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The Three Pillars of Improvisation

In one of Jude Gold’s recent No Guitar is Safe podcasts, we got to hear fusion extraordinaire Dean Brown discuss a bunch of interesting topics.

The interview took a turn down the path of improvisation and inspired me to create an in-depth video based on Dean's wisdom—plus some experiences I’ve had along the way.

The three pillars of improvisation support one another, so the stronger you get in one, the more effective you’ll be at improving the others. Ear training is the first pillar, and it’s also the hardest to quantify. Possessing a “good ear” can be subjective, but typically it means being able to fit into a band situation seamlessly, using good vibrato and playing off of other musicians in a lyrical way. The best way to improve this pillar is to learn some of your favorite guitar players’ riffs and solos without any tabs or notation. This method forces you to depend on your ear to navigate the neck.

Pillar two is lexicon (that’s Dean’s word, not mine). You want to have a strong vocabulary of licks to be fluent in whatever genre you choose. Ear training is obviously important as a supporting pillar, as you’ll rely on it to learn the licks of those who came before you.

Watch the video below to learn the final pillar and how they each support the other to help you focus on becoming the best improviser you can be.

Tyler Larson is the founder of the guitar-centric brand Music is Win. His insightful, uncomplicated guitar lessons and gear demonstrations along with entertaining, satirical content about life as a musician receive tens of millions of video views per month across social media. Tyler is also the creator of the extremely popular online guitar learning platform, Guitar Super System. A graduate of Berklee College of Music, Tyler has been teaching guitar for over a decade and operates a production studio in Nashville, TN.