Sunday, January 12, 2014

Guitar Improvisation

I consider myself still a beginner guitarist.  As such, I find it amazing when I listen to other guitarists who can just come up with licks on the fly.  I have a friend, Carlos, who can play amazing finger picking style classical guitar.

Carlos can turn any song into something beautiful and melodic.  One day, Carlos played some for me and I asked him what he was doing.  What could I study to learn that?

His answer, I don't know.

He does not know?  How can one not know?

He explained he just knows the guitar so well, the position of all the notes.  The notes to make up chords, scales, etc that be can just ad-lib a song.

Heck, how do I do that?

Another friend, James, my practice partner is good at scales and improvising with those scales.  I have done scales practice as well, but I still had not really gotten improvisation.

An aside for a moment.  Recently, I have mostly been playing slide on my acoustic guitar.  I have it tuned to Open D which means the guitar notes are different from standard tuning.

For a refresher:
  • Standard Tuning: E-A-D-G-B-E, from 6th to 1st strings
  • Open D Tuning: D-A-D-F#-A-D, from 6th to 1st strings
For more tuning info, see Guitar Tuning.

So, back to improvisation.  When improvising you generally want to stay within a scale to keep it sounding good.  So, let's look at what we can do with Open D.  The D Major scale is D - E - F# - G - A - B - C# - D

Taking our D Major scale we can start to experiment with improvisation.  First though, to really walk around the guitar neck we will need to know the notes on the frets.  Here is a rough sketch I made for Open D.  I do this when I am learning a tuning so that I can reference the notes and to try and help me drive the notes into me head.

So, I started with this and began improvising on a single string (1st string) while picking chords.  This sounded not bad.  Here's a rough track I did while improvising.

I am pretty happy with it but I want to explore more and see where I can take that first attempt.

Let me know what you think.

No comments: