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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
When you go to develop and expand your vocabulary, is it more than just listening to the masters and building off of what they are doing? If there is more to it than that, please, let me know!
 

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Since I'm usually the odd one out on this topic mind as well start so that you can see several differing viewpoints that are likely to follow.

Vocabulary can be a metaphor for music that you (at least) know/hear, or more likely how you play. It's often used in the context of a specific style's regularly used patterns. It's pretty easy to hear the vocabulary differences between blues, mainstream, and smooth jazz. The mainstream academics would like you to think that there is only one means of learning the sax and "vocabulary", theirs. If you haven't got a clue about music and not much talent then the academic approach may be the best means (if you like that style of music). It's a fairly straight forward rigorous program that uses the term "theory" outside of the general meaning of music theory (which is about harmony, counterpoint etc.).

The Theory taught in mainstream is a retrospective analysis of what various players did(mostly from the 1950-60s) in playing variations to specific chord changes so that you can copy them. This is also incorporated into "vocabulary". It's the style of syncopation, naming of all the chords and modes you might play, when and how to play them, copying someone famous' style etc. Never mind that those players (from the 50s-60s) didn't copy what players in 1910 were playing and instead moved ahead, devised and evolved. Mainstream academic proponents like to forget that or have pet phrases like : "you have to know the history"... unfortunately they leave off the rest of the more profound part of this quote "So you don't have to repeat it". So vocabulary to a mainstream player is an orthodoxy that presumes everybody wants to play standards and in that style. It's possible to go beyond and become creative, but if you look around you will see that few actually do. They seem to remain stuck playing standards in just that style.

Defining and limiting vocabulary or any other aspect of playing this instrument to some period 50 to 60 years ago has not done the majority of players much good in terms of employment (except in teaching the same orthodoxy). But lets be fair here. if you have a burning desire to play in that style and don't care about having any professional prospects, then make that choice. Everybody should be free to play what they want. Freedom to succeed can more than be matched by freedom to fail, especially in a game as tough as music.

You can also step completely outside the limited concept of there being one orthodox Sax vocabulary and embrace everything that interests you musically. Everything you listen to, absorb and learn to play can be vocabulary. That can include many of today's more popular styles as well as all the world's ethnic music. The sax is used very effectively and professionally in many ethnic styles with total integrity. Those cultures included most of the Middle East, India, The Balkans, all over Africa, and Latin America. There is no ONE vocabulary unless you decide to limit yourself, and even then it's just the one for you.

It's up to you. You can look backwards, sideways, within your own culture, at others cultures, mix and match, or try to crystal ball the future. Every riff you repeat, or pattern you want to incorporate in your playing becomes your vocabulary. If you are talented (and work hard enough to become one with your instrument) then maybe you can repeat or imitate other styles directly as you hear them or from memory, in which case vocabulary is only a matter of having lots of musical inputs/memories. The patters and style you choose to play can also change (if you are so inclined) which in the same metaphor could be seen as speaking other languages/vocabulary.

From my (biased) perspective there is a seek and absorb element to vocabulary that has no affinity with orthodoxy. Unfortunately I think you will find that over 90% of sax players and probably a higher % of teachers in the USA, Australia and New Zealand are blinkered and unable to consider anything outside mainstream teaching or playing.

Good luck.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thank you very much for your insightful post Wade, it was a big help. I want to be a jazzer, and more specifically a hard bopper/soul jazzer. I do, however, want to be good at everything, but be excellent at hard bop and soul jazz. What are the essential records that I should be listening to so I can begin to assimilate that sort of style into my own playing?
 

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This is an interesting question. You know what style you want but haven't heard anything you like? I'm not an expert in those genres and have no idea who would be best today, or from the past. Gary would be a good one to ask.
 

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My very pragmatic approach, nothing special actually: I try to mimic the phrasing, articulation, rhythmic placement of those styles/musicians I'd like to "integrate" in my playing. I do it by listening, and it represents an important part and will be very effective for most listeners. E.g.: play Petite Fleur on soprano "your way", and play it "like Bechet". The "Bechet" version will very likely have a better welcome. Because it includes Bechet's vocabulary.
The trickiest part is to pick the phrases and patterns in relation with the chord changes, and to "reverse engineer" how the musician builds his solos. This will start to give you a handle on how to build your impros, using those pieces and bits. This is where a very "industrial" approach can be used. Pick a phrase, find-out where it fits harmonically (typically II-V-I), how to place it, and then learn it in all keys. To be honest, I'm not always pushing it that far, but this is one of the approaches which has probably been overused. Much of the over-coltranization or over-breckerization of modern jazz soloing was probably achieved that way. You can find books full of patterns, like a catalogue of building materials selling bricks, windows, stairs, tiles. I remember working with a Cannonball Style analysis with all the Cannonball bricks.
I agree with Wade's analysis. The question of the orthodoxy also applies to the audience (see my Petite Fleur example). Nevertheless, we learn to speak with our parents and peers...
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
This is an interesting question. You know what style you want but haven't heard anything you like? I'm not an expert in those genres and have no idea who would be best today, or from the past. Gary would be a good one to ask.
I should have elaborated. I have artists that I like - I'm just after a lot that are worth checking out. I've found a list on allmusic, so that's probably a good place to start.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
My very pragmatic approach, nothing special actually: I try to mimic the phrasing, articulation, rhythmic placement of those styles/musicians I'd like to "integrate" in my playing. I do it by listening, and it represents an important part and will be very effective for most listeners. E.g.: play Petite Fleur on soprano "your way", and play it "like Bechet". The "Bechet" version will very likely have a better welcome. Because it includes Bechet's vocabulary.
The trickiest part is to pick the phrases and patterns in relation with the chord changes, and to "reverse engineer" how the musician builds his solos. This will start to give you a handle on how to build your impros, using those pieces and bits. This is where a very "industrial" approach can be used. Pick a phrase, find-out where it fits harmonically (typically II-V-I), how to place it, and then learn it in all keys. To be honest, I'm not always pushing it that far, but this is one of the approaches which has probably been overused. Much of the over-coltranization or over-breckerization of modern jazz soloing was probably achieved that way. You can find books full of patterns, like a catalogue of building materials selling bricks, windows, stairs, tiles. I remember working with a Cannonball Style analysis with all the Cannonball bricks.
I agree with Wade's analysis. The question of the orthodoxy also applies to the audience (see my Petite Fleur example). Nevertheless, we learn to speak with our parents and peers...
Thanks dexdex. A very helpful post.
 

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Start building your library and finding what works for you. Think about it - those with an expansive speaking/writing vocabulary are usually people that are exposed to a great deal of vocabulary. My daughter (in fact, my whole family) is voracious reader. Read, listen, immerse yourself in the medium. There are no shortcuts, but there are ways to discover.

Here are a couple of the more worn books on my shelves:

http://www.halleonard.com/product/viewproduct.do?itemid=849911&lid=5&menuid=2921&subsiteid=66&

http://www.amazon.com/Serious-Jazz-Practice-Book-Instruments/dp/1883217423
 

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Find some artist whose improvising intrigues you in some way, but where you don't really get what they are doing, and then try playing a transcription of them (or transcribing it yourself). This may expand your vocabulary.
 

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Thank you very much for your insightful post Wade, it was a big help. I want to be a jazzer, and more specifically a hard bopper/soul jazzer. I do, however, want to be good at everything, but be excellent at hard bop and soul jazz. What are the essential records that I should be listening to so I can begin to assimilate that sort of style into my own playing?
Well, that sounds like the cart before the horse syndrome.

Something must have attracted you already to consider playing?

Copying things from other players is ok IMO but the less someone copies, the more they have to make up themselves, and the more creative they are probably going to be, instead of being a patchwork of other players styles or even worse a clone of one or two players.

Someone can get vocabulary from just listening to things that are around and absorbing them and then experimenting with them and it can be something as trivial as something heard on a commercial or a TV show or some world music if that floats your boat or James Brown or whatever.

Charlie Parker would quote and practice some un Bebop things http://peterspitzer.blogspot.com.au/2011/12/charlie-parkers-musical-quotes.html and apparently he picked up a lot of things from here and there and not just from Jazz, and he used to carry around some Classical recordings.

I havn't hears Charlie's Mozart Symphony #40 quote.

I was looking at Fred Astaire the other week in a movie and some of his rhythms are amazing and things like that can be absorbed by anyone from a metal drummer to a Clarinet Jazz player because rhythm feel is a big part of music.

Narrow influences result in narrow playing I would think.

 

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As far as standards are concerned, there's nothing wrong with playing them to increase your "tune" vocabulary. Lennie Tristano (my teacher) played a small nucleus of standard tunes over & over. But they didn't plug in the same old cliches and quotes every time they played a tune. The challenge was to be truly inventive and play it differently every time. That takes a lot of imagination. He did make me play other players solos, (mostly Lester Young) but not to memorize riffs, but to get the feeling of how they felt the rhythm, time and harmony. You will absorb certain styles; and riffs might pop out subconsciously as you play. Some players with an enormous vocabulary of other people's ideas just plug them in at pre-planned junctures and are fooling themselves into thinking that it was their idea. If you're satisfied with that kind of playing, enjoy it. If not, you have to Practice Improvising a lot and garner whatever you can from your own ideas. Are your ideas equal to Sonny Rollins', probably not, but they are YOUR ideas and that counts for a lot. Commercial value be damned; there's almost no way to make a living playing jazz, so why let that get in your creative way? Why do you think a lot of the top players teach in colleges etc.? Lennie always thought one should have a way to afford to be able to live and then follow your musical desires. If you play out of the box, don't expect the general public to support your efforts. They like "songs" with words that tell them a story because they can't hear the story in instrumental music. Yes, there are great vocalists but that's not what I'm talking about. Musical cut & paste is anathema to me. Listen, listen, listen and hopefully you will garner some useful information to use in your own playing. But make it your own playing as much as you can, with a little help from your musical friends.
Best of luck.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Find some artist whose improvising intrigues you in some way, but where you don't really get what they are doing, and then try playing a transcription of them (or transcribing it yourself). This may expand your vocabulary.
Thank you. It's also good for me to move the phrase, isn't it?

As far as standards are concerned, there's nothing wrong with playing them to increase your "tune" vocabulary. Lennie Tristano (my teacher) played a small nucleus of standard tunes over & over. But they didn't plug in the same old cliches and quotes every time they played a tune. The challenge was to be truly inventive and play it differently every time. That takes a lot of imagination. He did make me play other players solos, (mostly Lester Young) but not to memorize riffs, but to get the feeling of how they felt the rhythm, time and harmony. You will absorb certain styles; and riffs might pop out subconsciously as you play. Some players with an enormous vocabulary of other people's ideas just plug them in at pre-planned junctures and are fooling themselves into thinking that it was their idea. If you're satisfied with that kind of playing, enjoy it. If not, you have to Practice Improvising a lot and garner whatever you can from your own ideas. Are your ideas equal to Sonny Rollins', probably not, but they are YOUR ideas and that counts for a lot. Commercial value be damned; there's almost no way to make a living playing jazz, so why let that get in your creative way? Why do you think a lot of the top players teach in colleges etc.? Lennie always thought one should have a way to afford to be able to live and then follow your musical desires. If you play out of the box, don't expect the general public to support your efforts. They like "songs" with words that tell them a story because they can't hear the story in instrumental music. Yes, there are great vocalists but that's not what I'm talking about. Musical cut & paste is anathema to me. Listen, listen, listen and hopefully you will garner some useful information to use in your own playing. But make it your own playing as much as you can, with a little help from your musical friends.
Best of luck.
Thank you.

I think the whole "original ideas" topic is a bit odd. You can create something entirely new, but it has to be influenced by something. I do agree with you though, the cut and paste can be very annoying (although I get the idea that it annoys you more). I am striving to be an original improviser and composer.
 

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Good topic, something I am working on a lot. My teacher has me doing this in a few different ways:

Blues riffs (have you seen Steve Neff's Blues book?) - there's some real simple ones that you can do in 12 keys to great effect, learn "Rock around the clock" in 12 keys, it's mainly guide tones which you can then embellish and make your won - that's vocabulary, because it's yours intrinsically.

The "Hello David Baker" chromatic riff over a dominant chord - Practice with Vol 81 in 12 keys
A short ii-V-I and a Long ii-V-I riff in 12 keys.

Spanish Gypsy Scale over V7 and Minors
Major and dominant bebop scales.

This mix of things is what I practice most of, because it gives me the most output. After you start to get these internalised, other sounds come out, other parts of solos, riffs from songs you've heard. It's a process I expect to take years - but it's do-able.
 

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http://forum.saxontheweb.net/showthread.php?141895-My-take-on-a-Tim-Price-exercise

I lost the pdfs I'd linked, but they should be on one of my computers somewhere. I'll link them again when I upload them somewhere. You should be able to get enough out of the text, though.

I would agree with some others who have posted here, though, that emulation is a great way to develop your sound concept organically. Immerse yourself in the playing of one musical hero for a while... Sing their solos and teach them to yourself by ear. Copy their use of air in how they shape their phrasing. Deconstruct a couple of the motifs they use to create their phrases, and learn to apply them to varying chord structures as I detailed in the link I posted. Shed your scales in steps, intervals and chord patterns. Play with other musicians.
 

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I would agree with some others who have posted here, though, that emulation is a great way to develop your sound concept organically. Immerse yourself in the playing of one musical hero for a while... Sing their solos and teach them to yourself by ear. Copy their use of air in how they shape their phrasing. Deconstruct a couple of the motifs they use to create their phrases, and learn to apply them to varying chord structures as I detailed in the link I posted. Shed your scales in steps, intervals and chord patterns. Play with other musicians.
Word!

. . . and transcribe.
 

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Play along with songs and transcribe phrasing from other musicians (not just saxophone...but flute, guitar, piano...etc. as well) Eventually you'll get a sense of your own phrasing coming through based on all that you've heard.
 
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