Improvisation is a key skill in any musician's arsenal. Many musicians love being able to do it, while others dream of being able to make music on the spot. There is nothing more impressive to the listener than a musician who can perform a great melody on the guitar in a moment's notice.
In the end, the majority of guitar players aren't all that great at improvising. This isn't usually because of any technical misunderstanding. I'm sure you've heard some musicians that are fast, and technically perfect, but they just don't sound inspired — as if this is just one of their many practice sessions. Then there are those musicians who play few notes, albeit not the cleanest, but they have an intense presence about them.
I'm a huge fan of intensity, speed, and proper technique; but I certainly am also a fan of the musicality of an improvised performance. These two pieces of the equation exist in tandem, and no player can be a great improviser without being proficient at both sides.
There has been a lot of articles about improving your ability to improvise. But in my own experience with students, there have been two techniques that really stand out as having the greatest impact in the shortest amount of time.
So here I have them. But first, there are two types of practicing that need to be avoided:
1. Playing the same lick too many times in the same solo. There are a lot of people that get trapped and only play the same things again and again: I have found many beginners continue to use the same kind of idea in all of their improvisations.
2. Avoiding playing the same thing twice. Once players start to get a hand of improvisation, I've found that a lot of them just keep adding new stuff to their solo instead of developing the ideas they just played. Sure, this is better than never moving onto something new, but it will never sound as fluid and musical as somebody who develops their ideas.
So how can you strike a balance between the two? Is there any easy and efficient guide for this? Funny you should ask that. Watch the quick video below for a few pointers on how to develop your improvisational skills.
So you see, it isn't all that difficult, and it can actually be fun! Once you pick up your guitar, you'll find that you don't have to force yourself to do this like you may others. If you have the option, try using this while playing with other musicians, and see what they have to say about your new ability in such short notice!
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Tommaso Zillio is a professional prog rock/metal guitarist and composer based in Edmonton, AB, Canada.
Tommaso is currently working on an instrumental CD, and an instructional series on fretboard visualization and exotic scales. He is your go-to guy for any and all music theory-related questions.
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