From my earliest days as a guitar player, my musical tastes were very broad—I loved rock, blues, jazz and a variety of other styles.
The sounds and emotions evoked by these different types of music had, and continues to have, a profound effect on the formation of my own musical sensibilities.
This, of course, is most readily apparent in the types of musical lines I will play when improvising. In my early days, I think I lost a lot of gigs because my musical interests were not focused on one specific thing.
I’d be asked, “Why are you playing all of those other notes?” and I thought, well, one day people might find out what I’m really about, and maybe I’ll get rewarded for playing those “other” notes.
It might sound a bit esoteric, but I think this is at the heart of what a lot of musicians ask themselves when they are practicing: Why am I doing this? What really is my style? What am I trying to say? And “what’s allowed?” which is a very important question to ask.
The truth is that anything is allowed, because there really are no rules. Whether a musical idea works or not often comes down to the way in which one presents it, so, if you are feeling it, you might as well try it. To put this in more practical terms, if I were going to start playing freely in the key of A, without any particular guidelines to follow, I would utilize the freedom to follow my musical whims.
FIGURE 1 presents a 14-bar improvisation in the key of A, within which I touch on different musical ideas, sounds, rhythmic syncopations and phrasings, all performed and developed in as “free” a way