The quickest way to half-decent improvised solos - is it scales ?

What's Hot
Emp_FabEmp_Fab Frets: 12743
Until now, I've tended to copy solos verbatim.  Getting to the point where I can do them justice takes forever and is about as enjoyable as root-canal work.  I'm now less fussed about getting them identical to the original and more concerned about being able to improvise something reasonably good on the night.  I'm finding that my improvised stuff tends to utilise the same patterns - usually pentatonic, and often with an unacceptable number of random bum notes - that I have become quite adept at hiding by incorporating them and making them appear intentional !

I want to get away from trying to copy the style and fingering of umpteen different guitarists and just let fly with what flows from my subconscious.

I don't mind putting the work in.  I'd sooner put the hours in practicing something that will improve my overall soloing than spend that time getting one solo spot-on to the original.

What should I be doing with my practice time to achieve this ?  Is it just scales ?
98% shouting at clouds and 2% laminate flooring
0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

Comments

  • mixolydmixolyd Frets: 335
    I don't have a link to hand but imo Tim Pierce has the best method for creating solos, he has many videos on this.  He flips between pentatonics and chord tones/chord riffs giving spectacular results without getting too complicated.

    The other thing is to work on composing solos first: improvising is what you do when you've gotten the hang of composing without the pressure of keeping up with tempo.


    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 1reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • vizviz Frets: 4702
    Emp_Fab said:
     Is it just scales ?
    Most definitely not! If you want to compose solos you should spend half your practice time walking in a forest or on the beach front, composing in your head; singing, humming, whistling, making up beautiful tunes. 

    Then get back to your home for the other half and commit your ideas to your fingers; firstly by strumming the chords and singing what you had in mind - to check it works and to make minor corrections - then learning the solo. 

    In the last 5 minutes you can do some scales. Scales are a technique thing not a compositional thing. Don’t fall into the rut of only playing what your fingers tell you to play!
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 9reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • viz said:
    Emp_Fab said:
     Is it just scales ?
    Most definitely not! If you want to compose solos you should spend half your practice time walking in a forest or on the beach front, composing in your head; singing, humming, whistling, making up beautiful tunes. 

    Then get back to your home for the other half and commit your ideas to your fingers; firstly by strumming the chords and singing what you had in mind - to check it works and to make minor corrections - then learning the solo. 

    In the last 5 minutes you can do some scales. Scales are a technique thing not a compositional thing. Don’t fall into the rut of only playing what your fingers tell you to play!
    Wis

    Decent improv is about melody, and being able to make your hands do what’s in your head, not the other way around.
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • RolandRoland Frets: 1681
    Decent improv is about melody, and being able to make your hands do what’s in your head, not the other way around.
    This is the best answer ...
    mixolyd said:
    ... pentatonics and chord tones/chord riffs giving spectacular results without getting too complicated.
    ... but this is what most guitarists do, maybe with a few bends thrown in, and a lot of well known solos were composed this way.
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • stratman3142stratman3142 Frets: 720
    edited February 24
    Some good advice above. I learned by copying solos then by classifying things (in terms of theory) so I could make the same sort of sounds in my own solos.

    So, for example, in the early days, when I was learning solos by Kossoff (my first guitar hero) Hendrix, and Clapton, I learned to recognise the sounds of major and minor pentatonics and to revamp their lines to create my own ideas. Then I started to learn the sounds of adding other notes. For example, adding a 2nd and 6th to a minor pentatonic (i.e. Dorian) gives things a jazzy minor sound but flattening the 6th (i.e. Aeolian) makes it sound more classical minor. But my basic thinking/hearing is rooted in major and minor pentatonics which are my reference point from which I modify things create other scales.

    I also have my own take on the CAGED system which (in my mind at least) unifies hearing and using scales and chord tones.

    I was lead by hearing stuff (either externally from others, or in my head) and then trying to work at some theory that allowed me to classify what I heard so that I can reuse it.

    It's not a competition.
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 3reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • Chord tones, roots, thirds and sevenths and creating a melody from less notes (i.e not playing the scale up and down). Using your ears to guide you instead of a box on a sheet.
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 1reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • Matt_McGMatt_McG Frets: 47
    I think it also depends on the genres of music you are playing in. I made a huge step forward in my own playing (despite having already been playing for nearly 20 years at the time) when I started thinking strongly in terms of chords, and chord tones, and relating particular scales -- major and minor pentatonics, and major, natural minor, mixolydian and dorian modes -- to those chords. 99% of the time (not far of what Tim Pierce is describing) I am playing chords and chord tones, and filling in with a mix of pentatonics and the appropriate diatonic tones from whatever the relevant scale(s) is/are.

    Not making any great claims to be an amazing improviser, but thinking chordally and in terms of chord tones -- root, 3, 5, 7 and then colour notes (6, 9, 11, 13)  -- really helped me play in a way that wasn't just noodling.


    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • Matt_McGMatt_McG Frets: 47
    Short version of previous comment: chords and the notes in chords first, pentatonics (major or minor) second, diatonic/modal scales (third). 

    All of which goes along with the advice about trying to hear melodies in your head, too.
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • p90foolp90fool Frets: 7746
    I can't give you any theory advice as I don't know any, so I'll leave that to others - all I would suggest is that you break the solo down into "sentences". 

    Say something over a bar (or two, or whatever works), then kind of answer it. Pause for breath as if you were a saxophonist or trumpeter rather than just blaze away all through the solo. No need for a big gap, or indeed any gap, just think of your next bit as a new line. 

    Most people in the real world could learn more about soloing from Francis Rossi than Jimi Hendrix.


    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 2reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • Jimbro66Jimbro66 Frets: 631

    This is an interesting question. Very many guitarists in rock and blues do mainly use the common pentatonic scales to construct their solos with little attempt to create melodies. Others, Brian May being a primary example, create strong melodies in their solos - often as strong and memorable as the actual song melody whilst not mimicking it. It is a composed solo where the creative mind controls the fingers. It is what I believe @Viz is advocating.

    Playing scales and making use of the caged system or similar helps with being fluent across the whole of the fretboard, developing an ear for the notes and exercising the fingers. Playing the modes against a root drone from something like a looper pedal gives a feel for how those different scales sound, again developing an ear for those notes. They are all worthwhile exercises but solos based solely on scales generally don't sound particularly interesting.

    Incidentally, just playing straight pentatonic scales makes a pretty awful solo but it is the clever use of string bends to create interest that makes all the difference :)

    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 1reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • dindudedindude Frets: 5199
    They say that there’s no shortcut to learning what works over each and every chord. Which is why I still hit “wrong” notes and claim deliberate atonal-ness.

    Also safe in the knowledge that it will never sound as out as James Bay’s solo in his new song - not sure if any of those notes are in any known western scale.
    1reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • davewwdaveww Frets: 146
    I find practicing using a looper is very helpful.  You can improvise different chord progressions and rhythms to practice over.  Start with a few bars of each chord so you've got time to think where the chord tones are.  It's also a good way to come up with your own solo to existing song.  It also help develop your ear for different chord voicings, 7ths, 9th etc etc.
    You can pick your nose and pick your friends but you can't pick your friends nose
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 2reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • mixolydmixolyd Frets: 335
    Chord tones and chord riffs (arpeggios, double stops etc) ground the solo in the music, making it more eh musical.

    Pentatonics are more like pure energy, less grounded but great for creating a feel when connecting chordal sections or creating/releasing tension in a flurry of notes.

    When it comes to hitting chord tones you need to bear in mind the beats of the bar: just making sure the note in the first beat of the bar is a chord tone will begin to ground a phrase, third beat is good also.  Once you get the hang of this you can deliberately avoid chord tones on strong beats for effect.
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • Danny1969Danny1969 Frets: 3545
    I find knowing how each interval will sound in relation to the last note is generally the key to being able to play what you hear in your head. This also works for how the note sounds against the underpinning chords. 

    People often talk about techniques that are specific to the guitar ..... pentonic box, caged system etc and in my view this is the wrong way to do it. A better way to master the art of fluid improv solo'ing is basically

    Learn where every single note is on the fretboard ....  so you always know what note your playing

    Learn the basic major and minor scale .... this means you will always be in key with no bum notes

    Learn to  recognise the intervals between the notes you hear, both up and down .. this skill allows you to play with your hands what you hear in your head

    The knowledge of the scale your in allows you to target notes based on your knowledge of the chord underneath ..... Take the first solo in Comfortably Numb which is superbly melodic. He starts off hitting the major third of the D and then targets the 5th of the next chord when it changes, hitting an E over an A chord and a G over a C chord etc. I don't know if he just jammed around to do this or whether he knew exactly what he was doing but it's a great example of playing notes that fit the chords beneath. 
    You probably already know in your head common intervals people use all the time .... bending the 4th up to the 5th is probably the most overused start of any solo, starting on  the root note and then playing a  minor 3rd is another. 

    Once you have an idea of what notes your gonna use then you embellish them with guitar specific things like bends, slides, hammerons, harmonics  etc .... put YOUR style on 

    Then when you got the basics down you have to learn to lose the fear of going wrong and avoid the temptation to jump back into the pentonic box like so many of us do ... me included sometimes :)  

    Like so many things it's just practice, practice and more practice. 
    www.2020studios.co.uk 
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 1reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • Emp_FabEmp_Fab Frets: 12743
    daveww said:
    I find practicing using a looper is very helpful.  You can improvise different chord progressions and rhythms to practice over.  Start with a few bars of each chord so you've got time to think where the chord tones are.  It's also a good way to come up with your own solo to existing song.  It also help develop your ear for different chord voicings, 7ths, 9th etc etc.
    That's a brilliant idea !  I've got a looper I haven't used yet.  I can afford to screw up left right and centre at home and learn new shapes etc, still without having any idea of what I'm actually doing, theory-wise !

    I wasn't being facetious - if I can avoid all theory, I will !

    ...and no, I'm not particularly proud of that - I just know how lazy I am.
    98% shouting at clouds and 2% laminate flooring
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • vizviz Frets: 4702
    Theory is totally unnecessary for making tuneful melodies! Your brain can do it insinctively. The looper is a good idea but be careful not to sink into well-worn ruts!
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 1reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • Being comfortable playing anywhere/everywhere on the neck is important, you don't need to be good at theory for this, just practise a lot. Playing along with your favourite records (rather than exactly copying them) is probably the method that helped me most when learning to improvise. Stuff like AC/DC and blues related tunes are great for this, even if that's not what you're going to end up playing. Also, rather than using scales, practise licks that you can repeat in one place on the neck over and over. There's joy in repetition! Some of the most memorable solos of all time repeat similar licks, and when you're improvising, not only can you groove on a certain lick, making yourself sound good, it also gives you breathing room to think about where/what you're going to play next. Last but not least, if you want to start sounding more like yourself than someone else, work on your vibrato whenever possible. Hope some of this helps!
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
Sign In or Register to comment.