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Cello Lessons: Bluegrass Improvisation: Question & Answer Phrasing

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[MUSIC].
Because Bluegrass melodies are so
modular in their construction,
a really natural way to improvise in them,
is to sort of divide things
into question and answers.
So we're gonna play melodic questions, but
instead of playing the melodic answer,
we're gonna actually
improvise our own answers.
So in Billy in the Lowground,
the first question
[MUSIC].
Is answered in the melody this way.
[MUSIC].
But I want us to practice
improvising our own answers, and
basically anything you play
in C major is gonna work.
So let me give you a couple examples.
[MUSIC]
Question, improv.
[MUSIC].
Question.
[MUSIC].
New answer.
[MUSIC]
Question.
[MUSIC]
Improvisation.
[MUSIC]
Question.
[MUSIC]
Improv.
[MUSIC]
So you can hear how I'm going back and
forth between melody and improvisation.
And so those answers are happening
on an A minor chord.
So using the notes of C major,
you could aim for the guide tones of A,
C, or E, and
that'll sound great in that chord.
The other thing is, you can start to
use these improvised answers as a way
to break out of the feel, or
throw in some bluesy notes so
that it really feels like
there's maybe some tension or
excitement that is getting thrown
in in these improvisations.
Let me show you some of that.
[MUSIC]
Question.
[MUSIC]
Answer.
[MUSIC]
Question.
[MUSIC]
Answer.
[MUSIC]
Just kind of throwing in more slides,
I guess, specifically, but
also finding some of those bluesy notes,
[MUSIC]
E flat to E.
[MUSIC].
Yeah, those improvised answers
are a way to bring new
feelings into the melody that
aren't in the melody itself.
Let's take the same principle and
apply it to the B section.
So, the questions in the B section.
[MUSIC]
And now the answer.
[MUSIC]
Let me improvise new
answers over those F chords.
[MUSIC]
Question.
[MUSIC]
Answer.
[MUSIC]
Question.
[MUSIC]
Answer.
[MUSIC]
Yeah, I was noticing, actually,
the nature of these improvised
answers often allows me
to vary the beginning of
the questions themselves,
cuz I'll end up in a different place.
But I want you to take this sort of
structural approach to improvisation and
practice it with Billy in the Lowground.
When you improvise in bluegrass,
you don't have to create from scratch.
You don't have to just abandon the melody.
You wanna stay close to the melody, and
doing these question improvised answer,
this approach can help you
actually stay true to the form so
you don't lose your place, and
also stylistically help inspire you and
keep the momentum of the melody
going even when you're improvising.
[MUSIC]