We wouldn’t think of ourselves as fluent in a spoken language if we could only recite rehearsed phrases. Same goes for music. I like to think of music as a language and being able to improvise means we can actually speak, communicate, and express ourselves with it.
Improvisation is a beautiful way to be able to communicate with other musicians, to discover new material while composing, and to manipulate songs we love to make them our own. Even while playing composed or rehearsed music, I think that the true artist-within comes out from subtle moments of improvisation in qualities such as dynamics, timing, and timbre.
The following approaches will foster a well rounded and high level of improvisational skill:
- Freely improvising (I am a firm believer in the art of free improvisation and how it opens up a world of possibilities for any musical style).
- Improvising on a song or chord progression using ears, and theoretical knowledge of keys, scales, and chord tones.
- Learning and analyzing recorded improvisations performed by masters.
- Transposing repertoire pieces to all keys and all positions of the guitar for a deep understanding of their harmonic and melodic theoretical structure.
- Breaking down and expanding the source idea of any composition or section of music.
- Mapping out the fretboard.