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Forum Contributor 2015, seeker of the knowing of t
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OK so I'm out with the better half last night for dinner and a few beverages at the local pub. After a couple of hours the band for the night kicks in... we moved a bit closer as they were a pretty good outfit.... 4 piece - drummer, keys, guitar and vocalist doing some catchy funk originals so we settled in with the rest of the punters.

So here's the thing.... they didn't have any other instruments other than some horn synth effects the keyboardist used here and there and I'm thinkin man these guys so need horns... so I start hearing little fills here and there that clearly didn't come from the band that slowly worked into backing lines and then solos. I could have sworn if I had my Alto I could have just played right along. I found this really weird as I have tried to play along to different CD's where I dont know the key and failed every time.

Anyone else experienced this before? or will the men in the white van be around to take me away soon
 

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You may want to talk to coolsax2k7........He's been hearing some weird crap lately too. :)
 

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Yeah that's pretty funny SM, maybe they could contact the sax players on the other side or something. Jay.
 

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grantonsax said:
If you can't play along with a funk band then you need to spend some serious time in the shed.
Break out the blues scale, break out the minor pent, make your licks quick, punchy with fast resolutions and have the time of your life.
 

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Perfectly normal SaxPunter. It tells me one thing : get your horn out and start playing. I can sing along, find fills, solo's and the whole rim ram on a lot of songs. But I still don't manage to play what I hear in my head. I'm not attached to my horn to that extent, I still have to think while playing. And if I have to think, I can't sing in my head.

So basically, the skill you (and I) lack is translating the tunes in our head in hand movements and embouchure intuitively. Only one way to get there : spend more time with the horn and be patient.

And while you're at it : enjoy the ride :D
 

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Discussion Starter #7
If only I could play as well as I can 'hear' in my head!.... I'd be smokin'!
 

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SaxPunter said:
I could have sworn if I had my Alto I could have just played right along. I found this really weird as I have tried to play along to different CD's where I dont know the key and failed every time.
SaxPunter, regarding your issue in playing along with the cds, I think you have identified the problem. If you don't know what key it's in, you'll have a very difficult time playing along. First thing you need to do is figure out the key. That is not too difficult once you get a little experience with it. Of course you need to learn all the keys (learn the 12 major scales, etc).

I totally understand what you're saying about "hearing" the horn lines. This happens to me all the time when I hear a blues or funk band that has no horns in it. With such bands I always hear (in my mind) riffs, fills, and backing lines that I would want to play. Sometimes the keyboard or guitar can provide that support, but it's not the same thing as a horn or horn section. Too bad more bands aren't aware of this.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Yes, and I hear them too ;-)

JL glad to hear I'm not alone there. So are there any other tricks to picking up the key apart from scales (which I am working on)
 

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SaxPunter, there is only one trick : experience. Fail a thousand times. I slowly manage to "guess" the key it's played in by now. But that involves some experimental noodling on the side to check if I guessed right, which isn't the case that often.

The more experienced ones might chime in with exercises directed to learning this more focused. Stroll around on the forum, you might find some thread dealing with this.

Or incredible talent will do to, but the Mozarts in this world aren't a huge lot...
 

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SaxPunter said:
So are there any other tricks to picking up the key apart from scales (which I am working on)
What Jolle said......

In addition, once you know the FORM and the likely chord progression, you can go by the "I" chord or tonic. That will define the key. If it's a blues, listen for the I, IV, and V chords. Once you identify any of them, you'll have the key. I can't usually hear a band playing and know by ear what key they are in (I don't have perfect pitch). But if I have my horn in hand, I can blow a note or two and figure it out that way.

With a cd, start playing in a specific key and see if it fits. If it doesn't try another key.

If you listen closely you can start hearing the tonic in any tune. Everything seems to gravitate or revolve around the tonic, and you'll hear chords and notes that resolve to the tonic at various points in the tune. So try listening and identifying that tone. Pick it out on your horn or on a piano.
 

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Jolle said:
SaxPunter, there is only one trick : experience. Fail a thousand times. I slowly manage to "guess" the key it's played in by now. But that involves some experimental noodling on the side to check if I guessed right, which isn't the case that often.

The more experienced ones might chime in with exercises directed to learning this more focused. Stroll around on the forum, you might find some thread dealing with this.

Or incredible talent will do to, but the Mozarts in this world aren't a huge lot...
And make sure you're fluent in the keys of concert E and concert A especially -- and don't be surprised if somebody calls a tune in concert A-flat. Guitar keys.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Thanks guys, all makes a lot of sense. I've dusted off the old keyboard (thought I'd learn it in my "inbetween" 10 years of no sax and babies) in an attempt to learn some more chord theory, ordered a couple of books on amazon too.

Playing from sheet music is still fun, but nowhere near as cool as if I could play what's in my head.
 

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Reedsplinter said:
And make sure you're fluent in the keys of concert E and concert A especially -- and don't be surprised if somebody calls a tune in concert A-flat. Guitar keys.
Quite true about concert E & A. Those are very common "guitar" keys. Also, it seems like 2 out of 3 blues tunes are in concert G.

However, concert Ab is a great tenor sax key (Bb on the tenor)! Try it, you'll like it. Actually all keys are great, once you get used to them.
 
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