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What kind of music do you improvise to and how?

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Dayvenkirq View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Dayvenkirq Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 07 2014 at 07:32
Originally posted by The Pessimist The Pessimist wrote:

Of course every phrase has its own character, but at the same time each phrase can be broken down and analysed. It has to be really, otherwise how could you even begin to develop on it? Development is important. It's how music grows. If one were to just play unrelated phrases in sequence, then there is no unity and it just sounds like someone vomiting the different tricks they know onto the instrument. It doesn't sound musical. If you're Sonny Rollins, then you can take two, even three phrases, and develop them alongside each other, which is a skill that completely blows my mind.
Right, absolutely. That's what I meant - playing in the same style to the same background with the same chord progression (unless it changes in the given piece of music) with the same pace (unless it changes in the given piece of music).
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HackettFan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 07 2014 at 15:17
Originally posted by The Pessimist The Pessimist wrote:


Originally posted by HackettFan HackettFan wrote:

Originally posted by Dayvenkirq Dayvenkirq wrote:

Originally posted by The Pessimist The Pessimist wrote:

Originally posted by Dayvenkirq Dayvenkirq wrote:

Originally posted by The Pessimist The Pessimist wrote:

Adapting it to your style is what makes a phrase/progression individual, not the actual architecture or content of the thing.
Don't the architecture and content of a phrase determine its style?
Not at all. The five notes 2 - b3 - 7 - 2 - 1, in a minor key going from dominant to tonic (the tonic note landing on the tonic chord), can be found in Baroque, Bebop, Folk, Heavy Metal, Hip-Hop, Funk, Prog Rock and Jewish Klezmer music. I can say the same about a million different cells or phrases.
Oops ... we've almost made this a conversation based on a different question - the question of style.
So, going back to my original question (or argument) of how to compose a phrase. The way I weave a solo is I string different phrases together, each phrase based on its own chord and placed in its own bar. One bar would feature a phrase that is a fast ascending scalar run. The bar after it would rely only on the root and 5th notes with an octave slide-up (since I play an electric guitar), executed economically, slowly. Two different phrases, each one has its own character. I don't know how other guys do it, but that's the gist I got.
Very interesting. I've never caught on to chord based leads. It sounds like a burdensome approach to me. I just use scales and explore aspects of tension and resolution in a very free-form fashion. I know my scales very well, but thinking about chords is something I never do aside from throwing in an arpeggio here and there. Interestingly, I like to create rather complicated chord progressions, yet I've always been more successful soloing over more simple progressions. I ought to try incorporating some of your approach.
Chords and scales are the same thing. Scales emerge from chords. If you were to just play the chord tones (so the 1st, 3rd, 5th and 7th), then there would be no tension. However, the tension comes from the 9th, 11th and the 13th, and so when you incorporate them, you've essentially got a scale. Every scale functions this way. To say that you think in scales and not chords is actually to disregard where the idea of a scale comes from. This whole concept is known as Chord-Scale Relationships.
You're not wrong, of course. But I would turn it around and say chords come from scales. And historically that's my the order of operations in my discovery process. I'll learn Hungarian minor or the half diminished scale, then I'll say, hey look what chords I can play, or look at the odd interval between these two minor chords. Some people discover new scales through complex chords or combinations of chords. I don't. I look at intervals I like and expand from there. For instance, I was playing in Hungarian Minor quite awhile back, and was falling in love with the place where there's a half step—whole step—half step sequence of intervals. Further fascinating because there's no such sequence of intervals in the traditional major scale. So, I think, well, what if I repeat this same interval sequence, and presto! something I later learned was a diminished scale. The scale can be thought of as (a) sets of diminished chords one half step apart, (b) Major and Minor chords neutralized over the same root note, then repeated one and a half steps apart, or (c) two adjacent notes one half step apart with all proceeding notes following a minor third ahead, or (d) the recurring set of intervals I used to discover it.   So, yeah, it's kind of whether you're seeing things as concave or convex, but that's the crux of the challenge. This difference in orientation has real implications, I would tend to think. I concentrate on the character of the scale, not chords. I know my approach well, but Dayvenkirk's made me interested in sampling a bit of his approach, if I can manage it. It might be helpful over some complex chord sequences. I'm not sure how it would work with a diminished scale in which one can play, for instance, either an A Major or an A minor, both are valid with respect to the scale.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote The Pessimist Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 07 2014 at 19:13
Originally posted by HackettFan HackettFan wrote:

Originally posted by The Pessimist The Pessimist wrote:


Originally posted by HackettFan HackettFan wrote:

Originally posted by Dayvenkirq Dayvenkirq wrote:

Originally posted by The Pessimist The Pessimist wrote:

Originally posted by Dayvenkirq Dayvenkirq wrote:

Originally posted by The Pessimist The Pessimist wrote:

Adapting it to your style is what makes a phrase/progression individual, not the actual architecture or content of the thing.
Don't the architecture and content of a phrase determine its style?
Not at all. The five notes 2 - b3 - 7 - 2 - 1, in a minor key going from dominant to tonic (the tonic note landing on the tonic chord), can be found in Baroque, Bebop, Folk, Heavy Metal, Hip-Hop, Funk, Prog Rock and Jewish Klezmer music. I can say the same about a million different cells or phrases.
Oops ... we've almost made this a conversation based on a different question - the question of style.
So, going back to my original question (or argument) of how to compose a phrase. The way I weave a solo is I string different phrases together, each phrase based on its own chord and placed in its own bar. One bar would feature a phrase that is a fast ascending scalar run. The bar after it would rely only on the root and 5th notes with an octave slide-up (since I play an electric guitar), executed economically, slowly. Two different phrases, each one has its own character. I don't know how other guys do it, but that's the gist I got.
Very interesting. I've never caught on to chord based leads. It sounds like a burdensome approach to me. I just use scales and explore aspects of tension and resolution in a very free-form fashion. I know my scales very well, but thinking about chords is something I never do aside from throwing in an arpeggio here and there. Interestingly, I like to create rather complicated chord progressions, yet I've always been more successful soloing over more simple progressions. I ought to try incorporating some of your approach.
Chords and scales are the same thing. Scales emerge from chords. If you were to just play the chord tones (so the 1st, 3rd, 5th and 7th), then there would be no tension. However, the tension comes from the 9th, 11th and the 13th, and so when you incorporate them, you've essentially got a scale. Every scale functions this way. To say that you think in scales and not chords is actually to disregard where the idea of a scale comes from. This whole concept is known as Chord-Scale Relationships.
You're not wrong, of course. But I would turn it around and say chords come from scales. And historically that's my the order of operations in my discovery process. I'll learn Hungarian minor or the half diminished scale, then I'll say, hey look what chords I can play, or look at the odd interval between these two minor chords. Some people discover new scales through complex chords or combinations of chords. I don't. I look at intervals I like and expand from there. For instance, I was playing in Hungarian Minor quite awhile back, and was falling in love with the place where there's a half step—whole step—half step sequence of intervals. Further fascinating because there's no such sequence of intervals in the traditional major scale. So, I think, well, what if I repeat this same interval sequence, and presto! something I later learned was a diminished scale. The scale can be thought of as (a) sets of diminished chords one half step apart, (b) Major and Minor chords neutralized over the same root note, then repeated one and a half steps apart, or (c) two adjacent notes one half step apart with all proceeding notes following a minor third ahead, or (d) the recurring set of intervals I used to discover it.   So, yeah, it's kind of whether you're seeing things as concave or convex, but that's the crux of the challenge. This difference in orientation has real implications, I would tend to think. I concentrate on the character of the scale, not chords. I know my approach well, but Dayvenkirk's made me interested in sampling a bit of his approach, if I can manage it. It might be helpful over some complex chord sequences. I'm not sure how it would work with a diminished scale in which one can play, for instance, either an A Major or an A minor, both are valid with respect to the scale.


It wholly depends on what kind of music you're playing. If you are playing modally, then chords emerge from scales. However, I was presuming we were talking about cadential harmony, and thus scales can only emerge from chords that way as cadential harmony relies entirely on voice leading. It's not a chicken and egg situation really. If you are playing over a ii-V-I and you think of it via each scale starting on its root (dorian, then mixolydian, then ionian/lydian), then it's only going to get incredibly confusing. Even using synthetic harmony like the octotonic scale and the whole tones scales, they are mostly used in the context of cadential harmony, and can only really be thought of as the product of the respective chords used (the octotonic scale is normally over a 13b9/13#9 and the whole tone can only work over a 9#5/9b5).
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Meltdowner Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 31 2014 at 13:50
I'm looking for a cool scale to learn, what do you guys recommend me? I know the major, minor, pentatonic minor, blues minor and byzantine scales.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Dayvenkirq Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 31 2014 at 14:32
^ I can recommend a few things:

1) If you look at page 4 of this thread, you'll notice by looking at the images I've embedded that I have this inclination to use b3's, #4/b5's (the blue note), p5's (perfect fifths), b6's, 7's, and b7's, depending on the mood. Evidently, most of the time I'll take the blues minor.

2) Otherwise, you can come up with one discovered by some culture. Modal scales are of curiosity to me, which are basically a major or minor scale with any tone/pitch taken as the root of that scale.

3) Be creative. You can come up with one on your own. Remember that in music theory some scales sound better when they ascend rather than descend, some vice versa, and others sound good when they descend and ascend.

4) Don't forget to mix scales.

5) Scat-sing. See what your head tells you. That's what I'd do.


Edited by Dayvenkirq - October 31 2014 at 14:39
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Meltdowner Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 31 2014 at 16:34
^ I'm more of free improvising like Steve on the previous page: don't think at all of the note progressions I'm playing, mix scales, and that's how I think its fun. Smile
My problem is that there are so many scales and cultures that I don't know what I should learn next and also my music theory knowledge is not very good. Ermm
I do scat-sing sometimes but didn't know the term.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Dayvenkirq Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 31 2014 at 18:27
^ I scat-sing for notes. I can't do a decent improv. for crap, so I listen to what the "backing band" is doing harmonically, figure out the chords, and just sing/vocalize random notes based on every chord, but in a way that the phrases melodically and harmonically "make sense" to me. I find it more rewarding when a solo is at least functional within the given musical context.

Do you really find it rewarding whenever you play random stuff?

On additional note: there are so many scales out there (whole-tone, octatonic, etc.; just Google your brains out), but I can't say I would recommend any of them, except the blues minor, as I've already mentioned. Play what you like. A scale is "lifeless" unless you figure out for yourself how to work with it.

OK, this already sounds like I'm trying to convert you to my own thoughts.


Edited by Dayvenkirq - October 31 2014 at 18:37
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Dayvenkirq Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 31 2014 at 18:40
"People tell you life is short. ... No, it's not. Life is long. Especially if you make the wrong decisions." - Chris Rock
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Meltdowner Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 01 2014 at 08:24
^ I have some phrases that I repeat sometimes but I never think about it, it's probably not that random, I know what I'm doing, but I don't "theorize" much. Tongue

For my recordings, I improvise over the backing tracks and choose the better phrases I come up with.

There was some scales that I played but it sounded so bad, I didn't know "how to work with it" as you say.

Seems like you won a dollar LOL


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Dayvenkirq Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 23 2014 at 21:38
I've been getting some informal coaching from a local jazz student and aficionado. The second time we met up in a rehearsal room I've been pulling some pretty slick jazzy imitations. We did a bebop chord progression (2-5-1):

ii(6) V7 IΔ7 IΔ7
Dm(6) G7 C(Δ7) C(Δ7)
in D Dorian whole-tone in C Ionian in C Ionian

Today I went to a rehearsal room, noodled with some modes, and remembered the importance of the 3rd and the 7th notes. Turns out I like the R-5-3 voicing a lot (where the 3rd is on top). And if it's a 7th chord, the 7th better be on the bottom (the bass); so you would have 7-R-5-3.

(Also, I've been screwing around with clusters and came up with a sweet jazzy-poppy chord progression, but that's closer to the composition side of things, not improvisation.)


Edited by Dayvenkirq - November 23 2014 at 22:50
"People tell you life is short. ... No, it's not. Life is long. Especially if you make the wrong decisions." - Chris Rock
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Polymorphia Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 23 2014 at 23:38
I love my clusters. I usually write them for two or three guitars so I can make them nice and dense.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Xonty Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 24 2014 at 02:26
I'm a guitarist and now I improvise to all kinds of stuff. Led Zeppelin, especially "In Through The Out Door" is a great one to start off on, because most of the songs are in A minor but they're modally quite flexible, so you can practice stuff like D dorian and E phrygian, etc. 

Nowadays, I'm even improvising (or trying to) over Gentle Giant and VDGG, but my favourite stuff is Genesis and Rush. When you get a Steve Hackett kind of tone, everything sounds great as long as you stick to the right scale, and there's quite a big range you can play over Lifeson's guitar stuff.

I'm not too sure how to say I improvise over everything apart from obviously starting off with the scales the song/chord is in, but then you really do what you want. It helps you to master your own sound(s), so no-one can really direct you where to go with it, apart from giving a few templates to work around (or a lot in jazz).
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HackettFan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 03 2014 at 00:34
Most typically I improvise to nothing at all. When I do improvise to something, it will normally be a short passage that I've recorded on a looper. I've done some experimenting lately with playing along with Peyote music, but I need a lot more practice getting the right feel with that.

Edited by HackettFan - December 03 2014 at 00:40
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Dayvenkirq Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: December 07 2014 at 21:04
So, last Friday me and my guy Shawn tried getting around Miles' "Tune-Up". Of course, things didn't work out since I had poor count (I'd lose count and couldn't keep up with Shawn) and poor timing of ambidextrous synchronicity. You know, the usual amateur problems.

Today I've spent some time playing the chords of the tune, and as rewarding as the things my right hand played were, I'm not a fan of anything that employs the Coltrane changes, following the same pattern over and over again. The things that modal/bebop jazz pianists pull off with their right hand is what I like. Maybe I'll have to try something less predictable in form and with greater variety of chords/types of chords along with a number of modulations, and improvise to that.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Star_Song_Age_Less Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 hours 58 minutes ago at 22:33
Wow.  It looks like I'm the odd-man-out, I improvise to other people's music all the time but I do so vocally.  I make up new backing-vocal tracks.  I do play guitar and keyboard, but while I've learned to play others' songs on them I don't think I've ever even tried to improvise (as in solo parts?) to other people's music.  I'm usually too busy trying to fudge the guitar playing so that I can actually manage it with my short stubby hands. :)

The chords vs. scales discussion is interesting - historically the western scale (well, as far as we know) came first (thanks, Pythagoras), but I don't usually think of either of them as the result of the other.  Each pitch is its own pitch and reacts a certain way with other pitches in my brain.  You all seem much more fluent in various types of scales than I am, though, which probably means you guys put together connections that I don't make.  Fun to read, though.
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