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  • rbedwell3

Improvisation and the classical guitar

Right, here goes. This is a subject that is rarely covered. Improvisation. Why improvise? It improves mental dexterity, forms neural links, develops confidence around the whole fretboard. But the main reason, specific to classical guitarists, is that it is vital in being able to compose for the classical guitar.

I divide improvisation into two classes, improvising as an art and improvising as a tool. The art is to play music off the top of ones' head with either someone else, solo or with a backing track. The tool is to use improvisation as a means to write your own music. Something that the classical guitar desperately needs is to have music written for it, all the time, every day by people all over the world. And not necessarily to be published. Just written and enjoyed by the people who wrote it and their friends or accompanying musicians.

If you like the music of Sor, Giuliani, Rodrigo or Takemitsu, it doesn't matter. Write music like their music. Me personally, I love Bach, so I write music that encompasses the late baroque style, and follows the rules as set down by Bach and others. But that's just me.

But first, you need to be able to improvise on the classical guitar. So first, start with scales and arpeggios. Take a specific key that you are comfortable with and play all of the scale positions over the neck, Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian etc. Not just the Major scale, that is only 1/7th of what is possible with the Major scale's modes.

Than do the same with the arpeggios, so in C Major use all of them, C Major, D minor, E minor, F Major, G Major, A minor, B minor b5. Play them starting with the root on the 6th, then 5th, then 4th strings. Remember this is only the start. You need to be flexible all over the neck in one key at a time before moving on to the next stage.

Now, I know that some people write at a computer or only on paper, which is fine. But that doesn't work for everyone, most of us guitarist's actually. Now here is the next step. Combine everything that you practise, scales, modes, arpeggios, sequencies in any and every order. Anything goes. Now when you play something that you like, that catches your ear, write it down. That is going to become the basis of your improvisation, and then probably the first invention in your piece of music.

Now, when I say invention, this is a musical term meaning the idea that you are going to use to write around. Move it up or down through the scale, cycle it through the circle of fifths, stretch it, condense it, reverse it, invert it. These are all tools to disguise the fact that it is one idea that is being manipulated into making music.

I could continue, and I will, but first I need to know if people are interested in this concept: WRITE for the classical guitar. You are good enough. There are millions of people all over the world that can play Bach Lute suites, Sor studies, and god knows what else that could easily take the step into writing their own classical guitar music. So start with improvisation. It is the best way to start your own compositional journey.


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