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Tips, Tricks and Road Stories


Improvising On Guitar

December 13, 2011; Michael Zurzolo

Anyone can go up and down the different scales all day, but that sounds boring and gets old fast. What you should really focus on, if you want to get better at improvising, is arpeggios. Arpeggios are similar to scales, but instead of going straight up the musical scale without skipping any notes arpeggios play all of the notes in a specific chord. But instead of playing them all at once in, like a chord, they are played separately. So instead of going straight up the scale and then back down without skipping a note you go up the scale and then back down, but you skip certain notes. This sounds much more musical then normal scales.

What I recommend doing is learning four different arpeggios inside and out first. The ones that I find best are the Am7, D7, Gmaj7, and Cmaj7. Once you have learned these arpeggios very well and can play them with ease you’re really ready to begin playing.

Try playing the first 4 notes of the Am7 arpeggio. You should finish on the note G. Now you want to go backwards and play the first four notes of the D7 arpeggio backwards. But wait, the fourth note is also a G, so instead of beginning on that since you just played it you need to make a choice. You can either play the 3rd or 5th note in the D7 arpeggio. We’ll choose the 5th note F#. So play the first 4 notes of Am7 then descend the D7 arpeggio starting on the 5th note. You can do the same thing with the Cmaj7 and Gmaj7 arpeggios. The final step is to add rhythm. Try playing fast then slow then fast again. The possibilities are endless and just waiting for you to explore them.

Now when you try to improvise you’ll have a whole new set of tools to use. Play around with these arpeggios, try different rhythms, maybe add some vibrato, play some notes twice. There are so many new and creative uses you can do when you have these simple arpeggios in your arsenal.

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