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Improvising, Finding the Way

This lesson kicks off a brand new series on Shredaholic of Electric Warfare!

Mikhal CaldwellSeries 2 Instalment 1!

This Installment: “Improvising – Finding The Way”

I’ve been considering some way to address a question that I seem to get quite a bit, and thought perhaps someone here may be interested in somethin’ to kinda jump start something different and creative. This is an study in a book that I been putting together forever ha ha. I’ve learned a lot of stuff from some really good players over the years, studied as much as I could and keep notes on everything for the last 38 years I have been playing. I hope that you fine people will find something useful to you and your music.

The topic of choice this time will be building improvising skills. There are several schools of thought on this matter, however we will concern ourselves with 2 of the most common foundations for building solos.

1. Key centered solos:

This would be basing improvised ideas on harmonically related ideas, such as arpeggios, triads, modes, etc this is really pretty common and there’s still a lot that you can do, but I feel that there are 1000’s of sites which will touch on the more common uses of these, we will however examine super imposing melodic forms into these ideas. Lets look at ideas based on the intervals of the 2nd and the 7th.

I chose the 2nd because it is a consistent interval meaning that it does not change through any of the basic tonalities major, minor, augmented, diminished, etc., which means that it can be used as a linking tool or can be used to introduce suspended ( a tonality based on consistent intervals namely the 2nd and the 4th). We will for this example take the key of A minor and base our improvisation on the 2nd, it this point it is important to note that this will not be a modal thing, but an idea of introducing elements of suspension into A minor lets look at A minor : A B C D E F G A .

Now lets take the 2nd or B and imply a “pashia” Thai style tonal condition used in the Ram Muay which is the music which is played by the bands in Thailand during the Muay Thai (real kickboxing) bouts. This would call for us to use the 2nd interval in place of the tonic or root, which would look like this if we based a complete harmonic construction on it:

B, C, E

and now we add the 7th G which turns this into

B, C, E, G

This opens up quite a few new options such as new tonal conditions to work out of such as C7, Ebb7/half diminished or E harmonic major/minor, G 6 or G6/9 and all the melodic structures that are involved with each. A careful and detailed look into this example we will find that this technique will widen a once overused idea into something brand new.

This brings us to:

2. Non key centered ideas:

This would be using the non harmonic tones to gain access to new solo ideas, still working in the key of A minor, we will this time access intervals that are actually the notes which can identify a tonal center by not being included in the scale form in this case A# C# D# F# G# these are known as passing tones. These notes unless otherwise used with a symmetrical or composite form will ALWAYS form a pentatonic construction – these non harmonic pentatonic scales themselves are vehicles to bridge the gaps to wondrous new worlds of improvisations.

For this example we will use the non harmonic pentatonic scale and apply inversions to it such as :

C# D# F# G# A#

D# F# G# A# C#

F# G# A# C# D#

G# A# C# D# F#/

This is just one of many endless techniques used by the masters of improvising such as Greg Howe, John McLaughlin, John Schofield, Shawn Lane, Allan Holdsworth, but also by the cat with more chops than a lumberjack (and it does not matter what style you care to speak of either) John Coltrane. Many of the neo-classical and young shredders have totally overlooked some of the important contributions of many musicians OTHER than guitarists. I hope to put something on your mind that will encourage you to seek out doing your own thing, not some rehashed version of the same old thing.

So stay focused ’til then……….. Peace!!!!!!!!

Mikhal……The Electric Warrior

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