Imagine that you have a switch in your head that you simply click on, and musical ideas start to stream forth. If you listen to much music at all, this should not only be a fairly easy task, but I know in some cases, it can even be hard to turn off. It’s like having a song stuck in your head, but in a tireless flow of spontaneous ideas bubbling up from your subconscious.
Where do these ideas come from? Sometimes they are pre-existing melody that get stuck in your head. There have been cases where songwriters have written songs they thought where original, but was actually just recycled information. There are pitch relationships and combinations we find enjoyable based on natural laws of resonance. Therefore, when we create melody we often default to these tried and proven patterns. The western tonal music of today barely scratches the surface of the practically unlimited amount of possibilities.
What does that mean for you? Time to dig deep! Learning how to improvise on guitar can be hard because of its undefined nature. Getting too technical and theoretical leads to creative blocks. While getting too emotional and ethereal can lead to incoherence.
Striking a comfortable balance between structure and freedom, theory and expression is the key to taking a great improvised guitar solo. So finding exercises or practice methods that develop both structure and freedom are crucial in get noticeable results.
How To Improvise On Guitar
So here is the secret sauce that has done wonders for not only total beginners, but long time students with improvisation and performance experience.
We need to develop the skill of “hearing” the note in our head before we play it. If you’re not doing that, you’re essentially just hitting random notes. So before we attempt to take a really expressive and heart felt guitar solo, lets work on that skill.
First, let us restrict the amount of options we have. Often times the apprehension surrounding improvisation comes from having too many options and no clear path or objective.
So let’s get really specific and set the clear objective by placing restrictions on pitch, rhythm and pitch order. To start developing the ability to “hear” notes in your head, we are only going to be playing notes in a stepwise motion, so no leaps for now. Leaps can be harder to “hear” in your head if you don’t already have improvisation experience or if you’ve never done any ear training.
We will also restrict the amount of pitches we get to choose from to 5 pitches, but not the pentatonic scale. Most other introductions on how to improvise on guitar rely heavily on the pentatonic scale. As a full-time guitar teacher, I have found this approach to be extremely ineffective, unless the student is wishing to improvise in the style of Blues, traditional Chinese music or perhaps other obscure forms of folk music. All totally respectable styles, but very specific niche styles.
Instead of going down that road we will be taking 5 notes from the 7 note major scale. The 7 note major scale, and its relatives, is more or less the foundation of Western tonal music.
The third restriction is on note duration. For the first exercise we will only be playing quarter notes. That means every note will last the same amount of time. Quarter notes, if you don’t know, in very general terms are about as fast as walking pace (depending on the tempo).
So with those three restrictions in place (5 pitches only, step-wise motion only, quarter notes only) you can’t help but develop your ability to “hear” the notes in your head first.
That is Exercise #1 in Section 1 on the online course. It’s the one that has allowed just about anyone to get their foot in the door of improvisation. The videos in the course explain how to apply these restrictions in greater detail along with illustrations and easy to follow examples. Also included are some play along recordings to practice the exercises with. The play along recordings are done at different speeds (tempos). Staring slow and incrementally speeding up. They are also done in a variety of styles to keep things fresh. Staying motivated to practice improvising on guitar is big part of your success. Keeping things fresh is key to staying motivated and continually progressing.
Exercise #2 loosens up the restriction on note duration just a little and allows you to hold some notes longer. So you’re still predominantly playing quarter notes, but holding some notes longer. The notes you hold longer should sound good to you, which is very subjective.
The exercises that follow gradually and comfortably loosen the restrictions so you can further express yourself while still following a clear path.
How This Course Is Organized
This course is divided into four sections. Each section contains an explanation and four exercises that gradually increase in difficulty. Each section targets a specific skill needed to improvise a guitar solo.
Once you register, you will have access to all four exercises in Section 1. It is then up to you to practice these until they become very easy. If at any point you are unsure about an exercise you can contact me and I will be sure to clarify any confusion and answer any questions.
One week later Section 2 will be unlocked. Then a week later Section 3 will be unlocked and one week after that Section 4 will unlock along with a Bonus Section. If at any point you feel you have done your work and you just can’t wait to unlock the next section, you can email me and explain that you are ready to move on. I don’t recommend moving too fast through these exercises, but I will manually unlock it for you.
For the full lesson on the exercise described above and the complete course on how to improvise on guitar, register now and listen to the examples to hear what Exercise #1 sounds like. You will also gain access to the specially designed play along tracks. The tracks take you through a few different styles and tempos just to keep things fresh and to keep you inspired.
What You Will Accomplish
- Learn how to “hear” the notes in your head before you play them
- Take guitar solos that people want to hear
- Start creating music right away with clear objectives and goals
“Hear” Before You Play
By the end of this course on how to improvise on guitar, you will have increased your ability to “hear” notes in your head before you play them. That is a skill that allows you to “sing” with your guitar. You can deliberately create melody rather than just hitting notes that theoretically are in the right key.
Being able to hear notes before you play them is especially important when it comes to that last note of a melodic line. You may hear how you want your melodic line to end, but if you can’t find that note, it can be very frustrating. For the average listener, the last note is the main note they remember after the line is done. You can actually get away with hitting a few “wrong notes” in you musical line, but not the last note. Even people who have a poor sense of tonality can tell when the last note of a line is off.
Take Solos People Want To Hear
Since the guitar is obviously the greatest instrument ever, it makes sense that everyone and their dog plays, or at least wants to play, the guitar. Therefore, mediocre guitar solos are common and almost always just end up fading into the background. Many listeners lose interest if there’s nothing exciting or new happening in your guitar solo. The thing that makes just about any listener tune out is when you start “noodling.” What is that? Imagine someone who speaks in a monotone combined with run on sentences. After a while, it becomes really hard to stay focused on someone speaking that way. Improvised guitar solos can become just as difficult for a listener to keep their attention on if you keep doing these things:
Not adding space between ideas (lack of phrasing)
Playing at one volume (lack of dynamics)
Running scales without knowing the effect and purpose of every note
Not developing ideas (trying to always come up with new ideas)
When first learning how to play the guitar, it usually just doesn’t sound very good. You need to develop skills to play a song. So a lot of ground work must be done just to be able to play something that remotely sounds like music. It is well worth the time and effort, but I know from teaching enough people that some folks just don’t want to go through that beginning stage. They want to make music. That is possible with this method! I have tried it out on total newbies with surprising results. They weren’t shredding, but they where creating something that actually sounded good. It motivated them to practice more and gain the skills they needed to play songs.
This Course Is Different
The content in this course is different and has proven to be extremely effective. The students who were lead through these series of exercises and guitar training methods surprised themselves. They were able to play something musical. It was a different experience than struggling through a new song that didn’t even sound like the song it was supposed to be. I have to admit that it makes me feel good seeing their faces light up. I know that feeling and felt honored to be the one that lead them there.
The beginning period of learning how to improvise on guitar can be the most challenging and frustrating time. Many approaches to improvising on guitar are quite similar. The reason they don’t work for everyone, or most people, is because they start at a level that requires you to have preexisting knowledge. Usually knowledge of the pentatonic scale. Or they expect you to be able to play through the pentatonic scale the very same second that you are learning it. While this method may deliver mediocre results to guitar players with some experience, it does nothing for beginners. Sometimes guitar teachers forget how hard it was in the beginning stages of learn guitar. Most intermediate guitar player can blast through a pentatonic scale, but beginners cannot.
No other teaching method for improvisation, that I’ve used, has been this effective. Even for people I thought “no way, this might be good, but nothing will work for this student” to my surprise, it worked even on tough cases. And the students with genuine interest and time to practice the exercises regularly transformed their playing. One student went from what I would consider a “Ninja Noodler” to taking really tasty solos. Nice note choices, good mix of long and short notes and even starting building PHRASES!! Couldn’t believe my ears.
I have been studying/practicing improvisation for many years and I really like going back to do these basic skills to refine my playing more. It lets me slow down and work on my ear. Some of the exercises have actually been really challenging. I won’t tell you which, you tell me which one you think it is.
This method is so easy to follow because it starts on a level that even total beginners can join in on. The exercises gradually increase in difficulty. Each exercise is strategically designed to target a specific skill. The best part about it is that you get to start improvising on guitar right off the bat. You will be taking guitar solos in the first lesson with play along tracks.