Guitar Challenge (Improv) - 3, 2, 1 improvisations

Thought I’d give this 321 guitar improv challenge a go after @DavidP suggested it.

I mucked around a bit to find some licks that I thought might sound decent over the backing track, and then gave it a couple of goes. I used 120 BPM Funk Groove Jazz - Backing Track in Am D7 from @TheMadman_tobyjenner’s zip file in OneDrive.

As usual, honest feedback welcomed. I’m pretty new to bends, it was just last week I watched the lesson on doing them properly… so pretty sure they are out of tune :rofl:. Ending it is quite tricky when the rest of the band plays on, so I decided just to cut them off abruptedly (haha, you’ll see what I mean).


Good going, Jk. I liked the groove you had going, that drummer’s sense of rhythm serves you well. Plenty of grit and drive in the tone. Lots to like. As for the bends, beyond me to give you feedback on either technique or accuracy.

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Thanks for checking it out @DavidP - was definitely a lot of fun, and interesting how different backing tracks inspire different kinds of play.

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Pretty well done JK.
Very good start on the bends. Sure, some are a bit out out , but after only a week, you’re going very well with them I reckon. Good groove and tone too. Suited the track.

Cheers, Shane

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Thanks Shane. Glad you liked it. The track seemed to want a groove like that. The bends, yeah, I’ve been mucking around with them for ages but doing them wrong (one finger and not realising I should be hitting what note). So the lesson was a revelation.

Your bends though… I reckon they could be used to tune another guitar they’re so good :fire:

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A nice gliss in there in the early part. Getting some more into the bends would be a good step, as you say.

A general comment about these video challenge responses is almost no one, except 1 or 2 would play the A to D notes consecutively. A to C & C to D were dominantly used. The D bends were well represented.

So there’s 5 notes at play here if I understand correctly. A, C, D, Eb (semi tone bend) and E (full tone bend). The bend requirement means a more developed approach is required to get some variation. I think of it as 3 main notes with some bend variants.

So get some some 3rd finger rolls going, slide or gliss on any note, bend to E and land next on A. Triplet or other on A to D to C etc.

All of these ideas mixed, along with will expanding the rhythmic approach will go a long way.

Edit: C was G now fixed. Also, duads / double stops, trills …

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Brian, the original exercise was to use A C D notes plus the bending up to notes.

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right, subbed the C with a G, I’ll fix that.


Felt like there was some timing issues at the beginning but you straightened those out fairly quickly.
As for your bends it’s a good idea to know if your going to do a full tone or semi tone bend before you execute the bend. This will become second nature with a little practice.

Keeping it simple with some repetition was a good idea had kind of a Santana groove going on.

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Good choice of backing track JK, as Rick says it has a Santana vibe to it and I think your licks followed that feel and the tone helped that along and made that stand out. Certainly a good starting point and one to follow up with timing and bends etc, as previously mentioned. I’d suggest toying around with those 80 bpm tracks and giving yourself a little more time to assess the pitch of the bends, the slower pace will allow you to adjust the pitch before the tempo drives you on to new expression. But certainly a good foundation of which to build and a good exercise given the restricted fretting. Have fun !

Thanks for checking it out @bblak @stitch @TheMadman_tobyjenner

This exercise was loads of fun, I naturally went for more of a riff/rhythm guitar groove than a solo type melody just based on where I’m at.

@bblak It’s earlier in the thread but here is the video of the premise of 321 Chill, J.J. Cale style lead using just 3 fretted notes- Focus on dynamics instead of scales! - ML075 - YouTube. Give it a go and share it! From what I’ve read you’ve been playing for a long time so no doubt have some techniques in your repertoire to use.

@stitch Yep those timing issues are obvious listening back. That’s my amateur improv for you :wink:. If it made you think just a little of Santana I’m ecstatic with that… although I’d credit the backing track with 99% of that

@TheMadman_tobyjenner I’m still at the point with my bends where I’m doing the bend/check tone thing. Well I started it a few days ago, plug into the DAW with a note detector module up to check what I’m bending to. So early days, many months + years of bends required to get good at that!

Thanks for the watch and feedback guys.


I think you’re making a good start, JK. I’ve got no technique input as bends are not a strength of mine, but you might find sone input from Richard helpful, posted in a thread of David’s:

I found that to be a great idea for practicing bends. The riff doesn’t have a bend in it, but you can play a bend anyway instead of just the fretted note. The idea is to play the riff to hear the note, then play it with a bend and it’s easier to then hear what pitch you’re going for. You can play it all over the neck, too, not just from the starting SOTW note. I thought that was a good idea because bending at a lower fret is very different from bending at a higher fret (I found that to be true for me anyway).

Have fun playing :slightly_smiling_face:


Updated link: 321 challenge - YouTube
levels are low, pre-uploaded file was ok, went bad on volume and clipping. Jist is there.

321 Challenge

Ok I took the bait.
Travelling and learning to record so details below …

Time / notes:

I laid down an A-7 & D7 and played whatever presented but also tried to remember to use double stops and A to D (4th) consecutive notes as per my previous post.

10s double stops
24s finger roll lick
28s shifted position. Still same notes. This changes my approach / attack via phrasing that suits the position.
32s shifted position. Still same notes, only +octave.

Cheating?! Nope. Dynamic range using the limiting parameters of the challenge.

I watched the YT vid of the challenge and octave shifting was mentioned so ok by me. I also noted that the gent doing the video did not employ some of the approaches I did here, but that’s also the point - in my view.

Anchoring the index finger on the C note as a pivot point between the other notes uses 2 sides of a triangle. I’m filling in the 3rd side. I’m visual …


iPad Garage band via mic through AI. Sent to phone and played through boom box, recorded melody via mic & AI that ported through to record on the video.

Through the video ipad mic the backing chords through the boom box were much better, but the melody was muddled.



Can’t see the recording but I think you have missed the point of this exercise. Its only 3 fretted notes and the position does not change. You are restricted in notes and where you play them.


Hi, 1 position with 3 notes is demonstrated there for half, then expanded to other positions as per, Pls watch the end of the original challenge video for octave displacement using same 3 notes.

I’ll look into the link, first time YT posting so not sure what’s up with that yet.

Cheers, respect.

Just post the link right from youtube you don’t need to be logged into your google account


I was referring to the parameters of the original Challenge here, not the video it was drawn from, ie its harder to make it work under those 3 fret restrictions and not start wandering off all over the neck. But what ever floats your boat, knock yourself out.

Working now. Not to bad I don’t think moving up the octave breaks any rule. After all it imorove.

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Sounded great Brian.

I did think the idea with the exercise was to stay in one spot but hey, still sounded great.


thanks, I really just wanted to convey other options of note selection to expand things. Our fingers seem to gravitate to the easier more natural feeling movements and I have certainly done my share of that for a long time.

Vertical movement in playing, especially in pentatonics is something that I’ve seen several top notch jazz teachers talk about and I’ve been trying to incorporate it myself lately. It’s a nice fresh touch to an old familiar scale.

Perhaps my recording skills will improve soon too, I hope so!

Keep up your good work.

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