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How to improve solo playing?

arnolloarnollo New
edited May 2011 in Licks and Patterns Posts: 11
Hi all,
I started playing the style seriously 6 months ago and i've worked enough to have a correct rythme playing: i currently begins to put subs, voicings and bass walks and it sounds not too bad.
when it comes to soloing, i am getting a better and better sound and attack, and i really feel it's easier and easier to play technical stuff.
but i don't say anything, i just play sounds that sound ok on the chords. i tend so simplify the progressions a lot and only play on the general tonality of the part of the chord progression we are in.
in general i feel there is a huge difference between my soloing capability and and what i can do when playing licks i've learned by heart or when i play rythm.
How could i improve that?
My personal analysis is that i lack some vocabulary, so, what i try to do is to learn a lot of themes, and to transcribe solos from the recordings. As it is pretty difficult for me at the moment, i'm mostly using transcriptions in the hope that after i have a basis coming from that, transcripting myself will be easier. (i started to reckognize the arpeggios after i worked on them a lot).

Does anyone have an idea on what work i should do to improve my solo playing and how to make scentences instead of notes following each others. Is it normal to suck at solo, i mean, i am only beggining to learn all the possibilies with the chords, maybe it's just normal to be a bad soloer at that level. It just feels odd to be confident in my rythm playing and to be able to play technical stuff from other players, but to suck when it has to come from myself..



  • Posts: 597
    A couple of ideas ...

    Transcribe vocalists--the way they handle melody lines, phrasing, and scatting. Check out Ella, Sarah, Louis, and others. Even Billie Holiday, though she doesn't scat, has phrasing that just kills. Anita O'Day is amazing, also. Too many instrumentalists focus on other instrumentalists and ignore the wealth of material and ideas that vocalists offer. Though not a jazzer, Robert Plant has mind-blowing blues ideas on all those Zep recordings.

    One of the prevailing methods of improv is to just play the changes -- play this scale against that chord (aka Chord-Scale Theory). To my ears, it's too easy to sound like the soloist is noodling rather than developing musical ideas when using this method. This method is the cornerstone of many music/jazz universities and instructional methods ... so there are plenty of proponents of it to be found.

    Guide tones can be helpful in improv. Use the 3rd and 7th of any chord to build your solos. Combine that with the orginal melody line and something interesting may develop.

    Also, slow down! Speed kills! Concentrate on the right notes, the right phrases. Silence is also an incredible tool in soloing.
  • HCPhillyHCPhilly Phila. PA✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 147
    Check out my post on Daphne's chord shapes, you might find in helpful.
    It is a language and you need to learn the jazz language in general,
    which includes licks and patterns, quotes etc.
    Wrembel has a very good approach to teaching improv using question and answer to develop ideas. Check out his "Getting into Gypsy" jazz book for more on that. Get a slowdowner program, learn some solos. Play them back very slowly. Leran to play nice simple phrases, and LAVE SPACE. Play like Sinatra sings. Learn to sing a bit, it'll help your ideas to breathe.
    I hope that that helps. If you have any questions or if you want more info email me thru the site here. Give yourself time and be patient.
    Good luck,
  • tommasotommaso ROMA-ITALYNew
    Posts: 149
    These are my plans when soloing :

    1. I keep in mind the chord progression and manage to recognize in each moment where I am. I also keep in mind the function of each chord so that I know what is better to play over it . It is also important to refer mentally to the piece structure (i.e.: AABA etc.).

    2. I Keep in mind the melody.

    3. I organize mentally my solo in : a starting part, development part and an end part. In this way my solo won’t sound confusing.

    4. I try to use the Question/Answer structure (as teached by S.Wrembel) because this helps a lot to give a shape to your solo.

    5. I choose the part of the keyboard to start the solo (i.e. low register, medium register or high register). I usually tend to start from a medium register. Then I choose the direction where to go (toward low register or high register).

    6. I visualize the chord form (as teached by S.Wrembel) and play around that form, using chord tones, various approaches notes(single up, single down or double) and arpeggios, but I also visualize the five positions in a scale form as they relate to the chord form (C, A, G, E and D) and play my phrases referring to these forms ( ref. to the very good method of Daniel Givone).

    7. I try to use intensively the vocabulary of this style such as triplets, diminished runs over dominant seventh, mixing arpeggios with scales etc.,mixing different figures. Of course it is important to use the typical expressions tools such as vibrato, octaves, chromatic runs etc.

    8. I try to play simple lines, and sometimes I find it useful to repeat some motifs.

    Hope this will help.
    Cheers ,

    P.S. I started this style one year and a half ago and of course I am still self teaching like most of us.
    Grazie Django!
  • tommasotommaso ROMA-ITALYNew
    Posts: 149
    Hi friends, here are some other thoughts on the subject (that is very interesting for me).

    I also use some simple substitutions (tritone on V7, vi instead of I etc., i.e.: I play a Db7 arpeggio over a G7 or a Am melodic scale over a C). I find useful to play a major scale, half tone higher a dominant chord (i.e. Ab scale over a G7): this gives some tension notes that can easily been resolved to the tonal chord (I).

    I also have noticed that it is a good idea to learn some typical licks of the style and use them to give spice to the improvisation : this gives the trademark of the style and the listener appreciates it, of course if one doesn’t make excessive use.

    Another tip is to use sincopes and other devices to change the accents.
    Too often we play long lines, fast and crowded of notes: I try to arrive to fast parts ,with many notes, coming from motifs of few notes of greater duration, that are recognizable and that can be repeated and developed .

    Another good idea could be to throw some short,fast lines in a chord melody fashion, at the end of a single notes line (this is still difficult for me). :(

    I always try to recognize which part of the chorus I am in, in order to arrive at the end of the improvisation with a sense of completeness and avoid the impression of being jamming or practicing.

    These are my plans for improvisation, of course I always have to improve.
    I would be glad if more experienced players told us what are their guidelines when they improvise: this would help greatly and would be very appreciated !. :D

    Grazie Django!
  • thomasbaggermanthomasbaggerman The NetherlandsNew
    Posts: 10
    try singing something and reproduce that with your guitar
  • arnolloarnollo New
    Posts: 11
    Hi all,

    First of all, thanks for your advices which were all very interesting..
    I thought i'd share something i noticed lately
    I tried to force myself to listen more and play less and slower. And suddenly, my solo playing would become much more articulated, there would be a much better sens of purpose. As said stakabones, 'speed kills'.
    After i worked a little time like that, i could get a bit faster and i would keep some of the better ideas that came up when i played slowly.

    So this is definately something i will try to remember.
    I also have to transcribe lots from the greats i guess...
  • Harry-DippoHarry-Dippo UK✭✭
    Posts: 17
    Great thread, some really useful tips and answered some of the questions I had :D
  • Rather than learn whole transcriptions which is a huge effort to sound like someone else here's an alternative thought.

    Pick a phrase of say two to four bars. One that really really appeals to you, that you think really burns.

    Figure out the harmonics changes in it.

    Then learn it until you can play it as effortlessly as you eat with your knife and fork. Eyes closed or while watching TV or having a conversation. Start with a few notes or a bar at a time and get them grooved. Then move onto the next bit no going back to the beginning until you have all the segments mastered. Then starting slowly again put it all together.

    IMO most people try and practice too much stuff so they have a lot of stuff that they do none of particularly well. None of it is effortless. None mastered. Once a phrase is ingrained it becomes part of your vocabulary. You probably don't spend a whole lot of time practicing what you are going to say when you go to work tomorrow. That's the way music should end up.
    The Magic really starts to happen when you can play it with your eyes closed
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