Improvisation solutions take different strategies depending on your situation (live playing vs sitting at home). Kiko’s last livestream was all about how to prepare for improvisation if you happen to be a beginner and don’t know where exactly to start. ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yHNLd-WYODg&t=226s )
Summing it up:
Starting at home and learning to begin at a moderate pace. First step: Turn on your backing track and simply listen. Listen for the key of the song being played, and the chords being used. After identifying these, listen to the groove of the song. Listen until you have a good idea of how the entire song flows, all its parts, and its generalized notes.
At this point, you’ll see there will be a general tonality to the song. For example, let’s say a song is primarily sitting around the E minor chord most of the time. It might move to another key briefly, but it always comes back home to Em. Em is going to be your first scale. Consider Em your home. Start thinking about the scales or notes you want to use that will blend into this Em sound. A suggestion of where to start is to use the pentatonic scale. So play the pentatonic scale in E minor. When you do this, don’t just impulsively go through the whole scale. This is important. Just play a few notes of it. You want to give yourself a lot of space. By this, we mean to play with longer notes and pauses. There are two reasons for this. The first being that it gives you time to think. If you start in right away, trying to play over a song without paying attention to its nuances, it will cause anxiety in your playing and it will actually take you away from the natural flow of the song. Feeling anxious and pressured to perform will only restrict and create an awkward situation. The second reason for allowing space is that if you’re moving more slowly, you’re better able to figure out the chord changes and rhythmic patterns in real time. This is key in any live performance you might find yourself in later. It will give you a more comfortable feeling, you’ll feel calmer, confident, and you can interact and enjoy the music with the other players. The whole point is to enjoy the music!
The next step after playing around with your first pentatonic scale when you’re just beginning is to play the root and thirds, or triads, of that chord progression. This will start to make you sound a little more melodic. Start slowly, with pauses. Ease into it. Once you know the notes that work with the song, you can start to put more feeling and soul into your solos and improvisations.
Please feel free to add to this! The video is still up on Kiko’s YouTube channel- Live #18. Go check it out