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herrKanin

Funky blues improv - Where do I start?

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herrKanin    0

Until today I have mostly played around with the pentatonic scale, so my knowledge in improvisation is very limited.

I found a video of a girl who plays some kind of funky blues improvisation, and I really like this style:

http://youtube.com/watch?v=9cqW-WU5Usk

My question now is, what should I focus on to be able to learn to play in this style?

Thanks!

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allthumbs    8

In my opinion, you need to lock into the rhythm first. She is launching her runs from and back to the rhythm. Rhythm is everything in funk. This is more a jazz fusion funk but, the same applies, get into the groove.

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Kirk Lorange    128

herrKanin, watch her and you'll see / hear that she's basing all her lines off the underlying chords, in fact she's playing them at the same time as playing the chord so they all merge into one very neat feel. Notice how all the lines emerge from and disappear back into the 'chord of the moment'.

You need to see the whole fretboard as 'the chord' to be able to do that at will, like she can. My book PlaneTalk reveals a very easy and compact way to do that.

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Hi herrKanin, thanks for sharing a great video. I like that style a lot too and would love to learn more about playing it.

As it's already been said the rhythm is important to the feel here. I'm working on linking my scales knowledge with chord shapes right now. I see that good players flow so easily between the two. But all the instruction books I've worked with treat them as two separate things. I found Arlen Roth's blues lessons on Gibson's site a help to see this in action.

Kirk, can you give us learners a couple of clues on the chords/scales used here? Thanks for any help, I'm going to check out your book...

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scotty_b    16

Phrasing is essential to capture the groove, and then a knowledge of the blues scale, major pentatonic scale, dominant 7th arpeggios and the mixolydian mode will give you some choices for the notes you might play.

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Kirk Lorange    128

Kirk, can you give us learners a couple of clues on the chords/scales used here? Thanks for any help, I'm going to check out your book...

Hi, NPG ...

The tune she's playing is in E, opens on a E to A pattern played up the neck, then goes between C#m and A a couple of times, then F#7 to A to D ... then starts again.

I don't really hear any scales being played. All the lines she plays are anchored to chord tones and she decorates them with chromatic runs between chord tones and some fairly standard lines but played so fluidly that they don't sound standard. She's got a great bag of licks to dip into, all based around the chord tones. I think you can see and hear that it's all based around the chords, which is why it's so much more important to know your chords than to spend endless hours on scales. They're both the same thing, really, but it's more useful to see the scale(s) in the chords rather than the chord in the scale ... if you know what I mean ... in my opinion, of course.

Scotty_b, perhaps you'd like to add to your response. It's a good example of the problem so many players face when asking about the art of soloing. You name a few scales to learn but give no indication of how to use them. When do you switch? Do you have to think of all of them at once? Why do use one or other? When would the Mixolydian mode come into play as opposed to the dom7 arpeggio? Do you switch from one scale to another when the chords change? How do you determine which to use against whatever chord flavor?

This is why I stopped thinking about scales years ago, why I switched to thinking chords because chords encapsulate the exact right scale(s) to be using at that time, without even thinking about it. If you can see chords for what they are (fretboard-long entities) you'd be able to instantly see that she opens the piece with a E to A riff and that all the lines are using chord tones to glue it all down to the progression.

She a fantastic player and truly is a prime example of a player not thinking/playing scales, but thinking of the core, the heart of the tune, which is the chord progression, taking the piece one chord at a time and merging the rhythm and lead into one part.

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scotty_b    16

I'll try and add to my comments; my initial response was really just a brief reply to the question of what they may be using.

To be honest with you for the past few years I have really just thought in terms of the chromatic scale and arpeggio shapes, no matter what I might be playing, but I did a fair bit of work on other things before I arrived at that place.

With my own students who are interested in soloing we learn scales, how each note from the scale relates to the chord we are playing against, how to see the associated arpeggio that can be found with the scale/mode we are discussing, and how consonance and disonance can be used to create lines. If someone is unaware of these terms, it simply means how notes sit well with a chord (consonance) or how they 'rub against the chord' or even clash with the chord (disonance).

Employing different scale options over the chord will provide different 'colours' to the soloist. Having an understanding of scales and harmony will allow the player to know what other passing tones might be used to add greater colour to the performance. Just playing the notes in a chord would sound a little plain after a while, though just bashing your way through something with scales may not really connect to the chords of the song particularly well.

If someone is just starting out with soloing I would recommend they buy 'Plane Talk' learn to apply the information therein; then when ready study harmony and theory, relate it back to the lessons they learnt in Kirk's book, and always be aware of the context of the performance; playing on a pop tune will (probably) require a different approach to playing jazz, or metal, or world music, in terms of the harmonies and melodies being created therein.

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herrKanin    0

Thank you all for you kind help!

Seems like you think the "easiest" way of learning this style is through knowing my chords instead of playing scales, and that through Kirk's book Planetalk. Unfortunatly I'm no more than a poor student (donations are welcomed!), and the lack of money is holding my wallet back. Isn't there at least a half as good free website where I can try to learn this method of approching improvisation?

Other than that I've noticed i really need to practice on the strum/mute-thingy you always hear in funk. Much harder than it looks, apparently!

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FrankJ    0
Hi, NPG ...

This is why I stopped thinking about scales years ago, why I switched to thinking chords because chords encapsulate the exact right scale(s) to be using at that time, without even thinking about it. If you can see chords for what they are (fretboard-long entities) you'd be able to instantly see that she opens the piece with a E to A riff and that all the lines are using chord tones to glue it all down to the progression.

Is your book really chord-centered? If it is, you just sold another.

I have always thought that would be a much more logical approach to me, but I didn't know how to develop it.

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Hi Kirk, Scotty_b,

Thanks to both of you for your detailed explanations. I've decided to declare November a "scale free zone". I'll see how far I get walking around the fretboard with chords only while I wait for a copy of planeTalk.

Regards,

Gary

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FrankJ    0

Interesting to hear people waiting for PT via snail mail.

Why isn't it downloadable?

Instant gratification / download = a whole lot more sales

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Kirk Lorange    128
Is your book really chord-centered? If it is, you just sold another.

I have always thought that would be a much more logical approach to me, but I didn't know how to develop it.

Sorry, Frank ... I didn't see this.

Yes, I stopped thinking about scales in about 1975 when it started dawning on me that good strong melody lines and solos that I liked -- the melodic ones -- are always chord-tone based. That's what makes them strong, of course. As you say, it's the logical approach. So the trick is to be able to quickly see the fretboard as an array of chord tones of whatever chord is in play at that moment, what I call the 'chord of the moment'. That's what PT teaches ... a very simple way of seeing the whole fretboard as 'the chord'. You need to practice it a lot, of course, but the underlying mindset is dead simple and the beauty of thinking one chord at a time is that it really doesn't matter how complex the progression is, so you never wind playing inappropriate notes/lines if a bit of an outsider chord comes along. The other scale mindset can lead you into no man's land quick smart once you leave the comfort zone of a standard 12 bar format.

That's if I want to sound melodic ... if I want to sound scalar, I play scales, but that's not very often these days.

These two lessons are a good demo of the mindset:

http://www.guitarforbeginners.com/forum/general-lessons/6265-power-chord-tones/

http://www.guitarforbeginners.com/forum/general-lessons/6281-power-chord-tones-2-a/

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Noodler    1
Seems like you think the "easiest" way of learning this style is through knowing my chords instead of playing scales, and that through Kirk's book Planetalk. Unfortunatly I'm no more than a poor student (donations are welcomed!), and the lack of money is holding my wallet back. Isn't there at least a half as good free website where I can try to learn this method of approching improvisation?

Other than that I've noticed i really need to practice on the strum/mute-thingy you always hear in funk. Much harder than it looks, apparently!

Yes mate. Lots of free stuff right here. Look at the "Power of Chord Tones" threads, the CAGED threads, etc.

But to be honest I don't think it was note selection that made that piece cool. It was her great rhythm. Try and stay relaxed! It was very polished. The chord remind me of a 70's song. Anyone know the one I mean?

Kirk, when you are playing lines, how do you choose which notes to link the chords? Some runs are still going to sound momentarily bad if you choose poorly, aren't they?

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eddiez152    129

I could not possibly add a comment, but that little darling rocks!

I will have read deep into this thread for better understanding.

Listen, read and watch the guys who know!

Nice thread and link.

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scotty_b    16

Some runs are still going to sound momentarily bad if you choose poorly, aren't they?

It depends on how they are resolved, how strong the phrasing is, and to some extent the genre. Non-diatonic scale tones (notes outside the key) are expected in some styles, and not so in others. It doesn't mean one cannot employ 'outside' notes in a pop song, but the audience may not be ready for them.

Jazz guitarists Mick Goodrick and Joe Pass have both talked about the strength of the line being determined by its resolution, and any note can be played over any chord if the phrasing and movement of the notes is strong enough.

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Kirk Lorange    128

Kirk, when you are playing lines, how do you choose which notes to link the chords? Some runs are still going to sound momentarily bad if you choose poorly, aren't they?

Hi, Noodler.

I always think in terms of chords, so if I'm playing a bluesey jazzy kind of thing, I mentally extend the chord. Since playing a non chord tone actually creates a new chord (the chord of the tune plus the melody note) it pays to think "if I were to extend that underlying chord right now, what would I want it to be ... what would sound right?" So, for example, in a bluesy tune in G, I'm playing over the IV chord (C7) so I have 1-3-5-b7 as chord tones. I also know that I could turn that C7 into a C9 without any sourness, so I now have 1-2(9) -3-5-b7 ... I also know that 6s will fit with just about any genre without jarring as will the 4. So now there's 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 -6 - b7 which is of course the Mixolydian Mode, but because I'm thinking chord, not mode, and I'm making the actual chord tones central, melody emerges, not modes.

The best way I found to explore all possibilities is to first connect chord tones with the chromatic scale: all notes. That always works, never is wrong. Listen, of course, with big ears.

Once you get to the point where you can always see and play the chord tones, there's not much left over and it's easy to simply explore, listen and remember for next time. For example, if you're playing over an E7 in the key of Am, you'll find that the flat 9 works, not the 9. That is of course because in Am there's no F#, there's F. So an F note in an E7 chord is the flat 9. These are thing you just 'get to know' over time and lots of playing and exploring.

So I guess what I'm trying to say is: there are no sour notes, only sour chords, so get to know how to extend chords with your melody notes.

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Noodler    1

Both great answers, thanks guys.

So, for example, in a bluesy tune in G, I'm playing over the IV chord (C7) so I have 1-3-5-b7 as chord tones. I also know that I could turn that C7 into a C9 without any sourness, so I now have 1-2(9) -3-5-b7 ... I also know that 6s will fit with just about any genre without jarring as will the 4. So now there's 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 -6 - b7 which is of course the Mixolydian Mode, but because I'm thinking chord, not mode, and I'm making the actual chord tones central, melody emerges, not modes.

Just to be 100% clear, when you say 1,3,5,b7 when playing over the IV in G, are you thinking of G,B,D,F or C,E,G, Bb? I think that you'd be changing your focus with each chord. Am I right?

If you're playing a IIm,V, I in G do you change what do you think of as 2 with each chord? I'm thinking it's be b then e then a ie it would change with the chord being played, even though the key is G??? Oviously a is always the 2 in the key of G, but how do you think of it in terms of following the chords? Does your 2 (or 9) change with each chord? I'm thinking it would.

Why I ask is that I play a lot of 3 chord stuff, and I'm used to looking for where the 1,4 and 5 notes are so I can rest on those notes, but I think you're saying look for the 1,4 and 5 chords and rest on those notes. So for a blues in G you could rest on D, F#, A, C when you reach the V chord. Is that right?

I like that you escape from the scale "box", especially the pentatonic one.

I appreciate what you're saying about experience, remembering and exploring.

Scottyb, I keep coming across non-diatonic chords in popular music. G in the key of E, Bb in the key of C. And you're right. They may not be diatonic, but they get hit so hard that they are kind of made to fit (phrasing). Bb to C is a great resolution.

I might go and look some stuff up on the PT forum.

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scotty_b    16

Yes the focus would shift for each chord normally, though a few times I have played some songs with a ridiculous number of chord changes and tempos (some bebop tunes) and to be honest everything was going by so fast I just tried to play some cool phrases that resolved to a chord somewhere in the progression.

The example you give with the D7 chord in a G blues would be right, though playing the F and giving it a slight bend up ( not quite to the F#) would give it a more traditional blues flavour. The G note over an E would be the same, or the Bb over a C would be the flat 7, another important blues note.

Classical music theory does not explain the blues idiom well.

With your question on the II-V-I progression, yes the 2nd would change with each chord. so over Am it would be a 'B', over the D it would be an 'E', and the G would be an 'A'.

I think it is also worth keeping in mind that music is all subjective, so go with what makes you happy, whatever that may.

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Noodler    1
Yes the focus would shift for each chord normally, though a few times I have played some songs with a ridiculous number of chord changes and tempos (some bebop tunes) and to be honest everything was going by so fast I just tried to play some cool phrases that resolved to a chord somewhere in the progression.
Ah, yes. Someone threw "Rhythm Changes" - Gershwin at me once. How the hell can you follow the chords of that thing? It's a monster!
I think it is also worth keeping in mind that music is all subjective, so go with what makes you happy, whatever that may.
After a lot of paralysis by analysis, I think you're spot on. I've just got to figure out how the Loop station works and get my groove thang on and not care if it's simple and repetitive.

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scotty_b    16

What sort of loop station do you have? I just picked up from Roalnd, the Boss RC2. Hoping to start adding some of that stuff in live.

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Noodler    1

Same one (RC-2). I've had mine for about a year and I still can't use it. I went through and wrote my own instructions to try and get a grip on it, and someone joined here just to ask me to send them the text file!

It's like, "If x light is green and flashing it means this, if it is green and solid it means this, if it glows amber while you hold the pedal down for 3 seconds it means this, etc." Seriously, man, I've got a BAppSc degree in a technology field and I can't figure the :isaynothing: thing out! :brickwall: I use my GDEC which has 15 secs of looping time and try to make do with that. Let me know if you find it easy though! Maybe I need to invest in the FS5U footswitch to spread the functions out a bit and make it easier on myself.

It will be great once I can record some progressions though. Just got to devote a weekend to it.

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scotty_b    16

The Behringer equivalent seems ok and is much less!

I am thinking of making a pedal. It is pretty simply to make an F5su from what I have discovered on the net, just a momentary switch and a jack input and some wire, and something to house it in.

Should cost less than $5.

I haven't had much of a chance to use it yet, but I am playing at a wedding next week and will use it then.

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Kirk Lorange    128

Just to be 100% clear, when you say 1,3,5,b7 when playing over the IV in G, are you thinking of G,B,D,F or C,E,G, Bb? I think that you'd be changing your focus with each chord. Am I right?

If you're playing a IIm,V, I in G do you change what do you think of as 2 with each chord? I'm thinking it's be b then e then a ie it would change with the chord being played, even though the key is G??? Oviously a is always the 2 in the key of G, but how do you think of it in terms of following the chords? Does your 2 (or 9) change with each chord? I'm thinking it would.

Yes, noodler, I'm always thinking 'chord of the moment', noodler, so the numbers always refer to the chord in play at that moment. However, I also always know what key I'm in because it locks in all the detail for the non chord tones. For example, I'm in D and I'm playing over a F#7 ... I won't play a 6 because I can literally see that the 6 is a D# note and since I'm in D I don't want to play a 'sharp 1'. So I play the sharp 5 of F# and over the years I've come to see that III7 chord as a 'potential augmented', not a 'potential 13th' ... in other words, if I want to move between the 5 and b7, which are chord tones, I'll use the #5, not the 6.

How do I think of the ii chord? As a minor(7th) chord, so 1-b3-5-(b7) ... the (7) I put in brackets because it may not actually be in the chord, but if it were to be extended, it would almost always be the flat 7 added to it, so it's a 'potential 7th' and that flat 7 is almost as good as a chord tone. Remember too, I'm not just thinking of a little cluster of notes as in a chord diagram, I'm seeing the whole fretboard as the minor7th chord. That's the trick, seeing the whole fretboard as 'the chord of the moment'. Obviously that means that my fretboard changes with every chord change, so in the ii V I progression you mention, during the ii, my entire fretboard becomes an array of chord tones for the ii chord; when the V comes into play, it switches to that array and the same for the next change to the I. Many notes will be common to more than one array, but I don't really care or take too much mental notice of that. All I'm interested in really is the way the melody is evolving and fitting in. When a whole bunch of outside chords are used, it's much better to sort of mentally clear the slate with each change and just see the new array of chord tones, rather than keep track of common notes and clutter your brain with useless info. In the jazzy/bluesy genre, which is what I enjoy the most, the chords are extended enough on their own to generate all kinds of ever-shifting chord tone arrays so those 'in between' notes don't really ever become confusing.

You do find after a while though that you can superimpose two sets of arrays over each other, like when playing over a 11th chord. When I'm playing over an 11th chord, say D11, I see it as the 1-3-5 of D + the 1-3-5 of C (C/D, in other words), so I'm seeing two sets of major chord tones jogged out by two frets.

Now I'm giving it all away!

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I keep coming across non-diatonic chords in popular music. G in the key of E, Bb in the key of C. And you're right. They may not be diatonic, but they get hit so hard that they are kind of made to fit (phrasing). Bb to C is a great resolution.

Noodler, this is something that confused me for a long time, too. What you have in your two examples are the b3 chord and the b7 chord, both major. These are used often in blues/rock progressions. I learned about these and other "weird" progressions from Fretboard Roadmaps, a book by Fred Sokolow. I also wrote about them on my blog. Not sure if I can post a link to it here (?), but send me a message if you're interested and I'll reply with the link.

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