Improvising with only notes 1, 2, 3 and 4

The first “Share your practicing” video :sweat_smile: I hope there will be many more.

I recorded this video a few months ago, during the IFR "Ear Training for Musical Creativity " workshop. This was an exercise where we tried to improvise over a backing track, using only notes 1,2 ,3 and 4


Very good practice, Dave!

Beautiful, Dave!!

Really Nice! Did you ‘imagine’ the faster riffs too? Or was it more like letting the fingers move without knowing what it would sound like?
(Impressive either way ;))

The short answer is that I didn’t imagine the faster riffs from an IFR standpoint.

Longer answer is that I didn’t know which note I was playing. However, I believe I had some level of awareness and control over the notes chosen for these riffs. For instance, because these were repeating patterns, the first time I may have “let my fingers” choose the notes. After playing the pattern again, because I knew then exactly how it sounds, I feel I was taking the control over my fingers, if that makes sense. But that’s not the IFR type of awareness.

I am still working on understanding how I function, to connect painlessly my imagination to my playing. For instance, I’m pretty sure than even for the slow parts in this recording, I’m not freely imagining the notes I am playing. I am aware of the notes I’m playing, as demonstrated by me singing the numbers. However, I realized that for me, singing the numbers makes it more difficult to freely connect my imagination to my playing. It seems that humming the note (and knowing the number in my mind) works better for me. In my case, the added emotion/sensation generated by singing the numbers is disconnected from the feeling of the note I have when I imagine this sound. What I imagine is the “pure”, “naked” sound, characterized by it’s feeling, or sensation. Singing the number complexifies the sensation. It doesn’t feel like the sensation I am imagining and therefore disconnects me from the actual flow of notes I’m imagining. Now, singing the number seems to be successful with me for learning the sounds, as practice exercises, like the Sing the numbers tracks from IFR.


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On the plus side maybe this counts as ‘Desirable Difficulty’, and is thus of benefit in the longer term?

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You’re right. I’m still practicing singing the numbers. The point I was making was that humming (while maintaining awareness of the number) seems to work better for me than singing the numbers. I am curious if others have the same, or a different experience.

If anything, I’d say I have a better feel for the connection when singing the numbers than with humming (or other symbol-less vocalisations), or with audiation.

PS. Many thanks for the video, it’s really encouraged me to make more effort to try similar. For historical reasons[1] I didn’t tend to try this when using guitar, which is daft as my mental image when visualising the numbers is a fretbaord! I’ve done a bit, as part of the ‘Creative’ element of Mireia’s Ear Training Workshop, but mainly with keyboard. I’ve now started doing it more with guitar and am really enjoying the combination. :smiley:

[1] The best part of 60 years of being told I was tone deaf & couldn’t sing & accepting that singing was something that either just happened or didn’t. A few pitch matching exercises with Musical-U in late 2018 were the trigger to allow me to understand the vital element of the process that I’d been missing all these years. :slight_smile:


Thanks you for sharing.

my self, Im a beginner guitar player.
in the last 10 weeks
I found IFR to learn guitar playing by ear …

2 weeks ago
I played a song an crrated the chord to it.

to play . my fingers needs some more gymnastic … Dave, so as I it see. playing guitar is something you do for longer time.

nise to hear you the numbers…
thanks for sharing. it motivate extra … :+1::grinning:


Welcome to the forum, @VINNY

I’m glad you found the video useful! Don’t hesitate to ask any question on this forum.

Ive also had some experiences when humming the tones works better for me than singing the numbers. I think it’s for the same reasons that you’re pointing out, Dave. I also know just what you mean when you have the pure tone in mind and you just know what note it is without needing to verbalize the number either externally or internally. My guess is that for me, using the numbers requires more mental bandwidth. Consequently, it can block me from the tones that I’m imagining. Sometimes when I sing the numbers, I make some mistakes that I don’t think I would make if I was just humming. So, in general, I feel more musical when I’m just working with the tones only, but I still like to sing the numbers for certain exercises when I’m in a learning phase.



to see your finger moving, My wish at the moment is have also the flexibles fingers…it will come:-)
to here you sing the notes.
I like to here it :wink:

for me, were are making music to simplicity
to show others!

great song your singing…:slight_smile: :slight_smile:

much fun with recognise chords in music around you
and wish you that the sounds / melody’s in your mind ,
we can here that in short time. ! :wink:

have music fun
Vny :wink:

Thanks, @VINNY. Yes, singing the notes is a lot of fun. Right now, singing seems to be for me the most effective way to learn to improvise freely. Improvising without my instrument (the guitar) forces me to really express the melodies I hear in my head. Otherwise, with my guitar I can play licks, or just come up with random melodies, which can sound good (because right scale, etc.), but which aren’t truly the music I imagine.


singing the bumver of the notes

yes, it gives fun.

to play licks etc,
for me onnown…

I can imaging that
going bag on a comming pad , it s tempting to do…
much curage to play guitar in a new way​:muscle::+1::blush: