Improvising is an essential skill for any jazz guitar player. It is the ability to create music in real-time, without a pre-written script or score, and it is what sets jazz apart from other genres. Improvising requires a deep understanding of harmony, melody, and rhythm and the ability to think quickly and creatively.
Learning how to improvise allows jazz guitar players to express themselves in a unique way, communicate with other musicians in an ensemble, and build their own style and sound. It also allows a jazz guitar player to be more flexible and adaptable, to be able to react to any musical situation and to create new and interesting music on the spot.
In these free jazz guitar lessons, Sean McGowan explores improvisational concepts and approaches that you’ll surely find useful in your playing. For more, check out the full course: Sean McGowan’s Modern Jazz Palettes: Improv.
Jazz Guitar Improvisational Concept: Triad Pairs
While it’s usually thought of as kind of an entry level concept, the concept of triads is one that will take you through your entire playing career. It will give you a never-ending pool of ideas to draw from, whether you’re looking for new chord voicings, triad substitutions, or triad pairs.
We’ll cover two performances in this lesson series then move on to breakdowns for each of the performances. Let’s dive in!
Free Jazz Guitar Lesson #1: Carnival Improv – Overview
Free Jazz Guitar Lesson #2: Carnival Improv – Performance
Free Jazz Guitar Lesson #3: Carnival Improv – Breakdown
Bonus Jazz Guitar Performance #1: Dominant Diminished Equation
Another really cool sound that you can do when taking a deep dive into in modern jazz is the sound of dominant diminished. What that means is using the diminished scale and all of the inherent triads therein over dominant seventh applications. This is something that Herbie Hancock has used on so many different recordings.
Bonus Jazz Guitar Performance #2: Patterns of Love
Our next concept is one that involves using patterns. The use of patterns became really popular throughout the sixties and the seventies and they have been kind of a mainstay in modern jazz improv or contemporary jazz improv since then.
Bonus Jazz Guitar Performance #3: Open Windows
A great ingredient in your improv, especially in modern jazz, is the use of rhythm and various rhythmic devices. So in our upcoming etudes we’re gonna take a look at a piece in three-four as well as a piece in four-four, and explore a couple of different ideas that you can use to create up some real exciting syncopation ideas using four against three, two against three, or three against four feels.
The Importance of Improvisation for Jazz Guitarists
When learning to improvise, a jazz guitar player should first focus on mastering the basics of melody and harmony. This includes studying guitar scales, chords, and arpeggios, as well as learning how to construct melodies and solos. Once this foundation is established, a jazz guitar player should begin exploring different improvisational concepts such as phrasing, motif development, and motivic development.
Another important aspect of improvising for a jazz guitar player is learning to listen. A jazz player should be able to listen to the other musicians in the ensemble and respond to what they are playing in real time. This requires a deep understanding of the music and anticipating what the other musicians will play next.
In summary, improvising is one of the most important skills a jazz guitar player can learn. It allows for creativity, self-expression, and the ability to react to any musical situation. Mastering the basics of melody and harmony, exploring different improvisational concepts, and listening to other musicians are all crucial steps in learning how to improvise effectively. Improvising is what sets jazz apart from other genres, and it gives jazz guitar players the freedom to create new and exciting music every time they play.
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