Improvising is a skill that you will need if you want to take your playing to the next level. While watching a live show or a guitar video, you might have noticed that, some guitarists just improvise so easily! If you are wondering how, then to answer your question, all I can say is some guitarists are born with that quality and rest, spend countless hours practicing to master that skill. Now you will ask, what actually do they practice to master improvising on guitar?
Well, in this article, I am going to show you what exactly they practice and I will also show you how you can follow some steps to learn and improve your improvisation skills.
How do guitarists improvise?
Guitarists improvise easily because they have memorized a large variety of scales and they have practiced it over and over again. Give them any chord progression and ask them to play a random solo over it or just to improvise, the next thing you will hear is a piece that you haven’t heard it before. That’s the power of improvisation, you can play whatever you want in any given key and make it completely yours.
Also read :- This is how guitarists remember chords
This is how you can learn and improve you improvisation
The first thing you need to do is to listen to other guitarists while they are improvising. With that, try to analyze what actually they are doing. Are they using the repetitive licks or using the pentatonic ( any particular scale ) scale the most, etc. As you analyze, apply it in your playing.
One more method is try to learn a variety of scales and practice it with a chord progression. For example, learn all the 5 positions of A minor pentatonic scale and then try to solo over a chord progression that is in the key of A minor. Try to cover as many positions of the scale as you can and include techniques like bending, slides, vibrato, and hammer-on and pull-offs. As you do it over and over again, you will notice a visible improvement in your improvisation skills.
How do you improvise melodies on guitar?
Small guitar melodies are the perfect way to start improvising on guitar. For example, take a melody and first learn and memorize the original notes and then improvise it by adding some notes that match the sound of the original piece. Add different techniques like vibrato and hammer-ons to make it completely unique and yours. The same thing you can implement to improvise a guitar solo. To do this whole thing, you need to have a good knowledge of scales which I am assuming you have, if not then start learning some. Everything comes in time so, have some patience and practice the things that you feel are hard over and over again.
5 Effective Guitar Improvisation Tips
Here are some tips that will help you to widen you improvisation skills.
1. Learn a variety of scales
Learning a variety of scales and all its different position will open a whole range of opportunities that are not only limited to improvisation but beyond that. The main scales that you need to work upon are pentatonic, major, minor, and the harmonic scale. Take one scale at a time and learn all its different position over the neck. Practice it over and over again until your muscle memory completely memorizes it. This approach will surely help to play anything on a given key.
2. Practice guitar techniques
If you only play the notes of the scale when improvising, that will sound very regular and common. By adding different techniques like bends, vibrato, slides, and hammer on and pull-offs into your improvisation you can make it sound unique and ear-pleasing. So, by this I mean to say is, push yourself to explore the techniques that you haven’t yet touched and master them. It will surely add a unique flavor and give a different dimension to your guitar playing.
3. Learn as much new licks as you can
By learning new licks, riffs, and melodies every day, you will keep on storing it in your vocabulary and this will keep you stay motivated as well as keep your playing fresh and updated. At the end of the day, this will only help you in not getting stuck while improvising and provide a flow of creativity.
4. Practice your finger exercises regularly
To be able to improvise effortlessly, you have to make sure that your fingers are in good shape. Include finger exercises like chromatics, alternate picking, hammer-on and pull off in your daily practice routine. By doing these exercises daily for 10 minutes, your fingers will get enough strength and dexterity to move freely over the neck.
5. Frustration is good
This tip is for the ones who are just starting out to improvise. Expect to feel frustrated and upset when you are just starting to improvise on guitar because in the beginning stage, it may not sound right and that can be frustrating. But at that moment you need to remind yourself that each and everyone makes mistakes and no one is as perfect to play completely error-free. It takes a lot of practice and patience to reach there.
How long does it take to learn to Improvise on guitar
To give you a clear answer, it may take up to 1 month or maybe less/more to see some satisfying results. But again, it all depends on how many quality hours you spend on practicing your instrument. That doesn’t mean that you should practice 8 hours a day. What I mean is, even if you are practicing for 30 minutes a day it should be a truthful session and not just clowning around. ( I am too much gulity of myself for that ).