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So i've got a problem. I've been playing 6 years in my school band. Started in 6th grade and am now 1 month from graduating high school ;D. I'm not at all a bad player, but i'm far from being 'good'. I only ever played marching band/concert band music in school and would like to move onto Jazz & improvisation. Having that said, I never knew it would be so difficult. Playing along to tunes hasn't benefited me much in the past and quite frankly after trying/failing at many of the little tips or tricks I came across on the internet i'm starting to give up hope. Maybe its because of my lack of a teacher, or how impatient I am...bottom line is.

I need help :(
- Any advice would be greatly appreciated
 

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My band teacher told me to find songs I like, figure out the key and just go for it basically. Although I just find myself getting frustrated.
 

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Distinguished SOTW Member/Forum Contributor 2011
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Finding a teacher or mentor that can guide the way is by far the most important step you can take. Let's make that a given.

Beyond that, you have to work to become educated about the music through listening to jazz, both live and on recordings, learning the instrument as well as possible, and learning the vocabulary and theory. There are tons of online sources these days that were not available even 20 years ago, including lessons. I have a number of podcasts available on my website, as do guys like Steve Neff who can also be found at SOW. Tim Price also offers a number of online resources.

One thing you have to realize is that learning to play jazz requires a very big commitment on your part. You have to have a strong work ethic and commitment to the music that will not let you give up when you become frustrated. Just think of it like a savings account. You keep investing, bit by bit, until your wealth of knowledge and ability is substantial - and the dividends are compound.

Randy
www.randyhunterjazz.com
Online Jazz Lessons and Books
New Lesson:
Making Sense of Jazz Improvisation
Lesson Series:
Introduction to the Blues
The Arpeggio Circle
Through the Keys
and more...
Lessons page: www.beginningsax.com/Jazz Improv Lessons.htm
Rhythm Changes Demo: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SrT0Xw_y9d0
Rhythm Changes Lesson:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tMOW7QAfpwo
 

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My band teacher told me to find songs I like, figure out the key and just go for it basically. Although I just find myself getting frustrated.
Yeah, I'm not surprised you're frustrated. That's not a very good approach. In your own words, you need direction.

First, if you can get a private teacher who actually knows how to play jazz and is able to teach it, that's the way to go. It doesn't have to be a sax player either. If you're going off to a college with a music school, you might be able to lessons there if they have room.

Before I started taking lessons, I taught myself the basics using the Jamey Aebersold book "How to Play Jazz and Improvise". Randy suggested Steve Neff's site ( www.neffmusic.com ) and I think that's a great suggestion. He has a series of videos aimed at the beginning improviser. It's more expensive than the book, but it's probably a better way to go.

I'll also echo what Randy said about listening as much as possible. A teacher can explain the concepts to you, but you need to get that sound in your ear. Find out who you like and what you want to sound like so that when you learn the theory behind everything, you'll already have an idea about which direction you want to go.
 

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Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2013
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Getting a good teacher is one of the most important steps. unlearning some bad habits can be very frustrating.

personally, this was my way to learning improvisation:
1. Long tones - to build a good embouchure and tone quality. Long tones of low notes help tremendous for me to identify any "potential" leakages. this is important cause we may end up over-compensating for some technical faults which can be easily rectified by fixing the horn.

2. Scales (in all 12 keys). Examples of scales to be familiar with will be:
a. Major Scales
b. Major pentatonic
c. Minor pentatonic
d. Blues

For all the above, all 12 keys please - this is to ensure that we are familiar with the various scales and develop important aural (hearing/listening) skills, much needed as musicians.

I always believe that the 1st duty of the musician is to listen, followed by playing.

3. Transcribing songs

Choose few songs (within in your ability) and transcribe the parts. do not limit yourself to saxophone-driven melodies. but if the saxophone is involved, try our best to match also the phrasing, tonal quality and soul (emotions) of the song.

4. Jams

I started to apply my understanding through jams, open mic sessions. This was where I was "discovered" and began my first steps in professional musicianship.

Hope that the above helps.

if you wish for inputs of greater value, appreciate if you can record your playing so that the SOTW family is able to give our inputs.

Be open, have fun and enjoy the journey!
 
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