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I've been playing almost 7 years now. I took 5 years of lessons but learned very little theory in those. For the last almost 2 years I have been attending a jam session which is the highlight of my week. Old timey, blue grass, Americana! This was my attempt to learn to play with others and more importantly learn to play by ear. I have learned a lot. Now in the jams, even on songs I don't know at all, after listening for a bit, I can play some of it at least, a simplistic melody line. I am pretty proud of that. For the songs I do know, that we play regularly, I can play a bit more on the breaks. But still pretty simple, stick to the melody.
But, I seem to be stuck. I want to improvise and play more then just the melody. Where and how does one learn that?! I know people say to keep working though your plateaus. But if I am not learning TOWARDS improvising, how will I learn it? There is one fiddler in our group who does a great job at improv but he has been playing for 30 years. Any ideas, tips, videos, etc?
Hi Georganne - there are lots of good we resources - some with more "theory" behind them than others. Here's one - it's intended for guitar - BUT - it calls out the theory and talks/shows the tonal separation ( like whole or half steps etc ) in the key and mode chosen. Talking about modes, major or minor pentatonic tend to work very well for simple improv to many tunes...
Check out https://www.guitartonemaster.com/node/8 for some backing tracks to improve to - also just google backing tracks - there's a lot of stuff of limited use, but you can find some gems....
Also, for a REAL good handle on the theory - https://www.basicmusictheory.com/ is definitely worth a visit - although I'm pretty sure you'll know, or have learned/become aware of most of it...
Good luck with your improv quest !
[ Just to add - one of the things I do find sort of difficult is when a tune is new to me and I try to play along, I, possibly similar to what you're describing, get "stuck" with the melody line. I can't break away from it until I reach the point where I no longer have to specifically focus on, or think about what notes I'm playing. Once it becomes "automatic" (which can take MANY MANY play throughs over a period of time), suddenly the door opens - I'm no longer focusing on a note-by-note progression, but the feel of the tune as a whole - and yes - I'm doing simple variations, improvs, throw-in little riffs and so on that make it my own so to speak. I have every confidence - you'll get there ! ]
I seriously recommend not copying my mistakes. D'oh -
Please make your own, different mistakes, and help us all learn :-)
You had me at "attending Jam sessions" . I am proud of you too.
I think...I think you will keep progressing. When I find myself stagnate... all the time lately... I go for the hard, the uncomfortable and press through with that.
There is growth that happens in the hard and uncomfortable.
Bill had some great tips...and I know of people here that can give you some advice.... I am stuck on sheet music with zero talent to jam and or improvise.
Vibrato Desperato.... Desperately seeking vibrato
For me (not that I can improvise) my teacher tells me getting really familiar with scales, each octave of the scale, etc, is key to getting to improvising. Being able to let go and not overthink it is another part (I start thinking too hard and can't do anything, not ornamentation, just the straight tune, haha).
She also says playing around during practice and just not caring if you sound bad while you work your way through trying to find what sounds good helps you learn how to do it, as well. Find recordings of tunes you are familiar with in a key you know it in, and try to noodle around with it.
I'm still working on it, and though my teacher tells me she's sure I can do it, I don't have that same confidence in myself, haha. It's one of those challenges that I love and hate. But anyway, those are some of the tips my teacher has given me, maybe they will help you out 🙂
Ask the fiddler in the group that is good at it, they will have some good tips for you, I'm sure.
World's Okayest Fiddler
Oh yea great! Thanks guys. That's exactly the kind of stuff I was hoping for but didn't really knew existed.