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Cello Lessons: Bluegrass Improvisation: Melodic Guide Tones

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In bluegrass improvisation is a big part
of the style but
we're not going to abandon
the melody too much like we might in jazz.
So we wanna learn how to improvise
while sticking close to the essence of
the melody.
We're gonna use Arkansas Traveler
in this lesson.
So if you haven't learned the tune yet,
learn it first, and
then come back and
we'll isolate the guide tones.
And a lot of guide tones
in Arkansas Traveler.
I would say that we could reduce
this melody to the following core notes.
It's sort of like
a shincarian analysis
which is a really nerdy
classical reference.
But by isolating these guide tones,
basically we can improvise our own
connections to these guide tones.
The melody has its own way of
connecting these guide tones,
which you've already learned.
But now, let's see if we can improvise
different scale patterns or arpeggios or
even just bowing rhythms,
in order to connect these guide tones.
Instead of taking on the whole A section,
I'm just gonna isolate the first phrase.
I'm just gonna repeat these
four notes a bunch of times.
I'm just gonna repeat them until I get so
bored that I have no choice but
to start improvising.
Some interesting connections.
Now just keep moving it.
And the more
comfortable you get,
the more complicated
you might get.
I threw
in a little
loop for
you there.
Instead of always landing on
the down beat on the guide tone,
you can kinda skate around it and delay
it or even anticipate it a little bit.
Let me show you a little
bit more of delaying or
anticipating the melodic guide tone.
you can still
sort of hear those
guide tones.
And this is really the heart of a lot of
Bluegrass improvising is just endless,
small variations around these
core essential melodic notes.
Let's take the same idea and
apply it to the next phrase.
You could reduce those last
two notes to just an A, I think.
Or you could consider the, that movement
to be like the essence of the melody.
But either way, maybe I'll stick
to the simple version for now.
And I'll start to improvise some
variations on these guide tones.
Yeah, so
I was starting
with mostly
just rhythmic
variations, and
then started
adding some
more notes.
You could get a little
crazy if you wanted.
Although it's sounding less and
less stylistically Bluegrass, but
you understand the principle, I hope,
of just coming up with small,
endless variations on these guide tones.
And as you, I would recommend doing what
we're just doing here, as taking four note
groupings of these guide tones that
line up with the phrases of the tune.
And then spending some time in each phrase
individually doing this variation work.
And ultimately,
you can start to combine them and
do this variation work through
the whole form of the tune.
In order to set you up for that, let me
just show you what I would say might be
the guide tones for the B section.
So we've got this sequence
So it's pretty clear that
the guide tones would be A,
G, F sharp, A, D, A, F sharp, D.
Just that scale down,
it's pretty clear in the melody.
I guess
I'd go up
the octave,
I was getting stuck in my low octave.
See, that's a really like
core part of the melody.
Right at the end.
So mostly it's just that scale.
Actually that
works too.
Instead of going
you could reduce that maybe to just
That has a nice cadential
feel to that too.
But yeah, so take that scale primarily and
start improvising your
own variations to it's.
Maybe I'll do just a couple more
before I set you off on your own.
I'll just loop this section this much.
it's really fun and
it's gonna
get you more and
more comfortable
with varying
the melody and
taking a solo.
In bluegrass