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Finding Your Voice: Improvisation

Join GIT graduate and professional guitar player, Michael Palmisano as he explores his personal approach to improvising on guitar. Relying heavily on his loop pedal, Michael walks through the theory and mindset that goes into playing over chord progressions and crafting beautiful melodies and solos. This is a very hands on course! If you have a loop pedal, a recording device, or a friend to play with, that would really help make the most of it.

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Join GIT graduate and professional guitar player, Michael Palmisano as he explores his personal approach to improvising on guitar

Lessons in this Series:

Lesson 1

Series Introduction

Michael kicks off his course and explains what to expect from the course, as well as who this course is designed for.

Length: 3:23 Difficulty: 0.0 Free Sample Lesson
Lesson 2

Why Is Improvising So Challenging?

In this lesson, Michael is going to start de-mystifying improvisation. After walking through the plan for the series, he demonstrates how to outline chord movement with your melodies.

Length: 6:59 Difficulty: 2.0 Member Only
Lesson 3

Everything Exists In Context

Whether you are a solo guitarist, playing with a band, loops or a JamTrack, every melody exists in a context of harmony and rhythm. In this lesson, Michael examines what context is on a fundamental level.

Length: 9:08 Difficulty: 2.5 Member Only
Lesson 4

What Chords Are In A Key?

Understanding what chords fit with in a key is a crucial element to crafting new melodies and harmonies while improvising. Join Michael as he breaks down the formula for chord structure in every key.

Length: 6:25 Difficulty: 2.0 Member Only
Lesson 5

The Triad Skeleton

It's all about context! Chords are the harmony context we are constantly playing in as we improvise. In this lesson, Michael breaks down the structure of what makes a major or minor triad.

Length: 8:05 Difficulty: 2.0 Member Only
Lesson 6

CAGED System Overview

Chances are, if you've held a guitar for any length of time, you've heard of the CAGED system. This system is an extremely handy tool for any improviser. Join Michael as he explains the system and how it can be utilized in this context.

Length: 14:14 Difficulty: 2.5 Member Only
Lesson 7

Your First Scale: The Major Pentatonic

The Pentatonic scale is crucial to improvising in just about every genre of modern western music. In this lesson, explore this scale and get a leg up into using it in your own improvising.

Length: 9:09 Difficulty: 2.5 Member Only
Lesson 8

Your First Improvisation: Major Chord Vamp

It's time to start playing some music! Building off of what we've learned so far, we are going to vamp over a single major chord vamp.

Length: 7:52 Difficulty: 0.0 Member Only
Lesson 9

The Minor Pentatonic Scale

In this lesson we're going to look at the two most common positions used to execute the Minor Pentatonic Scale.

Length: 3:34 Difficulty: 2.5 Member Only
Lesson 10

Improvisation #2: Minor Chord Vamp

We're going to take the Minor Pentatonic theory we shoved into your brain in the last lesson and start making some music with it!

Length: 5:46 Difficulty: 2.5 Member Only
Lesson 11

Exhaust Your Options!

The notes that fit in a specific key, scale, or chord are a small, if significant part of any riff or lick. How are those notes being played? In this lesson, Michael does his best to exhaust all the options that you have when playing those notes.

Length: 11:46 Difficulty: 2.5 Member Only
Lesson 12

Emphasizing Chord Tone

Tired of playing around with one chord vamps? It's time to add in some more chords and work on our first progression!

Length: 9:40 Difficulty: 2.5 Member Only
Lesson 13

Multiple Chords = Multiple Options

In this lesson, Michael continues to expand our horizons by addressing various approaches to creating new melodies over chord progressions.

Length: 7:51 Difficulty: 2.5 Member Only
Lesson 14

Playing Over Chord Progressions: Key Centered Approach

This is the most common approach to improvising and works best for pentatonic and full major scales in diatonic progressions. Join Michael as he demonstrates this popular approach.

Length: 6:16 Difficulty: 3.0 Member Only
Lesson 15

Playing Over Chord Progressions: Chord Scale Approach

Switching pentatonic scales to match the corresponding chord change gives you the chord tones from the chord, embellishments, and - put together - the full 7 note scale of the key. Join Michael as he explores this approach to playing over chord progressions.

Length: 8:10 Difficulty: 3.0 Member Only
Lesson 16

The Full 7 Note Major Scale

Now that we’ve combined our pentatonics, it's time to put them together and review our full major scale.

Length: 8:51 Difficulty: 3.0 Member Only
Lesson 17

Chord Tone Approach - Major Keys

Now that we've learned what it means to put together the key center and scale approaches to playing over chord progressions, we're going to start putting it into practice over with a major scale tonality.

Length: 7:43 Difficulty: 3.0 Member Only
Lesson 18

The Full 7-Note Minor Scale

What about minor keys? What does that mean exactly? Is this a mode? Michael will answer all those questions in this lesson, without getting too crazy with theory.

Length: 7:00 Difficulty: 3.0 Member Only
Lesson 19

Chord Tone Approach - Minor Keys

This lesson focuses on the chord tones of the passing chords, but not necessarily switching scales for each chord. It’s a great compromise, and it’s where most players ultimately end up finding their voice!

Length: 6:16 Difficulty: 3.0 Member Only
Lesson 20

Playing Over Quick Chord Changes

Quick-changing tunes lend themselves to a more percussive key-centered approach, where slow tunes provide more opportunity for playing the changes. Join Michael as he discusses and demonstrates varied approaches to playing over quick changes.

Length: 4:53 Difficulty: 3.0 Member Only
Lesson 21

The Art of Chord Pairing

The chords that come before and after have something to say about the current chord! As Michael demonstrates in today's lesson, you can choose to say as much or as little as your want about them.

Length: 6:53 Difficulty: 3.0 Member Only
Lesson 22

Do I Have Your Attention?

Writing and improvising melodies is just like telling a story. Join Michael as he explores his approach to capturing and maintaining the listener's attention with peaks and valleys.

Length: 6:40 Difficulty: 3.0 Member Only
Lesson 23

High vs Low Pitch

Saying what you want to say in different registers has a different effect, and is something you should strive to utilize.

Length: 5:28 Difficulty: 3.0 Member Only
Lesson 24

Slow vs. Fast

Varying your tempo and picking attack speed can be a great way to add drama to your improvisation, and really gets people's attention!

Length: 5:01 Difficulty: 3.0 Member Only
Lesson 25

Intensity - More vs Less Notes

More can be less, but it can also be more... at the right time. A constant fluctuation of intensity is a super effective technique - especially for extra long jams.

Length: 5:36 Difficulty: 3.0 Member Only
Lesson 26

Volume - Soft vs Loud

You can start soft and finish screaming... Or the opposite. Or go back and forth! Take a look at this option for a more varied, interesting sound.

Length: 5:45 Difficulty: 3.0 Member Only
Lesson 27

Melodic vs. Harmonic

Often an overlooked tool amongst guitarists, but commonplace in the improv community is the interplay between the song’s melody variations and lick-based improvisation.

Length: 8:32 Difficulty: 3.0 Member Only
Lesson 28

Telling Your Story

Every tune has a story - even the ones without lyrics. Your goal as an improviser is to tell YOUR version of the song’s story.

Length: 3:10 Difficulty: 3.0 Member Only
Lesson 29

Song Analysis: Nobody Knows You

You like what you like... But WHY? What makes one artist resonate more than others? If you spend time finding out how your favorites tell their story, it will help you become a better storyteller of your own.

Length: 7:29 Difficulty: 3.0 Member Only
Lesson 30

Series Conclusion

We've come a long way in this series! Join Michael as he wraps up the series and gives some closing advice for what's next.

Length: 1:41 Difficulty: 0.0 Member Only
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