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Dobro Lessons: Improvising and Writing

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In this lesson I'd like to talk to you a
little bit about improvising.
That is playing something that's not
previously written,
just coming up with it off the top of your
Now I do this quite a bit when I play.
If I'm playing a song.
Let's say a nine pound hammer and my solo
comes around what, what might I do?
Well there's a variety of things but what
I like to do,
is I like to improvise to change things
It's, you know, you wanna start when you
think about improvising.
The first thing you wanna think about is
the tune you're playing and the melody.
Now, it doesn't sound good to just play
whatever, over a song.
You want it to have some sort of
relationship to the tonality,
the feel, the idea of the song you're
So that's sorta key in improvising, is
keeping in mind, the feel of the song.
For instance, if the song is really
when you're improvising you want to keep
that feeling in mind.
If the song is really driving and
mean, you kind of want to keep that
feeling in mind.
So it's sort of difficult to explain
how to improvise because it's something
you have to come up with.
But I can give you some clues and
some techniques that'll help draw that out
of you.
So one thing that's good to do is just
start with a melody.
Learn the melody of a song.
You don't want to be improvising over a
song you don't know the melody to.
That's the most important thing.
When it's your turn to take a solo.
The melody, you can never go wrong with.
But if you want to start to embellish the
melody, maybe it's a jam tune, and
you play it a few times around.
You play the melody the first time,
well then the second time, you gonna wanna
to play something a little bit different.
So, what you can do in your practice is,
start to alter the melody just a little
Maybe just a few notes here and there.
So it's sorta like getting your feet wet
with improvising,
you don't have to dive head first in, you
take little steps in that direction if
it's something that's new for you.
So, take a melody that you know and just
start altering a few notes here and
there, come up with a different way to
play the same melody.
So that's a good way to get started,
you've got a framework you can just alter
a few things.
Another technique that I might use is
instead of playing the exact
same melody or an altered melody, I might
use the rhythm of the melody.
So for instance, let's say I was playing
the Wabash Cannonball.
What I might do is think of the rhythm of
those notes and
use that same rhythmic pattern playing
different notes.
So you can hear it was still the da da da
da da da-da da, but
I was using different notes.
Once again here's the melody.
I can use that same rhythmic pattern.
Just change the notes.
So that sort of gives you some framework
too, so
you're not just out in space trying to
figure out what to do.
Another thing that I do and this is a
great technique,
is I'll loop some backing tracks, or loop
a song that I like.
So we've got all these backing tracks
here, so
what you can do is get them in a loop, and
just play over them.
Just experiment.
You know when you're at home practicing
that's the time to do it.
Just experiment try different things.
One other point is, you really wanna know
your fret board, you wanna know,
a bunch of different places that you can
So I've got some examples related to this
improvising topic.
I've got some major key, and some minor
key examples you can look at,
that cover a wide range of the fret board.
They're long passages, and
they get you thinking in terms of
phrasing, and knowing your fret board.
One last thing I'll talk about is,
increase your repertoire.
The great jazz guitar player Charlie
Christian when asked about improvising,
said he didn't really know how he
he just knew a thousand melodies.
So just by learning songs and
learning melodies, you're getting a whole
bag of tricks you can use to improvise.
So the more repertoire you have, the more
melodies you can play.
The more sort of language you have it then
you can make your own and
sort of put out there in your own way.
Right now I would like to give you an
example of how I practice soloing
and improvising.
So what we're gonna do is use the backing
track for.
Wall Bash Cannonball.
And what I'm gonna do is I'm gonna play
the melody one time through and
then the second time it comes around I'm
gonna improvise.
And then the third time when it comes
around, I'll play the melody again to sort
of ground myself and then, the fourth time
around I'll improvise again.
And in this way of going from the melody
to improvising,
melody to improvising, you can really sort
of start to develop this technique.
So let's give it a try.
One, two, three, four, one, two, three,
So, you can see that technique where I'll
play the melody one whole time through.
And then I'll just improvise one whole
time through.
And then come back, play the melody one
time through.
And improvise one time through.
It's a really potent practice technique
that you can use.
Not only does it get the melody really
ingrained in you, but
it get, gives you a chance to just explore
and experiment.
So we've been talking about improvising.
If you'd like,
send me a video with yourself improvising
over some backing tracks.
I'd love to hear what you're doing.
You can see what some other students have
sent in, that might help you out.
But if you want to, go ahead, and make a
video, send it on in, and
I can send you some feedback on your