How to improvise: a guide for beginning guitarists by Darrin Koltow (www.MaximumMusician.com)
There's nothing magical about improvising, except the great feeling you get when you hit the right notes. In this article we show you how to hit those notes.
Here are the steps we're going to approach improvising with:
Record yourself playing chord changes.
Play back the recording, while you play the pentatonic scale over it.
Play with the pentatonic scale: pick any notes from the scale you want.
Change to a minor pentatonic scale to add a blues feeling.
Before you begin doing these steps, you'll want to practice the chord changes until you're fairly smooth at them.
In fact, using a metronome while you practice would be helpful to you. Practice these changes:
Play them slowly, with a blues feeling.
Once you can play the changes with a metronome, it's time for you to become just as comfortable with the pentatonic scale. Practice the tab that accompanies this article until you can play it with a metronome.
Once you can play the pentatonic scale with confidence, it's time to record the changes and play over them. Using a tape recorder, computer, or some other device that lets you record and play back several minutes of music, record the chord changes.
Now for the fun. Once you're satisfied with the recording, rewind it. Play the recording, and play the pentatonic scale.
How does it sound? If it sounds a little stiff to you, it's time to play with the scale a bit. Rewind the recording, and begin playing it again. This time, instead of playing a strict up and down pentatonic scale, play whatever pentatonic notes you want.
Continue doing this, finding new ways to play the pentatonic scale. To improvise truly means to play. Let yourself have fun. Alternate the melodic patterns you use. Re-record the chord changes with a different rhythm. There are endless ways of getting the music to sound better than before. When you take a break from your experiments, try this new variation:
Play exactly the same pentatonic scale, except move it up the neck by exactly three frets so that your first finger is on the eighth fret instead of the fifth.
In this new position, continue playing over the changes. How does it sound? Welcome to playing the Blues.