Rock'n Roll Saxophone
THE RULES AND HOW TO BREAK THEM
By Pete Thomas
Three - The Rules of Blues Scales
the same way that the “vertical” riff transposes along with the root of the
chord, a similar “rule” can apply to the use of blues scales when soloing.
I’m often a bit wary of using blues scales as very often a more melodic
approach is better, but they can be very useful as a means towards learning to
same minor blues scale can be used over an entire 12 bar progression. E.g. in
the key of C the minor (flattened) 3rd (Eb) is fine over the major 3rd
(E) of chord I – the C chord. The same Eb also fits over the IV chord as it is
the b7 of the F7.
However a major blues scale is best used when the root of the scale follows the root of the chord:<
Although the major 3rd of the C major blues scale is fine along with the major 3rd of the C chord, if the same scale was used over the F7, the E natural would sound very bad against the Eb of the F7 chord
b5th and b7th (“blue notes”) sound fine against the unflattened 3rd,
5th and 7th, but not vice versa.
To Play Rock and Roll Saxophone Solos
If you’ve read Joey The Saint’s excellent article, you’ll be aware of the jazz musician who calls blues “the wheelchair ramp of jazz”. This attitude is all too common among some jazz musicians who consider rock & roll or blues as beneath them, i.e. too “easy to play.”
a way, it is easy to just play some
jazz style solo over simple changes, but unless you have a feel for rock &
roll, it won’t be very good rock & roll. That’s not to say jazz
musicians can’t play rock or blues – a lot of early rock & roll
definitely had quite a jazz or swing feel -it just needs a slightly different
When I first started to learn rock & roll playing seriously, what struck me most was how players like Rudy Pompilli and Lee Allen could play just one note and somehow make it mean more than a thousand notes I could string together in a jazz solo. I can’t say what it is exactly – maybe a combination of rhythmic placement and subtle changes of tone and pitch. This is something you have to feel; it can’t be defined, let alone taught.
Analyzing a Rock & Roll Solo.
I’m now going to look at a classic solo by Lee Allen from the 50s and see how it can be analyzed using the techniques we have looked at so far. This is from the Little Richard’s song Slippin’ and Slidin’ , from the album, Here's Little Richard, Specialty label. (N.B: concert pitch).
As you can see this solo is constructed very logically with repeats and developments, melodic phrases and surprises - almost as if it is composed. (This was take 7 so he may have gradually honed the improvisation from take 1 into this very articulate and interesting solo). Of course Lee would not have been thinking about it the way it is analyzed here, it would just be a natural and almost subconscious process that comes naturally to a skilled and talented rock and roll soloist. But analyzing solos like this will help you to develop this talent. If you are a "natural" it may come quicker without so much theory, but for most of us learning this little bit of theory along with careful listening, transcription, and analysis is the best way to end up with a great rocking feel to your solos.
Part Two: The Rules of Riffing
STYLES: The Billboard Top 40 hits of the 1950s/60s
Pete Thomas is a leading UK music producer, saxophone recording musician and composer of film & television music. His comprehensive website provides many online saxophone lessons and jazz theory tutorials, with links at the top of each page to audio clips, videos, biography, tutorials and resources for any musician, saxophone player or producer of modern music.