Music Improvising Skills and Melodic Awareness | Jody Hughes | Skillshare

Playback Speed

  • 0.5x
  • 1x (Normal)
  • 1.25x
  • 1.5x
  • 2x

Music Improvising Skills and Melodic Awareness

teacher avatar Jody Hughes, Banjo, Improv, and Music Coach

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

3 Lessons (19m)
    • 1. Using Short Motifs to Improvise

    • 2. Pacing

    • 3. Melodic Awareness-Tonic

  • --
  • Beginner level
  • Intermediate level
  • Advanced level
  • All levels
  • Beg/Int level
  • Int/Adv level

Community Generated

The level is determined by a majority opinion of students who have reviewed this class. The teacher's recommendation is shown until at least 5 student responses are collected.





About This Class

In the Class I go over tips to help musicians improvise better; how to transpose melodies into all 12 keys.  In addition, basic music listening skills are covered.  Other topics include melody construction and harmony. Skills to be a well rounded musician.

Learn how to play material in a number of keys.  Applicable to ALL instruments-Piano, Guitar, Saxophone, Violin, Vocals, etc.

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Jody Hughes

Banjo, Improv, and Music Coach





I've taught and played music for over 25 years. During that time I've been fortunate enough to perform on the stages of Carnegie Hall, The Grand Ole Opry and the Ryman Auditorium. I'm a 3 time Georgia State Banjo and Guitar contest champion.

In addition to teaching online and in-person I play private events around the Southeastern U.S, both solo and as a member of the banjo+Cello duo group Bow N' Banjo.

My background is in acoustic music-bluegrass, jazz, folk, and classical. I studied Improvisation and Jazz under nationally acclaimed pianist Kevin Bales for 5 years. Studying under a pianist as a guitarist allowed me to have quite a unique perspective on all of my instruments.  Other training includes vocal lessons, guitar and ... See full profile

Related Skills

Music Creative

Class Ratings

Expectations Met?
  • Exceeded!
  • Yes
  • Somewhat
  • Not really
Reviews Archive

In October 2018, we updated our review system to improve the way we collect feedback. Below are the reviews written before that update.

Why Join Skillshare?

Take award-winning Skillshare Original Classes

Each class has short lessons, hands-on projects

Your membership supports Skillshare teachers

Learn From Anywhere

Take classes on the go with the Skillshare app. Stream or download to watch on the plane, the subway, or wherever you learn best.


1. Using Short Motifs to Improvise: Hey, welcome back for some or improvisation tips today, and I've got the guitar again, But this is gonna be Apple to pretty much any instrument. It's an idea that really will help you get more focused with your souls. So I'm gonna start out with a court change and just kind of demonstrated hopefully by demonstrating this will help you create things. So I'm just gonna say I have a gene major to a a minor to a B minor for change, and I'm gonna have to all be one measure. Have the result back. T. So what I'm gonna do is I'm gonna take a simple idea motive, if you will, and it's gonna be this. I'm just gonna make one up. It will be the fifth. No, I'm just feel fourth with certain. It's just sound like this. Oh, okay. Now I'm gonna take that one idea, and I'm gonna run that through my core changes. So here goes. So hopefully you understand what's going on there? Applying 543543 of the A minor and then 543 of the way. How much? Quote Variation there. Cause I'm really playing the same thing every time. So then what I do is I just play around with that little simple idea. I hope you can hear the connection there. So what did I do? I just changed it slightly. Notice that I didn't like go. I think place a big difference by the same thing. So this repetition of this general one idea gives your solo coherency, but the balances, if you do the exact same thing over and over, it's pretty boring after a while. So what you have to do is you have to learn how to create variations on this on in a couple ways of doing that is you saw that I added pick up notes. So I went. That's an easy one. That's just chromatic on. It was one of the very end where I went way sending pick up notes. So the first step would be to just simply I pick up notes to your idea. You could way get further further outside. But hopefully what you're nosing is it's a very simple idea. I'm not like thinking about some complicated thing here, Courtaulds and ideas of that and then just a passing notes. So then to get more complex. You can change up the rhythms. You can leave notes out. I'll leave a note out this time. So maybe way on, then you could start to add notes. So there is getting further and further away from the idea. You can also change the beats that these things land on. So I might, I don't know, change it to the second or third beat. I might go improvising here, but the thing I want to hit home is I'm not improvising. Something very complicated. I'm just changing little fragments. Okay, So kind of part of improvising is just coming up with little fragments and then spontaneously creating with those fragments on the spot. So I noticed that I didn't pull this out of a hat. Really? I mean, it's something I've played a 1,000,000 times, But what might happen is on the spot, I might instead of going, I might go there, started in the off, or I might go way. Theo. Theo. Sometimes motive is rhythmic. So I have this way. So, you know, just just showing you my process here. So I'm making all that up on the spot. But hopefully by simplifying the idea. You can see how you can take something and spontaneously create with it on the spot. Um, you're not gonna be pulling out something like really elaborate crazy idea. I'm just taking three simple notes and I'm running it through cortex. So the way you practice this is get your idea out and let's say the next court is a scene. Then you practice what would be the next thing you could go on. You could just play five, 543 again, You could go. But you can also change the notes that you could start on a different court. You could go. So hopefully this demonstration gives you an idea of improvisation. And kind of what I'm gonna do is just try to clear up that word a little bit, hoping for everybody. All right, ticket 2. Pacing: Hey, welcome back to Jodi. Use music and into based lesson. We're going to continue talking about improvisation, and this is a topic that is very near to me because it's one of those things I wish I had learned when I was younger. Like most people, when you know when we're kids, we want to play fast. We want to show off. You want to play a lot of stuff in every solo. So today's topic is called Pacing. It's just like running a race. You wouldn't want to come out of the start line, you know, giving 100%. Because let's say the race is five. I don't know, 67 miles long, and you come right out as hard as you can. You will be given out of breath, right? So pacing is like that with music is you want to start slower and you want to gradually build to something, and today I'm gonna give you maybe a couple of things to think about. But let's first talk about rhythm. So if I took a solo and I'm just gonna be advancing over like G major seven or major on, you know, if I took the solo, and I'm just coming out of the gate like this. It's really flashy and fancy, and people you know they don't know a whole lot about is wow, that's incredible. But pretty soon it kind of gets old because you don't have anywhere to go. The energy level is already so high that you don't have anywhere to build from. So what we want to do is we want to start out slower and rhythmically. I urge you to slow down. So think about maybe whole notes, half notes, quarter notes and I'll just kind of demonstrate a little bit. So I'm just gonna be on a static gene. It's not complicated, just, you know, plants. A very slow rhythms. But I just keep this going. And then maybe what I might do is accelerate just a little bit into some eight notes here there thing. So I'm just making that up as we go here. But hopefully you could hear the difference. You don't hear me like running real fast right off the back, So think of it rhythmically in the beginning. Pace yourself by slowing down. Take a breath. You know, that's another thing is don't try to feel like you have to put something in every beat and let things go by. It's kind of like enjoy the scenery, if you will, you know, let your audience, you know, play something and give your audience time to process it and enjoy it. So you could, you know, going back to this, You might start off really simple. Like I'm just gonna play off the g major scale, maybe speed up the pace a little bit down fast. So you hear me? I'm changing up the rhythm, but I'm not just gonna play eight notes. I'm gonna just play all notes either I'm gonna mix all these things up. So I urge you to think about your solos more from a rhythmic perspective. Not this pitch, but rhythmically. You know, take your listening on some sort of journey to where Maybe you start out with some slow stuff, speed up in there, and then as you reach quote the climax there you slow back down, so give your audience a mixture of sounds and rhythms. So that's a little bit about pacing. We're gonna talk about this mawr and other videos, but, you know, just start out with just thinking about rhythm. And, you know, maybe, you know, as you kind of critique your own playing, go back through some solos. Maybe that you've written or that you've played and say that I start to fast and, you know, see what happens if you start out slower. There's a lot of great guitar players out there you can listen to, but one that I was really keen on it one time and I still have is probably my favorite guitar players. Jim Hall and I think one of the reasons I love him so much is that he starts up pretty slow most of time before he builds to to it. So he's very good at storytelling with his music, so to speak. So that's a little bit about pacing and improvisation. Let me know if you have any questions 3. Melodic Awareness-Tonic: Hey, welcome back and our last video. We talked about improvising and composing solos. And then today, what we're gonna talk about is musical awareness, and I'm gonna be referring mostly to melodic awareness. So when you listen to music, you kind of know what to listen. And it's going to be kind of listening for what I call stability or resolution and tension . All right, And the most important one and total music that we get a good grasp on is called the Tonic and sometimes hear this be referred to as the one. But the tonic has very specific definition. So let's go ahead and begin with that. So tonic to me is what I would consider the most stable I like to refer to. It is home base, if you will. One thing to get really clear is that the tonic and the roots are not the same. So if I was in Q G and I played a d cor and I played the D, that's not the time. That would be the root of that court. The tonic is G in the gym, Okay, So make sure you understand that another thing that hopefully will clear this up is that if I was in the key of G major on and then also the key of G minor that they both have the same tonic. They both have G as the note that is going to sound like home base, if you will. All right. Another thing I like to say is that the tonic is full of possibility, meaning that the tonic can just about move anywhere. Eso if I'm once again a g, I could step up today. I could go down shot. I could also go up to a a a flat from the tonic. You can basically go anywhere you want. It can also leap, say, up to the D or the fifth, if you will. So Tonic has disability to just go pretty much anywhere. Um, at the beginning of the song in particular. So let's talk a little bit more about this. It can. It can move in steps. It can move in leaps. But some of the most characteristic ways is for the tonic to just simply move up. Either 1/2 step or I hold step and either either direction it could go up, go down those sorts of it also can go up like an arpeggio. We could go up like 13 or one. I Sometimes it can even jump one major seventh. That's less common. But as you get into more complicated music, you even see those types of 50. So but let's just kind of give your ears a demonstration of experiencing tension and resolution. As far as I'm concerned, it is better than a bunch of words, right? So here's like the key of G on. Play something You hear that you know your ear hears that and it's picked hits. It's what we call unresolved. Some people use the word dissidents, but I think unresolved is better in this regard. So you know that if I go up way, it sounds, some people would say would say, Sounds bad. But if I go on resolving its not so bad, right? So that's where music got expanded in classical and jazz music as they explore these unreasonable sounds. Morven say folk music. But if I'm playing on guy, come there, it's at rest. It's results out. So that's really what the tonic is is. It's the sound of the most stable sound very state. You see how that sounds So as you're listening to music, what I want you to do is pay pay, close attention to where the tensions and resolutions are. Where does it sound relaxed and stable? Where is it sound? You know, like, uh oh, like it needs to move right? So that's kind of, you know, I always tell people that you want to put motion into the music. So what we're trying to do is listen to the places where the music sounds like it's moving somewhere, and then places where maybe the music sounds like it's almost floating or very stable. Now we're just talking melodically, but you can also talk about this harmonically, too. So if I was in the key of Gene, I would be saying coming back to the G chord, which would be sometimes people refer to This is the Tonic Court with one court. Now here's the problem with a lot of music is like, you know, you could write songs on and it could be just two courts, right, And I would dare say that there's been thousands of songs written with that type of progression that air great so I'm not saying that's not great. I'm just telling you and that as we explore more music, we're gonna find out that returning to the tonic too much can kind of make the music kind of stagnant, meaning that it sounds like it never went really far out. And it never went straight far from home, so to speak. And sometimes our music, we want to convey that emotionally. So we want that. But other times we want our music to go further out. Like we wanted to take people on a journey of, like is traveling further away from home, so to speak. So what you do is, you see, have far away from the tonic you can get, but at some point come back to it. Right. Um so I would just say that one of the things to listen for in music is listen to see how many times it comes back to the one or the most stable core. Does it sound crazy? Doesn't go. That would be far out there. But even then I came back to the more just amuses. Just kind off low belong. Just keep returning to the right. So, um You have to be careful when you write a song or, you know, when you're analyzing music, to look for these sorts of things. Because when you write a song, if you just kind of hang out on one court for too long, then eventually you know, say, two or three minutes later. The listener is kind of tired of hearing just the same old harmonic sound granite. There's been a lot of music written around just one court that's great as well. So it's all depending on the effect you're going for. But hopefully this helps you into the tonic a little bit, revealing what it is. It's simply the most stable sound. It is not the root of the court. Those are different terms. So remember tonic Most stable home base, right? Okay, take care.