How To Sound Impressive While Improvising On Guitar

by Tom Hess


Practicing improvising on guitar can be done the right way or the wrong way (just like with practicing guitar technique). Practice the wrong way and you struggle to play phrases that sound musical and expressive.

Most guitar players only practice improvising by playing freely over a backing track. This approach is generally unfocused and doesn’t help you improve specific elements in your playing fast enough for you to make tons of progress in a short period of time.

Using this approach doesn’t help you overcome problems like:

  • Playing the same arpeggios or scale patterns over and over hoping something will sound good
     
  • Relying heavily on using stock licks to piece together a solo
     
  • Covering up the fact that you don’t know what to play by simply playing more notes

This video shows you one approach to help you quickly develop your improvising and sound impressive while playing for others:

There are many other approaches that develop your improvising creativity in a more refined and efficient manner. For example, you quickly develop your ability to think of interesting phrases in the moment by creating variations of a single lick.

Here is a simple approach to this process:

Step 1 - Think of a short, 3-5 note guitar lick. Play through it several times to get used to it.

Step 2 - Slightly alter one note in the lick by changing its rhythm, using vibrato, sliding into it or by using any other technique. Play through the lick several times again with the change.

Step 3 - Repeat step 2, but alter a different note.

Step 4 - Repeat step 2, but alter TWO notes.

This basic exercise helps you find new ways to creatively change notes in any phrase – making your phrasing more intentional, expressive and engaging for anyone listening. Think of this like practicing guitar technique: to get better, you must repeat the correct movements many times before you perfect it. Likewise, you become better at improvising on guitar by repeating a phrase many times with different variations.

Want to improve your guitar playing fast? Read this article about how to practice guitar effectively to learn 5 habits for becoming a better guitarist.


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