26 votes

What does one need to know to learn to improvise with other musicians?

Not knowing your particular background or skill level the question is incredibly broad. From the point of view of an experienced improviser what's going on here is fundamentally very simple. Pianist 1 ...
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  • 930
25 votes
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What do you have to do to sound like you're improvising when you're actually reading from sheet music?

When an improvised solo is good, it sounds as if it had been composed, written with great skill and artistic taste, and practiced to perfection. Like a good performance of a good composition. The only ...
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21 votes
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What is a parallel mode?

Two modes are parallel if they share the same tonic. That is, D Major, D Minor, D Dorian, and D Mixolydian are all parallel modes. Using a parallel mode will cause a chromatic alteration to your usual ...
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  • 20.3k
21 votes
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Making Sense of Blues Soloing; differentiating major/minor pentatonics

How do I understand the mixture of the major and minor blues scales in an applicable way? The short answer is that the mixing of major and minor tonalities is the essence of blues. Many people draw ...
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  • 1,762
20 votes
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What does it mean to play in a mode?

The difference is all about what is the tonic and how a tone become perceived as the tonic. In C major C is the tonic. In E Phrygian E is the tonic. Unless you're talking about Gregorian chant (no ...
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17 votes
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Improving as a solo guitarist without learning scales

tl;dr: You can always guess what notes to play by ear and find what notes sound good, but at the end of the day you are playing in a scale and you should be aware of that. There are some guitarists ...
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  • 46.4k
17 votes

I can't create even a guitar lick when playing over a backing track

Never mind what's wrong with you. What's wrong with your teacher? May sound harsh, but it would appear your teacher hasn't explained, at least in a way that you understand, how to play over a backing ...
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  • 176k
16 votes
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Can the I IV V chords harmonize any major scale melody?

A melody diatonic to the key can be accompanied with just I, IV and V chords, but this will give a less rich harmonization than using a wider variety of chords. But based on your question, you want to ...
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  • 5,494
15 votes
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When creating a bass line, how do I know what notes I'm allowed to use?

Where my confusion really comes in is that if the song is in the key of G does that mean I'm only allowed to play the notes in that scale (G,A,B,C,D,E, F#)? The key of a song does not determine ...
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  • 6,713
15 votes

Jazz improvisation: what's going through your mind

First of all, it's important to realize that you've set yourself a very difficult goal. But from what I read in your question, I think you could improve on the way how to approach that goal. As you ...
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  • 19.6k
15 votes

What does one need to know to learn to improvise with other musicians?

Accompanists tend to mainly think in terms of chord sequences rather than individual notes. Guitar of course is primarily used today as an accompanying instrument, but piano was and is also regularly ...
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  • 4,404
14 votes
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In jazz, what is diatonic substitution?

Diatonic substitution is changing a diatonic chord into another diatonic chord with a similar function. For example, in a C major tonality, you can often reharmonize a melody harmonized with F[maj7] ...
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  • 5,079
14 votes
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Does improvisation in the classical idiom differ significantly from jazz and folk improvisation?

"Fundamental differences" is something that is open to interpretation. Jazz, a great-great-great-great step-grandchild of classical music certainly shares some of the rich musical heritage of ...
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14 votes
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Why is a Cadence important in music?

Just see how many different sentences you used in these three lines you posted! 5 Different ones, which where separated by punctuation marks. Think of music as a language (which it basically is). It ...
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14 votes

How to break out of playing scales up and down when improvising

Try working around chord tones. Three things you can add to playing only chord tones are auxiliary tones, passing tones, and enclosures. The enclosure example shows enclosures targeting each tone of ...
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14 votes
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Improvising with modes and over "advanced" chords

A full backing track has SO much more harmonic power, with bass and harmony instruments, it rules and bulldozes over your feeble little solo notes. Mode is not just a set of note names, because one of ...
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13 votes

How to improvise a walking bass line

I once wrote a software walking jazz bass line generator that created reasonable bass lines in 4/4 time given a key and a sequence of chords (one chord per measure). Source code is not available but I'...
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  • 5,079
13 votes

When creating a bass line, how do I know what notes I'm allowed to use?

There are many different ways to approach the bass and the approach that you take may depend on what styles/genres of music you are playing. The first thing that you want to do is understand the ...
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  • 7,409
12 votes
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How to improvise a walking bass line

The point of a bass line is to express the melody and harmony of a song. This means that you should play the notes that make up the chord as well as the notes of the melody. I know that sometimes ...
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12 votes
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How can I produce any melody on my guitar as effortlessly as I do with my voice?

There are two components involved here. One is indeed ear training, and the other one is knowing your instrument well, i.e. being able to produce any melody as effortlessly as you do with your voice. ...
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12 votes
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What interval do all the modes have in common?

To answer this, we can arrange the modes in order from those that have the highest-pitched notes (largest intervals relative to tonic), to those that have the lowest-pitched notes (smallest intervals ...
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  • 20.3k
12 votes

Why is a Cadence important in music?

A cadence does at least two things. It makes a statement about what key you are in at the moment. It also indicates a completion of a thought and therefore the beginning of another, similar as you ...
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  • 2,551
12 votes

Lead guitar improvisation strategies for young intermediate guitarists

Reading music - safe. Regurgitating others' riffs - safe. Both, when one is good at either (or both) have a certain authenticity to them. 'I play what's written - if it's written, it's probaably good, ...
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  • 176k
11 votes

How to improvise a walking bass line

A walking bass line can in principle contain arbitrary chromatic runs, but obviously it's not a good idea to do that all the time. Often it's best to keep mostly to the chord notes and add some extra ...
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11 votes

Can the I IV V chords harmonize any major scale melody?

Short answer. The short answer is yes: because all 7 scale degrees are represented by one of the chords, it is possible to make a harmonisation that only uses I, IV, and V. This is pretty close to how ...
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  • 727
11 votes

Can anyone precisely describe what it means (or feels like) to play exactly what your "inner ear" is hearing?

If by "inner ear" you mean the ability to improvise without actually hearing what you play, and still knowing pretty much exactly what it sounds like, then nothing even close to John Coltrane's skill ...
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11 votes

Keeping track of theme when improvising

I'm afraid a tendency to work just with 'the changes' and ignore the original melody is endemic in today's jazz world. Particularly if your improvisation technique is based on the chord=scale system. ...
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11 votes

Lead guitar improvisation strategies for young intermediate guitarists

I am not a music teacher, have not been teached by a music teacher and would not consider myself a 'good' guitarist. But I remember having similar problems in terms of improvisation. When I tried to ...
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  • 1,161
10 votes

How to escape the C Major trap when improvising on the piano

C Major is a tempting key on the piano. I would suggest trying to improvise in G Major and F Major. G Major only has 1 sharp, and F Major only has 1 flat. They're pretty easy to improvise over and ...
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  • 1,950

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