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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey all,:|
Yesterday i've piked up my sax to pactice like always but there was a problem : i'm trying to clear a challenge like learning songs just by ear and so , but frustration gets me a lot when i cant find the right notes and flow , i want to know some advices to get over this Frustration that i hate .

thanks
 

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If you have a good ear, time and practice should take care of your frustrations. There are probably hundreds of simple melodies that you know. Put together a tune-list of every song you know, then teach yourself to play each one in several keys.

Then "hear" the harmonies within the chord changes and play a third and then a fifth around the melody line. Another thing to take on at the same time would be chord structure and how to apply them by ear. I know, it sounds a bit esoteric now, but after you master it, you'll wonder why it took you so long. These things can be self-taught - I did it that way. DAVE
 

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There is a lot of trial and error to learning songs by ear and it can be very frustrating! I like to listen and pause every couple of seconds and write down the notes (just letter names) even if I'm not sure of them. Then I go back and play along using the notes I wrote down. This makes it really obvious which notes are wrong, and the right ones are already written down! As soon as I play a wrong note, I pause and write in another guess and try again.
 

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Ear-training takes time, learning to play an instrument takes time, frustration is a constant companion, and you need a lot of patience. That probably doesn't help much so here's one piece of advice: Make sure you know what key the tune is in! That will help narrow the note choices.
 

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I don't know what level you are... but back in the days, and still now sometimes, the right reed, room and mood created the right sound and everything seemed effortless. that said, you should be relaxed, have a good reed and, if you can't enjoy your sound, work on it until you can enjoy it. I find the sound that comes out of your horn (which depends on your equipment to an extent) is maybe the most important source of inspiration and, as you said, "flow" while playing... even the most simple line can sound terrible or awesome, depending on your sound.
 

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Here's the way I do it. Listen through once. Play it again and identify the key. Play notes until you find a set that doesn't clash. Do this whenever there is a key change. Now that you have a comfortable set of notes and have accounted for key changes, slow it down. Break it down into workable sections and only move on to the next when you have the previous one down. After you finish a section make sure you can transition from the begining through wherever you left off. Play along with the recording until you feel comfortable enough and then try without it. It is always there for reference. This probably seems obvious but maybe there is something in here thay will help.
 

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Learn to match the pitches of the melody and bass line to tunes by ear. One of the most important things I learned in music theory in college was that if you can't sing it, you're not hearing it...this in turn means you're not really listening completely.

Randy
www.randyhunterjazz.com
Online Jazz Lessons and Books
Lesson Series:
Making Sense of Jazz Improvisation
Introduction to the Blues
The Arpeggio Circle
Through the Keys
and more...
Lessons page: www.beginningsax.com/Jazz Improv Lessons.htm
Rhythm Changes Demo:
Rhythm Changes Lesson:
YouTube Channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/saxtrax
 

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Frustration is your number one enemy in practice. If you're feeling frustration, you need to change something. Period. Frustration clouds your judgement, takes your mind off the task at hand, makes your muscles tense up so your embouchure is bad and your technique is sloppy, and can have the effect of making you not want to practice tomorrow. In fact, due to human physiology and something called "state based learning," if you allow yourself to be frustrated frequently when you practice, you will become more and more easily frustrated just because you are playing the horn and your body has learned to feel frustrated when you pick up a horn. In short, if you START feeling frustration come on, many times it is better for you to put down the horn and take the day off than to try to practice through it. There are some things that I would do to minimize this, though, and I think the main thing is to have clear goals or objectives that you can hit on a daily basis so that you always KNOW that you're making forward progress. This will largely eliminate your frustration if you do it right. Without further ado, I'm gonna do you a solid and write a treatise on practice theory! WOO HOOOOO!
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Prioritize your goals. I have 3 basic types of goals that I use to structure my practice. I call them long-term, short-term and in-the-moment goals.

--Long-term describes the END RESULT that I want from practicing something. It's amazing how many people "practice" things on their horn and have no end result in mind. If I can't think of an end result that I'm trying to get out of practicing a given drill, I won't do it. I don't pick up a book and read down heads or solos that I already know very well because there is no end result that will come of this... my skills will DIMINISH if this is all I do, because I'm not focusing on sight-reading, improv, technique or tone, I'm just playing something to make myself feel good. I practice long tones every day because I want the end result of being able to have a world-class tone, completely under my control, that I can shape at will, no matter what volume, note, special effect (growl, etc.) or context, and at ANY TIME today or in the future.

--Short-term describes my goal for today. This is a goal that basically tells me what I'm going to work on today. A short-term goal needs to be something that you CAN and WILL accomplish in a day's work. Many people confuse long-term and short-term goals. Students may crack open an Omnibook for the first time and decide that they are going to work on reading down "Segment." They wind up frustrated at the end of the day because they confuse the long-term goal of being able to play "Segment" with the short-term goal of, for example, reading through "Segment" once, no matter how sloppy, and identifying/cataloging trouble spots in three categories: 1) technical issues - the phrases that don't lay well on the horn, wide intervals, etc., 2) ear-training issues - phrases that don't "make sense" or "sound right," that you subsequently won't play convincingly (listen to the recording for these spots!), 3) reading issues - whether it's a bit of sloppy copywork or just a phrase that has a lot of weird rhythms or accidentals. This is a short-term goal that is easily doable at any level as long as you know all the notes on the horn and how to read the notes in the normal range, yet it is EXTREMELY productive and will help you to achieve your long-term goal.

--In the moment goals concern the practice you're doing RIGHT NOW. If you're working on your C scale and you find that you're hitting a little palm-key Eb between palm-key D and palm-key E, your "in the moment" goal is to practice slowly going from high D to high E and back with flawless technique. This helps you achieve your daily goal which might be to practice the C scale in the full range of the horn with clean technique and even rhythm in 8th notes at 120 bpm, which in turn helps you with your long-term goal which might be to play all your major and minor scales throughout the range of the horn with perfectly clean technique and even rhythm in 16th notes at 145bpm.

It's important to make sure you distinguish appropriately between the types of goals or your practice routine will be ineffective. In the case of learning to play by ear, your long-term goal can't be to get everything right from day one, though obviously the goal IN THE MOMENT has to be to try and get the right notes. However, if you set your long-term goal to be something like, "I would like to be able to play anything I hear on the saxophone after hearing it once, and get all the notes, rhythms and phrasings correct, at the right tempo with no errors," then you can make your short-term goal to be, "practice playing phrases by ear for 20 minutes today." Keep this same vague short-term goal EVERY day for a year, and you'll have more than 120 hours of practice at that by next year. You WILL be substantially better. Even better is if you add specifics to your short-term goal that you can adapt to your current level of ability on any given day. So today, for example, instead of just, "practicing playing by ear for 20 minutes," make it, "practice 2-bar phrases with no wide intervals for 20 minutes." That way, you can make tomorrow's drill, "practice 3-bar phrases, etc." or "practice 2-bar phrases with leaps of up to an octave." You'll track your progress and make sure you're improving much more effectively like this. The point is, though, since your goal is NOT to get x amount of notes down, or x number of choruses memorized, you will be able to be satisfied with the fact that you're practicing what you're supposed to every day.

This cuts down on frustration, and it also brings us to the very important point (and zen realization) that underpins this whole ideology: don't focus on the destination, focus on the journey. What I mean is, use your long-term goal to design your practice routine, and then don't worry about it almost at all. You should have your hands full with short-term goals and and in the moment goals. The most important thing is that you set and work towards short-term goals every day. Doing this, it is inevitable that you achieve your long-term goal eventually. KNOWING THIS, frustration is largely a thing of the past, because even though you may be struggling with an "in the moment" goal, you understand that you are (BECAUSE of that struggle) working towards your short-term goal. Basically, this strategy allows you to mess up over and over because those small failures lead to a larger victory.

The only time frustration creeps up on you is when you fail to set appropriate short-term goals. If I haven't practiced for a few days and I find that my scales are sloppy at my usual tempo, I WILL become frustrated if I refuse to slow them down. This is self-defeating, and has led to many days of putting down the horn and playing xbox! LOL
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I'll cut-and-paste a bit from my website to help you specifically with your task of learning to play by ear in my next post.
 

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On Practicing Playing By Ear, from http://danperezsax.com/Jazz__Memorizing_Tunes.html

Start by singing the whole passage. Don't play it first as a reference, just work out the sounds of the intervals in your head, and only sing the note when you know you have it right. This takes a long time at first, but you get better quickly. After you've sung it several times reading off the page, try to sing it from memory. Close your eyes and get as far as you can, and cheat when you need to. When you can do this correctly all the time, it's time to pick up the horn. Sing the first note and then play it. If you play the wrong note, sing it again, and play it again. The important thing here is not the first note: that can be whatever you want, and you can check that against the sax. The important thing is every note thereafter. Work out the intervals in your head before you play them. Start at the beginning with one note, then add the second, third, etc., so you're learning to play the whole phrase. After adding each note, sing the whole phrase once, then sing it up to the new note you are about to add. All this really is is ear-training: learning to hear and recognize intervals and them play them on the horn quickly. While this exercise is designed to help you memorize tunes, it will help all aspects of your musicianship, as well.

While this seems like a lot of work, it is much quicker than trying to learn long passages through repetition. It also sticks the stuff in your brain longer. After I learned this technique, I took an hour to work through Donna Lee with it, and I still remember that head 5 years later! This is a good method for learning new scale qualities, chord qualities, licks, tunes, passages, or whatever. It cuts down your time learning in 12 keys, too, because you will already have the singing part learned when you go on to a new key.
 

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Everyone else is making it much more complicated than it needs to be.
I would suggest starting with a song you already know as a listener.
A song with lyrics and a melody you have some emotional attachement to.
Then play along with the tune.
 

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Everyone else is making it much more complicated than it needs to be.
I would suggest starting with a song you already know as a listener.
A song with lyrics and a melody you have some emotional attachement to.
Then play along with the tune.
In the same vein (with tongue firmly in cheek!), simple boxing advice for untrained boxers:
Start with an opponent who you admire.
One whose style, speed and skill in his professional career have made an impression on you and inspired you to learn how to fight.
Then get in the ring with him.

P.S. Westside, sorry if I'm coming off as a dick, but I think my analogy illustrates the problem I see with your approach, and my attempts at humor aren't always successful... Obviously, your suggestion has valuable merits: it inspires you to practice playing by ear, playing a tune you're attached to helps you with phrasing, and practicing is better than not practicing. However, it reminds me of the introduction to Hal Crook's book, "Ready, Aim, Improvise," where he contrasts his title with the general practice of "Improvise, Ready, Aim," which is kind of how I see your approach. Great for beginning exposure to playing by ear, but IMO not terribly effective in the long run.
 

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In the same vein (with tongue firmly in cheek!), simple boxing advice for untrained boxers:
Start with an opponent who you admire.
One whose style, speed and skill in his professional career have made an impression on you and inspired you to learn how to fight.
Then get in the ring with him.
.
You learn fast with this approach. What's a black eye or two in the name of progress? ;)

The biggest problem with this approach is to progress quickly enough to give the heavy-weight a challenge. After he KO's you 3 times in 3 punches, he's likely to not bother coming to the gym.

That's when you go back and follow all Dan's prior advice.
 

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Excellent advice Dan. Good to keep the focus on different goal levels and let the Zen thing happen. Inherent in this is letting go of the ego which expects too much too soon. It is a long journey to becoming fluent/fluid with any instrument and having it an extension of yourself. The sax doesn't play itself. The sound you want to hear must come from within you. Being able to vocalize (or at least internally hear) what you want to play is imperative. Matching this with the mechanical skill to play effortlessly takes a very long time indeed.

Great Post Dan. Should be required reading in the beginner's section (maybe even for some of the more advanced?)
 

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Wow! Some really good advice! Where else you gonna get this for free! Is this great or what?!!

Personally, I don't see what the problem is. :bluewink: The OP is just going through the growth required to learn how to play the saxophone, whether learning to play by sight reading or playing by ear! There are folks who are much more a student of the instrument than I who have had learning spurts, plateaus (of frustration), and then breakthroughs (wet, lather, rinse, repeat!) It's those breakthroughs that can be some of the most rewarding!

So, to the OP, don't lose heart over these run-ins with frustration. Expect that there will be more. To overcome them requires personal growth that will be very rewarding! However, you (& we) have access to an outstanding resource here with SoTW in which to ask your questions and receive excellent advice from those with extensive musical experience and they are willing to share it gratis!
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
well thats some Advice package i've got here thnaks everybody for all your help ! i think i know what the matter is sometimes , i'm a Mood man if i'm in the mood then i can tell that my sound is good but when i try to force myself to practice it goes sometimes wrong !
 
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