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Lyle Ronglien >> Improvising 101 >>

Improvising 101

Lesson 2

Lyle: In lesson part 1 you were introduced to several concepts and techniques used to improvise. Topics included were: Theme and Variation, Question and Answer, and playing random notes within the scale. In this lesson we'll expand upon these techniques using 3 different musical styles; classical, rock, and blues. Here's an audio sample of me improvising over 2 of these styles:

Lyle: Normally we associate musical improvisation with jazz and not classical music. This didn't used to be the case. J.S. Bach was an organist and he used to improvise during church services. In the nineteenth century, performers such as Beethoven improvised in live performances as a way to attract attention to themselves and to show off their abilities. Mozart and Beethoven were masters at improvisation. They would improvise popular themes of the day, and sometimes even transcribing these "jams" on paper to preserve them.

Lyle: Let's learn a way to improvise in the classical style using the C major scale in the open position. Learn this pattern forward and backwards:

Lyle: Now you're going to practice improvising by playing the notes of the C major scale randomly. Try playing a note on every beat (quarter notes) totally at random. Here's an example:

Lyle: Try making up your own simple solo using just the notes from the C scale.

Lyle: Now mix up the rhythm of the notes. Play quarter and eighth notes rhythms like in this next example:

Lyle: Reminder: Click on each of these tab files and then load media so you can hear these examples.

Lyle: Let's expand the range of note options by using this 2 octave, 6 string pattern for the C major scale.

Paul_B: The note you are showing they are the ones from the whole C Major scale right, not passing notes?

Lyle: Correct.

Lyle: In this next example of improvising random notes, notice that you're starting on the C note (root) and then ending on the C note. This is a "trick" or technique that I'll go further into in upcoming lessons.

Lyle: Notice in solo 3 the notes may be random but the rhythm isn't. Measures 1 and 3 have the same rhythm, measures 2 and 4 are the same.

Lyle: Here's a basic looping jam track in C for you to practice randomly playing notes of the C major scale with. In the jam track. I'm strumming a C chord every 2 beats.

Lyle: Now we're going to change styles and work on a different technique and exercise, Theme and Variation. First, you'll need to know this simple E minor pentatonic pattern:

Lyle: Here you'll create a theme and transpose it up the scale. The theme will be this simple lick:

Lyle: Listen to theme lick 1. Theme lick 1 starts on the E (root) note. Now you'll play simple variations of this as shown in solo 4:

Lyle: Learn solo 4 and then try playing it along to this looping jam track:

bmguitars1: Those chords on that track are really sweet

Lyle: In case you're wondering, here's the TAB for the guitar part in the jam track:

bmguitars1: Awesome!

Lyle: Notice in solo 4 that each variation climbed higher in pitch within the E minor pentatonic pattern. This technique is very easy to apply and effective in making your solo phrases more exciting. Here's another example of this technique. The new theme lick is:

Lyle: Bend the 3rd string 14th fret up a whole step. Hold it, then while it's still bent up, pick it again and release the bend. Then pluck the 12th fret 3rd string. Here's an example of how to build simple variations upon theme lick 2:

Lyle: What you're going to do next is take solo 4 and 5 and put them together. First let's throw in a lick that can easily tie them together. Here's a fill-in lick that I made up using the technique of playing notes at random inside the E minor pentatonic:

Lyle: Here's the last 3 examples put together in a reversed order. You'll start out with solo 5, then the random fill-in lick, then solo 4.

Lyle: Let's change the music to a blues style. Here's a new jam track:

weasel: Bring on the blues!!

Lyle: You're in the key of C now. The jam track is over a C7 chord. This means you'll be able to use both C major and C min blues scales.

Lyle: Even though these two scale patterns look the same, it's the location of the root notes that change the scale. The C major blues scale is root - 2 - b3 - 3 - 5 - 6, the C min blues scale is root - b3 - 4 - b5 - 5 - b7.

Lyle: The next solo example alternates between major and min blues licks. Two different improv techniques are employed here; 1. the question and answer motive, 2. compositional flow. Notice that each lick "flows" higher in pitch. This is a topic I'll go into more in upcoming weeks.

Lyle: I always use my 3rd finger for bending a riff like that. I never use the pinky finger for bending.

Lyle: Here's another example:

Lyle: In this next solo example, you'll be using just the C min blues scale. Notice again the flow of the solo. It starts down low then each lick climbs higher in the scale.

StevO: That has a bit of a B. B. King flavor to it...

bmguitars1: I love how those licks, though at a slow tempo, can paint such a pretty picture.

Lyle: Take some of these ideas presented in the lesson and experiment on your own. Improvising takes a little imagination. With the right knowledge and tools, you too can create interesting solos!

Lyle: That’s all for this lesson. If you would like further study on this topic or any other topic, email me at for info on how you can get your own customized guitar lessons like this using Riff Interactive technology. Your private lessons can be downloaded to your pc for anytime, anywhere study. Thanks and see you at the next lesson. - Lyle

StevO: Thanks Lyle! outstanding as usual.

rustyspain: thanks!

dan_plus_o: ty

davida: Thank you!

gene: Thanks Lyle, I'll work on it more..

Paul_B: TY Sir!

Lyle: welcome everyone, thank for coming, have a great week, see you next lesson!

StevO: Cya!

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