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Improvisation Techniques

June 6, 2014

As a guitarist, the best compliment you can receive is "nice solo." Improvisation is an extended melody.

The foremost element is pitch. Singers need to make this is their priority. Even out of tune drums sound bad. Horn players adjust their mouthpieces to sharpen or flatten notes. String instruments tuned properly can lose correct pitch by over bending or vibrato techniques. A string instrument must be checked to make sure it is tune as you move down the neck.

Tone is next on the list. Make sure whatever you bring out sounds the best it can. I'm picky about amp tweaking, string gauges, picks etc.

Note selection is probably the hardest part of improv. Learn your scales, but also learn to speak music. Try singing your solo and then make that singing happen on your instrument.

Phrasing and dynamics are more sophisticated. Try different rhythms on a passage. Try soft versus loud sections to bring proper feeling to the song. From guitar to violin to sax to voice, this all applies. Bass solos happen mostly in jazz but it's the same principle. Many of these techniques apply to drums as well. Great technique is where speed comes in.

So practice, practice, practice!