improv

In part 1, we talked about how to add fill-in licks, either behind a vocalist, or between the phrases of the melody. In Part 2, we talk about how to replace part of the melody by using licks that match the chord of the song instead.

“What song is this again?”
Let’s face facts. Great bluegrass guitar players don’t always play the melody to the song. In fact, I might go as far as to say they usually don’t play the melody to the song. In this article, we are going to break down a way of thinking about bluegrass licks to help you go from a basic melody break into something that is a more exciting to listen to and play.

What we are going to do is replace part of the melody with a lick. We can choose almost any lick, as long as the lick matches the chord that happens at that point of the song.

Lyman Lipke here once again. Last couple times I was here, we took a look at some chords. I’ve been putting off talking about single note lines, but if you’ve taken a good look at my previous posts on chords (or at the very least, pretended to), we can look at a few lines. Our study of chords will give us a deeper understanding of how these single note lines relate to the chord-sound we’re trying to play over.

I want to address a concept in jazz called “making the changes”. We’re trying to define what’s going on in the harmony through our single note lines.

We’ve all heard the phrase “stick to the melody!” before. Normally those words are shouted by a bluegrass festival veteran in the direction of a pre-teen Chris Thile play-a-like. But far from a traditional versus progressive dividing line, these comments often come from the same traditionalist that will applaud a completely improvisational Tony Rice break.