How to Improvise for Beginners in 5 Steps

Soloing and improvising is often a dreaded topic by many musicians… Why is that? When improvising you are expressing yourself on the spot and most of the time you haven’t had the time to rehearse the exact thing you are playing. When you are a beginner or just still don’t have enough confidence that can be quite overwhelming. Good news is there is nothing to be afraid of. Even a bit of preparation goes a long way so here are some simple tips to get better at improvising:

1. Record yourself playing some chords on your phone

Every phone has a recording app – just press record and give it a go! Don`t think too much about it, the recording is just for yourself. You can also search on YouTube – Em, G, C or whatever keys you prefer, and use what you like as a backing track.

2. Try playing the scale that suits those chords over that recording

A good idea is to actually try all of the notes from that scale against each of the chords and see which sound you like best. Now maybe you are asking yourself the following question: which scale is appropriate to play over certain chords? Here is a hint – if it’s blues and for example it says Em Blues, then try playing the Em Pentatonic. If the song starts with a G chord and ends the same way – then it is probably in the key of G. Figuring out how to pinpoint what scales go over what licks is a quite big of a topic itself. If you want some more insight on this – comment below and Neli will gladly share some tips or record a video!

3. Skip some notes

Do this step only when you are feeling comfortable with a certain scale. Try skipping some notes and playing varied notes, even if they are completely random. Crucial here is to pay close attention to what you are playing because that is required for the next step.

 4. Repeat anything you like the sound of

By gathering combinations you like and repeating them you will be able to create your own phrases, licks and vocabulary of melodies! Experimenting is something Neli always encourages – so try going outside of the box. Don’t stick to the same scale, just remember what notes you are playing and if you like them – repeat.

And don’t forget – even though there is a lot of theory in music, it is an art! Playing what you personally like is the way to develop your own unique style, but also…

5. Play other people’s licks that you like

Listen to your favorite guitarists and try playing along some phrases that they play. This way you not only play something you for sure enjoy, but also get to play with your favorite guitarists! When you learn the lick, you can change it and make it you own. It is way more rewarding to play a lick that you personally figured out, rather than somebody else’s, but a good example can benefit you a lot.

Here is also a comprehensive video on the topic with examples from Neli:

What are you playing these days? We would love to hear or see, so tag Neli on some of her social media channels! For more tips, tricks and support on your guitar journey we invite you to join Neli’s Guitar Family and subscribe to her YouTube channel! If you need further guidance you can also sign up for a lesson HERE – the first one is 50% off!

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