A lot of people think that, when they learn about guitar improvisation, what they learn is actually jazz scales on guitar, or pentatonic scales. It is absolutely true that it is essential to learn these, and to create beautiful solos. However, there are lots of other styles as well, as a good teacher like Scott Henderson can teach you. Learning about all of these styles if what will make you a great improv guitarist. Let’s look at why it is so important to learn more than jazz and pentatonic.
1. You Learn to Listen and Learn to Appreciate Different Music Eras
Each historical era has made a contribution to music. Classical, jazz, blues, rock, and pop are just some of them. But within each of those, we can dig deeper and see how techniques and sounds have been developed. Take classical, for instance, made up of impressionist, romantic, baroque, renaissance, and more. And then, there is the fact that classical in France sounded very different from classical in Denmark. If you want to be a good improv guitarist, you need to develop your own style, by knowing all the others.
2. When You Perform Solo, You Don’t Have Rhythm to Rely on
It is common for good band guitarists to be excellent players, so long as they are supported by their band. Put them on their own, however, and they freeze up. This is because they follow the lead of the rest of the band, even if they are the lead guitarist. By exposing yourself to lots of different styles, you learn to take the lead yourself. This is particularly true if you try to play along with it. Try improvising to the Jobim Bossa Nova, for instance!
3. You Can Explore the Different Styles
You have to really learn about the different styles that are out there, and understand their development. You probably still think that you have to learn the jazz scales to do anything, which is fair enough. But did you know that jazz comes from ragtime and swing music? It is not superior to those styles, it developed from them. Learn where that development lies.
4. You Can Learn to Hear Different Techniques and Develop Your Own
Every guitarist uses their own technique, but they are all based on known techniques, linked back to the different styles. Perhaps the pentatonic is simply not your personal style or technique, but how will you ever know if you don’t try different things?
5. You Can Learn about Traditional Composition Rules and Apply Those to New Areas
Learning about the many different accepted styles, and how those pieces are composed, gives you an opportunity to develop something unique yourself. Perhaps you will even be able to redefine music eventually, with students in music schools learning about you some time in the future. Imagine they miss out on that because they focus solely on pentatonic and jazz scales! What a potential waste.