I took a class from Marc Ribot once. I love most everything about his playing. What I took above all from the 90 minutes or so was his adamance on avoiding cliche, predictability, repetition in improvisation. There are countless guitar cliches, musical cliches beyond that, and we run the risk of just reciting licks or patterns that are comfortable to us if we don't carefully seek new approaches to creating a solo, tune, or whatever it is we're doing. Assuming we don't want to sound the same each night.

One way I've been trying to assure Im discovering each time we improvise recently is to consider tunes I know the lyrics to from my youth, using their rhythmic phrasing as the basis for what I'm playing. For example, I can still recite Method Man's "Tical" record more or less front to back from my days as a teen. Same goes for the first Wu-Tang Clan record, some ODB, and Bob Dylan. Some masters of phrasing.

  So I'll take "Bring the Pain", and if Im not particularly inspired by anything else thats happening in the tune, use its rhythmic phrasing as the beginning of my solo, whatever notes I want to put to "I came to bring the pain, hardcore from the brain, lets go inside my astrobrain, find out my mentals, based on instrumentals, check it, HEY, so I can write monumentals" (Im not sure those are the words correctly but thats what I remember them as). Each syllable gets a note and the accents fall as Method Man dictated.  The phrasing is really interesting, and you can take just those few lines and then began to deviate from that, still taking a purely rhythmic approach and letting the pitches fall where they may. Thinking rhythmically over tonally can often bring out a more cohesive piece, solo, and hookup with the band. Something always seems to develop, start leaving rests, answering your own lines, repeating, omitting, playing with the tools people talk about in composition, and spontaneous composition.

 

 

Its much like a jazz musician would use a bop head as the basis for a solo, but thats the music that I hear more naturally, the hip hop and rock stuff, than the Charlie Parker tunes. Though learning Parker heads is something I've found really beneficial, and fun after the initial frustration.

Others I've used include Shimmy Shimmy Ya by ODB, "Don't Think Twice Its Alright" by Dylan, Dylan's poem to Woody Guthrie, and then Monk melodies. Monk melodies I love and absorb quickly, and are rich in rhythmic content as well, listen to what he does with them. But I think whatever you have internalized, memorized and can emote from, play with, as naturally as possible, a unique piece of you comes out, and cliche is more easily avoided. We are closer to being our own. 

An aside - I think this is why I can still go to Dylan shows and think its completely badass while all my friends complain they can't tell what song he's singing, he's singing them all different, and his voice sucks. He's up there playing his voice like a great improviser. Playing with the accents, the phrasing. Im listening to Its Alright Ma finishing this post and must go be creative, this is the feeling we live for.

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