Scatting, Soloing, and Improvising


Improvising is a form of spontaneous composition.

We'll look at getting started with improvising and soloing in this lesson.

Since we will not be looking deeply into constructing/developing melodies today, we'll look at more intuitive methods of coming up with melodies. We'll assume you know the scales and chords or can follow the links.

Recall,
the pentatonic minor scale. We start with the idea of a "limited palette study." We will restrict our starting melodies to two strings. We will become intimately familiar with 2 strings of 1 pattern of 1 octave of 1 scale. For our purposes we will not (for this exercise) consider an underlying progression or rhythm. We do this to focus on the ear-mind-hand connection.

Consider,

X|---|---|---|
X|---|---|---|
 |-O-|---|-O-|
 |-O-|---|-O-|
X|---|---|---|
X|---|---|---|

these 4 notes could be part of Em-pent. or Bm-pent., it doesn't matter right now.
1.) Play 1 note then another, then another, etc.
2.) Sing every note you play (I don't care what you think of your voice, this is important to getting to a place where you can play what is in your head).
3.) If you find yourself falling into a predictable pattern switch to a different note.
4.) Repeat at least 5 minutes (steps 1-3).
5.) When you can comfortably do this add 1 string to one side, and repeat (you will now need to know which scale it was).
6.) Repeat steps 1-5 until fluent with all 6 strings of the pattern you've chosen. You should be able (eventually) to move to any note (from the scale) you sing in the time it takes you to sing it.

This is the beginning scatting approach.

Replace the pattern with any other scale pattern of choice and repeat (starting with 2 strings - limited palette, and gradually adding the rest).

The next method we look at is intuitive.

1.) Sing into a microphone (into tape recorder, etc.) your melody.
2.) Playback the tape, and find each note on the fretboard, note-for-note.
3.) Practice playing the patterns.

* This works well in creating more organic, less scalar solos.

From a Blues or Rock perspective, it is common when starting to learn to solo or improvise to rely on standard or cliche licks and become familiar with those on the way to creating one's own licks and eventually finding one's own style within these genres. You can find licks books at stores. At some point in the future i'll create lessons on blues, rock, bluegrass, and jazz licks.

For now here's 3 to get you started:

Em Blues lick

|------------|-------------------|
|---sl.---3--|---sl.--p----------|
|--2-/-4-----|--4-\-2--0---h-----|
|------------|------------0--2---|
|------------|-------------------|
|------------|-------------------|

Blues/Rock lick in A

|--------5---------------|
|--------5-------p-------|
|--7-/(9)--(9)\-7--5-----|
|----b-------rb-------7--|
|------------------------|
|------------------------|

Bluegrass lick in G

|---------------------------|
|---------------------------|
|---------------------------|
|--------------0------------|
|-----0--1--2-----1--2------|
|--3--------------------3---|

Given a standard or recognizable song it is usually common (especially in jazz) to hear someone quote the melody of the song before taking off and playing with the melody over the progression.

And finally as a last example/exercise, given a progression/song. Try playing whole notes in the key of the song, and only play whole notes. See how a particular note sounds against a particular chord. Later, play half-notes, and only half-notes. Again, the point is to learn how a particular note sounds against a particular chord. Later you can go to quarter notes, then eighth notes. You might try after that moving onto 16th notes, or notes not found in the key, or sliding into the notes or bending or hammering on, pulling off, glissando, trills, etc. But don't skip over the earlier parts of the exercise (whole notes, half-notes).

Well, these have been just a few ideas to get you started on improvising and soloing.

Go back to your favorite solos and start thinking about what it is that you like about it. You can sing it, work it out note-for-note, and study it.

Next lesson is on articulations.

Peace,
Christopher Roberts
snglstringtheory@aol.com
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Last updated July 25, 2002
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