Category Archives: How to improvise on the guitar articles

A series of articles to help you develop improvisation on the guitar in all styles of music

How to improvise on the guitar

How to improvise on the guitar  

Five reasons why it feels good to learn to improvise on the guitar.

1. Create fresh replenishing emotions

To improvise on the guitar, is a creative way of telling a musical story. Let´ s imagine we have a paragraph of 24 words that we narrate, with the objective of explaining a feeling. Consequently, we may also keep on repeating the paragraph, but with different degrees of variations, to further develop the emotion.

To improvise on the guitar is to create variations of the musical story. It gives you the pathway to extend the interpretation, to modify, adapt and change it to your needs and on the go.  As a result, improvisation on the guitar, can produce extremely satisfying emotions, as I believe it is the true gateway for personal expression. 

2. Interaction with others

We all know how much fun we can have, when we play with others. Music can also be a lot of fun, and improvising can be the ultimate game of enjoyment.  

I relate guitar improvisation to the perfect communion of souls, in all possible conscious dimensions. Furthermore, our musical interaction just fills up the space around us, as we bond with fellow musicians and the audience.

Music and guitar improvisation is another humble path to an experience, where we all come together, to share our beloved human values. When we improvise on the guitar, in any style of music as blues, jazz, funk, rock, flamenco, we create the opportunity to interact emotionally with others, without the need of words, nor values, nor judgements of any kind.

Guitar improvisation will make you feel extremely unique, because you freely express yourself in a context, where you are accompanied and heard.

3. To explore ones inner self

I believe life can feel good when we break the rigidness of daily obligations. Therefore, a bit of controlled chaos feels good; learn to improvise on the guitar and you will enjoy a refreshing musical adventure of colours, sounds and emotions. When we improvise, we take on this adventure our dreams and souls.

When we play music knowing exactly what is ahead, and what we have to do, then it feels like we are on a road, set by others to achieve a boxed goal.  However, if we are able to explore other pathways, other boundaries, other colours along the way, and interact with joy with others,  the creative guitar experience will be emotionally rewarding.  This non programmed road trip will become the real musical adventure. We will arrive at the same destination as the programmed road trip,  but  feeling very satisfied, and eager to wake up the next day to jump on board and explore another pathway. 

4. Satisfaction

From my experience, when I improvise and create variations,  as a consequence of my interaction with my other band members, I feel very satisfied afterwards.  Satisfaction is not an easy feeling to come across, and it is the feeling that most will regenerate my whole body and soul. 

Also, the more I improvise, understanding the emotional goals, choosing the right harmonic melodic tools for the job,  the greater the final satisfaction.

Let’s improvise together. Come and join us at the Creative Guitar School, in Melbourne, and learn to play the guitar, to improvise in contemporary musical styles on electric guitar, acoustic guitar or nylon string Spanish guitar

5. To be unique

Music is not a visual experience, nor a competition, it is an auditive experience, that you can enjoy with your internal rhythm, soul and with your closed eyes, unless you are driving. 

However,  there is a lot of guitar music our there,  that is a reflection of what we can do, and not what the musician is trying to express, tell or convey. Music is the gift we can use to develop a virtue, to share with others; our uniqueness, our story. 

A story is not about how quick you can run, or how much you can scream. A musical story is really about sharing an emotion.  Yes, when we scream we portray an egoistic feeling, but the true virtue would be to make the audience feel the need of this excitement, and get them to scream with you. 

It feels good to improvise on the guitar and to be unique in our story telling,  as we can accomplish a very special human interaction, that no other musical form of expression will allow. 

What tools do we need to improvise effectively 

As a guitarist, you will need to master all the musical tools required to know inside out, the melody and harmonic structure of the song. This means, that at any time and moment, you are playing a song, you can effectively,  switch from the role of the soloist to the accompanist, or vice versa.

Once you have the song mastered,  then you are now ready to start creating variations, to keep the song flowing, based upon the interaction with other band members, the audience and your feel, either as the soloist, or the accompanist of the lead guitar.

In order to improvise on the guitar efficiently, you need to learn specific melodic, rhythmic, and harmonic tools, to create variety in tension, in dramatic intensity, as the song develops.

For example, let ´s say you have played your song once, and you want to be able to play the melody, (the lyrics of the song) with more intensity the second time through. A change of octave,  an increase in rhythmic intensity or harmonic tension, will give you all the desired momentum, to produce your climax. 

There are literally hundreds of tools at your disposal, to help develop your creativity on the go, but all you need is just a few, to get going, and to start feeling the flow of creating music.

Improvisation and Guitar Courses

All students, in all guitar courses, I impart at my Melbourne Creative Guitar School, learn to improvise. At a guitar beginners level, you will learn to create basic variations of melody and harmony. As you progress throughout the levels, you will master a vast array of tools, to accomodate all your emotional needs.

I encourage learning through group interaction. Therefore, I teach all basic courses in Group environments . These classes have a maximum fo 4 students per class.

I further encourage the group interaction with the concerts I schedule throughout the year. All students perform live every 3 months. Before the performance, we also organise a nice barbecue to get the stomachs activated and the energy levels up high.

Students will also have the opportunity to enjoy feedback of all their musical accomplishments, since I hold the classes in my recording studio.  Therefore,  we are able to record the group progression, and enjoy how much we have learnt, at the different stages of the musical journey. 

Guitar Improvisation lessons

Guitar Improvisation lessons

What is improvisation

To improvise on the guitar is to create, from simple to complex, melodic and or ,  harmonic variations of a song, or a section.

We always need to create variations in the songs, to match how we feel as we play along. You might vary the melody to achieve the most dramatic climax, we might start the song playing the groove in a sparse manner, and build it up as we play along. We might need to do to the opposite and bring the song down, to less intensity, or we might create even more complex variations as we do in genres as jazz.

Guitar Improvisation lessons

We all have in us, the need to flow, to express ourselves with constant changes of tension. However, we require training,  guitar improvisation lessons to understand how to translate these emotions into music.

How to improvise

The ultimate goal of all guitar improvisation lessons , is to allow us to understand what sounds right, how to hear it, how to sing it and how to play it.

To achieve these goals we need to understand how to compose a song, and the relationship between chords and melody; the scale. We need to be able to play a song, the melody and accompaniment. We need to know our scales and chords, all over the fretboard.

Then we are ready to improvise, to create new melodies, new harmonies. We are ready to explore creating on the go short long-phrases with more or less density. We are ready to explore non harmonic melodic notes, guide tone lines, upper structure triads, chord tone soloing, motive soloing and development, augmentation, diminution, syncopation, double time, tetratonic scales and much more.

Do I need to know all the theory to be able to improvise

Not really. Just sing what you would like to do, and play it .  If you can sing it it will sound good.

However, guitar structured learning will allow you to find new ideas quicker, and also to have more and more ideas, just explode in your mind.

Theory should be a classification of what you can hear and play. I strongly suggest to explore new concepts only, once you have played them and felt them.

For example:
You love the way Stevie Ray Vaughn achieves an extreme climax in the middle of his solo. Your first step is to play it, to memorise it. Then, afterwards, as a teacher, I would give you all the tools in our guitar improvisation lessons,  to choose from,  to create your own; harmonic tension, melodic tension, rhythmic density and register.

I suggest that we learn to improvise,  by expanding on what we hear, and what we like from others.

Generic types of soloing

I distinguish two opposite ways of creating a guitar solo in any style.  We may be lyrical,  like Santana , whose lines are very vocal like. Or we can create phrases , that talk in depth, about the chords, the way a jazz guitarist like George Benson or West Montgomery would play.

Electric guitars have more sustain than acoustic, nylon strings, Spanish or Flamenco guitars. We need to adapt our form of playing to the manner in which the instrument  is created; an electric guitar with saturation or distortion can be even more lyrical.

At all guitar courses and guitar improvisation lessons I offer at the Creative Guitar School in Melbourne, both online and in class, students learn all the required tools to be able to improvise in all styles and with any type of guitar.

Please note that you will learn in my guitar improvisation lessons, to apply creative tools to both the solo, the melody and the accompaniment of such.

The joy of guitar improvisation

Guitar improvisation is one of the biggest thrills you can have in music. The freedom to interact live in concert with other musicians, is a skill that you will want to develop. You must learn how to improvise, from the early stages of your guitar learning.

We develop this freedom of expression, when we are able to master, the guitar tools we need, to create variations on a song. A song, in the majority of cases has a melody that can be sung. The chords accompany that melody to help it come out, and also to help underlay the groove of the song.

When we improvise, we generally maintain the same structure of the song, and the same chords. We always have in our head the melody of the song, and based upon that and the harmonic setting,  we have a reference with which all members of the band, will interact with, to create the constant variations that come with the music flow.

What styles suit best

All styles can allow for varied degrees of improvisation. It will all depend on the skill of the band members, to allow this scenario to come alive.

Jazz is the style that allows most improvisation. Jazz is not a groove but a way of performing any given song.

Styles as blues, pop, funk, flamenco, all allow for improvisation.  This is what  makes the music come alive. The band members interact with each other, and with the audience. We create a constant dialogue based upon the tools of  improvisation; the heart beat of the performance.

Some ideas to help you redevelop your solos.

I assume you have an understanding of scales, arpeggios and harmony, and are ready to get playing on the guitar.

Stretching the time

The next time you play your guitar solo, in a any style as flamenco, latin, blues, pop; try stretching the time. This means that, slightly play ahead or behind of the beat . When you play ahead you can create the feel of rushing the solo, when you play behind the beat, you can create the feeling of dragging the tempo.

To practice this technique, and incorporate it into your guitar tool box, so it automatically pops up when you need this feel,  you must practice extensively.Let me give you an example of how:

  1. Choose a section of 8 bars of a song.
  2. Play over the chord changes, creating phrases that fall right on the centre of the beat.
  3. Then, play over the chord changes, and create phrases that start on the beat; drag behind and then fall back on the beat.
  4. Play over the chord changes; start playing right on tempo and finish your phrase ahead of the beat.
  5. Do the opposite.
  6. Play over the chord changes, start your phrase ahead of time, very accelerated and slowly bring the speed down , to play right on tempo.
  7. Try combinations of the above .

In all styles of music, you will be able to stretch in some manner the time. This will become part fo your expression, only after practicing it on your acoustic, electric, or Spanish guitar until your are able to have fun with it.

Improvisation on the guitar can be great fun. Once we know the chords, scales, arpeggios and how they relate to the harmony form, then we only need to keep on learning new ideas on what to do, understand the why, and we are off to explore a world of surprising textures and musical pleasures.

Improvising in the studio, during recordings sessions.

The most vivid, explosive recordings,  only occur when musicians and guitarists can interact, together, at the same time in the recording session.

A lot of recording sessions do not cater for live interaction of the studio musicians. In my recording studio in Melbourne, I strive to achieve constant improvisation in all guitar tracks and sessions.

A recording should be an audio photograph of what occurs in a concert. Please enjoy my live concerts and studio performances on you tube.