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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've played guitar for 10 years and I had an accident at work a couple of days ago which forced me to put down the guitar for a while (can't move my wrist to much but enough to play sax) so I drove to the music store to fulfill a dream of mine. I rented a yamaha yas 275.

I'm stunned by how fast I'm making progress. Now I was wondering how you guys read music?

I play jazz guitar and I'm aiming at being able to play jazz on the sax aswell I play alot of leadsheets now (autumn leaves, summertime, round midnight etc.)

And I was thinking about maybe stop reading Eb charts and simply learn to read the regular concert pitch ones. I'm hoping to be able to sit in on jams and stuff. And I reckon they can give me a hard time if they throw a song at me I don't know. Or do I have to buy every fake book ever made in Eb?

How do the guys who only reads Eb charts manage? Are you all superprepared?
 

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Learn to transpose all charts to the key your horn is in. It's tricky at first but you get used to it.
I play French Horn as well and it is STANDARD to be able to transpose any chart.

Remember that tunes are just a series of intervals...transposing (when practiced) becomes very easy and 2nd nature.

There have been tons of gigs in my playing career when I got to the session and was reading French Horn off of a Trumpet part or playing Bari Sax off of a Tuba part or playing guitar off of a viola part.

It is a VERY valuable skill!
Just work at it!
 

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Learning to do all the mental acrobatics that make up sight reading and transposition is a truly tricky procedure. You have to overcome a rational, self-caring instinct that says "Don't bother me. I've got enough to think about."

Being a musician has to take priority over being human in small ways sometimes. This is a good example of one such time. Every time you feel that little flinch of panic, that "$#!!" feeling when you f up a phrase, say to yourself: "Bring it on! More panic!"

It all becomes easy and second nature - but only after you let yourself feel the panic and keep coming back for more. It helps if you see the panic moments as little flashes of progress and growth, rather than slaps.
 

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I'd suggest learning to read single-note lines first as written, transposed for alto sax. As your competence at this increases, begin learning to transpose. You can do this by purchasing several beginner method books for flute (in concert pitch) and play and transpose the exercises. Since these methods have exercises arranged in a progressive order, your skill level at transposing will increase as the difficulty level of the exercises increases.

As far as transposing chord changes is concerned, I'd suggest learning to recognize chords according to their numeric relationships with each other. You may already do this with the blues if you are thinking I7-IV7-I7-I7 etc. If you learn to associate chords on lead sheets in a similar manner, and learn the instrument and harmony well, you will develop the ability to transpose chord changes to any key.

Randy
www.randyhunterjazz.com
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I'll answer for the other camp. If your plans are jams and groovin with your band - just learn it the way you hear it (standard tuning) as a guitarist. Why learn to transpose to Bb when you're going to turn around and transpose it all back to C? I spent the time to learn to transpose and never (ok ...very rarely) use the knowledge. If you're progressing quickly, it's a good bet you've got a good ear. You won't need much written music on the sax based on your initial post. If you find you just can't put the damn thing down (as happened to me) you'll be motivated to learn all you can about it and won't need to ask the question any more. Your path will be clear.
 

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I have used the knowledge of transposition since I 1990. I wasn't even very fluent on the sax at that time (I started in 1988), but I did start slow with church music. I also have a pretty good ear, so that has helped a lot too. I do know some people that have just enough "ear" to tell when they are in tune, but they couldn't improvise to save their life, but man could they read music, in any key, transposed or not!

I use a combination of transposition knowledge and my ear for everything to come together as it should.
 

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Best thing my first saxophone teacher made me learn to do was sight transpose from concert key to any horn and then to sight transpose to ANY key.

I cannot count the number of times I have shown up on rehearsals, recordings or gigs and have been asked to transpose lead sheets or was playing tenor and they only brought the alto book, or any other combination of absurdities you can imagine. I've had producers, arrangers, orchestrators and bandleaders thank me over and over again for being cool with reading whatever they put in front of me. It's a great skill to have, and while I cursed my teacher at the time, I thank him almost daily now.


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If you find you just can't put the damn thing down (as happened to me) you'll be motivated to learn all you can about it and won't need to ask the question any more.
Learning all you can is good, but in my experience, the question never really goes away, because this is a pre-rational kind of learning.

We're taught never to make the same mistake twice, but the only way you get this is to make the same mistakes over and over and over. Until one day, somehow or another, you just don't. Questioning it doesn't help, and may even hurt.
 

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As Fader said, it depends what you are going to do with it. I'm not a pro and read from concert pitch all the time, so I just play it straight as I see and hear it. It requires you to learn two different fingerings for the Eb and Bb saxes which takes minimal time. This will also cross over to the clarinet where you will use both. The major drawback is you wouldn't be able to participate in community band or ensembles with traditional sax charts.
 

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Learning to read music as a musician is like learning to read words as an actor. Sure an actor, whether trained in the classics or an improv comedian, can listen to recordings and watch films, theatre, tv, youtube. Certainly an actor that can't read words could have a long and creative career just by things they have thought of, copied, learned by listening and watching.

However, there is an enormous amount of literature that can aid an actor if he/she learns how to read words. A musician who can play by ear and pick things up fast is valuable. If they can't read music, there is a lot of material that escapes them.

It is worth it to learn how to read music, and to learn well. It opens the world up to many things.

- anchorsax
 

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IMO the key to what approach you take is the answer to the comments above - what is your goal with the sax?

If you intend to only play it in your jazz combos, you really don't even need to read music, just use your ear.

If you want to read as a reference, you can learn to transpose or you can get fake books in Eb. IMO either way gets the job done. There are benefits to both and proponents of one or the other usually are a result quite simply of which ever way they did it themselves, which is not necessarily "The" right way or The wrong way, just their way, which worked for them.

Transposing in your head gives you a lot of freedom away from the music. Using Eb fake books saves you a lot of time. Whatever . . .

The one thing I personally would not advise, and that is learning to finger any sax in concert pitch. All four major saxes are written to have the same fingering for the same written notes. Why have different fingering systems depending on which sax you play, especially if you later find yourself having to read from music as well? That makes it three fingering systems when all you needed was one. I have seen it mentioned twice on the forum but I have never met anyone who actually does it.

Also regarding reading the Eb parts, if playing in big band is on the horizon for you, you might as well begin now reading - and hearing - Eb written music.
 

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I'm of the "learn to play by ear" school but as others have said, it depends on what you want to do. If you want to make a living playing sax in any setting, you need to learn how to transpose written charts. If you want to "sit in on jams and stuff" you really need to be able to hear the tune and play it. But I think it's a very bad idea to learn to read from concert pitch lead sheets. Play Eb lead sheets first to learn what the fingering is for the notes as written. Later you can learn to transpose something written for C instruments or Bb instruments.

After years of gigging with rock and blues bands, I'm permanently transposed on tenor. When the guitar calls a tune in A, I already think of my B as A. This is giving me a hard time since I got a bari a year or 2 ago and when the guitar calls a tune in A, I have to think of my A on tenor which is really a B and transpose down to F# on bari, which feels like E on the tenor. I think I said that right. You can see how I get kinda confused when I'm playing bari after playing tenor. I try to feel it and hear it rather than think it. Anyway, learn to hear the notes and get the patterns under your fingers and you'll be ultimately flexible.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Thanks for all your answers. I guess I'm going to keep reading Eb and start thinking concert pitch now and then. And as I'm progressing I will try to transpose more and more.
 

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I wanted to add that since you're a guitar player, you're a step ahead because you already think in terms of chords. If you're looking at lead sheets with the chords written, play the notes of the chords over the changes and get those under your fingers. Find the scale tones and patterns that go with the chords just like you do on guitar. Also play along with recordings and play the chord notes and scales. You'll be jammin' in no time.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
I've realized it's already to late to learn everything in C. the weird thing is I've always had trouble reading sheet music playing guitar. But on sax I'm almost sight reeding. But I use Eb charts for now. I'm so eager to learn to actually play so I've decided to put the transposing issue on hold for a while I got a cheat sheet for now.

And I've found a fantastic feature in band in a box. I have a realbook in BIAB. Where I first print a leadsheet in concert pitch. Then I press the magic alto sax button and get everything transposed.

yesterday I dug into jim snidero's jazz conception books. any opinions on them?
 

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And I've found a fantastic feature in band in a box. I have a realbook in BIAB. Where I first print a leadsheet in concert pitch. Then I press the magic alto sax button and get everything transposed.
And this is exactly what happens when someone (arranger or composer) writes out an alto sax part. They do all the transposition for you.
 
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