Improvisation with Contrasting Voices | Hub Guitar

Improvisation with Contrasting Voices

When an improviser takes a solo, the notes he plays are generally heard as being a part of one comprehensive “voice.” But interesting effects can be created imagining a single voice is really two, as if they were having a musical conversation.

This “call-and-response” technique is heard in most styles of popular music, and has its roots in blues music (and earlier choral music).

We can mimic this conversational sound by splitting up the improvised lines. These lines can each be any length, but let’s assume for now that they’ll be four measures long.

This series of exercises involves “Voice 1” and “Voice 2”, each of which are imaginary voices being spoken by the guitar. The voices will be set apart in different ways.

How to Create a “Call and Response”

The easiest way to do this is to imagine your guitar is capable of being two people. The first person will sing the first part, and the second person will sing the second part. If you practice visualizing it this way, you can start to sculpt different ideas using contrasting parts.

Call & Response: No Accompaniment

It’s best to practice this concept with no accompaniment at first. This can give you the freedom to really carve out two different parts.

Backing Track: Call & Response

To practice this with a backing track, consider the blues here. It fits with the technique, which is often used in blues.

Key Exercises

Try using the following exercises to add this technique to your improvisation.

  1. Voice 1 plays very high notes; Voice 2 plays very low notes.
  2. Voice 1 plays very quietly. Voice 2 plays loudly.
  3. Voice 1 plays single notes. Voice 2 plays multiple notes or chords.
  4. Voice 1 plays the pentatonic scale, Voice 2 plays the major scale.
  5. Voice 1 is played with the notes picked very closely to the bridge; Voice 3 picks the notes close to the neck.
  6. (Electric only) Voice 1 plays the notes with the bridge pickup selected; Voice 2 plays with the neck pickup.
  7. (Electric only) Voice 1 plays the notes clean; Voice 2 plays the notes distorted.

Once you have mastered these techniques, try combining several of them at once to create two truly unique voices. You can also change the length of each voice. (Two measures and two measures; six measures and two measures, etc.)

As the creator of Hub Guitar, Grey has compiled hundreds of guitar lessons, written several books, and filmed hundreds of video lessons. He teaches private lessons in his Boston studio, as well as via video chat through TakeLessons.

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