FOR ALL YOU PRACTICING MUSICIANS: I have a lot of people ask me how to improvise. Here are my top 5 tips for improvising.
1. Learn the melody. Learn the melody of any piece of music you are working on. It helps you develop melodic playing/phrasing and gives you something to build on in your solo.
2. Learn the harmony. Figure out the chords/harmony and find alternate places to play the chords.
3. Shut up and listen. This is VERY IMPORTANT! Listening to what else is going on in the music in that moment can give you ideas and inspiration to take your solos to another level. Be a follower AND a leader.
4. Pace yourself. Don't throw all your chops out in the first 4 measures. You'll run out of things to play and be redundant.
5. PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE. Know the key and possible scales. Practice the piece in different keys.
These are just a few things you can do/practice to be a good improviser. The trick to improvising is being able to take everything you've ever learned on your instrument and use that information to help you communicate an idea and say something in the moment.