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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi,

I'm currently reading the Bergonzi book about the pentatonics, Ricker's book on Fourths etc. to enhance to improvisational skills. I was thinking of building up a practise routine for this (learn to utilize these new methods).

First, I choose a standard tune and then get a play-along tune to go with it. My idea is to utilize different techniques on each chorus and finally combine these to get some new ideas and approaches to standard chords changes.

Like this:

#1 Chorus : Play just the arpeggios of the chords to get familiar with the changes.
#2 Chorus : Play the "appropriate" scales over the chords (for example dorian scale over m7-chords, mixolydian scale over dominant chords etc.)
#3 Chorus : Play only pentatonic scales over the chords (Bergonzi's book has nice advices how to use different pentatonics over different chords)
#4 Chorus : Play only triad pairs over the chord changes.
#5 Chorus : Play only lines by fourths (Ricker's book)

This is just a short list from the top of my head (I may have forgotten something important). But my question is that what else (methods & techniques) should I utilize and finally are you using something similar in your practice routine and is this a good idea at all?

Thanks!
-TH
 

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I would ignore #2 Chorus : Play the "appropriate" scales over the chords (for example dorian scale over m7-chords, mixolydian scale over dominant chords etc.) as it just complicates things, instead identify possible key centre and use that one scale with all chords pertaining to that key centre, bearing in mind the chord tones and voice leading.

Voice leading is the one thing that is probably most important as it helps with shaping good melodic lines, and is missed off your list.
 

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Selmer Balanced Action Tenor Saxophone, Powell Flute
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This is not the way I would practice if I were practicing standard tunes personally, although I can definitely see you've put a lot of thought into your practicing and are on your way to a routine which is GREAT!!! And to each his own!

Things I would focus on. #1, get out of the books (not that they are bad, but they can be used more effectively later on). I'd start listening, listening, listening. Pick a standard tune you want to learn and listen to every version you can. hear what the players do differently in each. Are they using the same form?? Same key? Same changes? What are the soloists playing over the changes? Melodic/linear approach? Harmonic/vertical approach? from here I would start to transcribe some of the ideas you like, whether it is a sax, trumpet, piano, guitar or bass it doesn't matter. You don't have to do the whole solo. Just gravitate to melodic ideas and concepts that you like and take them. Then analyze them to see why they work. Don't forget to always be copying style (i.e. Phrasing, Articulation etc...) in the process. When you have what you like, start to try and use those concepts (theoretically) to come up with your own ideas.

That's the first part:) DON'T SKIP THIS PART!!! IT'S VITAL TO PRACTICING IMPROVISATION AND NEEDS TO BE DONE!!!

Then when practicing just improvising, I'd #1 only use a play-a-long at the end and not to practice. I'd first practice the arps of the chords, then practice voice leading through the piece (7ths to 3rds or closest common tones when dealing with non ii, V's) with a metronome. Once you are comfortable with the metronome and getting through the form over the arps and voice leading patterns, try to incorporate the concepts and melodies you learned in the first part above. Then branch out and start trying ideas you hear in your head or the more modern pentatonic and 4th based concepts you are studying. Keep stretching and trying to play with just the metronome.

Only use the play-a-long at the end of the week or something to check your practicing. Play-a-longs are cool, but they can really inhibit many things when practicing such as time (easy to float), sense of harmony (ear training/forcing yourself to voice lead and dictate harmony as a soloist), Keeping place (easy to do when they are keeping it for you) and phrasing (once again easy to float). So I prefer to practice with just a metronome and check my progress with play-a-longs later down the line. It forces you to dictate the harmony (voice lead), keep your place through phrasing, and dictate a good time feel (not floating:))

I hope this gives you some more ideas. There is no "right" or wrong way...and you are definitely on the right track with some of your ideas IMO. This is just in a very small nut shell:) Good LUCK!
 

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There's a lot of work right there!
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
There's a lot of work right there!
I know!! To completely utilize for example Ricker's book on Fourths took Joe Farrell one year! For me, it may take a lifetime :D There's SO much information on this matter and so many tools and techniques but you got to start somewhere..
 

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#1 Chorus : Play just the arpeggios of the chords to get familiar with the changes.
#2 Chorus : Play the "appropriate" scales over the chords (for example dorian scale over m7-chords, mixolydian scale over dominant chords etc.)
#3 Chorus : Play only pentatonic scales over the chords (Bergonzi's book has nice advices how to use different pentatonics over different chords)
#4 Chorus : Play only triad pairs over the chord changes.
#5 Chorus : Play only lines by fourths (Ricker's book)
This list is way too short. Just the arpeggio thing could easily cover 5 choruses, varying the way you play them and how many notes you include in the arpeggio (9nth 11th, etc etc).
Same goes for all the other #'s.
I don't see any rhythmical exercises (triplets, double, groups of 5, stuff like that).
I could go on, but others will probably chime in.
 

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To keep things simple, repetoire-wise I would start with less complex tunes like Out of Nowhere, Alone Together, Blue Bossa, etc.

Activities I would find the most helpful or developmental would be..

- ear training (play along with recordings, play the lines by ear, do call/response phrasing with the soloist, etc.)

- play through the tunes a capella focusing on the roots, then chord tones, then chord tones with guide tones

- When you start just creating lines over the changes (with a play along or metronome), try to focus on specific things... like maybe 5 to 60 minutes of any/all of each of these:
- play one note each chord focusing on a chord tone like the 3rd, 7th; play one note each chord stiving to create a smooth flow using guide tones; short phrases that clearly establish the harmony with a strong cadence over any dominant to tonic resolutions; play 4 bars sit out four bars; focus on a specific element like flowing eight notes, triplets, playing stacatto, etc.

- Practice lines in all keys. There's a lot of ways to do this, a good basic approach that I use a lot is working with play along tracks that go through all 12 keys. I try to create a good basic line, maybe I'll play 4-5 different ones until I hit on something I really like that's not too complicated. Then I go to the beginning and work that line through all 12 keys. You could write these lines down for future reference (in the first key only), but you want to exercise your mind and ears by doing it on the fly WITHOUT reading it.

And then I need to take some of my own advice, really you could spend a LIFETIME doing just these activities. A real weakness for many of us is lazy "practicing" where you do a few activities then playing tunes just blowing over the play-along at full speed with all the stuff in the mix.

If you want to improve, isolating the essential elements and focusing on areas of improvement will make practice time much more productive. The more you focus on specific concepts and isolate these things during practice, you're developing skills and listening abilities. That's musical growth.

And on the 60 minute thing, seriously...try doing a basic warm-up and then REALLY get into one specific activity for an entire practice session. Doing that teaches you a lot about yourself.
 

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To keep things simple, repetoire-wise I would start with less complex tunes like Out of Nowhere, Alone Together, Blue Bossa, etc.

Activities I would find the most helpful or developmental would be..

- ear training (play along with recordings, play the lines by ear, do call/response phrasing with the soloist, etc.)

- play through the tunes a capella focusing on the roots, then chord tones, then chord tones with guide tones

- When you start just creating lines over the changes (with a play along or metronome), try to focus on specific things... like maybe 5 to 60 minutes of any/all of each of these:
- play one note each chord focusing on a chord tone like the 3rd, 7th; play one note each chord stiving to create a smooth flow using guide tones; short phrases that clearly establish the harmony with a strong cadence over any dominant to tonic resolutions; play 4 bars sit out four bars; focus on a specific element like flowing eight notes, triplets, playing stacatto, etc.

- Practice lines in all keys. There's a lot of ways to do this, a good basic approach that I use a lot is working with play along tracks that go through all 12 keys. I try to create a good basic line, maybe I'll play 4-5 different ones until I hit on something I really like that's not too complicated. Then I go to the beginning and work that line through all 12 keys. You could write these lines down for future reference (in the first key only), but you want to exercise your mind and ears by doing it on the fly WITHOUT reading it.

And then I need to take some of my own advice, really you could spend a LIFETIME doing just these activities. A real weakness for many of us is lazy "practicing" where you do a few activities then playing tunes just blowing over the play-along at full speed with all the stuff in the mix.

If you want to improve, isolating the essential elements and focusing on areas of improvement will make practice time much more productive. The more you focus on specific concepts and isolate these things during practice, you're developing skills and listening abilities. That's musical growth.

And on the 60 minute thing, seriously...try doing a basic warm-up and then REALLY get into one specific activity for an entire practice session. Doing that teaches you a lot about yourself.
Great stuff here. Isolation of problem areas is key!!!
 

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You may like to try alternating whatever exercise you are doing from your list with a chorus of the melody.
For example:
Chorus 1 - Play Melody (or sing it!)
Chorus 2 - Play just the arpeggios of the chords to get familiar with the changes.
Chorus 3 - Play Melody
etc

Don't forget the melody!
 

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Yes but it's not what he asked.
Sure it is. The OP is asking for advice, beyond that rather extensive list he already is evidently practicing. Isolating and practicing problem areas would be an excellent idea, regardless of what else you're doing.

TH, it's hard to advise w/o knowing roughly where you are now. Some of those techniques using fourths, triad pairs, etc, are rather advanced. I'd stick with the chord arpeggios, voice-leading, ii-Vs, scales, ear-training, and most of all learning tunes and melodies. You don't want to put the cart before the horse, so to speak. Unless you are far more advanced than your question suggests...
 

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Tunes become standards because the melody is enjoyed by many people.
Using the tones of the arpeggios of the chords write a quarter note bass line that is melodic.
A great violinist often reminded me that you can improvise with just two notes plus rhythm and dynamics. Then add a third note..... then another.
The idea was to learn to create melody.
Scales, modes, exercises, rolling up and down in seconds...thirds...fourths...sixths etc etc are valuable so your body doesn't get in the way of your music.
Strive to create melody and variations.
Playing Bach etc gives you insight in how a simple scale can become so much.
It ain't about what works with what..... Those are studies...... It's about creating melodies.

The art of the fugue. Give a listen.

Never said it will be easy ........but start the process. :)
 

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TH, I'd have to hear where you are. For example, do you know basic music theory really, really well? If not, that's where you start. When someone says Eb Maj7, do the notes of this chord light up on the sax (in you head, of course). Quick theory is critical. No one is going to agree with me here, but if you can play the tune "Ida, Sweet As Apple Cider", you can play any standard. Sounds corny, but Ida comes from the Buddy Bolden repertoire and is one of the first jazz tunes. Great chord changes. It has both static and dynamic harmonic rhythm.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Thanks all for your replies! This has got me thinking.. I've thought about my weaknesses and decided to shed more some basic stuff. So, not yet I'm going to practice these tools for modern playing, I'm just going to rehearse more of those basic bebop playing things. I know that some chord changes are much more difficult for me, for example for Dm7 - G7 - Cmaj7 I can utilize many things that I've learnt but on Abm7 - Db7 - Gbmaj7 I cannot execute those same things. So back to the shed!
 

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Don't fall into that trap.

Play-a-longs can be useful in certain ways, but are not ideal in everyday practice IMO.

Not once has any major player that I've had the pleasure of with studying ever made me practice tunes with a play-a-long. Always the metronome or no metronome in certain situations.

Once again, I reiterate, I do NOT think play-a-longs are bad, as there are certain situations where they are useful, just not ideal for everyday practice!!! So don't fall into the trap!
 

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Thanks all for your replies! This has got me thinking.. I've thought about my weaknesses and decided to shed more some basic stuff. So, not yet I'm going to practice these tools for modern playing, I'm just going to rehearse more of those basic bebop playing things. I know that some chord changes are much more difficult for me, for example for Dm7 - G7 - Cmaj7 I can utilize many things that I've learnt but on Abm7 - Db7 - Gbmaj7 I cannot execute those same things. So back to the shed!
I've been a teacher all my life, and I can give you definite advice on the above. Don't try to do everything in every key. There are about five sax keys you should learn. Once you can do a significant amount in those keys, add a key one at a time. This does not mean you don't learn/play/practice scales in all keys, but that you master a certain chunk before you expand into other keys. Example: you don't learn a foreign language by memorizing the dictionary, you do it by learning a basic vocabulary and then adding to it.
 

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A trap? :faceinpalm: What is this, crystal meth? First of all, irealpro is much more than just a play-along. Second, when I hung out with Michael Brecker in his basement, he had a stack of Aebersold CDs sitting out there.
Don't fall into that trap.

Play-a-longs can be useful in certain ways, but are not ideal in everyday practice IMO.

Not once has any major player that I've had the pleasure of with studying ever made me practice tunes with a play-a-long. Always the metronome or no metronome in certain situations.

Once again, I reiterate, I do NOT think play-a-longs are bad, as there are certain situations where they are useful, just not ideal for everyday practice!!! So don't fall into the trap!
 

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A trap? :faceinpalm: What is this, crystal meth? First of all, irealpro is much more than just a play-along. Second, when I hung out with Michael Brecker in his basement, he had a stack of Aebersold CDs sitting out there.
I qualified my statement in the post, by saying I didn't think they are bad. Just not for everyday use and everyday practice. That is the trap that players fall into. Over using them. I also said it can be useful if used right. Every player has play-a-longs including me, not trying to say its bad, just a warning. It's all in how you use them.
 
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