From the objective viewpoint an art of improvisation on any music instrument can be divided into three constituent parts:
1. Sense of rhythm,
2. Sense of the tonality,
3. Sense of the form.
A sense of rhythm arises from the realization of the "rhythmic temperament". It should be formed a clear sensation of multilevel duplet-triplet division of tempo-rhythm. This gives a possibility to play fast and slow patterns in the same tempo.
Sense of the tonality arises from learning musical figures (scales, triads, seventh chords, pentatonics…) viewed in this textbook.
A practice of scales, arpeggios and so on gives a possibility to hear their sound, a melody which is the result of the performing. The importance of such exercises can scarcely be overestimated. It is a solfeggio on the guitar. From the start a connection of those exercises with music is unobvious, but it proves to be the shortest way to understand the highest level of music art at the end. The improvisation eventually is a matter of an ear. Consequently an ear should be developed first of all.
A sense of a form arises from the recognition of the basic logical music structure called a chorus. The simplest chorus is one measure. The duration of a chorus can be different, and depends on kind of music. Commonly there are differed such choruses: one measure, two measures, hypermeasure (4 measures), two hypermeasures (8 measures), hypermeasure verse (16 measures)…etc.
Suggested methods aimed to form and develop the above mentioned qualities. Firstly thoroughly learn the fingering of a scale for example, and then try to play it as in the notation under a tabulature. It is important to tap your foot in time while playing exercises. First of all this allows to hear and play the melody more correctly and then provides better and faster understanding of the rhythmic temperament. The performance of given exercises in time is the "foundation stone" of this methods.
In short, if you really want to learn to improvise you should study given structures and exercises and practise these for at least one hour a day during three - five years. The more conscientious and durable will be your practice, the faster you get desired results. The issue is to acquire automatic or "ear" skills of the performance. Another "foundation stone" of the methods is the identical structure of all tonalities. In this manual music structures are examined on base of the G major and G minor keys only for reasons of the convenient position on the guitar neck. So, fingerings of all music figures are identical in every key. Having learned the fingering we can play it from any note on the sixth string (E). The first note of a fingering will name the performed scale or arpeggio.
Left hand Right hand
We will mark left hand fingers with numbers from 1 to 4; 1 - an index finger, 2 - a middle finger, 3 - a ring finger, 4 - a little finger. Right hand fingers are marked with Latin letters, abbreviations of the Spanish names of fingers: P - pulgar (a thumb), I - indice (index), M - medio (a middle finger), A - anular (the fourth finger).
Diatonic seventh chords
An elementary (the smallest) interval in contemporary music is the half step. This is two adjacent keys on the piano and two adjacent frets on the guitar. Two half steps are a whole step, three half steps are a step and a half, four half steps are two whole steps…etc.
Notes on the piano are arranged as in the Major scale formula, beginning with the note C (do). We have C, D, E, F, G, A, B correspondingly WWHWWWH. The same is on the guitar: notes are arranged as in the Major scale formula, but along the fret, starting from the open string note. Look at the picture (Arrangement of notes on the guitar fret).
A position covers four frets in number of "playing" left hand fingers. The fifth finger (the thumb) is the bearing one, it almost always is on the opposite side of a fretboard. Everything what can be played on the guitar can be arranged in positions. It is extremely important to notice "positions" while learning standard figures (scales, arpeggios…etc). The correct shift of fingers from one position to the other promotes the smooth, quick performance of passages. The positional thinking is more efficient and enables to memorize much more information.
Two superpositions are also a very important part of the guitarist's thinking. The first superposition covers two octaves from the low- E string. The second superposition covers two octaves from the fifth A string. Joining two superpositions into one conditional figure we will get a position of one note over the fretboard.
The awareness of this conditional figure simplifies the search of notes on the fret relying on the known ones (especially from the start). Examine two superpositions on the guitar and practise building of this figure from different notes.
Now we will examine main structures which are the basis of music regardless of styles and schools.
There are three scales: a Major scale, a Minor scale and a Diminished scale (W-H);
three triads: a major triad, a minor triad, a diminished triad;
four seventh chords: a major seventh chord, a minor seventh chord, a dominant seventh chord and a half-diminished chord;
two pentatonics: a major pentatonic and a minor pentatonic.
Altogether there are twelve music figures or twelve exercises. It is very important to remember the one octave structure of these figures and understand principles of their construction.
Triads are built on basis of the scale. To this effect we should play the first, the third and the fifth scale degrees. These three sounds form a triad. Those are colored for clearness in the picture. A Major scale forms a major triad, a Minor scale forms a minor triad. A triad arpeggio is a triad whose notes are played in succession.
On the one hand, it makes no difference how to draw fingerings (horizontally, vertically, straight down, straight up), first of all these should be understandable; on the other hand, the main task of a fingering is to help to master the material and it shouldn't be forgotten. Hence a "mirror" method for fingering is used in this textbook (left to right, top-down).
In the given pictures there are scale degrees in motley circles on the left and a fingering on the right. There are notes below and under notes there is a tabulature (tab). If everything is clear to you in the picture you don't have to read a tabulature so as pictures and tabs are explaining the same (how to play on the guitar patterns from the staff notation).
A scale is a group of notes of a mode taken in ascending or descending order. A picture shows patterns of a Major and Minor scales on the guitar.
Similarly (in thirds) the main mode triad can be built on basis of any scale (except the Chromatic one). Of course the structure of a triad depends on the scale structure. For example, the half-diminished triad is built on base of the Half-diminished scale.
There are only four kinds of seventh chords in the Diatonic. We will discuss this in more detail in the part "The Diatonic. The tonality."
Seventh chords are built just like triads (notes are stacked in thirds). In other words if we add the seventh degree of a mode to the triad we will get a seventh chord, as it is shown in the picture.
The pentatonic is also built upon the scale, but the principle of it's construction differs from principles of triads or seventh chords construction. The pentatonic is built on the basis of the Diatonic. This question we will discuss in more detail in the part "The Diatonic. The tonality."
And now let's just remember that the fourth and the seventh degrees are absent in the major pentatonic as compared with the Major scale. And in the minor pentatonic as compared with the Minor scale the second and the sixth degrees are absent.
The Diminished scale is not a part of a Diatonic. That's why it is included into the composition of twelve basic exercises. Here presented an inverse symmetrical diminished scale (W-H) Gdim. Pay attention to the construction of this scale (whole step, half step, whole step, half step, whole step, half step, whole step, half step), this is the reason for its name.
One octave major scale
One octave minor scales
Major triad arpeggio one octave
Minor triad arpeggio one octave
Diminished triad arpeggio one octave
Major seventh chord arpeggio one octave
Minor seventh chord arpeggio one octave
Dominant seventh chord arpeggio one octave
Half-diminished seventh arpeggio one octave
Major pentatonic scale
Minor pentatonic scale
Diminished scale (inverse symmetrical)
Tabular chord notation
An alphanumeric (tabular) notation appeared mainly thanks to the guitar. The fingering of the same type chords on the guitar is more obvious than on any other instrument. In various music issues the notation a bit differs from each other. There are two main ways of a tabular presentation: 1) alphanumeric, 2) via letters and symbols. Mainly these are used separately, but sometimes can be mixed. Being aware of these ways of notation you can always understand the intention of the author.