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Staying in control with Seven Worlds

Hi David,

I just want to say thank you for coming out with this great book, ‘Improvise for Real’.  It has changed the way I look at music. I did have a question I was hoping you could help me with.

This is with regards to Exercise 2: Melody where you talk about the Seven Worlds and how making any of the seven notes as the tonal center will give the listener a different sensation. You have advised that we practice creating these harmonic worlds all over our instrument (in my case, the guitar).

I have started to practice playing the major scale all over the fretboard and trying to be playful with the notes. The problem I face is that when I go higher up the neck I lose track of where I am and I seem to play all the wrong notes. It kind of gets frustrating. Can you give me some advice on how to tackle this problem? Any insight you can provide will be greatly appreciated.

Thank you,

David's response:

Hi Mike,

I think the main thing that you need to hear is that there is only one person in the world who can make you lose your place when you are improvising, and that's YOU! Also you should know that this is not some special problem that only you have.

getting lost in seven worldsEven the greatest improvisers in the world will always have the ability to lose their train of thought. All they have to do is try to express an idea that's just a little bit beyond their reach.

In other words, it's not something you can ever really "solve." We will always have the ability to get ahead of ourselves and lose our train of thought. But we can also prevent that from happening by simply working within our own limits.

Playing activity

So now imagine bringing the energy way down, so far down that all you're doing is playing notes 1 and 2. I think you would agree that at this level, it would be literally impossible for you to get lost, right?

Okay, so that means the dial is in your hands. You already know exactly what you need to do to make sure you never get lost. Just dial down the speed until you can gain control of yourself. Then dial it back up and stretch out as far as you can, but just stay within your limits.

Just stay mindful and make sure that with each new note you play, you know exactly where you are on your tonal map. And after playing each note, just take a moment to catch your breath and orient yourself. That's really all there is to it.

So really what this is about is learning to manage your own enthusiasm, and that's part of learning to improvise. So just embrace the challenge and have fun with it!