Help me with improvisation !!!

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by marcusmiller, Oct 30, 2003.

  1. marcusmiller


    Oct 26, 2003
    Help me with improvisation !!!
    I got a scale book.I know some of the major modes.But only in one position.The problem is
    i dont know how to solo over a chord progression.
    I can only do it on minor pentatonic (or blues)
    scale that is the most common one.
    I wanna solo in minor (aeolian) mode and also
    some jazzy solos (which are the most common jazzy scales ? ) I dont know which scale to play on which chord . PLEASE HELP

    we ll mostly play popular tunes (jazz standards and soft rock kinda songs in hotels and pubs)
    a guitar and me (singer&bass player)
  2. Craig Garfinkel

    Craig Garfinkel

    Aug 25, 2000
    Hartford, CT
    Endorsing Artist: Sadowsky Guitars
    Jeez Marcus, it sure sounds like you know how to play over changes. Damn, but you fake it pretty well. ;)

    Okay so you're not that Marcus....

    but you're asking a lot here. The best thing you can do is find a private teacher that can teach you all you need to know theoretically about improvising over changes. It's not just about what scales to play over what chords. If you take that approach, BTW, I can guarantee you will play the most correct and boring solos possible.

    Here's a quick way to get to a point where you are using your ears to make note choices, instead of playing scales or chord tones.

    Learn the melody, including the bridge. Chances are you may recognize a scale within the melody, and that's cool. But listen to the notes of the melody and how they work over the changes. When you get to the point that you know the melody cold, then you already "know" what notes work well, even best, over the changes. those notes, but use your ear to construct your own melody. Remember to "breath" (leave space...sometimes it's what you don't play), listen, make it rhythmically interesting, and're a soloin' fool.

    It's just that easy. Or is it?
  3. marcusmiller


    Oct 26, 2003
    thank you for the help.
    I dont claim to be the next " Marcus Miller "
    just a fan of his music :)
    I have another question about the scales.
    Where i can find the name of the songs or the artists who use a particular scale mostly.
    For exemple when you listen to Led Zeppelin
    you get a millions of ideas for minor pentatonic scales.
    As for diggin in Mixolydian , major pentatonic , naturel minor , major scale Which stuff should i listen to ?
  4. Improvisation is playing a melodic idea on the spot. Scales, arpeggios, and other progressions are tools to be used for sure, but listen to the true masters of improvisation (Miles Davis, John Coltrane, etc ) and you don't hear so much 'formal' ideas as original thinking while playing.

    In other words, improvisation is playing what you feel. If your technique and familiarity with the fingerboard are good, just play from the heart.

    The rest of the band should be following you anyway if you're soloing !

  5. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    That's not going to get you through a tune! Should the band be following your clinkers so you sound right? How about when you miss that IV chord?

    The band will not follow you through a solo, you're going to have to play wiht them.
  6. Well there are a few good places on the net...try great site with some jazz standards (for all instruments but same stuff), they also have links to other sites. There are tons just look for stuff about jazz soloing (not on bass, though) cuz then you see how progressions work and what modes+scales work with which and how to do substitutions and all that jazz! Anyway, in a short time i learnt tons from the net...teacher would be nice...but net is good if you can understand what you read:rolleyes: :bassist:

    Have fun!
  7. Sorry Pacman, I didn't mean playing random notes to a beat. I meant playing an interesting idea in concert with the chordal structure of the song.

  8. I am slowly finding out that theory is a great building block but it isn't essential and other stuff can work sometimes. What I like to do is learn roots and then just try to solo off it and when something sounds good I try to recreate that sound and remember it and maybe improv of that idea.
  9. lowerclef


    Nov 10, 2003

    If you want to learn some real improv for bass, get Jazz Improv For Bass and Pro's Jazz Phrases, both very inexpensive and available at

    A word of advice: throw out the scale book. Forget every scale you know. You will never sound "jazzy" playing scales and modes. You need to learn to play chordally, which is what these books will do. They have lots of basic jazz riffs, plus how to interpret chord charts and use substitutions, etc. Plus some very challenging Joe Pass stuff in the back.

    Sure, solos sometimes have scales and/or scale fragments in them, but if you try to learn to solo that way, it will sound like a bunch of scales - very boring and unmelodic. At best, a scale should just be a passing idea from one chordal idea to the next. Good chordal playing (and no, I don't mean playing chords on the bass) will facilitate hitting all of the sweet spots in the chord. It's so much more refreshing to the ear than just hearing someone run scales up and down.

    Try it - you won't be disappointed, I promise!!
  10. Dude! My jazz-drummer best friend just told me to do that the other day and suddenly, walking basslines made sense. But I would amend your statement by saying "Learn every scale THEN forget every scale you know."
  11. UnsungZeros

    UnsungZeros The only winning move is not to play.

    The greatest thing about improv is that there is no right or wrong. Where ever your fingers land, you go with it. Its a matter of moving with the flow of things and it comes to you with practice.
  12. lowerclef


    Nov 10, 2003
    Well, I only said that because I tried for a long time to do the whole chord/scale approach, and it was a total waste of time. Nothing I ever came up with sounded idiomatically correct, or even musical for that matter.

    Most cats who endorse this approach will say that the way to learn soloing is to learn what scales go with each chord and to experiment with your different note choices, etc. but this is way too complicated and unproductive. If you've got a fast tune where the changes are flying past you, how are you supposed to think of all of your scale choices all at once and then pick notes that will create a line that will (hopefully) sound good? Maybe some cats can do that, but I'm sure not one of them.

    Carol's approach is different. You play to the chord, not the scale. For example, for a Dm7, instead of thinking in D dorian (D E F G A B C D), you would play a line based off the chord (D F A C E G B). And there are lots of sample lines in the books to get you started. Right away, you'll get much more of an authentic jazz sound happening. And then there are a bunch of tricks you can use to demystify the whole process. Any lick you play for a ii-7 will also work with its corresponding V7 chord. You can also "milk" your licks, moving them up or down 3 frets and keep going like that over the ii-V. You can use a number of hip diminished or augmented lines that will work over any dominant chord, as well as a big list of sub chords that can be used in all sorts of cool ways.

    This approach also works great for walking because you're really outlining the changes in a musical way and not just running up and down a bunch of scales.

    I learned so much from this method in such a short period of time, that I kicked myself for ever trying to learn it any other way. I challenge everyone here to get her materials and try it out. Her books are available at and pretty cheap so it's no big risk on your part. But you'll definitely see a noticeable improvement in your playing in a relatively short period of time. It teaches you to hear and analyze music a whole different way from most of the stuff that's out there. And the beauty part is that it's not rocket science. It still requires a lot of practice, but you will see results! Listening to lots of jazz from the late 50s is a big help too.

    And you won't ever rack your brain again trying to remember the names of all those dumb scales!
  13. Sonorous


    Oct 1, 2003
    Denton, TX
    the grateful dead are an incredible improv band, which means their bassist is a an incredible improv bassist... but i don't know his name
  14. lowerclef


    Nov 10, 2003
    Phil Lesh, I believe.
  15. Can you elaborate on the " D F A C E G B" instead of "D E F G A B C" part? I'm really curious about this way of thinking, since several of you have said it helped make walking lines suddenly "click" for you. What do you mean by this?
  16. dirk


    Apr 6, 2000
    Memphis, TN
    My bass teacher has me playing ii-V patterns. These have been really helpful with my improvisation, especially since ii-V are in a ton of standards and helps soloing over the blues. I would also reccomend not thinking so much about the key of the tune and every scale on every chord, but think about the tonal centers, and common tones between those tonal centers and even between the changes in one tonal center. Also, always play melodically. Try singing your solos. This helps tremendously. It's funny how time goes by. This time last year I was just learning how to walk proficiently and now I'm about 1-2 months into soloing comfortably. Life just keeps getting better.
  17. lowerclef


    Nov 10, 2003
    Well, chords are generally made by playing every other note in a given scale. A Dm7 chord is usually assigned the D dorian scale (D E F G A B C D). If you started on the D and skipped every other note, you would play an arpeggio of the chord: D F A C; if you keep going this way you'll hit the upper tensions: E (9), G (11), and B (13). By the time you've played all the notes in the scale, it has covered a two-octave range.

    Yes, we're dealing with the same notes, but it sounds a lot different when you apply it chordally. Running patterns up and down the D dorian scale on a Dm7 works in a rock/pop setting, but it sounds very bland in jazz for a solo line. Play the notes in the two different orders listed above (scale and chord) and you'll see what I mean. A lot of stock jazz phrases (which are in Carol's books, and there are others out there as well) are made by targeting the chord tones and sometimes surrounding them with "approach notes" (notes just above or below the target note). A sample lick for Dm7 using upper and lower approach notes would be: EC#D GEF BG#A DBC.

    I'm actually making this really complicated. The basic idea is that you learn some stock jazz riffs and what kinds of chords you can use them on, and build from there. The beauty part is that some licks work on lots of different chords. You're learning how the chords function with each other and don't worry about the scale.

    As for walking, you focus on mainly chord tones as well to cleanly outline the changes. There are lots of tricks here too, but too deep to get into on just one post. Check out the website to learn more.
  18. marcusmiller


    Oct 26, 2003
    i am so excited about this new theory !!
    I am not an advanced player.
    I am very new to jazz. (i want to combine jazzy stuff with popular stuff)
    I am STRUGGLING to learn the scales and u want me to UNLEARN THEM ?
    You know what i realised : I realised the same things u said.It is DAMN HARD to play when; at the same time , u think of the scales ...

    When u say play the CHORD NOTES : DO U MEAN THE
    TRIADS ? and adding the extensions if it is an extended chord ?
    Why CAN i use the notes which are not in the chord ???
  19. marcusmiller


    Oct 26, 2003
    QUOTE : "Yes, we're dealing with the same notes, but it sounds a lot different when you apply it chordally. Running patterns up and down the D dorian scale on a Dm7 works in a rock/pop setting,"

    So u mean in a pop/rock setting this approach (chordal one) doesnt work ???

    So i we play Beatles - etc standard hotel covers but CANT i add some jazzy flavour in my solos and
    some walkin bass lines ?
    Is Jazz music (in terms of theory) really too separated from popular music ?
  20. marcusmiller


    Oct 26, 2003
    But i really hate sight reading so i need TAB
    I am sure Carol s books are notation as well.;)

    As i am not aiming to be a jazz player (but God only knows what my taste is gonna be like in the future...and what its gonna add to my music. So i want to try learnin some jazz stuff.)