How to do improv?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Geddy_2112, Jul 25, 2013.

  1. I want to be able listen to a song and be able to add a good bassline to it. I kind of want my basslines to be a bit complex like Geddy's but I don't think i'm very creative. Any tips?
  2. metalhead398


    Jul 23, 2013
    This is what my bass teacher told me and after less than a year of playing I can make a pretty decent bass line even on the fly:
    Step 1: Learn a few scales in the key. Make them pretty generic, with similar notes across the board. There should be at least three to four notes on any string.
    Step 2: Take the notes in the scale and shape them into a pattern. I myself prefer a simple "rise/fall" pattern. For example:
    G:----------------------0-2-3-4- (Back down)
    This way you don't really have to "make up" a bass line, it's more just putting notes you already know in ascending order, skipping a few in between.
  3. jmattbassplaya

    jmattbassplaya Supporting Member

    Jan 13, 2008
    A few questions:

    - Do you know theory?
    - How good is your ear? Can you tell what note it is just from hearing it? Can you hear intervals?
    - Do you transcribe music any?'
  4. Yes I know music theory and no to the other questions.
  5. jmattbassplaya

    jmattbassplaya Supporting Member

    Jan 13, 2008
    In that case, definitely start brushing up on your arpeggios and pentatonic scales. As long as you know the key/chords of whatever you're playing over you will be able to come up with something that's at least passable by using the notes found in them. It might be a 'no thrills' approach to improve, but it's a good first step.

    To help expand your ability/vocabulary, start transcribing basslines and licks from songs that you'd like to be able to emulate and adapt into your own playing. Learn them in key at first, and then start playing them in other keys, in different positions around the neck, etc... Essentially, you want to be able to learn licks and then apply them on the fly in your own creations. At first you might be copying the original bassline and licks note for note, but the idea is that your own voice will eventually come through and you'll be playing these parts completely different from the originals once you get comfortable doing this.

    As for having a good ear, it just helps if you're playing with people who don't stick on one chord the whole time. Fortunately, your arpeggios practice will help you here in the sense that you'll be hearing some of the most common interval changes. It doesn't matter what the notes are because you'll always be able to hear the interval when someone goes from a I to a IV or V or what have you. Just get used to hearing those jumps in every key and you'll be good.

    And just so you know this won't all happen over night, but if you practice it for at least 20-30 minutes a day, everyday, you'll see some real results within a few months. It's what I did and I went from having zero confidence in my improv ability to being confident enough to sit in on any jam (including ones in front of a live audience) and come up with something good.
  6. Good site. Worth our time.

    IMO improv is taking a known (key/scale) and then playing the notes in a pleasing way. Yes the question is how? For starters the answer is follow the chords. Follow the progression playing the chord's pentatonic or chord tones - no not in scale or chord order - in a pleasing way.

    A chord's pentatonic will give you three chord tones for harmonization and two safe passing notes for color. Hang around the 3rds. And remember you gotta get the tune in there some where.

    Joe Satriani said, and I paraphrase here, "It's OK to go out, just remember to come back in". Let the spirit take you, but, remember to come back into the key/scale everyone else is using. I think he actually said, "it's OK to go out, but, be back in for the 6th note."

    So, IMO improv is taking a know and playing it's notes in a pleasing way. I found these interesting.

Share This Page