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Discussion Starter #1
I'm a sax beginner, and my teacher is currently trying to teach me to pick the right scales to improvise over a tune. In the lesson I played Blues scales over a simple 12 bar blues backing track he had, but at the end of the lesson he told me to go away and practice with Freddie Freeloader using my Aebersold CD for backing. Here's the thing, the blues scale sounded great against the 12 bar blues track when I was with my teacher, but it sounds terrible (really awful) when I try it against Freddie Freeloader at home (eg when the bar is C7 I'm told to improvise using the Blues scale in C, etc). Is it me or the scale? What am I doing wrong?

I'd really appreciate some simple pointers because it's driving me nuts! :(
 

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- was the blues scale you used in the lesson in the same key as on your Freddie/Aebersold recording?

- are you using one blues scale in the tonic key for the entire 12 bars or are you using a different scale for each chord?

- I don't have the Aebersold to refer to. How many chords are in the play-along background?
 

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Rick

Check that you are playing the Bb/Eb (depending on your horn) score. You may be playing off the concert score.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Hi guys, in answer to your questions:

I play a tenor and I'm definitely using the Bb score.

The purpose of the exercise is to get me playing different scales within the same piece, as up until now I have just played one scale over the whole thing.

The progression (for Bb instruments) is:

C7 C7 C7 C7 F7 F7 C7 C7 G7 F7 C7 C7

What I am playing is

When C7 - C Blues scale - C, D#, F, F#, G, A#
When F7 - F Blues scale - F, G#, A#, B, C, D#
When G7 - G Blues scale - G, A#, C, C#, D, F

If I play the C, F and G dominant 7th scales it sounds fine. If I play the C, F and G Blues scales it sounds completely dissonant, just wrong.
 

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I'm waiting with bait on my breath for this one. I must be sleep-walking, because I don't see a conflict. What am I overlooking?
 

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I would use the C Blues scale on all chords. I would use the Dominant 7 (Mixolydian mode) scales on the F and G chords. The F Blues Scale doesn't really work well on the IV because you have chord tones of F-A-C-Eb and it's dissonent with the F Blues scale - F, G#, A#, B, C, D#, Same with the V chord and a G Blues scale. Remember that the tonal center is always C or goes back to C. There is also a Bb7 chord in the song which calls for a Bb Dominant 7 scale.;)
Go here for more blues lessons http://www.kingperkoff.com/lessons.htm
 

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Discussion Starter #7
gary said:
What am I overlooking?
My playing ability? :) I sounded fine over the blues backing during the lesson, but over the Freddie Freeloader backing it just sounds plain wrong. Every note is wince making. Maybe my sax has got out of tune... ;)

kingperkoff said:
I would use the C Blues scale on all chords. I would use the Dominant 7 (Mixolydian mode) scales on the F and G chords. The F Blues Scale doesn't really work well on the IV because you have chord tones of F-A-C-Eb and it's dissonent with the F Blues scale
I was originally playing the C Dominant 7 scale over the whole thing and that did indeed sound fine. I'll try what you suggest.

i
kingperkoff said:
there is also a Bb7 chord in the song which calls for a Bb Dominant 7 scale.
yeah, I re-position my reed over that bar :)

Thanks both of you, I'll try again this evening and report back
 

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This is a curly one. :) Both Gary and Ben are right of course. The blues scales will work but as Ben suggests you have some resolutions to deal with. It's my guess that you've perhaps grown accustomed to justplaying blues licks over a 12 bar and are struggling to resolve your lines and lead into the changes.
AsI said, I'm only guessing here but it is a very common hurdle for many players.
If you think this might be a problem and would like to still use your blues scales, pm me and I can post you a BIAB lesson that uses Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson's solo on "Kidney Stew" to illustrate leading into the chords and using a combination of Chord tones as well as the blues scale. It's a very simple but effective solo to learn and play but it does a remarkable job of showing how to land on your feet with chord tones and still use the blue notes for colour.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Yes I'd love that. PM sent!
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Right...

So what I found was that I ended playing the C7 scale pretty much all the way through, but also playing B over the G7 chord.

So now it sounds fine again, but that kind of defeats the object of the exercise, which was to get used to playing different scales as the chords change. Perhaps my teacher picked a poor tune to get me to practice on. :)

I'm looking forward to Wodger's lesson, perhaps that will make more sense and I'll take a look at Kingperkoff's resources too.

Thanks guys, I don't know what I'd do without sotw! :)
 

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Rick, Kingperkoff has it exactly right. When using the blues scale, you want to use the one that is based on the tonic (in this case, the C blues scale) and you can use it over all the dominant chords in a blues. That's the beauty of it, but eventually you'll want to resist the temptation to use only the blues scale.

You said you used the C7 dominant scale throughout, but that doesn't work over the F7 and G7 chords. If you are using dominant chords/scales, you need to change to F7 dom and G7 dom, respectively. That will help outline the harmony and get you used to playing different scales. You can also throw in the blues scale (based on the tonic!) into the mix. For example, play off the blues scale for one chorus or only over G7, etc.

One thing to keep in mind though: You don't want to just be playing scales. Look for riffs and melodic fragments. Of course, as an exercise, it's fine to play the scales. Also play just the chord tones for each respective chord.

There's lots more to this, of course. Check out the SOTW Rock & Roll/Blues resource that Neil Sharpe put together. I have a couple of articles there along with Pete Thomas, John Laughter, and Joey "the Saint."
 

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Rick Adams said:
My playing ability? :) I sounded fine over the blues backing during the lesson, but over the Freddie Freeloader backing it just sounds plain wrong. Every note is wince making. Maybe my sax has got out of tune... ;)
If it makes you wince ???
If it sounds plain wrong ??
If your sax sounds out of tune ???

Well, then there is your answer.
Play what your ear is telling you.
You have a play-a-long CD, so the band is not going to get grumpy
if you experiment a bit.

When you hear a note that to you doesn't sound nice, slide up or
down one semi-tone to resolve to a much better choice.

Also some notes take a bit of getting used to.

Example :
One time I did a recording with a Big Band. I played a solo in one tune.
While I was doing this, I played a note that I had not intended to.
Right at that time, I felt that 'wince' experience.

After the tune finished, I wanted to go right back in there and redo
the solo. However, upon listening back, that note was the 'sweetest,
bluesiest' note in the entire solo.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
This is great, thanks guys I'm taking a big step forwards. A lot of this was just stupidity on my part!

so...

Having practiced some more, the C Blues scale is now finally beginning to make sense. I am finding that not all of the notes in the scale sound right all of the time, so I now need to learn which notes sound good at which moment, which is what was causing the problem before. Is there a rule about this?

Additionally, I am now playing the C7, F7 and G7 scales where appropriate and that is sounding fine too, so I have C Blues and the dominant 7 scales to choose from!

This has been really useful, thanks to you guys - :banghead: has turned into :D - the virtual drinks are on me!

(Incidentally, I didn’t mean I was literally slurring up and down a scale like in scale practice, I meant I was improvising riffs, phrases and melodies by selecting combinations of notes from scales as appropriate, but I didn't know how to say that, so I just said "playing the scale")
 

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Rick, if you do a search you will find that this subject,
ie. what to play over a blues, where to use the blues scale etc.,
has been discussed many times in the past.

Also, once you get a bit more familiar, try and forget all about scales and let
your ear lead you. That's really how you should approach a blues.
 

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Discussion Starter #15 (Edited)
Kavala,

Thanks and yes I'm making lotys of use of those resources - hey're great! The purpose of this thread though was to gain some very specific help to understand what I was doing wrong with an exercise my teacher had set me to do. I got that help and I'm delighted. I think it was completely appropriate to post the thread because I was well and truly stuck and confused with the task I'd been set (with good reason as it turns out) and I am very grateful for the help I've received in fathoming it out.

This was posted in the Beginner's forum. As a beginner this is exactly the sort of help I need.

Incidentally, the purpose of the lesson was not to play the blues, it was an exercise to learn to play different scales over changes and the track happened to be a blues track.

Finally, your point about "getting used to" some of the notes was absolutely correct re the Blues scale. Some of my problem was how I was hearing as well as what I was playing. Anyway, it all sounds a lot better now and I cannot wait for tonight to practice again!

Once again, thanks all :)
 

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Rick Adams said:
Incidentally, the purpose of the lesson was not to play the blues, it was an exercise to learn to play different scales over changes and the track happened to be a blues track.
Rick - you can't 'not play the blues' over a blues!! If your ear is searching for the notes/phrases that sound right over a blues progression then you are learning to play the blues. You are just experimenting with different approaches. And don't wimp out on the Bb7!

Wodger - can you send that Vinson solo as a PDF?
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Thanks doc and heh, heh I would agree! I phrased that sentence badly. I was trying to say that I needed some very specific advice about why three scales given to me by my teacher to play weren't working for me and that this is why
if you do a search you will find that this subject,
ie. what to play over a blues, where to use the blues scale etc.,
has been discussed many times in the past.
was not my preferred route to getting the answer. I hope this makes sense now.

Now I know the answer and regrettably it might be necessary to change my teacher, which is sad because he's a nice guy and I've only just found him.

Does anyone here do online/email lessons? (I'll do a Search in a minute, but if anyone has recommendations then I'll be glad to learn them)

Your point on the Bb7 is duly noted and indeed I will incorporate it. For me it's a case of one thing at a time, then add a little more. All I can say is, it's definitely coming, and in no small part due to all you guys helping out!
 

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On C7 I prefer the A Blues scale with and added Bb-CDEbEGABb
On F7 the D Blues scale with an added Eb-FGG#ACDEb
On G7 an E blues scale with an added F-GABbBDEF

To me this outlines the dominant sound clearly. I strted all of these on the roots of the chords. Even though you use the A blues scale on a C7 A isn't a power chord tone it likes to resolve to G or up to Bb. Try it.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Cool, thanks a lot, I will play with that and let you know what happens :)

I know I keep saying this, but sotw is so useful - I've bought a wonderful Freddie Gregory mouthpiece from 10mfan, Steve Howard has sorted out my toneholes, I've learned loads and loads from reading the threads and resources and now I'm getting a masterclass from all you guys.

Money couldn't buy what's available here!
 

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If you are a real beginner like I sense you are, I would try not to get bogged down with too many notes and theory.
Take the C blues scale and really get it under your fingers until you can really hear what each note is doing- eg the b5 ( Gb ) will usually sound dissonant if its not played as a passing note or resolved up to the G or down to the F.

Have some fun with the blues scale over a blues, play it for weeks if you have to.
 
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