There are many ways that improvisation can be approached. Here is a sequential format that has been used successfully with many guitar students and provides a solid foundation for further study of improvisation.
It seems as though guitarists come out of the womb playing the minor pentatonic scale. The E minor pentatonic scale is easy to finger, easy to memorize, and sounds great in many applications. It’s a good place for students to learn that one scale can be used to improvise over multiple chords. Students can learn to play the notes of the E minor pentatonic scale over a blues in E or E minor. At first, students can practice playing the notes of the scale in any order. Later, they should be taught that some notes sound better than others with each chord. The better sounding notes are generally the chord tones.
After playing the scale, students can play one note per measure. That note should be a note in the chord. That one-note-per-measure solo can be followed with more complex rhythms, and combinations of chord tones and notes from the scale. Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg in improvisation, but it’s a beginning phase that is fun and trains the ear to hear tones that are in coincide with the harmony.
Students should also be encouraged to write out their solos, and play written solos that can be used as a template for their improvisation. Call and response is another key element in learning to improvise. For more information on basic guitar improvisation visit the Consonus Music web site at: cmilearn.org and click on the teacher training section.
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