Musical IQ Question #27: Which of the following musicians was most likely to be found jamming with his buds, blowing improvised solos, until the wee hours of the morn? A) Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, B) Charlie Parker, or C) Ravi Shankar. If you answered A, B or C then you would be 100% correct because they were all brilliant improvisors in their respective genres. Yes, Mozart along with J.S. Bach, Handel, Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt were all renown improvisers as are all of the great Indian Raga players. In fact, you'd be hard pressed to find a genre that did not embrace improvisation. So, whatever style you play, you MUST learn how to improvise. There's no 'best' way to do that but Charlie Parker offered some sound advice; "Learn everything, then forget it all."
Master improviser, top session player and all-around monster player, Carl Verheyen offers a lot more than just sound advice in SWAT Improvisation. In his extraordinary guitar savant fashion, Carl has managed to distill his own very unique improvisational approach into just 12 essential concepts covering fingerings, scale patterns, modes and harmonic approaches. Carl then shows you how to apply it all by guiding you through 7 improvisational studies across a variety of keys, tempos and feels.
The 12 concepts comprise a versatile improvisational toolkit suitable for virtually any popular style of music. Carl starts with a fresh, and very enlightening, perspective on the minor and major pentatonic scale. You’ll then learn 5 moveable scale patterns that, once mastered, open up the entire fretboard to you -- you’ll be able to play anything, everywhere on the neck. Carl’s ‘Paving Scale Patterns’ shows you how to apply and transpose the 5 moveable scale patterns into all 12 keys so that you can ‘wire’ any key across the entire fretboard.
No sooner than you learn and master the 5 moveable scale patterns and Carl’s “Paving Scale Patterns’ approach, then he kicks it up a couple of gears and has you discard all of that information with his ‘Discarding Patterns’ concept. This is a very advanced concept, that while simple to comprehend will take years to master. However, this is the gateway you must travel through to acquire advanced improvisational skills.
Carl winds up the first section of the curriculum with 3 concepts focused on chord construction, modes, and harmony. Likewise, this is serious study for the intermediate student but these are all essential milestones that you must reach on your path to advanced improvisation.
The 7 improvisational studies will blow your mind for multiple reasons. Firstly, you will be amazed by Carl’s playing just on a musical level. Secondly, although this is not a ‘licks’ course you’ll be compelled to learn some of Carl’s lines note-for-note. Thirdly, and most importantly, these studies apply all of the key learnings that Carl presented in the ‘Concepts’ section of the curriculum -- all the dots get connected.
Each improvisational study features its own rhythm track and Carl will demonstrate 2 to 4 different improvisations over that rhythm track. This approach illustrates how various applications of the concepts can yield significant impact on the color, texture and overall vibe of your improvisation. Any single one of these improvisational studies is worth the price of admission alone.
By the way, every improvisational study performance was just that -- Carl improvised each one on the spot, no second takes. We thought long and hard about whether or not we would transcribe, tab and notate Carl’s performances specifically because the course is about improvisational approaches, not about learning his lines. At the end of the day though we couldn’t resist transcribing the tastier lines and indicating time code for where they are in the performance (we wanted them too!). Of course, you’ll also get all of the rhythm tracks to practice with yourself.
Play your way through Carl’s SWAT Improvisation curriculum and you’ll be well on your way to ‘learning everything’ but its the learning ‘how to forget it all’ that will take a lifetime to grasp but then that’s why we play guitar.