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Reaching a plateau how to progress further?
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sparkhall



Joined: 31 Jul 2007
Posts: 15
Location: Cape Town, South Africa

PostPosted: Sat Jul 05, 2008 10:15 am    Post subject: Reaching a plateau how to progress further? Reply with quote

I wonder if any of you more experienced players could give me some help. The problem is I feel that I have reached a bit of a plateau and am unsure of how to progress further.

I have been learning jazz guitar for a couple of years, I have got a reasonable number of chords down, am pretty happy with basic jazz blues progressions, can play melody or chords from a lead sheet reasonably quickly (reading not too bad now I have abandoned tabs!). Despite having learned modes of major scale and a fair number of arpeggios I struggle to improvise over a chord progression- can't seem to get beyond minor pentatonic over a blues progression. So my question is what should I do from here to develop my ability to improvise (when I get frustrated I start to wonder if I'm just not going to get it).

I find many books tend to be long on examples and short on explanation. For my sins I seem to need to know the theory behind what I'm doing, I tend to be a bit too cerebral about it perhaps.

Any suggestions of how to proceed very welcome.
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Jake Hanlon



Joined: 11 Jul 2007
Posts: 525
Location: Nova Scotia

PostPosted: Sat Jul 05, 2008 3:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

how much do you play with other musicians?
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sparkhall



Joined: 31 Jul 2007
Posts: 15
Location: Cape Town, South Africa

PostPosted: Sat Jul 05, 2008 4:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I do take lessons once a week and play with my teacher. But my playing with actual human beings is unfortunately limited! I play against backing tracks either commercial or recorded myself, but probably would benefit from more live playing.
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Gorecki
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Joined: 06 Oct 2005
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Location: Davis, CA

PostPosted: Sat Jul 05, 2008 4:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Some good suggestions already. What I have done to deal with that sense of plateau or feeling stale:

1. Diversify. Look for new / different study/practice material, times, even locations to alter your perception.

2. Jam! Just play with people possibly applying the above and 'just play' and let new things inspire.

3. Take a break. Sometimes it is genuinely needed. Wink
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Jake Hanlon



Joined: 11 Jul 2007
Posts: 525
Location: Nova Scotia

PostPosted: Sat Jul 05, 2008 4:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

probably?

Unfortunately the only way to really "get" better and learn to play this music with any real level of art and proficiency is to play with other people. Playing in lessons with your teacher is great, that's the best way to teach imo and I'm glad he plays with you. Unfortunately that is a teacher/student relationship and is a very different dynamic then getting together with another player and playing tunes with them.

You could learn things about your playing you've struggled to understand for months on end, you can have a ton of fun, experience the music as it's meant to be experienced from a player's point of view.

Practicing is great, ad playing with backing tracks is only practice, it's not really playing Jazz. You gotta get out there and play with other players, the better they are the better your reward will end up being. From there you will break down that plateau you're in pretty fast I would imagine.
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chuckles



Joined: 01 Aug 2006
Posts: 110
Location: sydney, Australia

PostPosted: Sat Jul 05, 2008 10:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

transcribe!

c
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sunflower



Joined: 09 Mar 2007
Posts: 581

PostPosted: Sat Jul 05, 2008 10:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
So my question is what should I do from here to develop my ability to improvise (when I get frustrated I start to wonder if I'm just not going to get it).


take a new but easy standard say All of Me
work out the tune
play zee tune
when the next chorus comes round (stay in tempo ,very important)
jazz with it a tiny bit
just change one or two notes in each phrase
they don't have to be new notes either you could just
mess with the rhythm a bit repeat some notes for emphasis maybe
have fun with it

do this without a backing track it will sound fine
cos you're improving off the tune

That is improv
Just do it a LOT and you'll get good at it

and learn lots of tunes too
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dewey decibel



Joined: 15 Feb 2006
Posts: 1677

PostPosted: Tue Jul 08, 2008 1:04 am    Post subject: Re: Reaching a plateau how to progress further? Reply with quote

sparkhall wrote:
arpeggios I struggle to improvise over a chord progression- can't seem to get beyond minor pentatonic over a blues progression.



That's the key right there. With that minor pentatonic you've gotten to the point where the notes in that scale cease to be notes and simply become sounds. You need to get to that point with everything- other scales, arpeggios, etc. You need to know how a certain note sound over a chord.

IMO, the blues is a good place to start. You've got the minor pent sound down, now try adding the major notes- the major 3rd, 6th, 9th, etc. Work on the mixolydian sound, and change as the chords change. In a blues in Bb work on emphasizing the D note over Bb7 and the Db note over Eb7. Transcribe some of your favorite players to see how they did it.

And I agree- you'll progress much further faster by playing with other people.
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vracan



Joined: 03 Dec 2008
Posts: 23
Location: montreal,canada

PostPosted: Thu Mar 26, 2009 9:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ok here's my 2 cents. Seeing as I recently had this problem too.
I disagree about learning with other people when it comes to improvisation. I've been playing with other people for years, and as much as it is GREAT fun and there are things that you will learn from playing with others, improvisation is not one of them. I find peer pressure hinders learning improv. What I and many of my fellow guitarists end up doing is either playing solo's strictly from memory(with a few "accidents" along the way), or just play scales with no musical meaning.

In my opinion you need to get totally comfortable improvising in private before you can feel comfortable/confident to do it with others. I am exactly in this very process at this moment and after years of playing I am finally getting this improv thing. The problem is there is alot of books with examples of licks and scales but none show you how to properly use them in musical context. I always thought that there was some secret or some trick that no-one was willing to share, but the truth is that there is no secret. You MUST take the time/effort and patience to get over this.
YES it is VERY HARD WORK! Out of all the musicians I've met in my life(a couple of hundred for sure) maybe one or two actually passed this huge milestone.

Improvisation can only happen when scales/color/harmony is internalized.
Get Chris "play what you hear" course and do it DAILY. Even if it's for an hour, it must be daily !!!! It's just the way the human body works.

Let me tell you though, once you come to the point where you can truly improvise, you will feel as if you are connected to something greater/higher than you. I am not kidding, feels like a connection to GOD.
p.s. i am not religious, but i do get the feeling there is something else when I improvise now. And no, I was'nt smokin anything funny- haha- just the music is enough to get high!!!

Victor
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M



Joined: 02 Jan 2009
Posts: 331
Location: Northern VA (USA)

PostPosted: Thu Mar 26, 2009 10:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

If you read all the posts, so far, you'll have it!

1) Transcribe the sounds that appeal to your ear

2) Apply books/theory to intellectually understand and mentally catalog what you've transcribed

3) Try applying your new found insights in actual playing situations (jamming or playing over backing tracks should allow you to experiment and get it internalized)

4) Rinse & repeat
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Jens



Joined: 20 Feb 2007
Posts: 416
Location: The Hague, The Netherlands

PostPosted: Sat Mar 28, 2009 2:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Im with Jake on this one.

Play with other people. It is the best way to motivate practice and also the most fun.

Jens
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vracan



Joined: 03 Dec 2008
Posts: 23
Location: montreal,canada

PostPosted: Wed Apr 01, 2009 5:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Maybe for some, but EVERYONE I know who has been "jamming" with others for years, never crossed the plateau into real musical improvising.
They are just copycats.
When they actually do try to improvise, they, and until recently me too, are still stuck in this unmusical scale playing, that not only is not satisfying for the rest of the band, but it actually can completely turn them off guitar solos in general( I don't blame them).

But don't get me wrong there is NOTHING like playing with other's, especially for motivation and to apply what you learn. I just not agreeing that it is the only way to learn improvisation or develop your "musical" ear.

Victor
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Jens



Joined: 20 Feb 2007
Posts: 416
Location: The Hague, The Netherlands

PostPosted: Wed Apr 01, 2009 6:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

vracan wrote:
Maybe for some, but EVERYONE I know who has been "jamming" with others for years, never crossed the plateau into real musical improvising.
They are just copycats.
When they actually do try to improvise, they, and until recently me too, are still stuck in this unmusical scale playing, that not only is not satisfying for the rest of the band, but it actually can completely turn them off guitar solos in general( I don't blame them).

But don't get me wrong there is NOTHING like playing with other's, especially for motivation and to apply what you learn. I just not agreeing that it is the only way to learn improvisation or develop your "musical" ear.

Victor


I am not trying to say that you should replace practice with jamming (And probably Jake isn't either), only that it is on several levels a good way to get motivated and to develop in the communication with others. One of the most important reasons to practice is to play better when you are playing together with others, jazz is a team effort. As a teacher I also see more progress with students who are active in bands. And when I learn something new it does not really get there before I get to try it out in a band situation, and sometimes that is better tested in the rehearsals where we can always pick up the pieces or get completely lost without an audience.....

I try to avoid undefined goals such as "real musical improvisation" what is that anyway? Thinking in goals that are not specific often leads to frustration rather than progress in my experience. If you want to learn something then be very specific about what it is otherwise it is hard to figure out a way to get there. The figuring out part sometimes takes as long as implimenting the solution Smile

That said it is of course still possible to just go play with some people every week and then for the rest not do anything and not develop.


Jens
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vracan



Joined: 03 Dec 2008
Posts: 23
Location: montreal,canada

PostPosted: Tue Apr 07, 2009 3:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

"That said it is of course still possible to just go play with some people every week and then for the rest not do anything and not develop"

Jens, not only it is possible but from my observations in my life- it is the norm!! Mind you most of them do not actively take lessons of any kind...and i am talking mostly from a rock/blues genre. they jam, rehearse, make a little money in bars and always stay at the same plateaud level.


"I try to avoid undefined goals such as "real musical improvisation" what is that anyway?"

For me that is a very defined skill/talent. And an ultimate goal of every jazz/blues advanced guitar player. When you give someone a given progression and he/she is be able to FREELY create melody lines/harmony over it, on the spot , WHILE SOUNDING VERY MUSICAL to BOTH the player and the listener--that to me is real musical improvisation. Ok so now you ask what do you mean as "musical"?... you know it when you hear it! If you're not sure, then it's probably not!
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Jens



Joined: 20 Feb 2007
Posts: 416
Location: The Hague, The Netherlands

PostPosted: Tue Apr 07, 2009 7:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

vracan wrote:
"That said it is of course still possible to just go play with some people every week and then for the rest not do anything and not develop"

Jens, not only it is possible but from my observations in my life- it is the norm!! Mind you most of them do not actively take lessons of any kind...and i am talking mostly from a rock/blues genre. they jam, rehearse, make a little money in bars and always stay at the same plateaud level.


I really don't see why you would want to include people who do not try to improve in this discussion. The original question was from someone who only studied and never played. Do you think that is the only way to go? Avoid playing with other people at all costs?
And if that is you experience in your music scene then I would probably suggest you find other people to play with. My experience as a musician, student and teacher is the exact oppposite. I loose motivation to study and I find it harder to take the things I study to the level where they are a part of my playing if I don't use it when performing or jamming. I see similar things in my students ( in the sense that the ones who are active in bands are busy learning stuff that they need in the band or applying material from the lessons in songs in the band).

vracan wrote:

"I try to avoid undefined goals such as "real musical improvisation" what is that anyway?"

For me that is a very defined skill/talent. And an ultimate goal of every jazz/blues advanced guitar player. When you give someone a given progression and he/she is be able to FREELY create melody lines/harmony over it, on the spot , WHILE SOUNDING VERY MUSICAL to BOTH the player and the listener--that to me is real musical improvisation. Ok so now you ask what do you mean as "musical"?... you know it when you hear it! If you're not sure, then it's probably not!


Is that
"When you give someone a the changes to Countdown and he/she is able to FREELY create melody lines/harmony over it, on the spot in tempo 320 in 7/4, WHILE SOUNDING VERY MUSICAL to BOTH the player and the listener"

or

"When you give someone a the changes to So What and he/she is able to FREELY create melody lines/harmony over it, on the spot in tempo 120, WHILE SOUNDING VERY MUSICAL to BOTH the player and the listener"

And indeed "very musical" Is Brad Mehldau sounding musical? is Allan Holdsworth , Eric Dolphy or Ornette Coleman? It is a very subjective term. I have no idea what you find musical, even if I have a very good idea what I find musical.

Sorry about the long post but I am trying to be clear in what I mean, which is also why I use the extreme examples.

Jens
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