Whether you were first inspired to pick up the guitar because a fiery guitar solo made the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, or you just want to add some tasty fills around the chords you play, at some point many guitarists start to look at improvising. (In fact, as a guitarist, it is often simply assumed that you are able to improvise).
Many students come to us having worked hard on their own to learn scales and develop techniques for improvising but are disappointed that it still doesn’t sound 'right'. Here’s why.
Think of music as a language. The scales you learn are important building blocks, but they’re just like the alphabet in that language (the notes are even played in alphabetical order). On their own, those notes don’t 'say' anything. What you need to do is combine them into words, phrases, musical sentences, stories – this is what improvising is all about. It’s about developing vocabulary, having something to say and putting that into your own words.
Can you learn to do this? Yes, of course! The starting point is learning musical vocabulary and ideas from great players – whoever that might be – Jimi Hendrix, Tommy Emmanuel, BB King etc.
Next, think about how children learn to speak – they mimic sounds and words, start to understand what they’re saying, and over time begin to use the words in phrases in their own sentences. Learning to improvise is like this – you learn vocabulary, learn techniques to absorb it into your playing, and tools to help you make it your own so that you can express what you want to say on the guitar.
There’s more on our website on this topic: https://www.aucklandguitarschool.co.nz/the-lick-sandwich/
We help students learn to do this all the time – get in touch if you’d like help!