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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Can anybody recommend some good books with some basic lines that follow along through changes? I was thinking of just writing out some myself to help me anticipate the next chord and not get stuck on the current chord.
 

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Can anybody recommend some good books with some basic lines that follow along through changes? I was thinking of just writing out some myself to help me anticipate the next chord and not get stuck on the current chord.
The best thing I do now that I wish I had done years ago is that when I learn a melody I also learn the roots of the chord progression by singing them. Once I can sing the roots and it's in my ear it's like when you know a melody. I don't even worry about the chord qualities because once you know the roots and can figure out 90% of the qualities by their motion. The powerful thing about this is that I can sing and hum them when driving, hiking, in the shower, mowing the lawn, etc... It's like you are practicing them all the time!
 

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The best thing I do now that I wish I had done years ago is that when I learn a melody I also learn the roots of the chord progression by singing them. Once I can sing the roots and it's in my ear it's like when you know a melody. I don't even worry about the chord qualities because once you know the roots and can figure out 90% of the qualities by their motion. The powerful thing about this is that I can sing and hum them when driving, hiking, in the shower, mowing the lawn, etc... It's like you are practicing them all the time!
This is what works for me too. I first heard of it at a workshop with Chris Azarra who had a book series called Creativity through Improvisation. If I recall, the books were a methodical approach to learning the roots then tonal patterns to tunes.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks. I've come back to the saxophone in my 30s after growing up playing it and trickling off in my 20s. Couple months and my chops are getting decent again. One thing I do now is play the arpeggio of the chords, but when I'm doing it off my head, I'm not always changing with the rhythm of the song. So maybe I'll try going down to just the root. And I've done that before too, but it sounds like memorizing it would help tremendously.
 

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Also pay attention to 'voice leading' (look it up) when moving from one chord to the next. In a nutshell, move by half step or whole step to a chord tone in the new chord, especially the 3rd or 7th (3rd & 7th are the most important chord tones to 'sound' the harmony).

And learn the circle of 4ths since most chord progressions follow sections of that cycle (C F Bb Eb Ab Db F# B E A D G). For one example (of many):

III VI II V I in C: E A D G C

Those are the roots, chord quality can vary a bit, but in jazz it's often:

Emin / A7 / Dmin / G7 / Cmaj

p.s. This is a huge topic. Hard to boil it down to a few tips. I have to add using your ear and learning to hear the changes is absolutely essential (which fits right in with Steve's suggestion of singing the roots). Start with hearing I to V and a V - I cadence, which is pretty obvious.
 

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Without thinking about it I have constructed a method that kinda sums up the other posts. Or I never thought of it as a method until now when I started to write it down. I struggled for a long time to learn tunes, and after being thrown in with a fusion band that had nothing written down my ears got a lot better fast so here goes. This might not be the correct way if your goal is to recite the chord changes but it's a good way if you want to go to a jam and play standards without your real book.
I don't think anything I write now will be news to you.

-Know the melody.
-know the melody
-know the melody
-In the woodshed, pretend that you and a guitar player are the only ones at the jam and you have to play some basslines (this have happened to me a couple of times) halfnotes at the minimum on 1 & 3 or 1 & 5 with at least some voice leading. And when you realize you don't know every chord refer to the melody and pick some melody notes.
-Identify some strong chord or melody tones that you kinda hear in your head (think "all the things you are" you can't miss the B section there because the chord movement is so strong) and make sure you land on some of them.
-transcribe. it will help your ears and good ears will make anything you try to do on your saxophone easier. There's no use in knowing all the chords in a song if you donate know what to do with it. My recommendation is to start with lester youngs - there will never be another you. It's a short solo that's easy to follow and he keeps coming back to the melody.

When I play my head goes like "II V I in C Some chord in between II V I in G The strong Dom 7 chord then relative minor ish thing. For the B part just go for A major and land on the D7"
Something like that. I don't know every chord but the melody the big picture and my ears get's me halfway there. Even if I don't know every chord my solos tends to be a lot better compared to when I got my eyes in a real book and am counting bars.
 

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The best thing I do now that I wish I had done years ago is that when I learn a melody I also learn the roots of the chord progression by singing them. Once I can sing the roots and it's in my ear it's like when you know a melody. I don't even worry about the chord qualities because once you know the roots and can figure out 90% of the qualities by their motion. The powerful thing about this is that I can sing and hum them when driving, hiking, in the shower, mowing the lawn, etc... It's like you are practicing them all the time!
The other thing that is great about this is that is works your ear as you sing the roots and makes your knowledge of intervals deeper.
 

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I don't know every chord but the melody the big picture and my ears get's me halfway there. Even if I don't know every chord my solos tends to be a lot better compared to when I got my eyes in a real book and am counting bars.
+1. IMHO, if you have to glue your eyes to the sheet music, you don't know the tune well enough to play it in public! And, in my case at least, reading a tune 100 times is far less effective than playing it by ear 10 times on the bandstand with the band.

However, knowing the chords thoroughly, in your mind/ear, not reading them on paper, is helpful. Depending on the complexity of the changes, you may not need to try to sound every chord; in some cases they are passing chords that aren't as important as, say the V chord or the I chord.
 
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