Improvising within a song is fun. It gives you a bit more freedom and allows you to explore different takes on the same piece. It can also be a bit of a sand trap, though; you start improvising and you forget where you are and there can be some trouble. However, if you do a few simple things, you should be able to steer clear of any potential improvising issues.
One of those issues is where you should (notice we didn’t say can because, well, in the end you can do as you please—it’s your band and your music) and should not improvise in a song. This one issue alone can help you to better your improvisations by quite a bit. It will also help you to keep tensions low with other band members.
In this article, we will discuss which parts of a song are suitable to improvise over, and which parts are not suitable to improvise over.
The guitar solo is a no-go zone. Let’s just get that out in the clear right at the start. It will help you and the guitarist stay on good terms, and it will avoid an awful mixture of jumbled noise. The guitar solo is the place for the guitarist to shine for a bit. If you play an improvisation under it, the guitarist won’t be able to follow along and play how he or she is supposed to play.
The chorus also tends to be a bad place for improvisations. This is because the chorus is usually the place that most fans or listeners in general know the best, and if it changes you have a good chance of offending them or simply annoying them. Either one isn’t good, so you should generally avoid improvising during the chorus, especially if the bass plays a large part of said chorus.
A typical place, and a more neutral one, to improvise is during a verse. So long as your improvisation isn’t all over the place (meaning you stay in the proper key and within the general area of the actual riff itself) then there shouldn’t be any problem with you taking a little liberty and playing freely.
However, if you are a person who tends to get carried away (and let’s face it; some of us do—you just have to be able to admit it if you’re one of them) it may be best to “stick to the script,” so to speak.
In the end, there isn’t much room in a traditional song format, once it is written and fairly well known, for improvisation. But different genres have different rules. If you are in a jazz group, you have the chance to improvise however you please. In fact, most of jazz is improvised.
If you are in a commercial rock or pop or punk group, you won’t have as much freedom and your listeners won’t take it well if you ignore the fact and decide to take that freedom regardless of the fact.
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