jazz guitar improvisation lesson for BEGINNING MUSICIANS
 
Improvisation System Primer
If you are somewhat familiar with musical improvisation the INTERMEDIATE APPROACH link may be an appropriate beginning.

The following describes very basic essentials for beginning improvisation:

THE IMAGE 'left' contains the core of the information used by this system for improvisation. The colored diagrams repeat themselves through octaves down the page, like the notes on a  guitar neck do at every twelfth fret..

THE OBJECT of these instructions is simply to demonstrate how to connect the colored diagrams together. (which color to follow another with, etc.) Once you've grasped the simple idea, you may be inclined to think that it's too simple to be worthwhile, however, the system is organized in a way that it does a lot of thinking for you. If you can become familiar enough with the system to give it a fair try, you'll get the idea.

SIMPLY TREAT THE NUMBERS AS DOTS that indicate where to put your fingers. Distinguishing colored diagrams (each containing 6 notes) is all that's necessary to improvise with this system.

WHICH FINGERS TO USE: Try to use your left pinky to hold down two (and only 2) of the highest pitched strings & always use your index finger to fret the lowest notes. . . Except for while using the INDIGO (darker bluish) colored diagram who's two highest notes are not in the same fret. This fingering is recommended because it leaves your other fingers in position for an optional 7 additional notes (one for each diagram) that are described in the "Additional Options" area. (see "suspended" harmony chart)

LOGICAL OVERVIEW:
There are 7 colored diagrams used by this system, chosen for their harmonic range and convenient shapes for fingering. The 2 columns at the left indicate the order that the diagrams can be played in; One step at a time, up or down, where a chord is always followed by another chord comprised of notes from the colored diagram that follows. One column is for going up and the other's for going down. Further explained below.

INTERESTED IN THE NUMBERS?
The numbers are for Guitar Theorists to associate these diagrams with their own knowledge of music. See
CHORD THEORY in the main menu.

SELECTING A CHORD FROM THE DIAGRAMS:
To begin, with your left hand, hold down all 6 notes of any colored diagram.
With your right hand fingers, play 4 or 5 notes, either simultaneously or in sequence. (most jazz chords have 4 notes)

HOW TO CONNECT THE DIAGRAMS:
Melodies simply go up and down in pitch so pick any note that stands out in the chord (to your perception) and decide whether you would like to follow it with a higher or lower pitched note. (going up in pitch usually creates what's referred to as tension, like a question that needs an answer...  going down in pitch tends to resolve the question)  If you decide you want to go DOWN in pitch, find the colored diagram you've chosen in the RIGHT column and then play the colored diagram that is just ABOVE the one you are on, moving your left hand up toward the head of the guitar. Again, use right hand fingers to play 4 or 5 n
otes.

Then you may continue to go down in pitch to the next diagram in the same way, OR:

To go UP in pitch, in the same fashion, only using the column on the LEFT, find the next diagram down (toward guitar body) from the colored diagram you are on and again play 4 or 5 notes simultaneously or in sequence.

(At first, try simple right hand patterns using adjacent strings because you'll have enough to think about familiarizing yourself with the left hand options. With familiarity, many right hand options will then occur more or less automatically as the ear becomes involved).

Using your ear as much as possible, continue going up and down. (For instance: up down up up down down down up up down down down down down up down up down down).

FINGERING DIFFICULTIES:
Even experienced guitarists stretch themselves into new areas that require some finger gymnastics. The good news is that through magic of continued effort, in a short time, a taste for improvement develops and more always seems to be better. Make sure your guitar action is great. It's worth it.

IMPROVISATION:
Develop favorite areas. You will see that you will be able to manipulate the options so your favorite areas or patterns keep coming up. Develop a comfort level through all left hand options shown. Compose progressions. Tonality is established by the progression of the chords. (the relationship between chords in a sequence)

GOAL:
From options described above the goal would be to play chords from different colored diagram every beat or two with participation from the ear.

WHERE TO START:
Two IMPORTANT things to practice and memorize well:
1. Practice playing using left hand alternating direction changes> down up down up down up down up etc.
2. Practice playing the left and right columns all the way up and down the fret board. (in their appropriate direction, of course)

* Right hand and rhythm techniques are not addressed here, there are suggested finger-picking patterns in the HELP area.

With fluency, the ear participates and a feeling for what to expect from chord options ensues.

After your satisfied with your own fluidity of movement through Columns on the left, for structure, create 3 & 4 chord sequences and follow with other 3 and 4 chord sequences that start from the 2nd, and then the 3rd and then the 4th diagrams of your original sequence.

As a review, for clarification, and for more information, and especially if you have found the preceding fairly easy to understand, please look over the additional material presented under "INTERMEDIATE APPROACH" in the main menu. After a developmental phase of learning the ascending and descending columns, suggestions for additional directions for variation are offered in the "ENHANCEMENT OPTIONS" link in the main menu. Among some other items, there's another 2 column image that describes how to stay harmonically correct through longer leaps across the fret board.

 

copyrightę1999-2006 Frank Spagnolo
 
jazz guitar improvisation ENHANCEMENT OPTIONS  Note the following prerequisite:
At least part of the appeal of improvisation in music is that the possibilities are virtually endless and the feeling of true creation is often at hand. The basic outline for improvisation offered above for beginning and intermediate guitarists is complete as a stand alone style and the enhancements offered here are by no means necessary because the basic options offer relatively quick and satisfying results and enough variation to keep most players going along confidently for quite some time! Therefore, only after becoming at least fairly well familiarized and fluent with the basic system, should an attempt to incorporate these additional suggestions be ventured. This section suggests added direction toward which this systems structure can be taken and it is defined in the same fret board logical way as the beginning and intermediate sections. If you have found the basic system to be the unique key into jazz improvisation that I hope you will have, then, I would encourage you to examine the additional options offered at the link above.

jazz guitar improvisation ENHANCEMENT OPTIONS


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