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Frustrated on how to apply improv knowledge!!!!

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Johnny StingRay, Dec 4, 2015.

  1. Whousedtoplay


    May 18, 2013
    Thank you. For some reason, those C major scale notes did not sound awkward to my ears, but...
    I don't have any "soloing" experience, plus I don't have enough knowledge how to improvise.
  2. joeaba


    Aug 20, 2015
    I am possibly in the same boat with you. I don't have any experience as a soloist, but I don't let that stop me from trying. the best thing about improvisation is that you're going to play something that flows of your fingertips that is not contrived. I usually try several different approaches before improvising. One particular method is to play something chromatic, single notes. Another method is to ascend and descend in different registers. and when I'm comfortable with the changes, I will work on my continuity, by playing several bars of a solo in 8th or 16th notes with accents and syncopation. I always try to circle back to where I started and take the solo in for a landing. Then I do it again, my goal with improvising is to acknowledge the parts that work and to exploit them as a means to create the illusion that I know what I'm doing, and planned my every move. depending on the key, I might just bounce around the neck for a bit to get my fingers accustomed to the chord shapes and fingerings that I will be employing, other than that I try not to think about my movements, I let my ears and fingers take over. Thinking about it gets in the way.
    Whousedtoplay likes this.
  3. raventepes


    Jan 7, 2012
    Reno, NV
    You're overthinking everything. Feel the music. Your hands will do the rest.
  4. Farrin D

    Farrin D Supporting Member

    Jun 7, 2008
    Evansville, IN
    Here's a quote from one of my jazz/soul professors at IU when I was there, just some tips he gave to us:
    "Your playing, especially solos, should have enough risk that your playing is living. If it s all preconceived,worked out and imitative, it isn't living; it is dead and cannot generate the future.

    You should sound skillful, articulate, determined, cultural(what ever yours is) but if your playing is only predetermined......it may be too much old (borrowed ancestor) and not enough of you and your artistic offspring(beauty yet unborn.)

    On the other hand, only inventiveness and not enough being informed/ancestor/culture and your playing is a nonsensical suicidal soliloquy.


    It's an open letter to self. Transcribe. But continue to play in the moment. In the culture, in the moment; the culture of the moment."

    But I'm with you, it takes some time to get to that level of where your ideas just flow in order to do that.
    vanderbrook likes this.
  5. interp

    interp Supporting Member

    Apr 14, 2005
    Garmisch, Germany
    "What are your thought processes for picking and choosing from your repertoire to play through a solo?"

    I can't give you a pat answer to your question, but I know that the less I think, the better I play.
  6. DenverDrew


    Aug 22, 2011
    I have two things that I find helpful when soloing on any instrument. Pick two notes in your scale that can be played through the entire progression. Limit yourself to playing just those notes but finding how many different ways you can phrase them. Play with different timings and everything from 1/2 notes to 16th. You only have two notes to worry about, relax and just play. Think of it like you getting to tell the audience what you have to say. If you can convey complex emotions with just two notes imagine what you'll do with the whole fretboard.

    Second is advice from Eric Clapton that's universally applicable. I'm paraphrasing but it's essentially soloing is learning as many licks as you can and playing one into the next in the moment. This one ends on C and leads me right into the progression change then this one is a hot jazzy lick using some Dorian scale and can lead right into the bridge... Once you know them don't think about it. Just play and let your fingers do the work!

    Remember the words of Miles Davis, it's about the notes you don't play. IMHO also don't be too "wordy" with your solos. Leave that for the metal heads.
  7. miles'tone


    Feb 26, 2008
    Wales, U.K
    True. This was always Jaco's advice too.
    Learn the melody!
  8. sissy kathy

    sissy kathy Back to Bass-ics Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2014
    Arbutus, MD
    You don't blindly grab a shovel and start digging, when building a house. There is a ton of preparation that has to go into it before you ever pickup a shovel. You need a location, perk test if using septic, blue prints, zoning approval, and permits, just to name a few. How is a song any different?
  9. jamro217

    jamro217 Supporting Member

    Think of music as a language. You didn't have any trouble articulating your dilemma using a keyboard in English. You decided what your message was, how you were going to phrase it, and where your comment was to begin and end. You succeeded in making your point. Now do that with your solo. If you feel as if you aren't flashy enough, pick one or two notes that you wish to accentuate, practice some unique tone, a glissando or something unexpected to spice up what may otherwise be a relatively boring passage. That may change everything.
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2015
  10. jamro217

    jamro217 Supporting Member

    Absolutely brilliant insight. Thank you for this.
    Dan Waineo likes this.
  11. I had a 6 week break travelling where I hadn't touched any instrument. I picked up a bass in a shop and all I could play was melodies. Totally bizarre experience for me.

    Maybe completely immersing yourself in just melodies for a couple of weeks will help. Try using your ear/memory for 100%, going cold turkey. If you also play a melody instrument even better.
  12. Whousedtoplay


    May 18, 2013
    I've NEVER been a Jazz musician, just an amateur Pop/Rock bassist. I've never improvised, but I've been around a lot of musicians who played Jazz.
    I think there is a difference (maybe a big one) between
    just IMPROVISING (in Pop/Rock/Country music) and
    playing Jazz (it's like a whole other Country with its simple fan clubs and VERY serious PhD's) music and playing Jazz improvisations.
    In this thread, almost everybody is talking and commenting about JAZZ.
  13. jamro217

    jamro217 Supporting Member

    I agree and disagree with this. If a composer has no originality, he's doomed. That includes all of us who play solos (which are compositions). Once the composition exists, a solo is a secondary composition superimposed on the original thought. When you go a concert and want to hear your favorite songs played, it's easy to be dismayed if they are improvised to the point of being unrecognizable. That's where the balance comes in. There are some songs and solos that lend themselves to spontaneity and others that are better suited being played note by note.
  14. Clef_de_fa

    Clef_de_fa Guest

    Dec 25, 2011
    stop thinking so much. Put the chords progression in a software like Band In the Box and just listen to the chord without the melody. Then sing along, whatever that comes out. Then take your instrument and go with it
    Whousedtoplay and jamro217 like this.
  15. Carl Hillman

    Carl Hillman

    Jan 1, 2010
    I think the reason for that is that the process of learning to improvise has been thoroughly analyzed, codified, and taught in the jazz world for a long time. Improvisation is one of the bedrocks of that style of music.

    The things you learn about improvising when you study jazz (how harmony functions, chord/scale relationships, construction of melodies, voice leading, etc. ) can be applied to any other style of music.
  16. JTE

    JTE Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    You have some basic knowledge of the building blocks. So, here's how you use that:

    LISTEN to great improvisers, work out what they're playing/singing. THEN use the knowledge of scales, chords, etc. to analyze what they're doing. It's not enough to simply use Miles as background music and expect to be able to improvise like him. BTW, "great improvisers" pretty much means jazz musicians because that's the heart of jazz. It's (when done right) not simply stringing licks together like so many rock guitarists do. I love the emotion of Clapton's playing, but he's not really a great improviser even though he's one of my favorite guitarists. To learn to improvise I'd say Mike Stern is a much better source than EC. And don't limit it to people who play bass, because good improvisation knows no instruments. Ella Fitzgerald is a good source, Miles, Coltrane, Wayne Shorter, Oscar Peterson, et. al.

    Learn melodies, like frequently iterated by others. Sing the melody while playing the bass line. If you can play a chordal instrument like guitar or keys, sing the melody while playing the basic chords. This opens your hears up to other than bass functions. And also learn to play the melody on your bass, which helps get your fingers and ears working together on it.

    Now do this- record the chord progression/backing track, whatever you're wanting to improvise over. Lock up your bass so you won't be tempted to shortcut the process. Listen to the progression and imagine what a good solo would sound like. Sing that solo and record it. Only then do you get your bass out. Now, learn on bass EXACTLY what you sang, paying close attention to the phrasing and dynamics. Then analyze why that solo works. The reason for doing this whole exercise is that it forces you to deal with the SOUND and the MUSIC. It utterly prevents your fingers from playing shapes you know, and drives you to the SOUND.


    As you do it, like anything you do with diligent practice, you get better and it gets easier. But only with diligent practice.

    Whousedtoplay likes this.
  17. Menorahman

    Menorahman Banned Supporting Member

    Aug 13, 2015
    Nashville, TN
    Being a guitarist first was a big help for me...made shredding the bass a lot easier.
  18. Whousedtoplay


    May 18, 2013
    A few youtube videos about Improvisation

    "Improvisation Using Simple Melodic Embellishment," a jazz clinic given at the 2012 NYSSMA conference by Mike Titlebaum, director of jazz studies at Ithaca College. In this session, attendees practice embellishing a common melody ("When the Saints Go Marching In") using straightforward melodic techniques such as passing tones, neighbor tones, and more complex techniques such as double neighbors and chromatic embellishment."

    (Like with Cm7 play the D pentatonic scale)

    Improv Class - Gary Burton

    How Jazz Musicians Improvise - Billy Taylor
    ("Those ideas strike only if you are prepared.")
    Johnny StingRay, JEBassman and joeaba like this.
  19. JEBassman

    JEBassman Supporting Member

    Jun 25, 2008
    You're right about that point: we are talking about jazz a lot in this thread. I'm really glad that you made that observation. Allow me to explain how the jazz improvisation thread applies to other musical styles as well, and why it's so important to have this chat, even if you don't see yourself as a "jazz musician".

    The process of developing the different skills and instincts to improvise covers a range of techniques and approaches, as this thread illustrates. In order to improvise well, in any style, then all of these techniques and creative tools come into play. Yes, someone can improvise without worrying about all of these considerations, but they won't be soloing very well. First learn to improvise, by building up your technique and expressive abilities, and then feel free to use those improvisational processes in any style of music you want! It really works.

    The reverse is true as well: in order to be an accomplished jazz improviser, it helps to have experience playing other styles of music. So the whole discussion, about how to improvise well (and not just play a bunch of random notes that sound awful) comes full circle. Study the jazz language, and how to use it, then you can take all of those skills and apply them in any musical style you want. You will also be a better composer / songwriter, if you can learn these skills and instincts.

    Just like a successful band performance or New Year's gig takes practice and preparation, playing good solos and good bass lines takes a lot of work, trial and error, and the learned ability to develop ideas and have them come out of your instrument. Playing solos and playing bass lines are two different roles though, and they each require different approaches in order to sound really great. For bassists, the opportunity to be a melodic instrument is exciting and can open up a whole other world. That's just one of many reasons why jazz improvisation appeals to so many bass players.

    Whatever your style / scene is, studying jazz improvisation can make that scene more fun and enjoyable :D :thumbsup: :D
    Whousedtoplay likes this.
  20. Whousedtoplay


    May 18, 2013
    Thank you for your comment.
    My question was more or less about my experience.
    I had a good friend who was a very good jazz guitar player and a very big fan of Pat Metheny, but when I needed some Pop guitar solo, I used to call an "a la Van Halen" guitarist. When I needed more rhythmic pop/rock guitar solo, I used to call an "a la Jeff Beck" guitarist.

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