Dynamics in Guitar Improvisation
There is lot more to playing great guitar solos than just wiggling fingers and melting faces. Great soloists infuse emotionality into their improvisation. One very effective and oft overlooked way of imbuing feeling into a solo is through dynamics, how loud or soft you play. Varying your dynamics gives your solo an emotional arc and adds a layer of communication with your audience. The following ten minute limitation exercise practice plan will help you instill your playing with dynamics. It should be performed over a backing track and can be done in any style and with any chord progression.
1. Improvise only soft phrases. (2 minutes)
See how quiet you can play while still being audible. Experiment with different levels of softness while still keeping your volume low. Don’t accomplish this by turning down your instrument, but by using soft articulations.
2. Improvise only loud phrases. (2 minutes)
See how loud you can play without being obnoxious. Experiment with different levels of loudness while still keeping your volume high. Don’t accomplish this by turning up your instrument, but by using strong articulations.
3. Vary your dynamics between phrases. (2 minutes)
Improvise soft phrases, loud phrases and phrases with dynamic levels in between these two extremes. Make sure each has a single discreet dynamic level and doesn’t vary too widely within the phrase.
4. Vary your dynamics within each phrase. (2 minutes)
Improvise phrases that go from soft to loud, loud to soft, and vary their volume in other ways. Do not maintain the same volume for any one entire phrase.
5. Improvise freely while focusing generally on dynamics. (2 minutes)
See what kind of effect this might have on your solos.