When you think about someone who can improvise…
You might think about your favourite players playing a beautiful improvised solo.
But are they really improvising?
The short answer: no. (Keep reading to find out why…)
Before we can answer that, what does improvising actually mean? Well a quick Google search brings up this:
“Create and perform (music, drama, or verse) spontaneously or without preparation.”
That’s right. The literal definition of “improvise” is to create and perform something without preparation. (Key word there.)
That means if you want to improvise a solo… forget about all those scales you’ve been practicing. And all those licks you’ve been working so hard to nail.
You can’t use any of it.
Because that would mean you prepared something. And that’s not improvising.
So what do we do?
And how do you actually improvise on the guitar?
Here’s my take on it all. Improvising is about taking scales, arpeggios, and licks that you’ve learned before... and putting them in one big melting pot.
Then your job is to mix them together in different ways. To chop and change up the ideas you know into something new.
That’s what improvising means in music.
So your favourite guitar players are never “improvising” in the traditional sense.
They’re taking licks and ideas they’ve played already... and mixing them together in a new way.
And that’s the skill we all need to get good at.
Part of the work we all need to do is to learn our fretboard. To become crystal clear with where the right notes are.
Another part is to learn great sounding licks from the pros. (Seriously, 80% of the hard work has already been done for you.)
Once you can do that (and you sprinkle in a little bit of music theory…) you can jam along to backing tracks or with friends.