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Improvisation in a Major Key

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This lesson is a conclusion to the tutorial. I encourage you to try the strategies I've presented in this tutorial and build up your own collection of licks that you can use when improvising. The more you practice these things over and again, the more they will become automated and second nature to you. You will be well armed to solo over any chord progression that comes your way!

Here are a few more thoughts on the art of improvisation.

In these lessons we covered a very basic approach to improvisation. I wanted to keep things as simple and straight forward as possible in order to make a decent introduction for beginners to the idea. As such I kept the options very simple.

1. Find the key signature. 2. Target chord tones. 3. Build melodies!

In the future I encourage you to branch out and consider more complex options and approaches also. For example, avoiding the chord tones is a useful technique in it's own right. It is frequently how people learn to play "outside" or jazzy sounding things. But I always recommend learning to play with this chord tone approach so you understand how music works before you decide to "step outside of the box".

It's also important to remember that you need to "make time (or space in a measure)" for any runs or solo ideas you put in a song. Sometimes, for example I will replace take one beat of a measure (in which the singer is not doing anything) and play 4 1/16th notes from the appropriate scale. But then, most importantly, I am right back to the "normal song idea" right away on the downbeat of the next measure. The idea here is to not lose the rhythmic pulse of the song with your run or fill.

Sometimes you can "replace" a whole measure at the end of a phrase with a run. Example:

Play "straight" over the first three chords, A major, D major, A major. But when the E major chord (V) comes along on the last measure do a big, fancy run of 16 16th notes starting on e using the A major scale:

|| e-d-c#-b-a-g#-f#-g# || a!

This brings the line right back to the note a at the beginning of the next measure when the music returns to the A major chord (I chord). Nifty!

Now get out there and improvise!

Happy playing!