Tips for improvisation

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Re: Tips for improvisation

Postby mrchips » Wed Jun 16, 2010 1:39 pm

Interesting thing about chord progressions is the amazing number of different tunes using the same exact key and progressions. And if you take into account the same progressions using different keys there is even more... :lol: :lol: :lol:

As its the first and last note of a chord that determines most of the sound of the chord you can easily add a bit of a different flavor by messing around with the middle note. For example the difference between a major and a minor of the same chord is you just lower the middle note a half step. As an example a D major is D, F sharp, and A. For a D minor that F sharp becomes an F natural. The possibilities for that middle note can be anything between a D sharp and G sharp and it will still fit most of the time. Then there's chord inversions and spreading a chord across 2 or 3 octave too.

A close look at the notes of just the root, 4, and 5 chords of any key will show with a bit of rearranging the order of the notes (inversions)in the chords opens up all sorts of possibilities. As many tunes have places in them that are nothing more than a short scale run up or down you can have some fun there too. Just do the scale as is using the notes with one hand and go a third or 5th up or down at the same time with the other hand. With the 5th you are just dropping the middle note of the chord. Its a trick MD players often use where that middle note is not available on the MD or is out of reach. The metal heads call that a power chord...
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Re: Tips for improvisation

Postby Dan Landrum » Fri Jun 18, 2010 2:10 pm

OK Dan Landrum, I'll bite (because I respect your info always) -- what are 'parallel intervals of intervals'?


Thanks for biting! By parallel, I mean playing the same pattern over a different chord. This can be as simple as playing do, re, mi, on the I chord and then on the 5 chord. It can be as complex as you like. It almost always works if it sounds like you have a plan.

You can also take a pattern, we'll use do, re, mi again, and repeat it on successive starting notes so that you eventually end up on an important chord, like a I, IV, V, II or VI.

Here's a simple article explaining roman numeral chords.
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Re: Tips for improvisation

Postby Lakme » Fri Jun 18, 2010 2:36 pm

Thanks for the explanation. Tried it and it works great! What a fun ad lib!
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Re: Tips for improvisation

Postby cboody » Sat Jun 19, 2010 1:34 am

Thanks for biting! By parallel, I mean playing the same pattern over a different chord. This can be as simple as playing do, re, mi, on the I chord and then on the 5 chord. It can be as complex as you like. It almost always works if it sounds like you have a plan.


Notice the similarity between what Dan suggests here and what Mark suggested much further back.

To apply this, try playing through the entire tune playing only 1-2-3-5 for each chord change in rhythm and at tempo. For instance, if you have two beats of a D chord, you would play D E F# A, the 1,2,3&5 for the D major scale. If the next two beats were Em, then you would play: E F# G B, the 1,2,3,5 of E Dorian. Work your way all the way through the piece only playing these chord changes with the scale patterns.


Very similar techniques. And, very good ones. Notice too that in both cases the idea of playing the patterns repeatedly in order to establish some sort of expectation for the hearer is either explicit or implicit. And notice that a rhythmic groove, as Dan puts it, is also implied. These are very nice techniques to begin to improvise melodically "around" traditional tunes.
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Re: Tips for improvisation

Postby lynngehringer » Mon Jun 28, 2010 12:20 pm

I have not had my aha moment in simply playing the darn thing. We have no teachers or players anywhere near me and I am patiently awaiting the online school, as I need to actually see what it is I am supposed to be doing.

As far as creative improvisation, I would love to listen to this jam at Evart. We arrive the Saturday before in order to help a little and enjoy the pre-festival fun so please post when this jam might be scheduled on the board. I can stay up late and would love to hear this.
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Re: Tips for improvisation

Postby Marjorie Orr » Mon Jun 28, 2010 3:55 pm

You wrote:
I need to actually see what it is I am supposed to be doing.

I have an example that I did which I could send to you if you would send me you email privately. I wrote a composition to play with Golden Slippers. In the A part I used only 1,2,3,&5 notes for the I chord but different notes for the V chord. In the B part I used the 1,2,3,&5 notes for all chords. I also added some grace notes to practice drum rudiments in the B part.

I find it good practice to play along with the midi file, playing the counter melody while the computer plays the melody then reverse when the computer gets to what I have written. My music program is proving to be very valuable, especially since I can adjust the speed to a snails pace if needed!

I, too, am anxiously waiting for Dan to complete his online lessons.

Thanks to everyone on this thread for your time and very valuable input. I seem to know enough about music to be dangerous which is about enough to fill a thimble and still have room for your finger! But I am enjoying the process of learning.

By the way, do we have a place to post music in a .pdf, a .doc file, or a .mid music file for sharing as it relates to a particular thread like this?
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Re: Tips for improvisation

Postby lynngehringer » Mon Jun 28, 2010 4:43 pm

Thank you. My email is not a secret! lynngehringer@yahoo.com
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Re: Tips for improvisation

Postby Sharon Gartley » Wed Jun 30, 2010 12:05 pm

In my original post I asked for tips, ideas, suggestions, exercises, and suggestions for how to practice, develop, and improve improvisational skills. You shared some great ideas but I needed to work it into a practice routine that will eventually get me where I want to go. With Mark's help I've been working on that and this is kinda what I'm doing, or aspiring to be doing. I thought maybe some of you would like to know, and writing it out helps solidify it for me too.

My main goals at this juncture are:
1) To become proficient at playing by ear
2) To be able to improvise arrangements on the fly
3) To greatly improve my technique and rhythmic capabilities

In order to do this I have to:
- Stop being lazy and stop avoiding the processes I don't like. Practice what is boring and/or hard for me!
- Be consistent
- Have fun with it and don't allow frustration or discouragement to deter me.
- Accept where I am and be gracious to myself instead of judgmental and mean. :)
- Continue to work at better understanding music theory and applying it to what I'm doing.

What I am doing, or planning to do, in my practice times:
Learning from recordings of others - As I listen, figure out what they're doing, and work at becoming a proficient imitator, the techniques will gradually seep into my bag of tricks. It also develops my "playing by ear" capabilities. I am working through one recording at a time until I get it. (I also learn from printed music and write things out, but my goal in this is to do things by ear.)
Sight reading exercises - sight read music with no concern for accuracy or learning the music. Simply play it through without stopping. This may not seem like something that will help me reach my improvisational goals but I'm finding it really touches on many things: ear training, playing without looking at my hd, breaking any perfectionistic tendencies I may have, etc.
Scale and chord exercises, including things some of you have shared here.
Practicing techniques and assignments covered in my lessons
Experimenting with tunes I already know and just messing around on my hd, making up stuff, incorporating ideas and techniques I have worked on and trying to play something different each time. Also taking tunes I already play a certain way and trying to break out of that mold.

I may not do everything there every practice session, and sometimes I go with what captures me and don't follow that at all, but that's the gist of my plan. If you have any other suggestions, please share!

Sharon
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Re: Tips for improvisation

Postby Marjorie Orr » Thu Jul 01, 2010 3:27 pm

lynnegheringer wrote:
I need to actually see what it is I am supposed to be doing.

I replied above that I would send a sample of what I did, then asked Dan if we could upload such files within a thread. He graciously and immediately did so! So here is the file I sent privately.

Dan & cboody, if I am wrong about my interpretation of using parallel chords and playing notes 1-2-3-5. let me know.

The song is Golden Slippers. On the second page in the A part I used notes 1-2-3-5 only for the D chord and in part B I used the same notes for all chords in a parallel chord structure. I also added a little drum rudiment pattern in the B part. I always write the accompaniment following the tune rather than under it so I can play along with my computer as it plays the midi file. Writing and playing along with my computer seems to etch the chord patterns into my brain.

I am uploading the music file only. Tried to upload midi file so you could play along with it, but obviously Dan did not add that capability.

Golden Slippers 2.pdf
(190.83 KiB) Downloaded 114 times
Last edited by Marjorie Orr on Tue Jul 06, 2010 8:59 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Tips for improvisation

Postby Heidi » Thu Jul 01, 2010 5:02 pm

Well it’s not the golden ticket or anything, but… Playing backup has helped me some. And when I’m trying to fall asleep, I ‘practice’ scales and chords in my head. This has helped me retain the info on a level that makes on the fly stuff possible. The added benefit is I find it to be an effective sleep aide and only mildly habit forming.

Besides that, I’ll pass on some advice I’ve heard several times and may help you. - Take your plan and get it into a practice journal. A practice journal can help you focus on goals and encourage you when goals are achieved.
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Re: Tips for improvisation

Postby cboody » Fri Jul 02, 2010 12:47 am

I looked at, but haven't played through Marjorie's Golden Slippers bit. It sounds just fine to me (assuming the chord structure you chose). I think the B section is a bit repetitive and more of an accompaniment than a counter-melody or improvised tune, but perhaps that was your intent.

Seems to me this is a fine application of what folks are talking about here.

Dan???
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Re: Tips for improvisation

Postby Marjorie Orr » Thu Jul 08, 2010 11:04 am

I wrote:

I am uploading the music file only. Tried to upload midi file so you could play along with it, but obviously Dan did not add that capability


But thanks to Dan, we now have the capability to add Midi files.

I added Golden Slippers at the slow speed of 72 so learners can play along with it. If you want it faster or slower, just ask and I'll send it to you privately. Also I had to edit my old post as I had uploaded my copy with extra rolls added to the tune that was not in public domain.

As your computer plays, start on the accompaniment (page 2 of the file I uploaded above), then go back to the beginning (the melody, page 1) as your computer plays the accompaniment. A great learning tool for imprinting chord position in that computer on your shoulders!

Many thanks again Dan.

[ Play Quicktime file ] Golden Slippers 2.MID [ 2.79 KiB | Viewed 1567 times ]

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