One of the first things I teach my new students on the guitar is how to play a 12 bar blues. We usually pick the key of A. The first week they practice all 3 of the dominant 7th chords that are in the song. The 2nd lesson I introduce the A blues scale and this is where the magic starts. As soon as they get the scale and the notes under their belt and begin to feel and hear what the notes sound like against the chords. It is immediately followed by a smile and the sheer look of bliss on the students face. This is what is called the right brain effect and what my jazz guitar hero Joe Diorio called the creative side of the brain (right brain thinking). When we tap into this side of the brain we are relying on our intuition and the subconscious mind. This doesn’t mean we want to give up on the mathematical side (left brain) because we need that side to learn our scales and modes. The key is to internalize all these musical devices so you don’t have to think once you start to improvise. Getting into a creative state of mind starts to get more difficult once you get into more complex music. For example, to solo over Giant Steps or a jazz standard such as All The Things You Are requires you think of the changes so you can apply the appropriate scales when improvising over these tunes. So how do you express yourself creatively over a set of complex chord changes without the left brain stealing from your creative side?
Here is a list of ideas you can incorporate into your practice schedule that will free you from sounding stale and boring with your guitar solos.
Eg. All the Things You Are: week 1 practice soloing only on the first 8 measures.
Week 2 add the next 8 measures’ plus review the first 8. In total you have 16 bars and you should be doing all the improvising from memory. Continue like this for a couple of months until you feel you know these 16 bars inside and out. Once you take your time like this with a standard it will start to feel like you're soloing over a simple A 12 bar blues. Continue this process with the rest of the song. This may seem time consuming, but this one of the things you need to do to have mastery over a piece of music. Don’t rush into learning everything at once. Your mind can only handle so much and a little at a time is the best way to go.
2. Do some relaxing exercises such a yoga or meditation. When you are relaxed your creative process works better and you can tap into the subconscious mind with ease. This is what you want when you are creating music on the fly (Amazon Link):Kenny Werner wrote an excellent book that goes into a great deal about feeling relaxed, which can be beneficial for your creative inner self. It also comes with a CD of meditation exercises that is tailored for the improvising musician. It’s a great read
I hoped some of these ideas presented here will help you feel more confident with your playing. The most important thing is to feel relaxed and at ease while making music so the creativity will flow through you.
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Kenny Werner Book:
Kenny Werner Book: