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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Starting with improvisation.


Please note this is an archived topic, so it is locked and unable to be replied to. You may, however, start a new topic and refer to this topic with a link: http://www.fiddlehangout.com/archive/50296

haggis - Posted - 12/06/2018:  10:08:48


Re. Improvisation. I read of flattened this and sharpened that . Here a passing note, there another. Eventually we have all twelve notes and are back to square one. In my opinion the most important element in improvising is knowing which scale/mode to hang all the embellishments upon. I liken the basic scale/mode which one uses to a suit of clothes. One then adds to this a necktie , cuff links and pocket kerchief depending upon the colour of suit you wear. In other words, know your basic scales ,modes , finger patterns etc. and you will find these "other" notes quite easily. Or am I wrong?

Brian Wood - Posted - 12/06/2018:  10:43:53


Don't forget timing, phrasing, double stops, slides, dynamics. Improvisation isn't just notes.

MusicMan13760 - Posted - 12/06/2018:  10:57:38


quote:

Originally posted by abinigia

Don't forget timing, phrasing, double stops, slides, dynamics. Improvisation isn't just notes.






Those go beyond STARTING improvisation.



Yes, the major scales are important, but I find that basic pentatonic scales suit me best when improvising... G, A, D, maybe E also.

Lonesome Fiddler - Posted - 12/06/2018:  12:10:08


Learn the tune to the point where it resides comfortably in your fingers and head. Play it, sing it, hum it, think it. Figure out what you think makes it emotionally tick. Then, find ways of either further exploring that emotional theme or turning that emotion on its ear. Turn the comedy into a drama. A drama into a comedy.

Brian Wood - Posted - 12/06/2018:  12:24:51


quote:

Originally posted by MusicMan13760





Those go beyond STARTING improvisation.






Maybe for some. In the same way that notes need structures to form meaningful melodies, I consider improvisation to be about notes and structure too. I think STARTING improvisation is whatever you make it. That's why it's called improvisation.



I get that any kind of improvisation is a big jump for some players. But I think it's useful to understand at the start that it isn't only note choice you can play with.

UsuallyPickin - Posted - 12/06/2018:  15:01:14


Well …. Most melodies that we fiddlers learn are likely somebodies improvisation. There are a few ways to approach improvising. From a simple , SIMPLE, melody you can add , subtract, harmonize and syncopate tones that you find pleasing to your ear … keeping in mind the tempo. Or you can "play the changes" where you completely ignore the melody in favor of the chords and jam on those changes with scales , arpeggios and double stops.... thirdly a combination of the two where the melody never entirely disappears and the improvisation continues to flirt with it...… easier said than done. As pointed out above really knowing a melody is the place to start and that is after you have taken the time to learn the chords, relative scales and developed your ear...… This fiddling stuff is like climbing a metaphorical ladder... the higher you get the more you see.... the more you learn the more you know there is to learn ….. Enjoy …

haggis - Posted - 12/06/2018:  18:09:02


quote:

Originally posted by abinigia

Don't forget timing, phrasing, double stops, slides, dynamics. Improvisation isn't just notes.






Yes , there are many elements to improvisation . As I said in my opinion  " the most important element."

haggis - Posted - 12/06/2018:  18:10:48


quote:

Originally posted by Lonesome Fiddler

Learn the tune to the point where it resides comfortably in your fingers and head. Play it, sing it, hum it, think it. Figure out what you think makes it emotionally tick. Then, find ways of either further exploring that emotional theme or turning that emotion on its ear. Turn the comedy into a drama. A drama into a comedy.






I was thinking more about on the hoof improvisation.

pete_fiddle - Posted - 12/07/2018:  01:39:47


i like to find the mode of the Key that sits in the middle of the fingerboard and learn the "head" in relation to that mode, mostly in single octave closed positions on adjacent strings, keeping the basic melody in the fiddles natural voice, and using open strings or ghosted notes or rests etc, to change positions. i use this as the basic framework for the tune

Then i learn and analyse the progression, (on guitar) then alter the progression(on guitar), and follow the altered progression on fiddle keeping things in the fiddles natural range, and noodle around until things start to "happen"...if i find something nice i stop and work out why it sounds nice, and use it as a " motif " or "lick" to aim at while i'm improvising proper. These licks or whatever then start altering as well, and sometimes end up sounding like "Quotes" from previously learned tunes, the rest of the scales/modes/arpeggio's/pentatonics/ double stops, etc, just link these licks/quotes/motifs, together and follow either my altered chord progression, or re-enforce the original chord progression or melody

i'm starting to find that i don't need to play/alter/hear the chords on guitar so much these days, and am starting to hear them (or at least a bass line) in my head, as i mess about with em on fiddle

at least i think that's what i try to do. Then some of this stuff ends up as improvisation if when i play it with others, if not i've got the "Head" to go back to.... chord wise or melody wise

pete_fiddle - Posted - 12/07/2018:  11:11:33


quote:

Originally posted by haggis

Re. Improvisation. I read of flattened this and sharpened that . Here a passing note, there another. Eventually we have all twelve notes and are back to square one. In my opinion the most important element in improvising is knowing which scale/mode to hang all the embellishments upon. I liken the basic scale/mode which one uses to a suit of clothes. One then adds to this a necktie , cuff links and pocket kerchief depending upon the colour of suit you wear. In other words, know your basic scales ,modes , finger patterns etc. and you will find these "other" notes quite easily. Or am I wrong?






That basic suit of clothes may not fit the fiddle, it may have to be tailored to fit the fiddle,..and your own preferences and abilities, make it comfortable and fun for yourself, adding your own favourite accessories to personalise it . play what comes easy to yourself, and the fiddle, and fits the melody/harmony in a pleasing way to yourself, and hopefully the listeners...some of them might get your intensions



Things get easier and sound more sophisticated as you get better at making things easy, and sound good to yourself, those things are not necessarily easy for other players, ....and define your own style of improvisation, (maybe/probably influenced by other players)



......i hope i'm right because that's what i am, and have been trying to do for a while now ??

DavidM - Posted - 05/02/2019:  16:27:41


To be honest, I don't have a lot of musical ideas. I may develop a variation on a few bars, but I would not call it improv. While I have been playing music for a long time, have only recently decided to embark on an exercise improvising over "Minor Swing," a tune I chose for its simple structure. My question is this: Generally, do improvisors find it most efficient to use classically recognised finger choices when traversing three octaves?

buckhenry - Posted - 05/02/2019:  17:56:52


quote:

Originally posted by DavidM

do improvisors find it most efficient to use classically recognised finger choices when traversing three octaves?






I think the classical fingers are the most efficient for all the possible ways of traversing three octaves, whether the traverse is chromatic, scalar, arpeggiated or of large intervals, and each can have a variation on the fingering for the change of position. In other words, classical fingers cover all the possible fingering choices, depends on how much one studies them. 

farmerjones - Posted - 05/02/2019:  18:33:16


You mean inprov like finding the key, and conocting a break/solo (on the fly) in like a country tune? Or improv more like a long Jazz solo? Scemantics i suppose but improv varies from style to style and possibly from conversation to conversation. For some it's mearly playing by ear. For others it's more inventive.

DavidM - Posted - 05/03/2019:  14:14:20


Thanks for the replies. I am not aware of differing improvisation methods in regards to genres of music. For now, it is the mechanics of three octaves that concern me. If I can sort that out, perhaps I will look closer at genre. I thought Minor Swing was a good place to start.

Lonesome Fiddler - Posted - 05/03/2019:  16:36:33


quote:

Originally posted by haggis

quote:

Originally posted by Lonesome Fiddler

Learn the tune to the point where it resides comfortably in your fingers and head. Play it, sing it, hum it, think it. Figure out what you think makes it emotionally tick. Then, find ways of either further exploring that emotional theme or turning that emotion on its ear. Turn the comedy into a drama. A drama into a comedy.






I was thinking more about on the hoof improvisation.






I'm thinking the same thing.  Do it on the fly!smiley

farmerjones - Posted - 05/03/2019:  20:11:18


Well, here's my thoughts:
Its all one big chromatic scale. Therein lies many keys. I only recently learnt piano. But knowing what i do about piano, my approach revealed why it was so easy for me to grasp piano. Its all laid out before you. Point being, the key is your first boundary. Your second boundary is your chord(s) within the key. Another boundary is the phrase. The meter is another boundary. The late John Hartford said, As long as you get the first and last note of the phrase, you can dang near put anything in there. What he isnt saying, is he is staying within the, meter, and key.
As far as Jazz solos, there is an approach where one is supposed to play anything but the active chord. This is playing "outside." Many, many other approaches.
You gotta be very comfortable with your music, yet have enough contempt or bravery to be able to deviate from your typical path.

Joel Glassman - Posted - 05/14/2019:  20:43:01


"In my opinion the most important element in improvising is knowing which scale/mode to hang all the embellishments upon....
Or am I wrong?"

Opinions aren't wrong. Mine is different from yours though. IMO, the most important element is the melody. Recasting the melody into a variation is a good way to begin improv. The second most important element is the chord progression. Focus on chords rather than scales. An example is to play the third note of the chord when the chords change. This would be called "playing the changes". Doing this "acknowledges" the new chord. The third is to use repetition and a variety of rhythms to establish patterns. It allows a listener to be more engaged with the music. Playing evolving "motifs" is a great way to practice improv. A motif is a short bit of melody which can be repeated in a sequence, with subtle changes made to each iteration. The listener hears a familiar melody with evolving changes made to it.

pete_fiddle - Posted - 05/15/2019:  02:27:03


quote:

Originally posted by haggis

Re. Improvisation. I read of flattened this and sharpened that . Here a passing note, there another. Eventually we have all twelve notes and are back to square one. In my opinion the most important element in improvising is knowing which scale/mode to hang all the embellishments upon. I liken the basic scale/mode which one uses to a suit of clothes. One then adds to this a necktie , cuff links and pocket kerchief depending upon the colour of suit you wear. In other words, know your basic scales ,modes , finger patterns etc. and you will find these "other" notes quite easily. Or am I wrong?






i think i see what you are getting at maybe? i do a similar thing..



i work it like this:



Key C Major



Chord i am playing over... say E7



Basic mode in the Key of C with E as Root= E Phrygian



But E7 has G#!!...no problem, just sharpen the G of the E phrygian mode



E Phrygian with a #3rd= 5th mode of A harmonic minor...Chord E7, the 5th chord of A harmonic minor



There is my  basic mode to hang my embellishments on. And the chord function.



Then i substitute, and/or Extend the progression, strip down to a pentatonic, use the arpeggio, add blue notes, stick with the altered mode, or whatever. So long as what i am playing is in A minor and serves the same function as the original E7 chord it seems to work. The next chord is not necessarily Amin though. But the odds are it will have A note as its root



How do i know i'm in A minor an not A Major when the E7 Chord is being played?...i only ever alter 1 single note from the original mode from the original key of C major. So i know i'm borrowing the mode from a related Key. A major would require 2 notes to be altered, The G would be sharped AND the C would be sharped, so i don't go there.

pete_fiddle - Posted - 05/21/2019:  12:48:37


This looks like it hangs together with other modes as well.

Eg: if i find myself with a handful of F Lydian under my fingers (4th mode of C major), when the E7 comes around. i can Just sharpen the G again, and i end up with the 6th mode of A harmonic minor.... And that seems to work as well.



Edit: over the E7 chord ........Edit : in the key of C Major


Edited by - pete_fiddle on 05/21/2019 12:58:01

Skookum - Posted - 05/25/2019:  15:14:42


quote:

Originally posted by Joel Glassman

"In my opinion the most important element in improvising is knowing which scale/mode to hang all the embellishments upon....

Or am I wrong?"



Opinions aren't wrong. Mine is different from yours though. IMO, the most important element is the melody. Recasting the melody into a variation is a good way to begin improv. The second most important element is the chord progression. Focus on chords rather than scales. An example is to play the third note of the chord when the chords change. This would be called "playing the changes". Doing this "acknowledges" the new chord. The third is to use repetition and a variety of rhythms to establish patterns. It allows a listener to be more engaged with the music. Playing evolving "motifs" is a great way to practice improv. A motif is a short bit of melody which can be repeated in a sequence, with subtle changes made to each iteration. The listener hears a familiar melody with evolving changes made to it.






This really resonates  with me.  



Also, I'm not too good at keeping all the theory in my head while I'm supposed to be improvising, but melodies seem to be based on the arpeggios of the chord that's being played at the time.  Learn those notes and how to go up and down (to/from) each of the three notes gives me lots of variations.  Although any note might work, when the beat happens I try to be on one of the arpeggio notes.  


Edited by - Skookum on 05/25/2019 15:22:00

Joel Glassman - Posted - 05/25/2019:  19:07:03


Thanks Bruce,

When I play a song I'm hearing "drone" notes on the chord tones of the chord I'm on. In a way its hearing very simple bass lines in the treble clef. A super common progression is from a G chord to a C chord. The chord tones [or most important tones: 1-3-5] in G are GBD. When the chord changes to C the chord tones are now CEG. Walking from a B to a C [or from D to E] really outlines the change in chords. C and E [4 and 6 scale tones] are not important tones in a G chord. I spend a lot of time practicing these note movements. When its second nature, you can apply improvised melodies which fit the chord resolutions. Without playing wrong notes.


Edited by - Joel Glassman on 05/25/2019 19:09:32

Joel Glassman - Posted - 05/27/2019:  11:55:03


quote:

Originally posted by Skookum

Also, I'm not too good at keeping all the theory in my head while I'm supposed to be improvising





Everything I've read about it says "don't keep the theory in your head while you're improvising." Instead, react to the melody, chords and rhythm without distraction, remembering the sounds you explored while practicing.

Skookum - Posted - 05/27/2019:  13:02:31


Glad to hear it. I do need to know there's a VIm (or whatever) chord coming up though. As an old-time-by-ear fiddle-player figuring out the melody for me is just easier than the theory part; however, a basic understanding of the underlying chords and how to use their components to alter the melody has been really helpful. I need to take breaks/solos on songs in jam sessions of contemporary folk or classic country stuff ... not jazz, swing or classic. I wish I had the knowledge to do the latter but getting this far has taken a really long time.

outstandingrush - Posted - 07/01/2019:  06:20:33


I was doing improvisation for a long time but it was pretty shallow and boring. I started learning different scales, modal interchanges, etc. That helped me much. Mixing scales opened many doors for me.

Dick Hauser - Posted - 07/01/2019:  10:52:07


In his book "Learning to Fiddle, Bluegrass Style", author Neil Rossi discusses subjects that are used when improvising. The material can easily be used for some styles other than bluegrass. I am guessing that the book and 2 cds were designed to explain and demonstrate specific musical techniques. It also expects the reader to be familiar with musical notation.
It is not an introduction to fiddling or a repertoire book. In this book, he discusses mental approaches that must be taken in order to accomplish specific things.

April Verch uses different types of ornamentation in her book/CD. For each tune there is a simpler version and 2 more advanced versions. By comparing the simple version against the more advanced versions, a reader can learn how to use different types of ornamentation and how musical phrases can be changed. Most of the tunes are Canadian, but the ideas can be used for tunes commonly played elsewhere.

Petimar - Posted - 09/11/2019:  13:43:11


I'm currently doing a video series called Improv From Scratch for people wanting to learn to improvise and folks wanting to get better at improvising. Currently 18 videos with many more to come. You can see it here:

youtu.be/tziKd-mh6Io

Dragonslayer - Posted - 09/11/2019:  14:05:00


Improvisation is basically composing in fast motion
-Bela Fleck

Lonesome Fiddler - Posted - 09/11/2019:  14:48:58


Practice the scales, riffs, cliches, etc. that you enjoy until they are comfortably under your fingers in all the common keys, i.e., G, D, A and C. Get comfortable with the chord progressions through which tunes commonly move. If we're talking OT, chances are better than even there'll only be two chords, the One and the Five. For example, A tunes will mostly only have an A chord and an E chord.



When your fellow players launch into a tune, listen to it for a couple of verses and figure out where the tune chord-ally goes. Let the tune put a couple of riffs into your head. Get your fingers to play the riffs. Don't worry if you constantly repeat yourself, your riffs have only one or two notes, or if you start off with a big booboo. Play on! If/when the tune gets crooked, just sit out the crooked parts until you get jiggy with 'em.


Edited by - Lonesome Fiddler on 09/11/2019 14:50:50

buckhenry - Posted - 09/11/2019:  17:58:32


quote:

Originally posted by Lonesome Fiddler

 



When your fellow players launch into a tune, listen to it for a couple of verses and figure out where the tune chord-ally goes. 






I have never done that, I launch straight into the tune with them.....



 



If I am jamming to a tune I've never heard before, the chords are the most important element. Because they'll immediately give me the key of the tune and all the chord tones to emphasis which in turn will give me the passing notes, or the notes between the chord tones, or the modes.





But when I am doing a free form, solo improvisation, anything goes. I can choose any chord structure or none at all, change key or mode any time I want, and choose any genre I think I maybe proficient at.

farmerjones - Posted - 09/12/2019:  19:51:37


One can't help but knowing some melodies, and there's truely a finite number of chord progressions i play in particular. So i think in terms of never knowing what tune or key is coming next. There was a fellow that preached to never play a tune you don't know. He and i are opposite sides of the coin. I might have a half dozen tunes in my pocket in case i'm asked to call a tune, but otherwise i have given up learning tunes in advance. Reason being, you never know what's coming next. Say you learn tune X in key Y. Undoubtedly somebody will call it in another key. I essentially, sort of "gave up." This approach keeps me on my toes. So i guess, my way is no way.

Somebody told the late Johnny Gimble, to get so you can play whatever you can hum.
There you go.

Skookum - Posted - 09/13/2019:  12:55:18


quote:

Originally posted by Petimar

I'm currently doing a video series called Improv From Scratch for people wanting to learn to improvise and folks wanting to get better at improvising. Currently 18 videos with many more to come. You can see it here:



youtu.be/tziKd-mh6Io




I havent' reviewed these videos, but I have skyped with Pete Martin in the past and he really helped me with improvisation!







 

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