“Improvise a musical story that makes sense, and takes the listener on a captivating musical journey”: “Call and response” phrasing can help transform a simple guitar solo into an evocative narrative device

Josh Smith, standing with one of his Ibanez signature models
(Image credit: Future)

Over the last few months, I’ve talked about a few of the tools I like to use to strengthen the narrative content of my improvised solos. The first is repetition, and the second is musically “painting oneself into a corner,” or what I refer to as “handcuffs.” The third approach, which we will begin exploring today, is call and response.

The basis of this approach is to listen intently to what is played as it’s happening, and then to respond to it on the fly with a phrase that “answers” the preceding one. It’s all too easy to forget to pay attention to what we're playing, and fall into “auto pilot” mode, where the fingers are just moving through handfuls of familiar phrases, based on muscle memory, allowing the fret hand to go wherever it may go.

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