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Next steps and what is holding you back?

1137 Views 16 Replies 10 Participants Last post by  Zasterz
After a long hiatus, I have been back taking lessons and playing/practicing fairly consistently for 2.5 years or so now. Thus far, my lessons have focused on the fundamental aspects of sound production and technique like tone, articulation, time, support, etc. I feel fairly comfortable/confident with the progress made in those areas and I am at a point where I get compliments on my sound/tone at jam sessions. Have been working on soloing as well: guide tone lines / voice leading and targeting notes, ascending vs descending vs flat lines, sparse vs dense phrasing, scalar vs intervallic, call and response, using space, syncopation, etc. and feel like I am getting a decent handle on the horizontal aspects of creating coherent diatonic melodic lines.

However, I am far from satisfied with my playing. I feel like my solos all sound kinda similar and lacking in feeling. I am not using much embellishment like glissandos, bends, approach notes, enclosures, turnarounds, vibrato, etc. that add emotional nuance and use of devices like color notes, substitutions, and outside playing that add tension and harmonic complexity.

My teacher has told me he is against teaching anything pattern-based such as ii-V-I or pentatonic patterns and licks, but I just don't see how you can get around the use of them to some degree, if only to allow you to go on autopilot for a bit while your mind thinks of what to play next. He arrived at this conclusion after having drilled patterns and licks extensively himself, so I can see why one would eventually feel the need to move away from a rigid approach. However, now I am feeling that my current approach is holding me back, and I just don't see my mind and fingers reaching the level where all these aspects are being incorporated coherently on the fly, producing hip 16th note lines at 150bpm over complex changes.

So my question is what should I be focusing on next? Continue with the same teacher, go to a different teacher, or go buy ChadLB's packages and shed patterns and licks? Do I focus on general technique, or should I be working on applying to a specific piece of music?

Obviously if I could do all of the above, I would, but a job and family means one thing at a time.
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I've transcribed a few solos off records (albeit simple ones by Miles) that are at my level of playability, and I record and transcribe all my teacher's solos (that I like) from the lessons. I'm totally tuned into the subtle nuances and can replicate them to some extent, but it still feels like I am performing written music and it hasn't really translated into my soloing in any authentic way.
I guess it is like asking how van Gough why did you use this color and brushstroke on this sunflower petal, but not on this other petal? Even if I understood the answer, and imitated a bunch of his paintings, where would that get me? My frustration seems to come from my limited vocabulary, yet also feeling constrained by the idiom and wanting to avoid re-hashing cliches.
So, after having played a standard number hundreds of times, how do you keep things fresh and interesting? How do you structure your approach to a solo? Do you have a framework of cadences over the changes and kind of fill in the gaps? How do you approach your practicing for a piece? Do you "compose" a solo then refine it over time or do you try something new and different each time? When you go to a practice session, what do you hope to accomplish?
When I listen to people who’s soloing I like I listen for what I think they had to practice to get to that level. So if I hear a cool repeated pattern in different keys. I think. They must have worked on that. Or if the phrasing is amazing. Same thing. How did they work on that aspect. First of all don’t get frustrated. We all are slugging our way to better. It takes. Time and focused practicing. Second of all. Be clear on what. “ better “ means. For me better might mean. Using all the ranges of the horn. Or using less inflection s and relying on basic tone. Or adding whole tones or diminished or altered sounds to my solos. So here’s what I’d do. Go to your iPhone or music list of sax guys you like. Listen to 10 different artists and answer the question of why did I buy this persons music. What do I like about it ?? That will point you to what you like to hear others do and maybe next steps for yourself. Every completed house starts with one brick. Then you build slowly. I ( at 68 and playing for 45 years ) still take sax. Flute and sometimes keyboard/ singing lessons. I also signed up for Eric Marie thanks artist wirks site. So I’m getting plenty of next steps from better players than me. I personally prefer a live teacher to a website instruction site. I like the relationship side of music. Just me. Good luck. Your post is a great one. That truly is the problem we all face daily. What don’t I like about my playing and what am I going to do about it systematically to make better.
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I’ve been taking lessons from Chad and he’s fantastic!
Whatever works. K
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