Learn To Improvise On The Guitar
What does it mean to improvise on guitar? Part One
To many people, preparing nothing and still being able to produce music is simply astounding. Improvisation might seem like it involves some divine inspiration that descends only upon true musical geniuses. It can even be hard to believe that when someone improvises a solo, nothing has been written in advance. But is that accurate to assume?
Just like we draw upon our vocabulary all day to speak and communicate, musicians use their musical vocabulary when they improvise. Just like we respond to everyday situations with words we use all the time and form sentences, musicians respond to musical situations with a blend of rhythms, melodies, phrases and sounds they’ve used before.
Improvising isn’t about coming up with completely new and original ideas. It is about applying music vocabulary in a way that makes sense and sounds good. This means that improvisation doesn’t rely on divine inspiration. It’s more down to earth than that and is something anyone can do.
How does improvisation work? Music is everywhere. On the radio, in bars, in the mall, tv shows, movies, video games, even public bathrooms and elevators have music! Through those thousands of hours of listening experience you have grown a large musical vocabulary. Your head is filled with melodies, rhythms, and other musical information.
Improvisation is about expressing that vocabulary using either your voice or an instrument. It’s about imagining something in your head and playing it. However, you can’t hear something first and then play it half a second later. There is no time. Music is exactly like speaking. When you’re having a conversation, you aren’t saying what you hear. You are thinking your thoughts about what you are hearing and then reacting to it with words. It is completely effortless, it just happens.
Just like your mind can think thoughts, it can think music. You put your musical imagination in the driver’s seat and try to play whatever it comes up with. At its best, improvisation is automatic, effortless, and lightning fast. In the next article we will stop explaining improvisation and start talking about how to do it. Just like learning to speak took practice, so does learning to improvise music. And if you are willing to learn, improvising on the guitar can be an amazing thing.
One of the best ways, besides these upcoming articles, to learn how to improvise on the guitar is by taking lessons. One of the best guitar teachers for just this thing is David Joel. David focuses on his students in a one-on-one environment and teaches his students music theory and improvisation among his diversified teachings. He takes the time to figure out what kind of music you want to play and why. This engages you, the student, and therefore gives you more reason to want to keep learning.