Tag Archives for " Guitar Improvising "

6 3 Ways I Improvise On Guitar

Improvising is probably definitely my favorite aspect of playing the guitar.

When I used to play trumpet, there was very little improvising involved; we would simply play off the sheet music that we were given. That can be fun, to be sure, but it is a completely different story from creating something entirely new and unique each and every time you play your instrument.

For me, improvising typically takes three forms. There are more that come to mind, but these are the biggest three:

Improvising Situation #1 – Live Jamming / Soloing

Firstly, each week I meet with a group of guys and we jam rock and blues songs. Inevitably, everyone gets a solo and the songs are good and long… but that gives me true “live” soloing time each week which is a ton of fun. There’s nothing quite like improvising a solo in a live band situation, because it is far more demanding… you need to be paying attention to the other guys in the band, and you need to be aware of when your turn starts and ends.

Improvising Situation #2 – With a Canned Jam Track

Secondly, sometimes when I’m practicing, I’ll play over a jam track, which gives me tons of room to experiment and try new licks and ideas. This is great, but you don’t develop any “Band IQ” – the ability to lock in with a band. Super useful as a practice and growth tool though.

Improvising Situation #3 – Abstract Noodling

Thirdly, oftentimes I’ll grab my acoustic guitar and plunk down on the couch for a few minutes just to relax, and nine times out of ten, I end up noodling in one key or another. Typically the way this will start is I’ll play a few chords, say in the key of G, and then I’ll just start randomly improvising little fills and things in between the chord changes. This is also great practice, but it is this time that produces most of my song ideas – no backing track, no band, no preset anything; just pure improvising on musical rabbit trails. (the pic is rather tenuously connected to that statement 🙂

How to Get Started?

Some time ago, I asked you, my subscribers, what sort of things you really wanted to learn on guitar, and guitar improvising and soloing came out on top, by a huge margin. Now I really enjoy improvising, but I knew that to really do justice to a good guitar improvising lesson, I needed to recruit the best guy I knew… and that’s Colin Daniel – the guy who taught me how to play guitar 15 years ago. (You can see the video where I interviewed him here).

Fortunately, he agreed, and together we put together a great primer on guitar improvising. In fact, that partnership is turning into FAR more – as together we’ve started RiffNinja.com which is already growing into an amazing resource for guitar players.

Back to improvising… Want to know what the very first step is? To learn your scale like the back of your hand.

To give you an example of WHY this is so, think for a moment about playing any sort of physical game. It’s pretty hard to play football if you’re always thinking about how to put one foot in front of the other, isn’t it? Likewise, how are you going to solo fluidly if you don’t know the notes in the scale?

To learn more about Colin’s course on improvising,
follow the rabbit trail to Guitar Improvising Secrets.



Improvising in Open G… Here are some Riffs!

Many days when I pick up my guitar I end up just noodling away… improvising is probably my favorite part of playing the guitar.

Improvising over open chords is probably the easiest way to get started, and the key of G is the best key for that.

When you’re playing in G major, then you solo in Em. Em is the relative 6th of G, therefore is the minor scale that you use to solo in. (See my lesson on I IV V for a better explanation).

Playing in the key of G means that we can use Em Diatonic OR Em Pentatonic. Both of these scales become super easy in the open position…

I really relate to the fretboard in patterns. I find them much easier to get my brain wrapped around than note names. One day soon I am going to do a full-length lesson on that. However, for the time being, have a look at the scale pattern on the page here – that is the Em diatonic minor scale.

Now go through each of the chords in the key of G (G, C, D, Em, Am, Bm) and find where the notes from each chord fit into the scale. You’ll see that every chord is built out of notes within that scale.

Em Diatonic ScaleNext, get that scale pattern embedded in your head and pickup your guitar. That pattern now becomes your structure for improvising. With the pentatonic scale you can truly play any of the notes you want, wherever you want. With the diatonic scale, you have to be a little bit more careful, but you can usually get away with pretty much anything there as well.

Now that you’ve got that pattern stuck in your brain, watch this video, and do your best to follow my fingers and see how everything is coming out of that diatonic pattern. When you’re able to see that, it will really open up a door in your mind in relation to the guitar.

Please note I’ve indicated the extra E and A on the 5th fret. These notes are still in the scale, but those specific spots on the fretboard aren’t in the minor diatonic pattern – they are out of the G major diatonic pattern. It is important to know they are there though, and can of course be played. You’ll see one of the riffs in the video uses these two notes quite a bit.

One other thing – PLEASE don’t get hung up on playing the riffs exactly like I do. This lesson is to help you improvise – not copy. Take my ideas and make them your own, with your own rhythms or sequences.

Just have fun with it and let it all hang out!

As I already mentioned, I absolutely love improvising and playing this type of stuff. Consequently, I have no problem bringing a lot more in this vein, and yes, going into more detail about specifically what I’m playing. However, I need to know if you guys are interested in improvising, or if you prefer to learn common riffs to copy.

Leave a comment below and tell me if you love it or hate it.

Watch Open G Riffs on Youtube

For More Riffs Like This One, Click Here

If you liked the style and difficulty level of this guitar riff, you might like to check out my short course that contains a bunch more guitar riffs in G major.