Today’s topic is Improvisation Exercises. The exercises are designed to stop you getting stuck in a rut with your playing. (Or help you out of a rut you’re already in!) They’re also good for general practice, and you should learn lots along the way.
1) Improvise over the same chord progression, in different styles
This ensures the style you’re best at doesn’t take over, which is a very common bad habit when you’re improvising. If you have recording software/a loop pedal/a willing friend, then record/have your friend play a chord progression in a funk style, while you improvise. Then transfer the same progression to a jazz style for a little while, then rock, then country, and so on. This approach forces you to consider the style you’re playing in. You’re less likely to be repeating your soloing phrases because the chords have stayed the same, so the stylistic difference becomes more apparent.
2) Restrict Yourself
If you feel like your phrasing is becoming repetitive or stale, apply a restriction. Only the first 5 frets, only the top 2 strings, even down to only using 3 or 4 notes. This forces you to use all your techniques, expression and creativity to get the most out of what you have at your disposal. It sounds like it should make your playing even more repetitive, but you’ll be surprised what you can come up with. Better still, when you lift the restriction, the whole fretboard will seem full of even more possibilities than before.
3) Play Like Someone Else
For example: Take a blues/rock backing track and improvise over it 5 times. The first time you’re Jimmy Page, the second Jimi Hendrix, the third Slash, the fourth Dave Gilmour and the fifth Eric Clapton. (Examples only, of course you should change up your list and include your favourites.)
play as if you are the guitarist you have in mind, their style, their approach, their attitude. You’ll get to grips with their different styles and learn all sorts of new things to add to your own soloing repertoire.
A twist on this is to make the guitarists you’re copying ones from a completely different style to the backing track. How would they respond to a different style and how would they play?
4) Play In An Unfamiliar Position
If you know your fretboard inside out, then great. The chances are though that there’ll be somewhere on the neck that you’re not very comfortable improvising. (Especially if you’re in an ‘unusual key’ ie. not E, A, etc)
This is a chance to use that unfamiliarity to your advantage.
You are now improvising in the truest sense. Your bank of phrases and licks is gone and your ear is guiding you. Play confidently and without worrying about mistakes and you’ll discover new licks, avoiding familiar scale patterns and improve your ear. All the while gradually getting to grips with another area of the fretboard.
More to come in Part 3 later in the week.
Want Improvisation help in person? Guitar Lessons In London