Saxophone Forum


by jazzplayer15
(27 posts)
8 years ago

Jazz Theory, help please!

I'm going to a Jazz Workshop in a week and I'm trying to figure out some Jazz theory stuff so I don't make a total fool out of myself. They're going to have me improv on a Bflat or F blues scale and I'm not really sure what those are. The blues scale I've been practicing is a G scale. Is it the same thing? I've been improvising to CDs all summer and I know what sounds good to my ear, but I don't know what scales I'm using. Does anyone have any tips or information? By the way I'm playing Alto Sax. Thanks for your help.

Reply To Post [Report Abuse]

Report Abuse

Replies

  1. by jazzplayer15
    (27 posts)

    8 years ago

    Re: Jazz Theory, help please!

    So I have another question. I can improvise to CDs and I know the scales to use against those CDs I can even hear the same thing that I hear with the CDs when I play with a band. I can hear notes that don't sound quite right with the background sounds. My family thought it was the CD when I improvised against the CD, is this something that will help me improve? Should I be hard core scales or will impovising with those CDs help me? Thanks for your input. jazzplayer

    Reply To Post


    1. by jamterry
      (573 posts)

      8 years ago

      Re: Jazz Theory, help please!

      Play with the CD's, It will tighten you up!!!! Best of luck with that. :) Learn everything that you can. Eventually you will retain what you like and discard what you don't like. Then you will develop your style of playing. Get on that stuff and nail it :) Terry

      Reply To Post Yahoo! AIM ICQ


  2. by knorter
    (205 posts)

    8 years ago

    Re: Jazz Theory, help please!

    You have to figure out the blues scale in each key. One of the ways to do this is to think of the key you are in and figure out these notes related to the key: 1, flat 3, 4, sharp 4, 5, flat 7, 1 so in your key of G the G blues scale has G Bb C C# D F G Most likely they are speaking concert key when they say Bb and F blues--read it closely to make sure. In that case you'll need to learn G and D blues on alto. You already know G so figure out D. For a jazz workshop I would really make sure you have all of your major scales memorized. Then I would learn mixolydian, and dorian as well in a few keys at least so you understand how to figure them out.

    Reply To Post Yahoo! AIM ICQ


    1. by jamterry
      (573 posts)

      8 years ago

      Re: Jazz Theory, help please!

      If you really want to play tasty, you need scales. diatonic modes, and vertical spelling. On you G blues scale, you can break the chords up. You could play F D B G , then Bb G E Db. The Db sounds niced in there. Then you could roll B G E D into your blues scales. This is just an example, as the possibilities are endless. On your blues scales there is a half step off the second note. In G you can bounce or slide off the Bb into B and this is blues cliche. Learn all you your blues scales for alto, and if you can, learn them for tenor too. All the best you :) Terry

      Reply To Post Yahoo! AIM ICQ


      1. by jamterry
        (573 posts)

        8 years ago

        Re: Jazz Theory, help please!

        I forgot to say this. If you hear one blues scale, you have heard them all. You can use trial and error to find the notes in any key. Once you get them, you have to get some feel to it. If you don't feel it. don't play it.

        Reply To Post Yahoo! AIM ICQ


        1. by kneejerk52
          (397 posts)

          8 years ago

          Re: Jazz Theory, help please!

          really pisses me off to hear all the correct scales filling in all the right places with NO feeling involved. to me THAT is faking it. if you can't hear it, if you can't tell if it sounds wrong forget it. all the scales in the world will not make you play well.

          Reply To Post


        2. by kneejerk52
          (397 posts)

          8 years ago

          Re: Jazz Theory, help please!

          didn't mean it that way. i just came from a very good club, that usually has great jazz. tonite there was a well know player and his "master class" from a local collage with him. i know these kids were playing things that were tech. correct, but none of it had anything to do with a melody whatever. most nites the place is very hard to get in. tonite empty and many left. playing totally disconnected from the song is not just hard to understand but as a previous post said it's not pleasant to listen to either. all i am saying is learn to listen and play the scales. yu know play a simple melody ever half step up and down the horn.

          Reply To Post


        3. by Sax Mom
          (964 posts)

          8 years ago

          Re: Jazz Theory, help please!

          That sure was a kneejerk reaction! For some of us, it helps to have the right notes first, so that we can learn to get the feel for the particular style of music. We need a foundation, before we can take off and fly. Please don't ridicule people who are trying to learn, and who learn by building on solid foundations.

          Reply To Post


        4. by The Insomniac Saxman
          (141 posts)

          8 years ago

          Re: Jazz Theory, help please!

          I agree that feeling and passion in playing are VERY important, and I understand where you are coming from. But the ear is something that needs to be developed, and hearing certain things isn't always inherent for everyone. Knowledge of theory is the great equalizer. I remember the first time I heard Mike Brecker when I was in high school . . . liked his sound, but didn't understand what he was playing, and at the time just didn't like it in general. Yet everyone I knew was raving about his playing. He was an acquired taste for me (in the manner that beer is an acquired taste for certain adults), and only after working on the proper material (scales, II-Vs) did I gain an appreciation of what he was doing. Nowadays, I LOVE Brecker's playing--went to a concert of his at USC about 6 years ago and sat with a number of sax players in the front row. We were like little girls at a rock concert!

          Reply To Post


        5. by MarkLavelle
          (300 posts)

          8 years ago

          Re: Jazz Theory, help please!

          '. . . liked his sound, but didn't understand what he was playing, and at the time just didn't like it in general.' I know I'm gonna get slagged for this, but in my opinion it ain't great if you have to understand the theory to like it! I'm *not* saying we musicians don't need theory, just that the audience shouldn't have to...

          Reply To Post


        6. by The Insomniac Saxman
          (141 posts)

          8 years ago

          Re: Jazz Theory, help please!

          Point well taken, and we are all entitled to our opinions . . . However, consider this: how many wonderful things in nature or life in general have you come to appreciate by the sheer process of exploring, studying, and finally understanding? There's beauty in everything, my friend, and the beautiful thing about music is that each person perceives it differently.

          Reply To Post


        7. by knorter
          (205 posts)

          8 years ago

          Re: Jazz Theory, help please!

          That's like saying we should only write books with small words and easy sentences that everyone can understand. We're talking about art. An artist should explore and create at their highest level. It may inspire some to learn more to appreciate the art, it may also cause some to react negatively but at least it causes a reaction. An artist shouldn't have to dumb down their art for the lowest common denominator. Some people appreciate Brecker and Coltrane without knowing anything about jazz. Any reaction is a good reaction.

          Reply To Post Yahoo! AIM ICQ


        8. by jamterry
          (573 posts)

          8 years ago

          Re: Jazz Theory, help please!

          If you want to explore, get out of the the tired blues bebop swing rut. You kids need to learn that stuff, but you adult players should learn new stuff. I write sentences in many languages and nobody makes fun of me. I go to asia and mexico where i jam in different genres. To all you young players: learn major,natural minor, harmonic minor, melodic minor, diminished scales. Learn diatonic modes , pentatonic and blues scales. Learn to to spell chords vertically and break them into arpeggios. You don't have to be like i'm a jazz player and i am the lead alto. You don't have to say what sax you play. I want to say something that Sonny Rollins told me , but i'll restrain myself. Lastly learn Bb and Eb licks on all this stuff. If you get that stuff nailed, you can tear it up. Do what it takes to learn that stuff. All the best to you :) Terry

          Reply To Post Yahoo! AIM ICQ


      2. by jazzplayer15
        (27 posts)

        8 years ago

        Re: Jazz Theory, help please!

        Thanks for all your help. I get the point of both opinions expressed. It'll help if I know the scales but if I'm not feeling it, it won't matter what crap I'm playing, it won't be interesting to listen to anyway. Thanks for the scale stuff, I tried it out today and it works. Thanks a ton. jazzplayer15

        Reply To Post


        1. by knorter
          (205 posts)

          8 years ago

          Re: Jazz Theory, help please!

          As long as we are discussing pet peeves here are a few of mine: 1. Players who learned one way and think that others have to do it that way--these people don't take into account the different learning abilities and backgrounds of others. In my opinion advice should be given as an option not an absolute truth. 2. Players who think theory will make them sound passionless--this is only because the player who sounds passionless hasn't learned the material well enough to use it in a more spontaneous way. They just need to digest the info more. Everyone sounds this way at one time or another. 3. Players who play by ear and think they sound good because they don't know enough about theory to know that they don't sound good. Playing by ear works just fine on easy tunes like the blues but to really learn how to improvise you have to study progressions, chords and scales. Anyone can mess around on a blues scale but it takes someone who has dedicated themselves to learning about music from it's core to sound good on every chord progression. By the way--holding high notes or playing really fast runs in difficult areas that you can't quite figure out doesn't fool those of us who have studied this music. Jazzplayer--use these scales like you use a dictionary. They define the sound of each chord that goes with them. It gives you a starting place. It is your job to make it sound like music by figuring out things that sound good to your ear. The scales are a guide to the notes that will work best for now. These are the notes that all the greats used. As your knowledge increases so will your ears. You will train them to hear the notes that all the masters used. For example the blues scale=a dominant chord everytime you see or hear a G7 then use your G blues scale and see if you like that sound. Try it also on G major chords. You find some of the blues scale notes don't sound as good held for a long duration of time on the major chord. Good Luck, Kristy

          Reply To Post Yahoo! AIM ICQ


          1. by Stiles B
            (101 posts)

            8 years ago

            Re: Jazz Theory, help please!

            Art and good taste are relative terms. I believe that some of the more seasoned posters on this site are probably referring to the somewhat mechanical and robotic solos that practice room chops hounds will play. And maybe some of the younger folks feel that the more melodic style of the OG's is outdated and irrelevant. I personally think that there should be a middle ground on what makes a decent solo. While praising Prez, Hawk, and Gordon, most of us older players (or people who are fond of that style) need to realize that time has marched on. Just as classical music was once just music and not classical, old school swing style jazz gave way to bebop-gave way to post bop-gave way to fusion (and let's not forget rock which really stirred the pot). Younger players also should try to incorporate melody as well as all the scales and arps they have learned so as not to have such a rigid approach to improvising as they think the swingers and boppers have. Anyway, I am prepared to hear it from both sides as I have surely pissed someone off.

            Reply To Post


            1. by jazzears
              (12 posts)

              8 years ago

              Re: Jazz Theory, help please!

              I just read this entire thread, and I don't think there's a single word of bad advice in it anywhere. Just different points of reference. I REALLY liked what knorter said, and I'll paraphrase: "Learn the material well enough to use it in a spontaneous way." That pretty well sums it up! If only I knew the material better. I'm working on it. I think that's good advice for everyone.

              Reply To Post


            2. by swingstreet
              (315 posts)

              8 years ago

              Re: Jazz Theory, help please!

              Learn your instrument, listen to everything, then play what appeals to you. I don't care how well a person has learned his horn, it would be impossible to play every style of music, new, old or otherwise. Play what you like best. There seems to be a consensus here that those of us who like an older style of jazz or other music are stuck in a time warp. While many modern players may have advanced harmonics, they have not necessarily advanced artistry. Miles Davis once stated that playing a ballad was the true test of a player's ability and artistry. When you play a ballad, you must have perfect control of your tone and technique. If you don't think so, listen to either Johnny Hodges playing Prelude To A Kiss on Ellington Indigos, or Benny Carter's solo on Blue Star from Further Definitions, and then tell me how many modern players can even come close to that kind of sound, technique and artistry. Playing has to be a combination of all three of these. One without the other makes it sound dull and flat. I listen to rock and blues music, but in most cases, while they have many sax parts, the music hasn't done anything to advance sax playing. It has given the horn exposure however. Anyway, whether it's new or old, just play what you enjoy playing.

              Reply To Post


            3. by swingstreet
              (315 posts)

              8 years ago

              Re: Jazz Theory, help please!

              By the way, something I meant to say in other posts but forgot. It seems to me that many players here either don't know about or have never done solfege. For those who don't know, it's the way that many musicians for many years in music conservatories used to learn to recognize the pitch of notes, and know scales and chords. It was ear training. My father went to a music conservatory in Europe, and solfege was taught for almost a year before he could pick up his instrument. By the time he began playing his instrument, he could learn faster, because he could already hear the notes, chords and scales. So in these supposedly stuffy classical conservatories, they learn how to train the ear to hear, and ultimately the mind hears. That is why Beethoven could still write great music when he was deaf. He could hear it in his inner ear. It wasn't just notes on a page, it wasn't just scales and chords. It was sound. Glorious sound. That is what music is. Anything else is crap.

              Reply To Post


            4. by The Insomniac Saxman
              (141 posts)

              8 years ago

              Re: Jazz Theory, help please!

              AMEN SWINGSTREET!!! Solfege will help you develop your ear. Your ear needs to connect with the FUNCTION of the notes to be able to express yourself better musically. It's something that I work on with any private student I take on--unfortunately so many aspiring players are looking for a quick fix, and don't realize that solfege takes some work. But once you are able to develop the ear in this way (and I use the Moveable Do with a La-based minor system), you will be FAR AHEAD of the competition. I use it every day, and I've been able to make quite a decent living as a musician.

              Reply To Post