Introduction to Improvising | Hub Guitar

Introduction to Improvising

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Hi. This is Hub Guitar.

Let's do a quick overview of improvising.

So improv is also called lead guitar, playing riffs, melting faces, that kind of thing.

In pop culture, the guitar solo had its heyday back in the 70s, but in the music setting, improvising a solo part is still one of the best parts about playing the guitar.

Think of improvising as composing a melody or other part, on the spot. It has got to fit with the setting and any other musical parts going on.

The best way to get started improvising is to do it without any other music to distract you. Just sit down and see if you can use the chords or scales you know and make something up.

Later on, you'll use an audio file, kind of like a karaoke file, called a backing track. That'll be the backdrop for your solo.

Improvisation is one of those things people spend a life time trying to master. Just try to jump in and see what you can think of. Don't be self-critical or embarrassed. Just play a few notes.

I'm going to give you an example of how you can use a few notes from a scale to improvise. I'm going to limit myself to the C major scale going up and down the B string. So here is a demonstration using a backing track with a simple drum loop. That's it. Noting terribly complicated, just use the C major scale to come up with a few ideas, and you can play those along with a metronome or rhythm track, that should be more than enough to help you get to start it with a little bit of improvisation.


Improvising is a rewarding challenge requiring a lifetime of study. To improvise is to create spontaneous musical statements (called riffs or licks) that form some larger picture, called a solo. Another form of improvisation is the fill—a short musical idea that acts as punctuation. A fill might take place, for instance, as a short guitar melody between gaps in the lyrics of a song. There are various settings for improvisation.

Improvise With No Accompaniment

Most improvisers begin by improvising alone. This is easy to do, but very unstructured. Any note or rhythm can be played. There is no demand to “match” your improvisation to anything, resulting in a loose structure in which anything goes.

This is probably the best way to begin improvising. There are no limits. You can play any note, rhythm, or chord, at any time.

And once you’ve played a few random notes, you’ve begun improvising. (Maybe you don’t like the sound of what you played, but that’s another problem.)

Improvise with Rhythmic Accompaniment

Another possibility is to improvise using just a metronome, drum loop or other source of rhythm. This will help you to confine your ideas to particular rhythms, while enabling you to use any notes you wish.

Improvise With a Metronome

Set the metronome to a comfortable pace, around 90 bpm(Beats Per Minute) — The number of pulses in the duration of 60 seconds. A clock ticks at a rate of 60 beats per minute. or 100 bpm. Tap your foot to the beat. One simple format is to improvise in groups of 8 beats: play a chord within the first four beats, and then play some melody notes in the next four.

Improvise With a Drum Loop

You can find drum looping software for your PC, phone or tablet and use it to practice.

It’s a good idea to pick a drum loop based on a style you’re interested in playing, and then try to borrow some of the drum rhythms in your own improvisation.

There is a simple drum loop below that you can use.

Recommended Software

Improvise With Rhythm and Chords

While rhythm will require you to play in time, chords will add the requirement that you only play notes that sound good with the harmonyThe combination of pitches, usually three or more, which results in a chord. of the tune. At the beginning level, this is done by using a keyThe set of pitches that a piece of music is organized around. A key has two components: a tonal center and some sort of scale, or set of pitches used for creating harmony and melody.. Everyone in the band plays the notes of the key, and the improviser will use those notes from the key to play the solo, resulting in few clashes.

Learners who want to begin improvising can use backing trackA pre-recorded instrumental track, most often used for practicing improvisation. Similar to a karaoke track.s to start with. Think of a backing track as a simulation of being in a band. It’s a recording of the rhythm sectionThe part of the band that plays the accompaniment to the singer or soloist. Standard rhythm section is drums, bass, keys and guitar. of the band, almost like a karaoke track for guitar players to play over.

Example Backing Track: Drum Groove

This track uses only percussion instruments, so you can play any notes or chords with it. For a place to start, consider using one of the scales you have learned, such as the C major scale. The goal is to combine notes from your scale with the beat to create some musical statements.

Beginning Improvisation Exercises

  1. Improvise using the C major scale, with no accompaniment at all. Try to see if you can develop some interesting combinations of notes.
  2. Improvise using the C major scale along with the rhythmic backing track. See if you can add some interesting rhythms to these notes.
  3. Improvise using some basic chords along with the track. Consider adding some notes from the C major scale, too.

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