Guitar - Beginning to Improvise
3.3 (49 ratings)
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Guitar - Beginning to Improvise

Covers beginning to improvise on guitar in a blues context. Over a 12 bar blues in the key of A. Electric and acoustic.
3.3 (49 ratings)
Instead of using a simple lifetime average, Udemy calculates a course's star rating by considering a number of different factors such as the number of ratings, the age of ratings, and the likelihood of fraudulent ratings.
6,376 students enrolled
Created by Dave Ward
Last updated 11/2014
Price: Free
  • 1.5 hours on-demand video
  • Full lifetime access
  • Access on mobile and TV
  • Certificate of Completion
What Will I Learn?
  • Learn to improvise over a 12 bar blues progression in A
  • learn to create musical phrases
  • learn the differences between improvisation and composition
  • distinguish between guitar licks and scale patterns and improvisation
View Curriculum
  • this course will require a guitar
  • an electric guitar is preferable but an acoustic will work with some modifications to the techniques discussed.

This course looks at the basics building blocks of improvisation for guitar. We will use a 12 bar blues in the key of A as the foundation for the lead guitar in this course. The course will be taught on electric guitar but the principles work for acoustic guitar as well. The course is centered around improvising over an audio backing track provided for students. Course content is video and audio. Students with a basic knowledge of Pentatonic Scales should be able to work through the exercises with some improvement in a few weeks. Beginners may take 2-4 weeks before they are familiar with the Pentatonic scales before they begin to advance to a meaningful application of the exercises. Any guitarist who has wanted to try improvisation but was reluctant to try should benefit from this course. The course begins with background information on the 12 bar blues progression and scale patterns on the guitar. The bulk of the course comprises on hands on practical exercises that will improve and encourage your improvisation and creativity on the guitar.

Who is the target audience?
  • students should have a minimum of 6 months to 1 year guitar playing experience.
  • students should have an interest in blues guitar or a willingness to learn
  • ideal candidates will have knowledge of pentatonic scales and I IV V chord progressions
  • ideal candidates will be comfortable with playing the chord changes to a 12 bar blues and able to hear when the chords change
  • basic technical proficiency on the guitar will ensure you get the most out of this course. Although anybody is welcome to try.
  • you should be willing to practice at least 20 minutes a day to get the most out of this material
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Curriculum For This Course
25 Lectures
1 Lecture 02:12

Introduction to the course. Description of the goals of the course and prerequisites and course materials.

Course Overview
6 Lectures 22:13

A brief discussion of what improvisation is.

What is Improvisation?

Learning the notes on the guitar.

The Chromatic Scale and Notes on the Guitar

A quick outline of how the structure of a 12 Bar Blues chord progression is derived from a Major Scale.

The Structure of a 12 Bar Blues

Now that we have the structure of the I IV V chords in a 12 Bar Blues in A let's look at how the chords are constructed.

THE I IV V Dominant 7th Chords

name the root, 3rd and flat 7th of A7, D7 and E7

Dominant 7th Chords
3 questions

We've learned the chords that make up the 12 bar blues and how they are constructed now we look at the chord sequence.

The 12 Bar Blues Chord Progression

This lecture introduces the backing track we will be soloing over. The concept of straight 8's versus swing 8th notes is dicussed.

Our Backing Track
2 Lectures 17:14

Time for your first exercise. Devote a small portion of your daily practice regime to finding the occurence of every note on the neck. Start with the root notes of the chords in the progression A,D and E and work through all the notes found in the chords and scales we discuss.

You know the notes, now go find them on the fretboard.

The A Minor Pentatonic scale is made up of the A C D E and G notes which are the root, flat 3rd, 4th, 5th and flat 7th of the A major scale. This lecture demonstrates the most common fingering patterns for this scale over the entire fretboard.

The A Minor Pentatonic Scale

Name the notes of the A Minor Pentatonic Scale.

The Minor Pentatonic Scale
1 question
Putting it All Together
11 Lectures 30:09

This is an example of a first try at improvising. Try your best to work within the A Minor Pentatonic scale we have learned. If you can record this to compare against later version to judge your progress.

Your First Try at Improvising

Singing lines out loud or in your head and then trying to play them can add a vocal quality to your musical phrases and allow for breathing room in your guitar lines.

Sing away

Limiting yourself to only a few notes within the scale can force you to focus on rhythm and timing and is a great way to come up with interesting phrasing on the guitar.

Limiting Note Choice

Much like the last lesson we can also limit our choice of rhythm to force us out of familiar patterns and increase creativity.

Rhythm Handcuffs

The call and response in blues guitar playing uses a question and answer approach to creating musical phrases.

Call and Response

Resolving to particular notes within the chord or scale can really make your blues guitar stand out from the crowd.

You say you want a resolution?

The flat 5th is known as the blues note. When added to the Minor Pentatonic scale you get a 6 note scale called the blues scale. The blues note or flat fifth is a great chromatic passing note that works especially well over the turnaround in a 12 bar blues.

The Blues note.

Emphasizing chord tones is a great way to outline the chord progression and add another dimension to your blues guitar playing.

Putting the right notes over the right chord.

Another example of emphasizing chord tones in your phrases.

Right notes Right Chords Example 2

Too much repetition can be boring but just the right amount can add excitement to your guitar playing.

Rinse and Repeat

You don't want to always play loud and fast mixing up the dynamics in your improvisation is a great tool to keep listeners guessing and add tension.

Playing with Dynamics
Mixing Pentatonic Scales
4 Lectures 08:58

The 12 Bar Blues using dominant 7th chords allows us the option to use not only the minor pentatonic scale but the major as well. In this lecture we get introduced to the Major Pentatonic Scale.

The Major Pentatonic

The major and minor pentatonic scale can be mixed and matched over the dominant 7th blues progression.

Mix em up!

No one likes a show off but a little flash in your playing can spice things up nicely. The symmetrical pattern created by mixing the major and minor pentatonic scale allows for a lot of flash with a little effort.

A little flash

Playing the same phrase in a different position on the guitar neck can help you learn the fretboard and broaden your creativity at the same time.

Position Playing
Final Improvisation
1 Lecture 05:29

Hopefully you have practiced some of the concepts in this course and applied them to your own improvisations. Now record a final improvisation yourself using the concepts you have learned. Here is my example.

Final Example
About the Instructor
Dave Ward
3.3 Average rating
49 Reviews
6,376 Students
1 Course
Guitar Instructor

Guitarist and musican with over 20 years experience playing and teaching guitar. I've been teaching guitar online since 2006. I've recorded music for use in apps, soundtracks and recordings. I run a guitar blog and am currently designing a new guitar teaching website 'Get into Guitar'. My expertise is in blues and rock guitar but I've dabbled in genres from Country and Celtic to Jazz, Funk and African. My YouTube channel 'VideoGuitarLessons' has exceeded 2 million views and counting .