One of my readers wrote to me recently with the following woeful tale:
“When it comes to improvising, it’s a bit like being a rabbit caught in the headlights.“
Have you ever felt like that?
You’re not alone:
I’m constantly astonished by how often people write to me with these kinds of sentiments.
There’s a simple reason why you might feel like this when you’re improvising.
If you feel like a deer caught in the headlights, or like improvisation is the equivalent of being a painter staring at a big blank canvas with no idea where to start…
You must be doing something wrong when it comes to practicing your jazz guitar.
You see, many people approach learning to improvise by using scales, modes, and arpeggios.
Whilst these are good to practice (don’t get me wrong), in and of themselves they won’t help you to sound like a jazz player.
A great sounding jazz solo requires something more…
If you haven’t learned these ‘words’ of jazz, you WON’T have any ‘raw material’ to start with.
In this situation, you DO, in fact, have a blank canvas with nowhere to go.
This is the thing a lot of jazz educators miss.
They shun the idea of learning licks and motives because they feel like it is not really ‘improvising’ per say.
Of course, when you’re at a very advanced level it’s good to “forget all that B.S. and just play” as Charlie Parker would say.
But for the beginner or intermediate player, you’ll be left confused and disappointed if you start out trying to solo with that mindset.
This is where I want you to turn your attention to in the woodshed:
Think melodically when you solo.
Jazz licks and motives are great for this approach.
All they are is short melodies, jam packed full of delicious jazzy goodness.
Soloing with melody in mind is the most rapid way to improve your soloing on the guitar and have it sound really musical and confident.
Over to you:
What do you think of my reasoning here – that licks & motives is a better way to tackle improv then the scales/arpeggios/modal approach? Or do you think I’ve missed the mark here?
Let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment below…
Founder, Fret Dojo
World Leader in Online Jazz Guitar Education