My favorite part of performing is exploring different notes while expressing myself through improvisation. I love when I can travel off the “beaten path”. Improvisation may seem mystical witnessing it in the moment. I can assure you it’s not.
Here are some tips on how to get to the point of playing your own free form melody and expressing yourself:
1. Don't Be Intimidated!
Now the first tip I want to give you is to try not to be intimidated. There is nothing mysterious about improvising. It’s not that some people have it and some people don’t. Everybody can improvise , it just takes practice and preparation.
2. Prepare With Scales
The second tip is to Prepare – prepare by playing scales and exercises with your fingers. First of all, you want to train your fingers to go to the type of notes that you’re gonna be using. It’s good to play a scale that’s in the key of the song that you’re trying to play with. Also you’re preparing your fingers to move more quickly and easily and connecting with your brain with your fingers so that when you hear a note your fingers can get there in time.
Start slow and go for easy notes. If you try to do it fast from the get-go and you feel frustrated, you’re going to interrupt the process. More importantly some of the best improvisation is not fast. It’s not about how many notes you can fit into a measure. It’s about expressing yourself, your inner feelings with the music. Improvising is not about going fast, showing off, or what you can do to impress people.
3. Play Along With Tracks
Playing along with tracks is the best practice tip I can give you. Play along with chord changes. I got this tip from a famous jazz artist, Emily Remler, who used to practice several hours every day after work recording chord changes and then improvising over this chord changes she recorded. Over time her ear “told her” what note she liked and what sounded good. She became better and better doing that live in front of an audience.
4. Practice Using A Combination Of Licks & Notes From The Scale
The fourth tip is to combine both notes that are in the scale and the exercises as well as licks on your guitar. Licks are short little phrases that you can practice ahead of time to the point where fingers can do them quickly and easily. When you practice the phrase enough you’ll be able to play it with ease. Then find places to integrate that into the solo.
5. Don’t Be Afraid To Make A Mistake.
So the fifth tip is: Don’t be afraid to make a mistake. This often freezes people up when they’re practicing. In this sense, there really are no mistakes. You’re training your ear to do what you like and anything that you play that you don’t like is just one opportunity to learn you don’t like that note. Go back and do it differently. Keep at it until your ear and your hands coordinate to the point where fingers come at a time that sounds good to you.
6. Persistence: A Little At A Time
Persistence is the key, that’s the sixth tip. Persistence...keep at it a little at a time over and over. Keep practicing, play your scales, play your licks, play along with tracks and just keep at it a little at a time... even 10, 15 minutes a day or every other day.
7. Fast Is Not Always Better
We talk little about that. Better to play the right note at the right time and have the right space at the right time than to play more notes or faster notes.
8. Space is IMPORTANT
The space between the notes is just as, if not more, important than the notes themselves!
9. You Can Do This
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