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The Woodshed: Elements of Improvisation #1: Multi Playing One Note

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JJ Rocks Article # 67:
From St. Croix Music Magazine, Issue # 14, November, 2007
This is the first in a 10 part series about a few basic elements of improvisation for beginner to intermediate levels. These ideas were originally created for guitar but they can be used on many instruments. Lesson #1 in this series is called multi playing one note.

Lets take a four note phrase that you feel is melodic in content. Play it through and get it in your head. Now lets take the first note and play it twice while continuing to play the other notes one at a time. You will notice a difference in character with the phrase. I know that some of you advanced players are probably laughing at this time but if any of you are teachers you might find this useful.

Now lets try the phrase (lick) again but this time only play the second note twice while playing the other notes only once. Dont forget to take your first note back to only being played once. This time you will notice a slightly different feel to the lick. Continue the same process until the end of the phrase. You should notice that you are getting much more out of the 4 note lick that you started with. And thats just the beginning.

Lets try it again by playing the first note 3 times instead of 2. Keep that same idea through all the notes and you will hear even more of a difference. This is a simple but a rarely used technique.

After you have the idea, just start mixing it up by playing one note twice and another 3 or even 4 times. Dont take it too far because your melodic content will go out the window. Just think of it as a spice on top of your original lick and not the main meal. And dont forget that it must sound musical and not like instrumental acrobatics.

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