View Full Version : I'm hitting a mental wall...

01-06-2004, 10:28 PM
Wasn't sure wether to post this here, or the Practice & Peformance forum, but here goes.

I've been playing guitar for almost 6 months now, progressing steadily, with a good teacher, learnt a wide selection of bar chords/chords, learnt a selection of riffs/solos, developed my techniques a bit, in things such as alternate picking etc.. About 2 months ago, I started improvising, after learning the blues scale, and I now know it in 3 positions, the major pentatonic, and some of the major scale patterns. Quite recently, I've come into a problem with my improvising, where, I just cannot think what to do :O I end up just playing random notes on the scale, or play the scale up and down with bends, hammer-ons, vibrato in certain places.

I know, I've only been playing 6 months, I don't expect to be some genious, I'd just like to know how to utilize my practice time to maximise my...improvising abilty. :P Some people have told me that I should have patience, and that it will eventually come to me, while others have said learn more songs, solos and such, listen to different music types, should help. Others have said use licks from different songs and incorporate them into improvising. Just wondering what I can do ;)
Thanks in advance,

01-07-2004, 05:00 AM
I think you should learn some solos you really like and analyze why you like them. Your instructor should be able to help with this. It will help you understand why certain notes sound better than others in a chord progression.

Also, learn as many licks as you can. Make up your own too. Then practice applying these licks when improvising.

You should also try copying melodies from songs by ear. Play the vocal lines on guitar. Start with stuff like Happy Birthday and work your way up!

Good luck!

01-07-2004, 05:25 AM
Lowthorpe, my best advice is to develop your "inner ear" as bizarro gave a couple of tips on how to do that. Anybody can just play up and down scales and play random notes in the scale ( not saying I don't do that myself at times) but the true musician will hear what they want to play in thier head and play it! This is not easy if you don't have perfect pitch but you can teach your ear to do it and your fingers to follow. One technique is to think of a melody like a TV theme song or any melody for that matter and try to play it right in as few attempts as possible. Ones that I have done is the simpsons theme, the top gun theme various themes from star wars etc... see even watching tv can be a practice time (as long as there is no one around to annoy with your attempts at playing every piece of music that comes on:D ) another is to get someone else to play intervals on thier instrument or sing them if they already have a good ear and you have to say what the interval is. Another very helpful thing is to sing solfege. Solfege is Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti Do.
Sing the whole scale first and then try to sing correct intervals in the scale i.e. Do to La or Fa toTi, it is good to have your instrument or be sitting at a piano to double check yourself... If you practise these things every day pretty soon you will find that you will be able to play what you hear more and more, This becomes very handy when you try to write or compose because you can immediately play what you hear and write it down, and soon enough you just write down what you hear you won't even need your instrument because you will know what things sound like. Oh and another thing you can do is have someone play different types of chords i.e minor, major, diminished, augment with different sevenths and eventually with 11ths 13th 9ths b9ths #11ths etc. and try to call out the correct chord type. also have them play several chords together in different inversions and orders and call out the order and type, Start with I's and V's, so your partner would play I - V- I - V and you would try to call out that order, then he would play V - V - V - I and you would call it out, then when you can always get that right no matter what inversions are played or in what order add another chord and so on.... again if you do these things a lot you will after some years (depending how much you do it) you will be able to hear anything and play what ever you hear right when you hear it, and that is the goal of any musician... :cool:
First Master your instrument. Then forget all that #&^% and play! -- Charlie Parker

01-08-2004, 10:09 PM
Maybe arpeggios would help? You could learn (if you don't already know) to pull those out of the scales you're using.
This could add some "flavor" too your improvising.


01-08-2004, 10:23 PM
I'd go with the melody thing, I still find that one useful, even when I'm just messing around with scales I try to make up little melodies (some of them are just stupid but you can also find ones that make you go "man! I gotta write that one!". First try melodies that you're familiar with (like videogames, or tv shows or movies or what not) I hope this helps.


01-08-2004, 10:53 PM
Thanks a lot for the replies. I've managed to get some recordings of some chord progressions, and things like that, to improvise against, and I think that was probably one of my main problems, improvising with no backing was terrible but sounds a lot better and flows more with some backing ;) Still, the other ideas have 'opened doors' so to speak, especially the inventing my own licks and using others..don't believe I didn't think of that :p