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Beginner Starting to improvise

Chubbertate

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Hi
Can someone please explain which scales go with which chords? I am a tad lost here.
Any advice on how to start improvising would be most appreciated also.
 

Chris

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To start of with you might get more mileage out of knowing the chord tones Root 3rd 5th and 7th. The 3rd and 7th will probably be the most useful, as they define the type of chord. Then just begin by playing melodies using the chord tones. Then learn how to connect them from chord to chord using other notes. Most of all have fun
 

Chubbertate

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To start of with you might get more mileage out of knowing the chord tones Root 3rd 5th and 7th. The 3rd and 7th will probably be the most useful, as they define the type of chord. Then just begin by playing melodies using the chord tones. Then learn how to connect them from chord to chord using other notes. Most of all have fun
Thanks for that.
Can you give me an example of connecting the chords?
 

kernewegor

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The circle of fourths is the biz - use it for practicing scales, chords, riffs, licks, and simple tunes in all keys.

Know it well and you have the key to II - V - I progressions.

Looking at the circle the other way around gives you the circle of fifths.

Knowing fourth and fifth intervals without having to think about it is a very useful basic skill ... instant transposition of a twelve bar blues progression to whatever key you want for a start...

Don't bother too much - or at all - about understanding the theory behind it... just use the circle in your practicing and realisation will dawn bit by bit....

This is additional to all the other good advice which has been posted.
 
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MandyH

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For many months now, I have been learning the 1-3-5-7 of chords, chords and more chords.
Round and round the circle of fifths. Major, mixolydian, Dorian, minor, Jazz melodic minor.
I'm not 100% convinced it's helped my improvisation much, I tend to play what I feel, but it's probably had some effect.
I have promised myself that I will have a look at April's IOTM...
 

old git

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Here we go again. Improvisation is playing what YOU feel is appropriate. Try improvising, either it sounds right or could be better (it always can). Start with a twelve bar blues and experiment and you will get better. You do not need an instrument to improvise, just hum or think it.

Remember that improvisation is for those who can and practise improvisation, the theory of improvisation is for those that can't or are too frightened to chance their arm in case it is wrong. More is learnt from mistakes than being correct.


He he. That should get them going.>:)>:)>:)
 

Ivan

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Here we go again. Improvisation is playing what YOU feel is appropriate. Try improvising, either it sounds right or could be better (it always can). Start with a twelve bar blues and experiment and you will get better. You do not need an instrument to improvise, just hum or think it.

Remember that improvisation is for those who can and practise improvisation, the theory of improvisation is for those that can't or are too frightened to chance their arm in case it is wrong. More is learnt from mistakes than being correct.


He he. That should get them going.>:)>:)>:)
I reckon you're right about the making mistakes and giving it a go, which is how I started, but I would also argue that knowledge of theory can be a very useful tool because I for one am finding it very helpful to improve my understanding, my ear and my technique

We're not all the same and on a statistical bell shaped curve a few of us will be distributed to the dots and theory end, a few to the playing by ear end and I would guess the majority somewhere in between using a mix of the two
 

ArtyLady

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Here we go again. Improvisation is playing what YOU feel is appropriate. Try improvising, either it sounds right or could be better (it always can). Start with a twelve bar blues and experiment and you will get better. You do not need an instrument to improvise, just hum or think it.

Remember that improvisation is for those who can and practise improvisation, the theory of improvisation is for those that can't or are too frightened to chance their arm in case it is wrong. More is learnt from mistakes than being correct.


He he. That should get them going.>:)>:)>:)

Good point...I played for many years with no jazz theory knowledge - just bowled in there and played what I thought sounded good, that stood me in good stead for the many years I've spent unpicking the nuts and bolts of it all - it can take some time unless you're studying at music college or having intensive lessons.

I would say though, start with some jazz blues (say Jamey Aebersold Major Blues in all keys) learn the relevant blues/minor pentatonic scale and play around with it. :thumb:
 

kernewegor

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Here we go again. Improvisation is playing what YOU feel is appropriate. Try improvising, either it sounds right or could be better (it always can). Start with a twelve bar blues and experiment and you will get better. You do not need an instrument to improvise, just hum or think it.

Remember that improvisation is for those who can and practise improvisation, the theory of improvisation is for those that can't or are too frightened to chance their arm in case it is wrong. More is learnt from mistakes than being correct.


He he. That should get them going.>:)>:)>:)

The Dodo said: "Everyone has won and all must have prizes."

Everyone on this thread has made valid points, in my view.

OG, for instance, enjoys setting himself up as an Aunt Sally, but his comment on theory isn't far wrong - some people feel insecure about trying to do something something unless they first swot up on every bit of theory they can lay their eyes on. It is an insecurity well worth overcoming.

Some people try to learn languages like this, and, unless checked, waste lesson time asking their teacher endless points of grammar. If they get to actually speak their target language they usually end up sounding like a speak-your-weight machine. Usually they just bore people talking (in their first language) about the language they are failing to learn... they sometimes do this for years on end...

Consider the phrase: "The difference between theory and practice..." which is used in discussions about everything from law to plumbing. Consider it deeply.

How music is played in practice is explained by musicologists in music theory - which explains what the musicians have done... it is essentially a post hoc analysis. And musicians must practice in order to practise their art...

It would be possible to become an exquisite cabinetmaker without knowing anything at all about the chemical or molecular construction of wood, or indeed even that timber comes from trees. ("Really? But I've always got mine from the builders' merchant's...") You could be a plant biologist and unable to nail two pieces of wood together. I've known some...

Everyone becomes fluent in their first language without opening a grammar book or being taught formal grammar... so how much formal grammar does one need to learn to speak a language fluently and well? None, obviously. The Wlpan method of learning Welsh in as short a time as possible (based on the Ulpan Hebrew course method) works well with no formal grammar. (Now if you want to do comparative linguistics that is another matter...)

With languages, pronunciation, vocabulary, phrases and sentences are most rapidly learned as patterns... from rehearsed patterns the child (or adult learner if using a sensible method such as Wlpan) soon learns to 'pick and mix' and, gradually at first, produces spontaneous conversation. And, as OG says, they learn from their mistakes...

Learning melodies, phrases, scales and chords doesn't require yards of theoretical explanation. "Here are the notes - learn this." is enough. Sure, scales and chords are theoretical, post hoc constructions (based on "that sounded good - what notes were those again?") but someone has already done the theoretical work - no need to re-invent the wheel, no need to learn the grammar book explanation, just accept that a scale is a scale, a chord is a chord and practice them so that you can play them without thinking. Mind, ears, memory and fingers...

I have several music theory books. I use the patterns and exercises and very occasionally glance idly over the text. It does no harm (unless it reduces my practice time) and once in a while it illuminates something. I still think that I'm crap - but I am confident that each month I'm less crap than I was the previous month... fools paradise? Does it matter if I'm happy?

The difference between theory and practice is that with most things, including languages and music, practice and plenty of it is worth any amount of theory. Memorising melodies, phrases, riffs, licks, scales, chords, patterns (circle of fourths) and chord progressions is what gets results.

Having practised, casting an eye over someone's theoretical description of what you have just done may help tie up loose ends in your mind. If not, don't panic. It probably doesn't matter. The loose ends may tie themselves after a while... practice, practice... what is wanted is not a conscious knowledge of theory but an unconscious grasp... there simply isn't time when improvising for laboriously figuring things out from first principles... even if you know them...

And get with the beat... if your rhythm and timing is right, the odd note or two not as per original will often not be noticed. With lousy rhythm every note can be perfectly pitched and it will still sound crap...

I've spent too much time writing this. Time to practise...
 
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altissimo

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While it's true that the texts that try to explain what jazz musicians were trying to do (and which reduce the great art form that is be bop to a methodology) have all been written after the event and only partially explain what was going on back then, it has to be said that players like Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis etc all practiced scales and arpeggios and were thoroughly versed in the theory as well as the practice. In those days there weren't any books on how to play jazz, they studied classical textbooks, Nicholas Slominsky's Thesaurus of Scales and Melodic Patterns being the most famous example. Not that I'm suggesting you go out and buy a copy, there's a life's work in that book - http://www.u.arizona.edu/~gross/Slo...es.And.Melodic.Patterns.Nicolas.Slonimsky.pdf
Perhaps more importantly, they trained their ears "We were like scientists of sound. If a door squeaked we could call out the exact pitch" - Miles Davis
Fiddling around and exploring the instrument for yourself is great and to be encouraged, but eventually some knowledge of theory becomes necessary if you're going to play jazz with other musicians. I think the key is knowing why you want to study theory and having definite goals - having questions that you want to find the answer to is a better way of studying than just practising scales for the hell of it.
Another important point with jazz is that you've got to have something that you want to express - fundamentally jazz is a complicated form of blues. Too many players will just piece together solos from pre practised licks and phrases stolen off old recordings, without any regard to context. Learn a little about what the music's about - a lot of those standards are songs with actual lyrics, don't just improvise the same way on everything, each song has a different emotion.
If you can learn to play with feeling, it really doesn't matter what mistakes you make - played with utter conviction any note is the right note, although some are more right than others. In any given key there's only a couple of notes that don't work at all, learn to avoid them
 
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BigMartin

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As far as I'm concerned, the purpose of theory is to guide me in what I practise. My practising improves my ear, and my ear guides my performance. For example, suppose I'm learning a song. I can practise plying a solo using just chord tones, just 3rds and 7ths, or whatever. By doing that I learn to hear the harmonic strcture of the song (and also find where the notes are on the instrument), and when I perform it, I'm in a better position to play something relevant. If I just play random stuff until i've got something that sounds good, it's going to tak me a lot longer to get there and I won't know why it sounded good so I'll just be stuck with that one idea. Having a theoretical framework means I can spend my practise time more usefully.

I play in a community big band. There are some people there (AFAIK none of them is on here, fingers crossed) who clearly are playing "by ear" and don't read the chord symbols, but what they play bears little relationship to what's going on around them because they haven't trained their ears. It sounds awful, frankly. A good musical ear is not some mysterious talent you're either born with or not. You have to develop it. I wish I'd realised this properly 40 years ago. Over the last few years I've improved my ear much more than I would have thought possible when I was young (brainwashed as I was by our culture's obsession with "talent", whatever that means). And a reasonable understanding of music theory has helped me to do that. Other people may find it less useful. But it's not an either-or thing. It really helps to use both approaches.

There you go, OG. How's that for keeping the argument going >:)?
 
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Chris

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It makes me smile that NO-ONE has asked the OP what kind of music he wants to improvise over. 'Blues' and Jazz Blues' are as different as chalk and cheese, as are 'Be-Bop' and 'Trad'.
A little theory will go a long way to helping the beginner improviser, as will a LOT of listening to the genre and the players they like best. Just diving in and hoping for the best is one sure fire way to lead to disappointment and frustration.
 

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