Major Scale Improvisation
If you weren’t having fun in your guitar journey already, you’re about to now! Improvising is super exciting, and it really helps you to develop your skills as a musician. You’re moving on up in the music world!
The Key of C
As we get into improvising, you’ll start to see how everything you’ve learned up to this point starts to make sense and come together. For instance, now that you’ve worked extensively with (and memorized!) the C major scale, you already know all of the notes in the key of C. This scale will be your home base for now.
Within any key, there are chords that belong to it, meaning the chords are comprised of the notes that are found in the key. For the key of C, the chords are:
C, Dm, Em, F, G, and Am
Conveniently, you’ve already learned those chords in this beginner’s course!
How It Comes Together
Every song is in a particular key. If a song is in the key of C, it means that it only uses those aforementioned chords within the song. Of course, there are exceptions to this (like millions!), but for now, let’s stick with the looks at songs that stay in one key.
If a song is in the key of C, that means that all of the notes in the C major scale will sound good when played over any of the chords in the same key.
That means that you can have a jam buddy or a backing track play any combination of chords from a key while you solo over them using the notes in the corresponding scale. As long as you’re both playing in the same key, it will all be fine.
How It’s Done
Now that you know the theory behind it, here’s how you can actually improvise a solo over a backing track or with a jam buddy.
Keeping to the notes in the C major scale, you can play those notes in any order and with any rhythm pattern you choose. This is truly your time to let loose, experiment with different sounds, and find something that you love. You’re developing your songwriting skills and stretching your creative muscles!
As long as you stick to the notes in the scale, you shouldn’t have any problems with anything sounding too funky or off. Again, there are exceptions to this rule, but for now, stick to the scale.
Tips For Soloing Success
A few tips can get you started off on the right foot. Improvising, especially for the first time, can be intimidating! You’re breaking free of any protections on your ego and stepping out on your own. You’re transitioning from someone who can sort of play the guitar to a real musician. Take whatever shame, fear, or vulnerability you may be feeling and put it aside. You’ll do great!
To start, just use the thinnest three strings rather than trying to incorporate the whole scale at once. To take it a step further, start with just the notes on the thinnest string and then add in one string at a time. This can give you a chance to understand the practical application of all of the theory you’ve learned. Listen to how each note rings out over the chords and identify which combination of sounds you enjoy. Also, pay attention to the emotion that’s being conveyed as you play.
Along those same lines, don’t worry about playing MORE stuff. Don’t try to fit too many notes into a bar just yet. Not all solos are about shredding! Think of some of your favourite guitar solos and note how they use time. It’s not always about speed. Some of the best solos are slow and deliberate. Soloing is your chance to really sing with your guitar, so there’s plenty to explore there.
Also, more isn’t always better, especially not at this stage. Take your time and maybe even get a little repetitive. If you’ve got a small riff that you like playing, try repeating it a few times as the chords beneath it change. This can change the whole feel and sound of the riff!
Speaking of timing, don’t underestimate the impact of a rest. Leave some space here and there and let the riff breathe. The gaps in the melody are almost as important as the notes when it comes to phrasing. Think of a rest like a comma or period in a sentence - the placement can make all of the difference in the message and tone you’re trying to convey. Or, think of it like a person who talks non-stop without even taking a moment to breathe! It’s exhausting to listen to, isn’t it? The same principle holds when it comes to melody lines in music.
Leaving gaps in the melody can also be useful to you. It not only lets the notes from the previous phrase ring out, but it gives you a moment to think about your next move. Think about the direction you want the melody to go in and try to execute your idea. Finally, don’t be afraid of your gaps. While it may feel like you’ve been resting for a long time, it probably doesn’t feel as long to the listener.
A good way to assess what the listener is hearing, of course, is to record yourself. I highly recommend doing this! Nothing puts your playing into perspective quite like a good recording, whether it’s audio or video. You can step outside of yourself, hear things you may not be hearing, and if you’re using video, you can see your positioning. Use the recordings constructively to help you emphasize or fix the things you love or hate, respectively.
The last tip I’ve got for you is to sing over the backing track. This will do a few things for you. It will help you hear the notes in the key and it will give you a bit more freedom to experiment with different sounds without fear of accidentally hitting a wrong note. Also, it will force you to breathe! This will help you understand natural, melodic, and interesting lines of phrasing. Again, pay close attention to the details here. Now is the time for exploration!
The backing track is included in My Practice Assistant or you can download the mp3 in the downloads tab :)
Good luck :) let me know how you get on and or share a video of yourself trying this out!
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