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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm a big advocate of playing stuff in all keys.
Here's a video of me playing the verse to Stardust in 7 different keys.
I think it really helps me to understand the song. It also improves my improv by making me really internalize the essence of the song which makes me think more melodically so I'm not just playing patterns and licks.
Of course it also improves my technique and it's a skill that comes in handy when I do gigs with singers who tend to do stuff in different keys.
Also when I play or record certain songs I like to change the key to fit my range better just like a singer would.
https://youtu.be/LZka06ONc9A
 

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You're exactly right. It's a great way to practice. This is assuming the player is capable of playing a melody by ear. Otherwise, there is little to be gained if you have to write it out and read it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
You're exactly right. It's a great way to practice. This is assuming the player is capable of playing a melody by ear. Otherwise, there is little to be gained if you have to write it out and read it.
Even if you had to write it out it would help you understand transposing and help you with writing music. I don't really do it by ear ...more like I study the scale intervals and the key regions and then transpose in my head.
I guess it's assuming that you know the 12 major scales and the minor scales too.
Hopefully the end result is my ear improves but I know what notes I'm playing and can visualize it written out.
I just like hearing what it sounds like in other parts of the range of the horn.
 

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You're exactly right. It's a great way to practice. This is assuming the player is capable of playing a melody by ear. Otherwise, there is little to be gained if you have to write it out and read it.
+100
 

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Soooo . . . I agree with this, but also it seems to me Jeff is right about it's worth even if you can't play it by ear. I can hear the melody and could pick it out, certainly not picking the right note the first time every time while doing so, but I could figure it out in all twelve keys. I don't know that I could remember the melody in all keys though, especially in a rarely used key, if I had to play it later.

When doing this does a lot of it "stick", do you find you recall some of this you may not have necessarily thought you had? My practice time is far too limited and I've devoted only a very little time to this, but I read about it here and consider it often. I tend to think this probably helps one build a bigger vocabulary, you hear more in your head and your fingers just go with what you hear inside and this is how the all keys work would pay off? Would it be fair to say this helps solidify the patterns and help you use them better? Sorry if this is a derail, this just opened up questions for me.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Soooo . . . I agree with this, but also it seems to me Jeff is right about it's worth even if you can't play it by ear. I can hear the melody and could pick it out, certainly not picking the right note the first time every time while doing so, but I could figure it out in all twelve keys. I don't know that I could remember the melody in all keys though, especially in a rarely used key, if I had to play it later.

When doing this does a lot of it "stick", do you find you recall some of this you may not have necessarily thought you had? My practice time is far too limited and I've devoted only a very little time to this, but I read about it here and consider it often. I tend to think this probably helps one build a bigger vocabulary, you hear more in your head and your fingers just go with what you hear inside and this is how the all keys work would pay off? Would it be fair to say this helps solidify the patterns and help you use them better? Sorry if this is a derail, this just opened up questions for me.


I think that playing even a simple phrase in even just a couple of different keys is useful. Like playing "Mary Had a little lamb" in different keys (for lack of a better example) will overall increase your ability to play and to hear notes. When I was just starting out I couldn't transpose piano music at sight so I would rewrite melodies and basically over time made my own fake book. Just the writing of notation was a learning experience. How little or how much you do is of course dependent on how much time you have and how inclined you might be to want to play in different keys. A few minutes a day on any aspect of playing can really matter over a longer time period.
It's all good!
 

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Love it! It reminds me of back in school, me and a few of my buddies were studying with Gary Smulyan, and for a couple lessons instead of having the usual private lesson the 4 of us got a rhythm section and had a couple hour session. He would pick a tune like Minority or something, and we would all play the melody, then each solo, move to a different key (up a half step, up a 4th, whatever he wanted for that tune) and would repeat everything- melody and whole blowing section. We would do this in all 12 keys before stopping. Took a long time, but was really eye-opening! I wish I had some recordings of that.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Love it! It reminds me of back in school, me and a few of my buddies were studying with Gary Smulyan, and for a couple lessons instead of having the usual private lesson the 4 of us got a rhythm section and had a couple hour session. He would pick a tune like Minority or something, and we would all play the melody, then each solo, move to a different key (up a half step, up a 4th, whatever he wanted for that tune) and would repeat everything- melody and whole blowing section. We would do this in all 12 keys before stopping. Took a long time, but was really eye-opening! I wish I had some recordings of that.
I agree!!!...it's really a great way to learn the "terrain" and it comes in soooo handy in real life gig situations with singers etc...
"
 

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I play by ear although I can read notes though slow. What would be a better approach if one play by ear: to use the key in the original version of the song or the key where the sax player is comfortable with.
 

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I play by ear although I can read notes though slow. What would be a better approach if one play by ear: to use the key in the original version of the song or the key where the sax player is comfortable with.
Of those two approaches, I would say learning the tune in the original key is the better approach, because if you just stick to keys you are comfortable with, you will never learn the other keys and that will really hold you back as a musician.

It's better to force yourself to play in keys that are less familiar, so that you eventually get to know them.
 

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Of those two approaches, I would say learning the tune in the original key is the better approach, because if you just stick to keys you are comfortable with, you will never learn the other keys and that will really hold you back as a musician.

It's better to force yourself to play in keys that are less familiar, so that you eventually get to know them.
+1. Also, in most cases when you get on the bandstand the tune will be played in the original key. Not always, but usually.
 

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+1. Also, in most cases when you get on the bandstand the tune will be played in the original key.
... unless there is a female vocalist - and then you might explore keys that you never before considered! :twisted:
 

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... unless there is a female vocalist - and then you might explore keys that you never before considered! :twisted:
Yes, I was going to mention that...... I was mostly thinking of instrumentals. For tunes with vocals, all bets are off; it could be in any key, depending on the vocalist.
 

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What is usually the key which a female vocalist use, compared to a male singer?
There is no set key. Every vocalist, male or female, has a certain range they are comfortable with and the key they use for any given tune will depend on the tune. The point is, you have to be ready to play in the key the vocalist prefers.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
I play by ear although I can read notes though slow. What would be a better approach if one play by ear: to use the key in the original version of the song or the key where the sax player is comfortable with.
I would suggest starting with the original key and then if so inclined try figuring out which key works best on the sax. Coltrane was known to change the keys of standards that he recorded and Stan Getz did it some too, just to name two.
But as a place to start, the original key will make it more easy to play the song with other musicians. There are stock keys for most of the really common tunes.
I've played with many great musicians over the years who didn't read and in a lot of ways they were less encumbered by switching keys because they had developed their ears so much. Their example made me learn to play that way too. So now I do a hybrid of reading and ear playing. I studied classical music (strictly reading of course) and also played in lots cover bands where we only learned from recordings.
My main suggestion is just to be aware there are other keys and to be patient with the process and ENJOY!
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Of those two approaches, I would say learning the tune in the original key is the better approach, because if you just stick to keys you are comfortable with, you will never learn the other keys and that will really hold you back as a musician.

It's better to force yourself to play in keys that are less familiar, so that you eventually get to know them.
What we think of as "difficult" keys are usually just unfamiliar. They may be more difficult to manipulate on the sax because of the fingerings, but they are in and of themselves just another collection of notes.
 
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