Saxophone Forum


by Saxdragon
(22 posts)
10 years ago

How can i learn to be a jazz player?

I've been learning to play sax since 1961. At this point in my life i can play blues, blues/rock, and R'n'B stuff fairly well. Many musicians I've performed with have told me I'm pretty good. The most prestigious stage I was evr on was BB King's in Times Square, so I'm not a total musical fool. But the truth is, I don't know what I'm doing. I feel always just on the verge of complete collapse, unless I'm playing the simplest sort of changes in the most comfortable key. I still remember the night I accepted an invitation to come up and sit in with a band that heard me playing with my regular guys. The called the tune - "Respect" - by Aretha. I knew I had no idea how to play that solo, but figured I'd come up with something. But they played it in a key that I was unfamiliar with. I fell flat on my face. I still have no idea what I played, but I left the stage as quickly as possible, cold sweat trickling down my neck. I admire jazz but it makes no sense to me whatsoever. I'm completely lost as soon as I try to jump in. Unless it's very rock or blues oriented, I can't handle it. The worst of it is...I have no idea about how to learn it. I listen to it and it just makes me feel intimidated. I feel like a sax player who can't do jazz changes is a fraud. Any advice...or thoughts...or suggestions...opinions...? Thanks

Reply To Post [Report Abuse]

Report Abuse

Replies

  1. by jamterry
    (573 posts)

    10 years ago

    Re: How can i learn to be a jazz player?

    test

    Reply To Post Yahoo! AIM ICQ


  2. by knorter
    (205 posts)

    10 years ago

    Re: How can i learn to be a jazz player?

    Saxdragon, I thought your email was the sign of a true musician. You have obviously reached a level of playing that is good but you are looking to make yourself better. You're right, jazz is a different animal. Although many tunes can be played by ear, in order to really be a proficient jazz musician you must learn how to play changes. When you perform the blues is it by ear or do think in terms of the chords? Playing by ear is a good skill to have but as you learned sometimes you get caught. One of the things I also admired about your story was that you had the humility to hear that you weren't "nailing" the changes on "Respect". That's the first step to learning changes. That may sound basic but you'd be surprised how many players I encounter that don't hear it when they play a note that clashes with the chord. My friend Brian and I used to call it "Shuckin' and Jivin'." You'll hear a player sound great as long as it stays in a certain key area but the minute that changes shift to something different you hear some scrambling. You have two issues at hand. The first is learning about chord progressions. Most jazz tunes have similarities in their progressions so if you learn these cliches then you build a foundation of knowledge that you can apply to most jazz standards. David Baker wrote a good book- I think it's called "How to Learn Changes". He basically took 20 jazz standards and broke them apart from a theory perspective. Then he explains the several aspects that each tune has in common with other jazz standards. That book you could get in the Aebersold catalog. But you don't need to buy a book you could learn these things on your own. The second aspect of playing jazz would be the language. This can only be learned by studying solos of jazz musicians. This is the same for the blues. I am more of a Staight Ahead Jazz player. If I sit in with a good blues band I can't play my usual stuff. It is inappropriate because it is a different language. Not better or worse just a different language. So you may want to consider studying a few bebop solos to start to develop a jazz vocabulary. Do you have a fake book with some jazz standards in it? I can help you with some of this stuff online.

    Reply To Post Yahoo! AIM ICQ


    1. by Saxdragon
      (22 posts)

      10 years ago

      Re: How can i learn to be a jazz player?

      Thanks for the kind words, knorter. It's a comfort to hear another player offer this kind of encouragement. I play almost entirely by ear. If you toldme to play an Fmaj scale, I'd have to pick my way through it slowly...but then I could use it to improvise. Usually, when I'm sitting in with some group, I turn away from the microphone and play a few lines to get the tone center, then I return to the mic to play. Even if the key is called, I'm really only guessing what to play. If it's in A,D,E, or C, it's usually not a problem. I fall into those keys easily. G is easy, too. You may notice that these are keys that are popular in rock and blues music. But I think you're right about the reference to jazz "language". When I listen to jazz, it sounds good to me, but I don't understand what's being said. It's like listening to someone speak Italian...very pretty, but meaningless to me. I've been meaning to buy a fake book for a long time. I guess now's as good a time as any. Any suggestions as to a particulartly good one?

      Reply To Post


      1. by barimachine
        (323 posts)

        10 years ago

        Re: How can i learn to be a jazz player?

        yea my teacher said he was like that...not for quite so long but he can still do it but they let him into a college he was so good at his audition, but he didnt know scales, when he went to study, everyone was shocked at how this kid got in he didnt know any scales really you may wanna seek a private teacher, dont feel since your older its weird, my teacher has plenty of older students one of which was the lead alto in the the navy blues band, which i found kinda cool also scales! scales! scales! some books would be the one already mentioned abersold vol.3 track 3 is a good warm up omnibook oliver nelson patterns for improvisation walt weiskopf's around the horn (that booked kicked my butt for months!)

        Reply To Post


      2. by knorter
        (205 posts)

        10 years ago

        Re: How can i learn to be a jazz player?

        There are so many fake books. The real book, any Jamey Aebersold Play-Alongs, if we are just talking about working on changes then there is a book called Pocket Changes which has just the changes but no melodies to hundreds of jazz standards. The thing I like most about this book is that the changes are correct. Some of the older fake books print wrong changes or interpret them in a wierd way so the musician has to decode them almost. What jazz musicians do you like to listen to? This will help for recommending certain fake books. Is there anyone in particular that you want to sound like?

        Reply To Post Yahoo! AIM ICQ


    2. by TeutonicKnights
      (3 posts)

      10 years ago

      Re: How can i learn to be a jazz player?

      Firstly if your a blues player, then you have all the raw material to be a jazz player.But as already stated by Knorter, they are diferent animals.The Teutonic knights recently observed little Richard on Tour with a very fine jazz saxophone player.Good player in the wrong band.No one has ever told him that in these situations flat9 and plus9 do not exsist.Any good blues sax player could blow him away and did in the support band.If you want to learn to be a jazz player,first of all you got to love it,dig it, big style above everything else.Once youve made that decision then playing jazz becomes easy. (The Bergonz lives)

      Reply To Post


      1. by Saxdragon
        (22 posts)

        10 years ago

        Re: How can i learn to be a jazz player?

        Yeah...loving it is the hard first step: It scares me...it's like trying to love a Goddess...too intimidating...too big...ineluctable and inscrutable. The players who impress me the most are the guys who work melodies into their improvisations. like Johnny Hodges, Coleman Hawkins, Cannonball Adderly. The other bunch that I feel closest to are the bluesy players, like Eddie Harris, Sonny Stitt, King Curtis, and Clarence Clemons, and flute player Herbie Mann. Grover Washington, The Brecker Brothers, tom Scott, David Sanborn, Hubert and Ronnie Laws all held my atention for quite a while. The guy who got me started was Wayne Shorter, because I was in a band that tried depserately to play like Weather Report. But all I was doing was playing chromatic runs and multiphonic squawks with no understanding of what was behind them. When I finally realized that he had so much behind what was up front...that's when i decided i had to get back to basics. That's when i got interested in the blues, and rock'n'roll sax players. I guess if I could pick a player to emulate it would be - hmmmm - maybe early Coltrane, before he went totally out of this world.

        Reply To Post


        1. by TeutonicKnights
          (3 posts)

          10 years ago

          Re: How can i learn to be a jazz player?

          ok, you have some great players here, probably the most influential player you mentioned here and one of the greatest improvisers of all time is Coltraine.So yes , great your on the right lines.Now if you wish to go for this style, it would be advisable to look at whats called straight a head playing first.Some players play this way only , some play a combination of the two and so on .Its not rocket science, but your next step is to decide on a plan, an introduction to style.This can change of course but you have to establish a track to run on .An understanding at least of staight a head playing must be looked at before embarking on the coltraine style.Coltraines style started by basically embellishing the basic progression. Also without working straight ahead first you will end up turning out simply emulating his work like thousands do and not getting anywhere.Our opinion is , from the people you have mentioned, only listen to the best ,no one else Sanbourn, laws, forget these totally.They have no place along side great players like Brecker, coltraine and Shorter.Remember always ,always work from the source.(The Bergonz Lives)

          Reply To Post


        2. by knorter
          (205 posts)

          10 years ago

          Re: How can i learn to be a jazz player?

          Saxdragon--Let's start with the basics. 1. Chords and scales: start with Major seventh chords they look like this CMA or CMA7 or even C with a triangle next to it. This means take the 1st, 3rd, 5th, and 7th note of a major scale. So a C major scale has C D E F G A B C--the C major chord would have C E G B. Look up major scales on the internet and see if you can print out a scale sheet of all 12 scales. Next spend some time becoming familiar with Major scales and chords. I like doing them together because the chords and scales reenforce each other. Let me know when you are ready for the next one. Sonny Stitt would be a great player for you to study. He is a great bebop player and still appeals to the blues side as well. Do you have any of his CD's?

          Reply To Post Yahoo! AIM ICQ


          1. by connsaxman_jim
            (2336 posts)

            10 years ago

            Re: How can i learn to be a jazz player?

            Very good advice Kristy. Saxdragon, what really helped me was also knowing piano and learning the chords on a piano keyboard. If you don't have a keyboard, I would suggest buying even an inexpensive keyboard like a Casio or a Yamaha. They are so valuable as a teaching tool. When you get to where you can easily find the scales on your keyboard, finding them on saxophone will be a breeze. Good Luck, and listen to Knorter. Great advice!

            Reply To Post Yahoo!