How to make your improvisations more musical
Improvisation is one of the most impressive things you can do on the guitar. Having the ability to sit down and jam, and make it sound fantastic has always intrigued me. For a lot of years I struggle with this and it frustrated me greatly. I knew the basic scales and I was pretty technically proficient on the guitar, but somehow everything I played never ended up sounding like real music. It really frustrated my, so if you are stuck in the same rot, I wanna help you get out of it. This article outlines the most important factors that you need to change and or train to make your improvisations sound more like real music.
Play less notes.
The most common mistakes beginner improvisers make are playing way to many notes. In my experience most of this comes from the fear of showing other people that you don’t have your improvisational skills under control. If you are not really sure what to play and what notes to target it seems safer to just play a lot of notes. But actually it does not hide the fact, that you don’t know what you are doing. Playing ten bad notes will not make your improvisations sound better than playing one bad not. But if you force yourself to play less notes, you force yourself out of your comfortzone. Playing less notes also gives you the time to think about what you are playing and the time to actually listen to the notes/melodies that you produce. I would say that most beginner/intermediate improvisers needs to cut their number of notes by at least 50 percent and for some people as much as 80 percent. For a more in-depth explanation about this, watch the video below:
Video 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0UtwNxvKt-4&feature=youtu.be
The concept of phrasing can be a little illusive. At least it was for me for a long time. Phrasing is one of those things that is hard to explain, but obvious when you know what it is. For the purpose of this particular article/exercise, lets define phrasing as the act/ability of playing and developing melodies lines. This is what the really great improvisers do, and it is actually not that hard to get started with. Try to play one 4 note phrase. Make sure that the phrase is four notes and no more than that. Once you have made the phrase, your assignment is to develop that phrase into new phrases. I.E. play a new phrase that is slightly different from the first one you have played. You should still be able to recognise some of the first phrase within the second phrase. This can be done by as little as changing one note. Watch an example of how this can be done here:
Video 2 : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G6wxuD3VpjE&feature=youtu.be
Hit target notes.
Hitting target notes are absolutely crucial to making you improvisation sound like real music. There is nothing to make a player feel bad about his own playing than obviously hitting a bad note. Hitting target notes is one of the hardest things to learn and master on the guitar, as it incorporate so many different skills at the same time. But with consistant practice this can learned and it can be learned by you. Watch an example of how to practice this right here:
Video 3: https://www.youtube.com/edit?o=U&video_id=led-v0g5XTY
Applying these principles will greatly improve you improvisations. This will take some time to learn, but it is not hard to learn. All it takes is determination and some willpower, and you will be able to get this down.
About the author: Janus Buch lives in Copenhagen Denmark, where he is running the Guitar Academy of Copenhagen. If you’re not satisfied with your current level of guitar playing and are serous about improving the Guitar Academy of Copenhagen offers the highest value for money Guitar Lessons for adults in Copenhagen