Saxophone Altissimo Systems and Your Hidden Second Octave Key

Posted by on Jun 4, 2015 in Practice Tips, Sax

squawk

Learning to play in the altissimo (extreme upper) range of the saxophone requires patience, mostly on the part of the player, but also for whatever unlucky souls are forced to listen to your squawking. Progressing from squeaks to music is a process, but there are basic principles that should be isolated if you want to learn to control this demanding range of the …read more

Highnote App: 1-tap key and tempo change, on the fly

Posted by on Apr 19, 2015 in Improvisation, Practice Tips

highnote_screenshot

In the past, I’ve used various pieces of software to alter the tempos and keys of recordings. Whether I want to slow something down to more easily transcribe a passage, or work on playing in different keys, the process involves (1) uploading said track so some program (i.e. Audacity, SlowGold, etc.), (2) finding the …read more

Experimenting with Melody, Harmony, & Rhythm

Posted by on Mar 26, 2015 in Harmony, Improvisation, Practice Tips, Rhythm

“…it’s so hard to describe music other than the basic way to describe it – music is basically melody, harmony and rhythm – but I mean people can do much more with music than that. It can be very descriptive in all kinds of ways…”

~Charlie Parker from an interview conducted by Paul Desmond (1954)

The more I ponder Bird’s fundamental decomposition of music, the more I discover how aptly anything musical can be described by its harmony, melody, and rhythm. There’s still that lingering, intangible “much more,” the part that gives music meaning. But let’s save the “much more” for another post…

As improvisers, we …read more

3 iPhone Apps That Improve Your Groove & Intonation

Posted by on Feb 19, 2015 in Practice Tips, Rhythm

As some of you may be aware, my day job is in mobile app software development. So, when I come across useful, intuitive apps that actually help me solve real problems that I face as a musician, I get really excited!

I’ve been using Pitch Primer and Time Guru with some regularity for over a year now. I recently also came across Double Time, and let’s just say it’s revealing …read more

An Improviser’s Tour de Fourths

Posted by on Feb 12, 2015 in Harmony, Improvisation, Practice Tips, Theory

4-slice-sandy

Back in the late 60’s and 70’s, fourths were the hippest thing since sliced bread. Jazz entered the age of treble-heavy bass and electric fusion, and musicians were overlaying fresh-sounding (at the time) intervallic fourth patterns over all sorts of funky modal groove tunes.

But fourths are so much more than just a few licks to plug in. Let’s explore the harmonic and intervallic possibilities the …read more

300 Tunes to Know: Prioritized, Categorized, and Organized

Posted by on Jan 16, 2015 in Improvisation, Practice Tips

Tune Tracker

Tunes are our shared language. One of the most beautiful and unifying aspects of jazz is this common musical familiarity that enables any group of seasoned musicians to get together and immediately start making music. I’ll cover the pros and cons of learning tunes as well as the right approach to building a solid base of tunes in your arsenal. At the end I give …read more

A Transcriber’s Evolution: Your Routine Should Grow With You

Posted by on Dec 31, 2014 in Improvisation, Practice Tips, Theory, Transcription

evolve

In case you didn’t already notice, this is a blog, thus I’m going to try to use an infographic to communicate an idea. Read below the graphic for more information.

 

As a saxophone player I’ve transcribed many, many saxophone solos. When you’re starting to learn jazz, transcription is …read more

Practice Ideas, Not Just Licks

Posted by on Oct 29, 2014 in Improvisation, Practice Tips, Theory

vocab-card

I’ve been obsessed with harmony lately. Those of you who read my last analytical post on harmonic discipline might have guessed as much (yes, I still owe a follow-up to that post, and it’s coming soon!).  Specifically, I’ve been experimenting with ways to expand my harmonic vocabulary.

 

Transcription: a place to start

You know those points in a solo where one of your idols plays …read more

5 Steps to Finding Your Sound Through Imitation

Posted by on May 11, 2014 in Improvisation, Inspiration, Practice Tips, Sax

copy_cat

When you hear John Coltrane, you immediately know it’s Trane. It’s not the notes he’s playing or his dazzling technique that makes him sound uniquely like himself. It’s his sound. Every jazz musician, at some point, ventures into the abyss in search of their own, unique sound. Your sound is what makes you, well, you. But where do you start?

Let’s begin by …read more

Playing the Changes: It’s what separates the men from the boys.

Posted by on Apr 22, 2014 in Harmony, Improvisation, Practice Tips

mustachio-boy

Jazz improvisation is inherently subjective. What makes one solo “better” than any other is often a matter of taste, a preference for a given style. But while articulation, swing feel, and phrasing vary wildly from one great player to the next, every noteworthy improviser is able to effortlessly demonstrate a …read more