Chris Eldridge

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Angeline the Baker

Thoughts on Improvising

Hello All,

A consistent question that I have received since I started here and elsewhere is “how do I improvise?” The answer is both simple and complex. The simple and most to the essence answer is that you just start playing - going for it - mistakes and all and, if you become comfortable with that, you gain a fearlessness that people can feel and that is compelling. But there is another side to improvising: the learned, intellectual, practiced side. In this lesson we will talk about some things you can and should do that will deepen your learned but intuitive connection to the instrument.

There’s a lot of talking in this lesson and not a ton of playing, but it is my hope that through this discussion some useful ideas and practice techniques will be illuminated. Please let me know if you have any questions!





Topics and/or subjects covered in this lesson:

Print Print Chords & Tab

Loop 0:00 Run-Through of Angeline The Baker Chord Triads Across Strings


Download the Sheet Music PDF


Loop 2:09 Chris Eldridge's Thoughts on Improvising





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James Macklin
James Macklin Oct 21, 2018

This is not by any means a perfect take, but the overall goal was to keep the structure of the song in mind. It gets pretty blatant in the B part. Keeping the structure of the melody in mind is something I'm trying to focus on more. Otherwise I lose my place and fall apart.


Torgeir Jorem
Torgeir Jorem Oct 21, 2018

That's really cool! 

Kip Marchetti
Kip Marchetti Nov 03, 2018

James - very cool man.


Chris Eldridge
Chris Eldridge Nov 20, 2018

Yes James, exactly! This is great! I can hear the tune but I can also hear that you are stepping out of the well-worn tracks. Keep it up. The one thing that I would suggest is that you do this at a variety of tempos. Play it quickly like this sometimes, but also play it slow and give your lyrical intuition a little more chance to get involved. If you give it a chance to sing at slower tempos, you’ll learn good stuff that will stick with you at faster tempos. But this is good. 👏

Paul Oct 21, 2018

Great lesson!
Another new Collings guitar? This time a rosewood? Tell us more about it, please.

Roy Cotton
Roy Cotton Oct 20, 2018

Chris, thanks for this, maybe we can all break free after learning all the notes of any tune and move on , to the cool and fluid improvising you demonstrate here, unfortunately you make it look so very easy, Roy Cotton

Chris Eldridge
Chris Eldridge Nov 20, 2018

Hi Roy,

When it comes to improvising, there wasn’t ever any secret that I learned - I just enjoy losing myself in the sounds that come out of the guitar, whether they sound good or not.*

Of course, I’d always rather that they sound good. But, for this lesson in particular I just wanted to capture the vibe of being playful within what I know. In other words, I don’t think by any means that this intro is particularly great or musical, but it was honest and I was trying to use really simple devices to depart from the road map of the tune. And if I’m doing that, then the journey (i.e. exploring and going somewhere - that may or may not be good) becomes more important than the destination (playing something great). Which is the lesson that I want to impart. Through that practice** of improvisation, you learn to trust yourself more and more and not worry about when things didn’t go where you thought they would. From THERE you gain the ability to say more with less and you can imbue simple things with musicality. You can definitely do this too!


* I guess if there’s any secret, that may be it!

** Think of the word “practice” here more in the sese of a practice of meditation rather than, say, practicing drilling scales over and over. 

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