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Hello Saxers:

I'm taking the leap from playing as a sectional player in the Big Band to becoming a participating soloist, I want to run with the big dogs now, and have been playing in the classical style for years, no liberties, mostly on bari sax.

How do you get out of your analytical head into feeling and creating for improvisation? This was just recently mentioned to me by our astute jazz director, "get out of your head".

Getting out of that uptight feeling, maybe it will never happen, my day job is very analytical and detailed: Liquor, Weed?

Is this why there were so many addicts in the music industry? I'm sure this has been asked before.

Open to any and all suggestions, feeling trapped in this brain.

Thanks peeps.
 

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I’d say forget the stimulants, depressants and euphorics and spend some time listening to the kind of music you want to play. Get some books on improv if you’d like, and follow their method if that’s your learning style, but I do not suggest looking to mood altering substances to instigate creativity.

I suggest the Nike method: Just do it. (I mean start doing it, then over time get better at it, as with learning most things.)

I’ll defer to others more experienced for more specific suggestions, as I’m pretty awful at improvising. But I find that such substances never really helped me much. Just my 2 cents.
 

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The idea that improvisation comes purely from one's spontaneous emotion, devoid of intellect, analysis, and forethought, is easy to fall into when you yourself are moved by the music you hear. The reality, though, is that one can take the same methodical approach to improvisation that he/she takes to other things (and the truth is, many passages in jazz have been played before you hear them on the bandstand). Assuming you understand the basic structure and harmonic movement of jazz tunes, know scales etc., the next thing is understanding what types of things sound good in what scenario, and trying to apply it in a musical way. Being able to play chord tones and diatonic lines is a good start, and from there you can move into taking it a bit outside (which can also be done systematically, e.g. tritone subs). As was recommended, listen to people you want to play like, and try not just to emulate them but figure out what types of melodic/harmonic/rhythmic devices they like to use, and incorporate those ideas into your playing. I would definitely recommend practicing improvisation a lot, and recording yourself improvising a lot. I find the latter is the best method for identifying weaknesses; it's really hard to do in real time from behind the horn.
 

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Have been playing in the classical style for years, no liberties.
You are becoming a soloist in your big band, is that to say, they expect you now to play jazz/swing solos? How does that square with playing classical style for years?

There is daylight between jazz and strictly classical music, even for a saxophonist, and I for one have been exploring it for a couple of years. I found it the easiest to improvise on tunes that I grew up with as a child and teenager. For me that would be traditional and old popular Russian songs, nothing newer than 1970-es. Your story is most likely different.

I've found and bookmarked over a hundred of those songs on the web. I shuffle them, then pick up a few every day. Take a song, play it in your head, then play again slightly bending it, then again bending some more. New music comes out easy this way, even if no one can hear it. It's much harder when you repeat that while actually blowing your horn. Everything seems to get in your way: fingers become heavy, keys clunky, you are out of air when you most need it, nothing cooperates. Where is the beautiful new music you heard in your head? However, don't let it take you down, persist. Keep alternating between the music in your head and actual finger music. You will get better, then better still in time.
 
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