Sax on the Web Forum banner

1 - 20 of 56 Posts

·
Distinguished SOTW Member
Joined
·
1,313 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
I figured it was time for me to start a thread and spill my guts in one place about everything I have learned the hard way in jazz. I don't pretend to be a "jazz great" -- but I do feel I have important information, especially for those who are looking for some insights.

Improvising:

- You can't intellectualize your way through a tune and connect to an audience at the same time. All the greatest substitutions and flawlessly executed pre-learned patterns in the world are not going to move people. Energy, sincerity, and passion are the way to speak to people listening to you. Have something to say, not a memorized speech.

- Leave the patterns in the practice room. See the point above. And, know that what you practice should be to help you be a better musician. No more, no less.

- When learning a tune, learn the lyrics and be able to sing it if possible.

- Swinging is about note placement. Great articulation with poorly-chosen notes don't swing. Great leading tones in the wrong places don't swing. You don't swing with your fingers, you swing with your conception.

- Leave your ego at the door, especially where jazz jam sessions are concerned. There will always be some old dude or 12 year old that will absolutely devastate you.

- Know all of your major and minor scales, as well as all the chromatic tones surounding the third, seventh and tonic. If you have this, you are well on your way to being able to construct an interesting solo.

- TONE!!! it matters!!

- Know your "swing limit" (search SOTW for this). Don't play double time unless you can do it very cleanly and with note/articulation emphasis in the right place (also known as swinging)

- Don't use altissimo or other affects unless it's an enhancement of the solo... i.e. don't give it more emphasis than anything else in the solo. Doing so is gimmicky and wears out in a hurry.

- Do at least 50% of things during your solo you have never done before. This should be natural if you are practicing the right way.

- LISTEN TO THE RHYTHM SECTION! Seriously, listen. If you are just playing away and expecting them to do as you command, you are doing it wrong. Jazz is an equal partnership. You are not a star, you are not above the bass player or drummer. You are part of the overall experience. No more, no less.

The bandstand:

- Don't play under other soloists unless you are specifically playing a complimentary background figure... ESPECIALLY at a jam session. This is incredibly rude and disrespectful.

- Face the audience when you play. If a jazz player plays in a forest and there is no one there to hear it, did he actually play?

- If there are more senior or strong players on the bandstand, shut up, listen and be respectful.

- Your attitude will generally get you further than your chops. Cats dig playing with great players, but dig hanging out with great people.

- Professionalism is key, even on the most basic of gigs. Be polite, sincere, and above all let the leader lead, even if you disagree.

- Get your equipment figured out waaaaaay ahead of the gig. Nothing is more unprofessional than dealing with issues that could have been avoided with planning (bad reed, no neckstrap, mouthpiece issues, horn leaks, etc.) Plus, blaming the horn for a bad performance is a 1-way ticket to never being asked to play again.

- Bring extra EVERYTHING including things for rhythm section players! Bring an extra 1/4" patch cable, an extra music stand, 9 volt battery and such. Not only can this save the gig, but cats dig other cats who come through in a pinch. It shows you care about more than yourself.

- Don't assume you know more than anyone else on the stage. You always have things to learn even from people with less experience or chops. If you have this attitude, it makes for a much greater performance, and a tighter group.

Life:

- Take care of your health, especially your hands and teeth.

- No matter what the day was like before the gig, leave your troubles at the door. If you think positive, you play positive.

- Music is not an escape. Music is an oasis that allows you a place to connect with your feelings and become a more whole person.

- If you're married, don't flirt at the gig. Not only is this completely deceitful, but your bandmates notice too, and typically think less of you. Being a person of integrity is how you gain the respect of others.

- Be honest with yourself about what you know and don't know. Use that as a starting place for learning. Did I mention leaving ego at the door?

Misconceptions:

- You don't have to know a million tunes, but you do need to know the ones you "know"

- In most cases, well-constructed original tunes (with clear manuscript) are welcome on the bandstand

- It doesn't have to be fast... just tasty and well-executed.


I will try and add more as I think of them. I sincerely hope this helps others out.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
653 Posts
Wow, thanks.
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2009
Joined
·
5,384 Posts
I like your reference about listening to the rhythm section and connecting with the audience. I had a teacher in SF (Bill Fiege) who used to tell me to look at one person in the audience and try to make them move, get into the music. I have seen "cool" jazz cats who didn't seem to care if anyone was in the audience. That shows in the solos. K
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
466 Posts
Thanks so much for the list Jason. This is very useful for kids (including myself) that want to be musicians later, but have not been exposed to the business. The improvising section also gives me a great list of long-term goals.
 

·
Forum Contributor 2010 / RIP
Joined
·
1,363 Posts
- Do at least 50% of things during your solo you have never done before. This should be natural if you are practicing the right way.
In the spirit of "what you know and don't know", I'm not really sure I understand what you mean by this one. Expound please?

Jam Sessions...are just like a pickup basketball game. You've got team players who pass the ball around, give others a chance to shoot, etc. and then there are the ball-hogs who get the ball passed to them and don't give it up until the ball hits the rim. Jam sessions generally suck because of the "mic-hogs". :evil: (sorry, a couple of bad experiences ruined me)

OK.........I will chill now. :cool:
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2012
Joined
·
1,458 Posts
Jason DuMars said:
- Bring extra EVERYTHING including things for rhythm section players! Bring an extra 1/4" patch cable, an extra music stand, 9 volt battery and such. Not only can this save the gig, but cats dig other cats who come through in a pinch. It shows you care about more than yourself.
Had to chuckle when I saw this. I've learned to pack all the things you mentioned over time, but you forgot to include a set of guitar strings and basic meds (aspirin, allergy, antacid, band-aids etc.).
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
162 Posts
Sasquatch said:
Had to chuckle when I saw this. I've learned to pack all the things you mentioned over time, but you forgot to include a set of guitar strings and basic meds (aspirin, allergy, antacid, band-aids etc.).
Amen to the med kit.

Thanks Jason for the list! It's spot on!!

New Life Sax
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
575 Posts
"- If there are more senior or strong players on the bandstand, shut up, listen and be respectful.

- Your attitude will generally get you further than your chops. Cats dig playing with great players, but dig hanging out with great people.

- Professionalism is key, even on the most basic of gigs. Be polite, sincere, and above all let the leader lead, even if you disagree."

Exactly. I've seen some players that think that what their chops can't handle can easily be made up with some extra ego. Nobody respects covering up your inadequacies with attitude.
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member
Joined
·
1,313 Posts
Discussion Starter #16
GAS_Wyo said:
In the spirit of "what you know and don't know", I'm not really sure I understand what you mean by this one. Expound please?
This is just further statement that when you practice correctly, you are building core technique like dexterity, fluency, intonation, harmonic awareness, tone, jazz concept, familiarity with the relationship between your ears and what you play, etc. Practicing licks, transcription, etc. have their place, but as I am somewhat infamous for, I don't find this to be ultimately beneficial, because it influences your conception and the end result is a lot of playing that is either self-repetition or mimicry of other players. Listening is one thing, but imitation is another thing altogether.

Therefore, when soloing, if you are playing a familiar tune, you shouldn't default to certain rote licks or usual harmonic behaviors. Cannonball told me in a dream once... "have one short phrase that is all yours, and use it when you need a little time to figure out what's next." That kind of repetition is cool because it's intentional.

And, that is one corollary on this: good improvisation is all about intent. If you play with clear, honest intentions, you'll usually be ok (assuming you follow the other lessons about not playing faster than you can, play with good tone, and listen).
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member
Joined
·
1,313 Posts
Discussion Starter #17
And, I am thankful that this list is helpful to you! Besides the wine... part of this was spurred by some behavior I have seen at a jam session here in Nashville. Some younger players have some really great aspects to their playing, good ears, etc. But, they just don't get all of the other stuff that goes along with that... just like I didn't. So many teachers and players are reluctant to admit all the dumb things they did on the way (and are still doing). This may make a student have more admiration of them, but it certainly doesn't teach them the most fundamental lessons of all: we all have weaknesses, we all have a lot to learn, and humility is one of the most admirable human character qualities.

I reiterate here that I am not a great jazz pro like others on this board. I (to this day) sometimes forget these lessons, especially if I am having a bad day, or my reed sucks, or whatever. The key is realizing it and fixing it in the moment. Imagine if we did that in every aspect of our lives. When we realize we have done something that is less than we are capable of, we stop, turn it around and make amends. Just because you have done something once in no way preordains you to do it again. That's jazz. That's life!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
904 Posts
50% brand new material in your solos? Bird repeated himself like crazy not even Sonny would pass that test I'm afraid.
 

·
Forum Contributor 2015, SOTW Better late than neve
Joined
·
4,272 Posts
Jason, this is a top 10 SOTW all time post. You go!

I went to a local jam session for the first time last night. What I did not do was bring my horn. Why? Because I knew the proper thing to do was sit, watch and learn about who, what and how things were being played. I needed to show I'm a fan of the music as much as someone who likes to play. I'll be back again a many times without my horn before I'll dare bring it in.

Funny thing, I was reading just yesterday this webpage about jam session etiquette. It's along the lines of some things you've said here.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
54 Posts
Thanks for a great post

I have to chuckle, for this post looks like a recent response to a post Steve Goodsen did on his site complaining about kids out of school not being able to perform.

I agree, this is one of the best posts and should be engraved on every saxophone in existence!
 
1 - 20 of 56 Posts
Top