Pop Improvisation Based On A Groove

Before starting this lesson I advise you read our Introduction To Improvisation and Your First Improvisation lessons first. You will also need a copy of This Free MP3 that is used as a backing track for this lesson. The content on this page will be similar to that in our similar lessons in the Rock, Funk and Reggae styles.

The intention of this lesson is to prepare you for an exam situation where you will have a short amount of time to prepare an appropriate part based on the specific criteria given. However, this lesson will also be helpful for general part construction.

Note: The backing track starts with a two bar quarter not count in.

In this improvisation exercise you will be presented with a four bar pattern similar to that given in our improvisation introduction and I will be discussing how to approach creating a part for it. The main difference here is that you will be asked to play in the Pop genre. Here is the notation for this exercise:

The sheet music for the exercise

This kind of improvisation exercise is a little easier than those that give you a rhythm as a starting point as you don't need to spend time working out a groove. I will talk through some ideas for constructing a part for this piece on this page and most ideas presented will be very similar to those discussed in the lessons linked above. First of all scan the four bar sheet music and make sure you understand everything. The piece is in 4/4, as indicated by the time signature. It is at a tempo of 105bpm and is in a pop style. Bar 1 is the groove for the piece, bars 2 and 3 that have the 'cont. sim.' mark are telling you to play a similar part and bar 4 is a fill.

First of all make sure you can play the groove. It is a Four On The Floor style pattern with a decorative Open Hi Hat at the end of the bar.

As discussed in the previous lesson, I recommend following an 'A B A C' structure for these four bar improvisations. Have a read through the linked lesson if you are unsure what this means, a recap is also given in the First Improvisation Lesson. With this structure the given groove will be the 'A' part and that will be played in bars 1 and 3. So you need a 'B' part next.

For the 'B' section it is best to play a slight variation on the 'A' part. A list of ideas for this were given in the previous improvisation lesson so on this page I am going to focus on ideas that are a bit more specific to pop. Pop grooves can be quite similar to rock and funk but are generally a little simpler. There will be a lot of repetition and the main goal is to keep a steady beat without interfering with the melody. Some ideas for creating a variation in the pop style are listed below.

  • Add additional open hi hats.
  • Add some rests.
  • Add some tom notes.
  • Copy something from the backing track.

Listed below are some options for the 'B' section relating to the given groove that use the ideas presented above:

Four options for the B section

Finally we need a 'C' section, which will be the bar marked 'fill' in the sheet music. There are a variety of options here but something appropriate to the pop style would be simple eighth note rolls. The fill could be any length so go with a pattern you are comfortable with. As I said in the previous lesson, a simple idea played really well is always far better than a great idea played badly. A second variation on the groove will also work very nicely in pop. Below are four possible options for a 'C' section.

Four options for the 'C' section

Hopefully you can now improvise a four bar piece in the pop style when a groove is given as a starting point. As before, I'll finish this lesson by giving you two examples of full parts that could work with this exercise.

Full Phrase 1

A full four bar phrase for this improvisation

Full Phrase 2

A full four bar phrase for this improvisation


  1. Create your own part for the improvisation exercise presented at the start of this lesson.
  2. Play your part to the backing track and see if you think it fits well.
  3. Think about different ways you could approach this exercise.

Up Next

I recomend covering our 8 Bar Pop Groove Based Improvisation lesson next.


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