Magazine article Guitar Player

Improvisation: To Do or Not to Do

Magazine article Guitar Player

Improvisation: To Do or Not to Do

Article excerpt

THE FOLLOWING SUGGESTIONS for improvisation are based on what I call the "what you do/what you don't do principle," which dictates that what you do is as important as what you don't do. Observe that most of these ideas involve limiting or restricting a solo:

* Stay within one octave.

* Stay within one position.

* All eighth-note phrases must begin off the beat.

* End eighth-note phrases on a predetermined rhythmic "target point" (e.g., the and of beat four; check out Bob Moses' fine book Drum Wisdom).

* Use only two adjacent strings.

* Use only two non-adjacent strings.

* Choose a beat to avoid (e.g., never play on one).

* Choose a melodic function to avoid (e.g., never play the root).

* Feature a melodic interval (e.g., a major seventh).

* Play melodies that mostly ascend and then descend.

* Feature abrupt dynamic contrasts.

* Play only chord tones (1,3,5,7).

* Play only extensions (9,11,13).

* Avoid melodic leaps larger than a predetermined interval (e.g., a major third).

* Avoid melodic leaps smaller than a predetermined interval (e.g., a perfect fourth).

* Feature repeated notes.

Each restriction requires a certain amount of discipline. It should be apparent that what you do is as important as what you don't do; however, there's a crucial element that may not be so obvious--attitude.

Let's assume you've picked one of these restrictions to work with. Further more, let's assume you're applying it to a standard tune at a particular tempo. …

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