How To Improvise

Discuss playing styles and techniques, or share your own here.
Ryan Layton
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Ok, how do you all do it. Share serious tips here. This isn't a shredding lesson, this is straight up improv. How do you all do it.
knarfzednem
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well,when i write something i'll usually loop a riff,figure out what key it's in and go for it.whatever i like,i keep.try to find some tracks and just jump into it.if you can't think of anything on the guitar,try a different instrument,or hum a melody and then figure it out in guitar.good luck.yay!!!
JohnStamos
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knarfzednem wrote:if you can't think of anything on the guitar,try a different instrument
hahaha, do you mean give up on guitar completely?!

Improvising is a blend of emotional and technical playing. You absolutely absolutely need to know your scales inside out. Once you're pass this barrier, then you don't need to have a mental map of where each note is and you dont have to stutter your playing. Just straight up music :)

What I personally do is create a backing track on the computer or through a loop machine and play a chord progression in a certain key, then I solo over and try a variety of technique to make it sound as unique as possible. Sometimes i fail, sometimes i succeed. If you don't like how one phrase plays out, don't do it again. Soon you'll be accustomed to how each note sounds and you can hear a melody in your head and play it on guitar. It'll take some time but you'll get it!

You can also download a backing track online, these are good to practice in a variety of different situations. Try different things: arpeggio's of the chords being played, legato, that whole deal. I like to think of a theme for the music im going to play and then try to emulate that. Music theory can also help a lot because you can study your backing track and play along to accompany each chord.

Also, since you probably have studied your favorite players, you could throw in a couple of their licks to help spur you along.

Besides that, everything comes with experience and a lot of patience. Sometimes i get very frustrated after a jam, sometimes i feel good about myself. Help that to propel yourself forward!

I hope this helped and good luck :)
Ryan Layton
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...you aren't actually john stamos are you
JohnStamos
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Yeah, I am. I've only started guitar about a year ago but i'm getting there.
goodwill559
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JohnStamos wrote:Yeah, I am. I've only started guitar about a year ago but i'm getting there.
A year ago?
I see you playing guitar on "Full House" reruns all the time, and that series is almost 20 years old.
??
JohnStamos
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I'm talking serious playing. Before, to be honest, some of that was me playing some stuff my friends had taught me and some of that...wasn't me at all. It was just for the show. Think of it as the duel from Crossroads, me playing over a recording of someone.

But not all the time!

Actually, honestly, it was a bit more than a year ago when i started heavily getting into guitar.
Trimb
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I'm still very much in an early stage of writing but I can vouch for the theme thing. For years I've tried writing lyrics then coming up with a tune that fits but it doesn't work, yet strangely, playing to the mood of the song gets you the result you want... ! I finally hit on that method a few weeks a go. If the soloy bits work the same way, then provided you're in the right keys as previously mentioned it should work.

Oh, erm, pardon my ignorance, but has this show been shown in the Uk cos I haven't heard of John Stamos and I'm now intrigued? :shock: :)
V41
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I think when you improvise, it should say something about yourself, it should be a little sampler of your whole style and tone. It should also be telling a story and not just be bullshit.

For instance... my dad and brother and I had a jam over a jazz-oriented blues progression the other day. We all took turns playing while the other two played rhythm or bass lines or whatever worked to not get into the soloists way. It sounds pretty self indulegent, but it's fun, so whatever. But when you listen back to what we played, you can easily tell who is soloing when because of our different styles, like, my dad plays more blues licks and classic rock stuff, but neither he nor my brother tremelo pick the way I do, so you can tell it's me. Work on putting a piece of yourself into the notes when you improvise--or, as Steve says, "become the notes."

I've been improvising over chord changes since I started playing, though, so I don't know much else to say but that.
PureVa|
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haha john stamos? really? what the HELL
haha freakin awsome......john stamos....on the Vai forum
i dont believe it
:D
Ryan Layton
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mods: can you please grant John Stamos VIP status?
JohnStamos
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lol guys, im not really john stamos. I just wanted to see if you guys would believe me, my profile says im from New Jersey.

Sorry about that misunderstanding and please dont hate me. :D
Gastric Sumo
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Just a crazy, lost, John Stamos fan who stumbled onto a Vai forum. JK
Some good points being brought up though... I think improvisation is nessesary to give yourself that signiture sound that is all your own. If you're like me, than you've got many influences, and all those different influences come out when you improvise (unless your only influence is Vai :D ) I have ADD, so when I sit down to learn a Yngwie riff or something, I quickly get distracted and start playing something else. When I first started, I learned the basic blues scales and started playing along to AC/DC, and learned how to phrase from that. I also jammed with any music that was blues scale oriented that was influential to me and picked up only what I needed so I woulden't sound too much like the artist. Later I just started making my own jam songs and improving on my own skills and throwing a little Vai or whoever in whenever the opportunity presented itself getting to the more complicated stuff after I had a good grasp on improv. Now I feel confident that if I was thrown into a jam session, I could rip a nice solo, and sound like myself, reguardless of how many notes I play.
Untamed
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Improvisation to my opinion is something you cannot really teach like a technique such as a bend for exemple. Although I do have a few tips that I encourage you to take:

To start, I think others has said it, know your scales, you should visualise all your boxes on your neck. On this, I will add to start with the main box of the Pentatonic scale, it is the easiest to locate and remember and MANY MANY old rock solos use only the pentatonics! The high rated solo from Stairway to Heaven only uses pentatonics!!
Remember that there is Minor and Major. With a minor scale you have potential of a much more rock/metal sound as in with major you might sound more like country. Have you ever thought of switching from major/minor when you improvise your solo? It gives neat effects. Start it out in major and then switch to minor for example, you will find that the ''heavyness'' effect the minor scale can provide will seem amplified because you started in major. It is like playing slowly at first then slapping a crazy shredding lick, if you would have been playing fast already at the start, it won't seem as fast if you get what I mean.

Ok second, if you can, this is the best tip I can give you. Jam with people!!
Pick a key, let's use A as exemple. Just play a simple 12-measure blues chord progression in A while the other person improvises a solo in A minor pentatonic. When the 12 measures are over, switch roles, you solo for 12 measures and he plays the chord progression. If you do not know this basic chord progression you can just play straight A power chords all the time for 12 measures. It is important that you watch your friend solo! Look at what he is doing, when it is your turn, try to steal some of his ideas and licks. Jam with different people, see what other people do to solo. Get yourself a repertoire of little thoughts of what licks you could do to start yourself out. They say that any artists copy other material before being able to create their own. Like painters when they start off will copy other paintings, not to paint like somebody else further on, but to discover how other people did it and be able to find a way to do it in his own style and way later on with what he learnt.

And last, you just really have to practice it. I like to turn on the radio and as the song past, figure out the key of the song and just improvise over them and try to match the attitude and feeling of the different songs.
The more you do it, the more you will have a feel for it.. a sense for it.
It takes some time to work on it.

Well, that's what I had to say on this, I hope it helped you and maybe somebody else around here. Now go pick up your guitar :D
Mr_Guitarman
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This is what I have been doing for the last few years. Get a note book and begin to catolog sounds you here on a day to day basis listen to other peoples playing Vai the kid next door what ever write down what you interpritate from that persons playing what is the phrasing like? what kind of scales is he using how do those notes relate to the harmony what kind of notes in relation to the harmony does he start on or end on. Then experiment see how things you do affect others. I purposely played entire solos using only wholetone scales just to see how a friend would react to it. catolog all your findings to be a great musician I believe a person should study.

The other side of things is control anyone can improvise few have control. first lets talk about harmonic control. There are some really common chord progressions improvisers should be fluent with in our music system. The blues progression, Major 251, 145 minor251, 145 the turnaround major 36251 minor 36251 these are common in all kinds of music after a person can monover in one key okay ad more keys find progressions that change keys work on changing through a rediculas number of keys like 6 it is hard but you will get control. Next play over one kind of chord and every 2 mesures go up a forth until you complete the circle of 4ths with major chords, dominat chords, and minor chords.Pay attenttion to note choice in relation to the harmony.

I know this sounds like alot, it is. many of the stuff i found above can be found on lots of backingtracks. Next work on playing over only one chord state an idea slowly build it up try to keep focus of that idea. remeber english class? How should a good story unfold? character intro problem build up with a few pre climaxes a climax and a resolution allow the solo to do this but try to keep control of your begining idea or statement rember in this situation the more complex of an opeaning statement the hardder it is to develope it and control it the goal is to keep sight of what you did see where it's going and return to it people want to hear something that connects ideas to one another not a bunch of shred licks and guitar tricks.

Next after all the abuse you free your self and just jam with people don't put restricions on yourself. take what you learned from the excersises and apply it to life. have fun see what you can make people in the room who aren't playing do. I have fun if i try to intentioly affect peoples emotions in sirtant ways when improvising you can't hide you can be read like a book allow this to be let this influence the way you play articulation everything. A few weeks ago I had to play infront of my bible study group. I had been working on a piece of music but had throughn it away i was a reck that day I was depressed and unsatisfied with myself. I hated what i wrote and forgot it because it sucked. Any way my friend she had been going for a couple of months before me and had sayed that i was a guitar instructor and i was really good. I wasn't happy to here this it only being my secondtime there they wanted me to play and I had made the mistake a few weeks earlyer by telling this friend I had wrriten some music. They all wanted to hear and I had an intro of maybe 10 seconds of solo guitar stuff. The entire piece had been based on four voices. So after being beg to play I gave in I started with that 10 seconds and ended with 3 minutes. I got a great response throught the entire peorformance i could feel them they kind of just at there confused about wha they felt. many said it was beautiful in an eari sort of way kind of like when you get the chills. Some one else said it was almost depressing. i was depressed but hearing what they felt really inspired me because at that moment I had felt really sad but I wanted to express beauty. I was so happy that they could almost feel what i was feeling and that to me is what makes improvising so great.
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