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I'm a tenor saxophone player and I'm pretty good when it comes to improvisation, but however when the chord changes come into play, not so much. I do believe it is because I haven't grown accustom to counting until the chord changes then switching while thinking up something to make the audience go "oh." Anything would be greatly appreciated for I love improvisation and this would only help further my career as a musician.
 

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The key is to get to know the melody of whatever tune you're playing in whichever tempo and meter so well, that it becomes second nature. This is accomplished through ear training and scale practice. Each tune can be played in a different style though, and therefore requires a unique approach in each setting.
 

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I think this is a common struggle that most improvisers have to overcome. Try to listen and identify when the chords are changing. If your rhythm section is any good, you might find that you can "feel" when the tune is going to change chords.... Of course none of this matters unless you practice. Practice makes better.
 

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I honestly think that when a song has chord changes it is easier to keep your place. The key is to really learn the changes and hear them. I mean really hear them. Know what each chord sounds like. A good way to start is to practice just hitting the roots of each chord mine the one and then root third and then root third fith then root third fith seventh.
 

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I'm a tenor saxophone player and I'm pretty good when it comes to improvisation, but however when the chord changes come into play, not so much.
That's a contradictory statement if ever I read one.
 

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I don't even try to count the measures. Hell, I can't even keep count during long rests. I pay close attention to the rhythm section so that I'm aware of where I am within the chord progression. When I hear it resolving back to the 1 I know it's either time to wrap it up or else get ready to take another chorus. It helps to be familiar with the form of the tune. Is it ABA, AABA, etc.? You can hear the progression change when it moves from the head to the bridge and if you're really familiar with the tune you know when it's about to move back to the head. If it's a 12 bar blues you know there's a 4 bar turnaround d at the end of every chorus and it's very prominent. The turnaround is there to lead you back to the beginning of the progression. You don't have to actually count the 4 bars. If you're listening you'll know when exactly when you hit the repeat.
 

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I'm a tenor saxophone player and I'm pretty good when it comes to improvisation, but however when the chord changes come into play, not so much. I do believe it is because I haven't grown accustom to counting until the chord changes then switching while thinking up something to make the audience go "oh." Anything would be greatly appreciated for I love improvisation and this would only help further my career as a musician.
I understand what you are saying and I, (plus one), +1 and more, to thedarbstar, in that if you know the melody, REALLY WELL IN ALL KEYS, then you memorize the changes, you will be off on our journey tom improv. My .02 worth.
 

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An afterthought: Almost all tunes follow a structure which is usually in four or 8 bar phrases. Learn to feel these phrases and you will be able to structure your solos much better.
 

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Don't be afraid to say to the drummer before a gig;"Hey, I have trouble getting out of solos, can you cue me on the 4s & 8s?" Most guys genuinely appreciate this & will give you that extra effort to help you know where you are. Don't be ashamed of doing this, it allows you to get emotionally & technically deeper into the solo without so much fear of losing the form.
 

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At the risk of being redundant with the other posters to this thread, I will suggest that the art of improvising requires more practice and preparation than performing notated music.

So, if you've put in enough hours playing through, studying as needed, and listening to a given tune, there shouldn't be any reason to count. By this point, you will have the essence of the song internalized and should be able to keep your place comfortably. And, hopefully you can say the same for your rhythm section. :)

best of luck!
~ Rick
 

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I take it that you're posting tongue-in-cheek, Mark.
 

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Listen to your rhythm section. Put in the time with your group so you have the chords in your head an under your fingers and the timing will come.
 

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There are multiple ways to answer this question, but the heart of it all boils down to phrasing. You have to learn how to feel groups of 2 and 4 bar phrases. 95% of music breaks down into 2 or 4 bar phrases. When you begin studying a tune and internalizing the melody (a must), you can also analyze it's phrase structure. Practice the phrases individually. THEN practice improvising over that phrase over and over and over, until you have internalized what it feels like. Then go to the next phrase and repeat the same process. Once you complete those 2 phrases and feel comfortable, you put them together and practice it that way. Making sure to play the melody over the 2 phrases and then improvise. Switch between the 2...melody, improv, melody, improv and so forth. Then go onto the 3rd phrase and then the 4th. then chain them together and then chain all 4 together.

When you first start chaining your phrases together to improvise over them, be very diligent to utilize ideas that begin and end within each phrase. In other words, don't play over the bar lines, use any asymmetrical phrasing and or meander around. Be very specific and precise. When you have a Handel on it and feel the phrases easily you can work on the extra stuff:)

This is a long process and will take you anywhere from a week to a month to do it correctly, but in the end you will truly know the tune and you will never get lost again.

Of course ear training and other things are a definite must too, but the above method will really get you into the song intimately and that's what you want.

***What every you do, DON'T ever rely on a rhythm section to keep your place. EVER. Of course even the best turn themselves around and have to take a second to hear where they are, but that is a completely different thing than relying on the RS to keep your place.***
 

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QUOTE=SimonJazzSax;2326968] ***What every you do, DON'T ever rely on a rhythm section to keep your place. EVER. ***[/QUOTE]

The above is great, great advice & preparation… however… if you advance at all in your jazz performance invitations it is extremely likely that you will be called upon to perform with people you have never met, in venues you've never been to, and playing songs you've never heard. When one considers the huge amount of material associated with jazz music, this is inevitable. When the Band Leader points at you for a solo, it's "Go Time" in these situations it is completely acceptable, desirable and common practice for all players to assist one another in creating spontaneous musical art. Good rhythm sections will send you cues as a matter of fine craftsmanship, it is a compliment for you to acknowledge their contributions & your need of them. Our art form often doesn't conveniently arrive in 8 or 12 bar form. It quite often has weird bridge sections, in-depth time signatures and invariably will throw you into difficult keys, especially if a vocalist is involved.
 

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That's a contradictory statement if ever I read one.
ROFL. Yep

If you don't instinctively know when the changes coming, you don't know the piece well and any improvisation will not be fluid and entrained.

When I solo I try and put all my energy into listening to what is going on around me....not to what I am playing.....if I think about my playing I suck....I sound like I am thinking......not feeling...The exception to that is playing with a really skilled rhythm section where if you listen the changes become apparent from what they play. It may take a chorus or two if the song has odd changes.

Thinking is for the woodshed


Keepin mind the music is in the spaces between the notes
 

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One I get at the university all the time:

"I am really good at Math...except for word problems. Not good at those."

Translation: NOT good at MATH.

"Liking" to do improvised noodling (just plain fun!) and actually having a really good handle on it (HARD WORK required here!) are not at all the same thing.
 
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