"Improvisation Should Be an Auditory Sensation"

It's been an extremely busy Summer here at Guitar Tips and things are just starting to heat up. I have had the pleasure of hearing back from some of you with great suggestions and ideas, which are now being implemented.

In this edition:

Over the last few months, we have been taking a closer look at how to practice arpeggios, chords and scales. This week's edition is going to use every aspect of those skills as we dig into a new frontier... Improvisation!

Learn how the greats conquered their fretboard and played riffs in front of millions that they had never played before. You too can be this good and we're going to show you how!

In this week's Feedback Booth, we will give you an inside glimpse at what we have in store for you over the next few months as I personally answer some of the most popular questions.

We also have a brand new section of the newsletter called "The Severe Gear Premiere". It will be giving you some great gear ideas and show you how to get it through our friends at Guitar Trader. We also have a new contest to tell you about!

Whew, that was a mouth full so let's dive right in.

The Musical Organization of Improvisation.

What it's all about.

Over the last few years, improvisation (hence forth known as "Improv") has become a personal favorite that has taught me the most about my fretboard.

Before I began my journey to learn how to master my fretboard, I had little knowledge on improv and didn't understand how important it really was. What I failed to see was that all of the greats, such as Van Halen, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Jimi Hendrix and Jeff Beck used imrov as an important tool.

They would start their original songs with a little lick that they found when practicing or jamming with the rest of the band. Then, they began to expand on it using different techniques and key signatures. Before they knew it, they had a hit song waiting at their fingertips.

This may be known by the common public as composition, which is writing songs. Improvisation is a form of composition, the main difference being that you don't know exactly where you're headed with the song other than the key that you're in. In other words, you don't prepare for it.

This is common place in many venues. For example, if you're going to jam with a couple of your friends, you probably won't have enough songs to fill three or four hours. So you use what you have and change it around, mix it up and add on. That's a form of improv.

Another scenario is that your band is holding a concert and thousands of people show up to see you play. Maybe you get a little tense and when you're performing a solo, you slip up. Then you jump into action and use a beautiful lick in that key and save the day!

It could go anywhere you want it to and sound completely different every time. Jazz and blues made improv famous but don't kid yourself, it's a tool that can be applied to every genre.

Where to begin when there is no start.

To be honest with you, there is no "correct way" to teach improv. Many purists would say that you need to know music and music theory, how to perform over harmonies and chords etc. This once simple idea of having fun and playing your heart out just became a lot more complicated and now there are all these strings attached.

When I read articles in famous guitar magazines, I'm often left shaking my head. They have the right concept and the music is certainly correct but the medium that they deliver it over is quite complicated and hard to understand for the general public.

When I started out, I just looked at the tabs and played them because I simply didn't know music theory to that level for guitar. It doesn't have to be like that for you to sound good!

Playing improv truly involves putting together a good balance of technique, chords, scales and emotion in a mix that reflects you. It's not that hard at all.

Basically, I have three rules that I use when playing improv. They are as follows:

  1. If it's good enough to play once, it's probably good enough to play three or four times. hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh
  2. Use the techniques that you have in your toolbox and apply them in different ways.ggggg gggggggggggggggggg
  3. Put your heart into it.

Notice what I said with #2. Use what you currently have. No one ever said that you need to be professional to make up cool riffs. If you know how to do hamer ons and pull offs , then try to incorporate that. If your strength is chordal work, then improv with chords. Use your current strengths and add on as you learn more.

In doing this you not only get experience with practical applications of your skills but you also polish them and learn new things along the way. This is why improv is so helpful to a guitarist.

Over the last few articles, we've covered a range of material that is essential for improv. The most important aspect that we've covered is scales.

Taking a look at the sounds you want.

Everyone has their favourite type of music. Some of us love to play it all, while others are drawn to one particular sound. To make your guitar sing to the style that you prefer, there's some ground work to cover.

Continuing from our last scale lesson, different scales tend to be used for different types of music. However, one aspect that we didn't look at was different forms of the same scale.

I have received a lot of emails asking why I didn't include more variations on some scales and the reason is simple, too many scales at once can be confusing.

What we're going to do now is take two identical scales that are in different positions on the fretboard. This will take your knowledge a level higher as you will not see patterns when playing these scales, even though they are the same notes. The reason for this is the location of the notes on the fretboard changes.

Take this E Mixolydian scale in fourth position for example:

... Now compare the scale above to the scale below:

E Mixolydian(1st posistion)

Two completely different note sets and different root positions. This makes them similar yet gives them a different tone. Perfect for improv. You may have noticed how certain notes overlap one another, making them ideal "links" between the scales.

This not only gives you a nice working space on the fretboard with lots of options but your fingers are there in the correct spaces, only a slide away. Here is an example of the two scales in action:


The riff above uses some relatively simple techniques that spice things up. In our next edition we'll go more in depth on using these techniques.


Putting It Into Practice...

Now that we have an understanding of the frame work evolving around improv, let's see it in action. Here are some riffs that I've written for you that will give you the leading edge. Change them and make them into something that you like to listen to.

Based off of an E minor pentatonic scale:

Based off of an A natural minor scale:

Based off of a D harmonic minor scale:

A common reoccurance throughout all of these riffs are the techniques. Slides and bends are relatively simple things that truly add to a piece of music. I encourage you to learn some new scales and play around with them.

Everything listed above is written off of a scale. You may have noticed that in the D harmonic minor riff, the "5" on the G string shouldn't be there.

That's called an accidental, which is a great tool and you can do that when playing improv. You will know it's an accidental by the sign in front of the note. For example:

All of those sharps in front of the notes are examples of accidentals because there are no sharps in the key of C. More on this will covered in a future lesson.

Playing accidentals will allow you more room to use the fretboard and give you the desired sound you are looking for.


The Severe Gear Primiere!

Welcome to our brand new section dealing with gear reviews and how to's! You can also get the information you need on how to get your hands on some of the hottest items available on the market.

Each month, you will be able to check out whats the best gear at the best prices with some commentary from myself. Guitar Tips would like to thank Guitar Trader for their assistance in making this section possible by providing the information on their products.

Now on to the reviews. Hope you enjoy and let us know what you think!

OVATION CS257 Celebrity Deluxe Vintage Flame Acoustic/Electric

Ovation has been making quality guitar since 1966 when Charlie Kaman, an aeronotical pioneer, decided to revolutionize the acoustic guitar world by creating a product that was tailored for high peformance. He wanted something that fit guitarists' needs while still making it an affordable choice.

He hand picked a select group of engineers and what they ended up with was of pure beauty and tone. Known for their rounded backs, Ovation guitars have a unique feel with a good balance of bass and treble.

I have personally played them and was impressed with the quality. I was very sckeptical when I picked up the guitar as I wasn't used to having a "bowl" in my stomach. I quickly adjusted to that and my negative thoughts of plastic replacing wood soon faded as I jammed away and enjoyed the great response the guitar gave me.

I reccomend this guitar for anyone who wants to take their playing to the next level. Whether you're a beginner or a pro, this guitar has a little something to offer everyone. Don't let the killer low price deter you as I guarentee that this deal is one that shouldn't be passed up. Plus, it's half off!

Check out the guitar here.

Ibanez AEF37SSG Acoustic/Electric Trans Sunset Gold Quilt Maple

Ibanez is a company that's founded on making an affordable guitar at a reasonable price. The beginnings of Ibanez actually started in 1908, however, the company didn't actually pick up the name "Ibanez" until 1971. Since that time, this company has come a long way and it wasn't always a smooth ride.

Ibanez has been sued by the big name companies like Fender and Gibson for their headstock designs. Ibanez soon changed to it's own original design and crept away from those issues. Now they are known for their professional models that are coupled with affordable prices, Ibanez has made a come back. bb

(Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ibanez)

I like these guitars quite a bit and almost bought one of their acoustics a little while back. I enjoy listening to shredders use these guitars masterfully and seeing what guys like Joe Satrianie and John Petrucci can do with them.

They have a very unique distortion tone and are a great value for the money. Don't kid yourself, this company can be rivelled to any other proffesional guitar when put in it's own class. They just happen to be one of the more sensible ones that realizes not everyone has $2000 to spend on a decent guitar.

This week we have two Ibanez guitars that are both half off! The acoustic is featured above and below is the electric guitar on sale. These prices are unbeatable!

Ibanez RGT42HH Red Pearl

Link to Ibanez Acoustic

Link to Ibanez Electric



So You Want To Play Like Joe Satrianie?

Satch Givaway

Here at Guitar Tips, we always like to spice things up and make life a little more exciting. With our latest contest nearing an end, Guitar Trader thought it would be a great idea if we teamed up again. This time, we have an Ibanez SCA220 BP electric guitar signed by Joe Satrianie to give away!

To enter, click here and enter your details. I will pick a winner sometime in September and one of you could be a proud new owner of a guitar signed by Satch himself. It's just that simple.


Guitartists Dream Package Update.

For those of you who are wondering, the current contest of the $1000 givaway will be ending on the 31st July 2005.

To enter click here and enter your details. We'll broadcast the winnner to all of you and if you win, you will hear from me before we announce it to the public as I will need to get some informaton from you.

The feedback has been astounding and is continually improving the way we do business, so a big thank you goes out to all who have participated so far.


Feedback Booth

This week, I thought I would respond to some of the most popular requests and tell you where we're at and where we plan to take the newsletter. Here are some of the most popular requests that I recieve on a daily basis:

Al Busby Writes:

Hi, how's it going down under? Anyway, I'm fairly sure I'm not the only one asking this, but could you print detailed info on techniques please? I've just started guitar, and most 'aids' I've found are really vague and crap. Really detailed instructions on stuff like tremolo, slides, hammer-ons, etc would be damn helpful. Thanks

P.S. Love the newsletter, great idea!!

Al is right, he isn't the only one asking me about getting some articles on techniques launched. We have recieved hundreds of emails requesting the same thing. I absolutely love the whole concept and truly think it is needed.

This is why I have chosen to focus our August newsletters on this very issue. We'll cover everything you see your favourite professional guitarists perform! Before you know it you'll be playing with new tricks that you never knew your guitar was capable of.

Beth Hackett writes to us with yet another popular request:

I love the newsletter as it is....but since you asked me, there is one thing I think would be great. What if there was a song tab of the day everyday? Maybe displaying one tune by classic artists each day like zeppelin, the dead, beatles, stones, some hendrix or whatever people would want to learn. I think it would be cool to see a random song up there everyday that we (as readers) could (try to) learn. That is just one suggestion. You are probably getting a lot of cool ideas from other people, but I just thought I'd try mine out!!

Many of you have emailed asking for specific songs and tabs over the last few months. Unfortunately, my answer thus far has been "Sorry, due to the large number of requests, I cannot give you the individual song" and then I go on to talk about where to go.

Here's the deal. I still can't give people individual songs simply because I would have to work 23 hours a day. What I can do for you however, is help you work through some rough spots if you're having trouble.

If you want to locate a specific song, check out these site for the best in tabs and chords:




Keven Murphy writes to us with this great compliment from our last newsletter:

Hi Jordan, just aquick note to say how valuable I found this weeks newsletter, sometimes when you look at scales they can seem "intimidating". I now feel more confident about using scales and also learning them. Keep up the good work. Regards, Kev

Finally, I thought I would end on this inspirational note from Mike Steffani - Tacoma, Washington

Thanks for the great stuff you guys put out... I am getting old(48) and thought I'd never really learn guitar. I tried lessons when I was young and recently but came to the same conclusion each time, it doesn't work for me. This newsletter and your practice tips and PACS have done for me in the last month alone more than any lesson I have ever taken. I think I can do it this time, and I have you guys to thank. keep up the great work.

Thank you Mike, it's wonderful to hear that. As of the last few weeks I have had a handful of emails from people who ask me this question:

"Jordan, I'm getting up there and I just started. Is there any hope for me and is this obtainable?"

My answer to that queston will remain the same until the day I die, you are never to old to learn music. I encourage all of you who are in this situation to email me and I would be happy to go over it with you.

Insider look to the future...

Soon you're going to get an article unlike any other you have ever recieved from us before as we will have pictures, audio and the new addition of video! You will now be able to see me perform the techniques and songs in slow motion and try them out for yourself. We will get this video up and running for late August so stay tuned!

I'm also in the progress of getting some interviews for the coming months. When you put it all together, there's a lot happening and a lot left to learn!


I certainly hope that you have enjoyed this week's article. There are a lot of new and innovative things popping up in the near future but we can't do it without you! You're ideas and support are the driving force behind this newsletter.

Improvisation can be made as complicated as you want it but take the time to sit back and enjoy it. The possibilities are limitless with the endless arrays of tones, scales and chords out there waiting for you to discover them. This article had barely scratched the surface of improv but it gives you the idea of what it's all about.

Until next time, keep on rocking!


If you've always wanted to learn to play the guitar but never had the chance, give me 17 minutes a day for 90 days and I'll show you how to play virtually any song you want! Visit http://www.guitartips.com.au