, basses and other noisemakers)
    [About how I tune my mandolins]
    [7/29/2019 -- New Arrival!!!]

  32. #46

    Default Re: Improvising

    Quote Originally Posted by bradlaird View Post
    Grisman nails it in that video. It's something I have muttered many times. I might have even said it clearly a time or two to my students or on the podcast. "Improvisation is just high pressure, high speed composition." Learn to write a tune or compose a good solo, regardless of the time it takes, and you are on the path to doing it quicker which we all call improv. Thanks for that video in Post #15.
    Exactly. I would be willing to bet that the best "solos" were ones constructed slowly, over time, in the practice room or in a series of jams whereby the composer figured out that which sounded best. This idea that one can improvise an amazing solo on-the-fly each time is bunk, IMHO. There might be a few out there who can do that; however, I can point to video evidence that some outstanding soloists play their solos pretty much nearly the same each time they were recorded. Thus, they were reusing phrases from their lexicon and I see no problem with that.

    At the end of the concert, what matters is how cool the solos were, not whether or not it was on-the-fly improv (highly unlikely) or something worked out in the practice room.

  33. #47

    Default Re: Improvising

    Chick Corea says that when he goes on tour, playing the same tunes every night, eventually he ends up playing the same solos.

    Jackson Pollock's paintings were slowly working towards a consistent level of "busyness".

    Sometimes it's not about improvisation vs composition, spontaneity vs contemplation – it's about using the freedom to explore, to find out what truths lie within.

  34. #48

    Default Re: Improvising

    One way to expand your creativity is to pose yourself the problem of "How can I incorporate X into an interesting phrase".

    X could be
    • The rhythm "sweet potato pan cakes."
    • A major 7th note.
    • String skipping.
    • The shape of a line you have drawn on paper.
    • An emotion you want to convey.
    • Elements of a lick you like in a different context.
    • Movement up one position and then back down.
    • Etc....


    Basically, the Xs that you choose to explore are what will define your aesthetic.

    Again, outside resources can be one place to find these Xs. If you go on Amazon and "look inside" at the table of contents of a method in your genre, you will find a list of common Xs in that genre to explore.

    Purposefully exploring new concepts is how you break out of saying the same old thing.
    Object to this post? Find out how to ignore me here!

  35. #49

    Default Re: Improvising

    I think Dawg is spot on. To me, improvisation is actually spontaneous composition. Using the tools that one has practiced for a long time to compose, real time, a melody over the running changes. Everyone is going to improvise differently because of what they have studied or practiced, and how their brain incorporates and uses that language.
    I heard an interview with the great Sonny Rollins, though, where he says "You can't think and play at the same time".
    https://www.npr.org/2014/05/03/30904...-the-same-time
    At first I thought that was in direct opposition to the idea of spontaneous composition. The more I ponder this idea, the less I think think so. In fact I think it is actually the same. As one converses, in language or in music, most of the time we are not consciously thinking of what we are saying or crafting what comes next. If one is fluent in a language, be it a spoken or a musical one, the words or notes just flow out.
    The key to me is then practicing a specific musical genre in order to gain fluency in it.
    Best, Stevo

  36. The following members say thank you to stevojack665 for this post:


  37. #50

    Default Re: Improvising

    Quote Originally Posted by stevojack665 View Post
    I think Dawg is spot on. To me, improvisation is actually spontaneous composition.

    The key to me is then practicing a specific musical genre in order to gain fluency in it.
    But Dawg was saying that it is all composition, and that the speed is maybe irrelevant. I agree that one who is fluent in a specific genre will be able to compose more quickly; however, how interesting a solo sounds is more important to me than the speed of composition. So if a solo is not as interesting as the melody, then why produce something less interesting via "spontaneous improv"? Working on an "alternate melody" in the practice room sets one up with a better chance at producing something as interesting, or more so, than the melody line.

    BTW, I am sending you a PM for a different question. Thanks.

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •