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Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2009
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Discussion Starter #1
My formula or process for going toward my improvisation goals is to hyper learn chord tones, sub chord tones and patterns on chord tones. I switched from a lick/chord scale approach to the chord tones and rhythm approach years ago and my solos made more musical sense (more chord tone resolutions ) and developed better (use of rhythm to add movement to the solo, building ). That being said I now hear many more tensions and I"m still 100 percent chord tone focused but hear the added diminished or whole tone or tension note resolution but still just work the chord tones. So My question to you guys/gals. is what do you do past the I know the chords phase of learning.? I could deliberately add 9s or 11a ro my practice, cop some licks, write out solos, buy another how to book, watch another you tube video. I guess the common thread in all the people I admire is that they transcribed many many solos? K
 

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TENOR, soprano, alto, baritone
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I think you have to be in an environment where you actually play tunes and learn them, including the format of each tune. This is because I believe soloing is simply making different music out of the structure of the tune. That's where all your theory and practice comes in, but you can't do it by thinking of things to try as you go along - it has to be instinctive and have feeling. So you practice chords to be able to hear the intervals and you practice scales and licks in all keys so you'll have the technique to do what you think of.
The greats said 'learn tunes' - I didn't make it up. And in my experience they are right. The more tunes you know the greater your 'vocabulary' for improvising.
I had a moment recently - the new trumpet player told another sax player he was now playing with me and that guy said 'Man, he knows all the tunes'. I had certainly never looked at myself in that light and I'm not even a jazz player. I do know thousands of pop tunes I've had to learn over the years and I have quite a few standards in my head too, but no way do I know 'all' the tunes. Still, after thinking about it, I realize that what little I can do is the direct result of knowing many tunes. 'Knowing' means to know the concert key and chords as well as the melody and bridge and be able to do a nice job on it PLUS take standard rides (2 verses and a chorus). So if somebody says 'Misty' you know its in Eb and you can do the whole song or just take rides. Depending on the situation you would know whether to play it straight until the ride or play around from the beginning. But you have to know songs to always be musical or 'lyrical' with your playing. That is certainly something you can say about guys like Dexter and Getz - everything they played 'went somewhere' - it was never just throwing in a whole-tone scale because you learned one yesterday.
 

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Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2007-
saxophone, flutes and lil' bit of clarinet
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7,270 Posts
My best advice would be to learn to play the piano.
 

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Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2009
Joined
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5,466 Posts
Discussion Starter #4
I know many many tunes. More pop than bop but I agree with your premise. The solo needs to have some relation to the song or why play it? Thanks K

I think you have to be in an environment where you actually play tunes and learn them, including the format of each tune. This is because I believe soloing is simply making different music out of the structure of the tune. That's where all your theory and practice comes in, but you can't do it by thinking of things to try as you go along - it has to be instinctive and have feeling. So you practice chords to be able to hear the intervals and you practice scales and licks in all keys so you'll have the technique to do what you think of.
The greats said 'learn tunes' - I didn't make it up. And in my experience they are right. The more tunes you know the greater your 'vocabulary' for improvising.
I had a moment recently - the new trumpet player told another sax player he was now playing with me and that guy said 'Man, he knows all the tunes'. I had certainly never looked at myself in that light and I'm not even a jazz player. I do know thousands of pop tunes I've had to learn over the years and I have quite a few standards in my head too, but no way do I know 'all' the tunes. Still, after thinking about it, I realize that what little I can do is the direct result of knowing many tunes. 'Knowing' means to know the concert key and chords as well as the melody and bridge and be able to do a nice job on it PLUS take standard rides (2 verses and a chorus). So if somebody says 'Misty' you know its in Eb and you can do the whole song or just take rides. Depending on the situation you would know whether to play it straight until the ride or play around from the beginning. But you have to know songs to always be musical or 'lyrical' with your playing. That is certainly something you can say about guys like Dexter and Getz - everything they played 'went somewhere' - it was never just throwing in a whole-tone scale because you learned one yesterday.
 

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Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2009
Joined
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5,466 Posts
Discussion Starter #5
My best advice would be to learn to play the piano.
I had 5 years of keys in college and did 5 years solid a few years ago. But for now I can't , they wreck my hands and wrists so fast. Maybe I could use my mini keyboard that I use for demoing theory. But thats out unfortunately K
 

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Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2007-
saxophone, flutes and lil' bit of clarinet
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7,270 Posts
Maybe I could use my mini keyboard that I use for demoing theory.…
Okay. That's what I meant. Learning piano or keyboards to visualize theory and harmony. Sounds like you've got that talent already. Sorry about your hands.
 

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My process is mine and not necessarily yours.

I like to depart from the melody gradually, but always keeping the melody in the back of my mind while improvising. It helps with my phrasing and keeps a connection with the song.

I don't like to play arbitrary scales and arpeggios over the chords, as that just sounds too mechanical to me.

I like to play notes that are common to the chords i'm leaving and approaching, I like making tensions and resolving them, and I like to get most of my expression out of nuances rather than harmony.

In other words, I want to sound like I'm playing a new melody and with lots of vox humana.

I even like lots of pentatonics. Why? The audience relates to them. Every human musical culture, from the cave people on have independently developed the same pentatonic scale? The pentatonics are the release from many of the passing tone tensions I play.

I don't have set rules to follow, as each song I play requires it's own set of rules. There is no one-size-fits-all in my world.

And since I've been doing this as a pro since 1964, I rarely think about what I'm doing on stage, thinking is done when I learn a new song, when I get on stage, no words enter the brain, no rules are recited, everything is on auto-pilot and it seems the the music is flowing through me instead of from me. It's magic.

Notes
 

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Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2009
Joined
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5,466 Posts
Discussion Starter #8
My process is mine and not necessarily yours.

I like to depart from the melody gradually, but always keeping the melody in the back of my mind while improvising. It helps with my phrasing and keeps a connection with the song.

I don't like to play arbitrary scales and arpeggios over the chords, as that just sounds too mechanical to me.

I like to play notes that are common to the chords i'm leaving and approaching, I like making tensions and resolving them, and I like to get most of my expression out of nuances rather than harmony.

In other words, I want to sound like I'm playing a new melody and with lots of vox humana.

I even like lots of pentatonics. Why? The audience relates to them. Every human musical culture, from the cave people on have independently developed the same pentatonic scale? The pentatonics are the release from many of the passing tone tensions I play.

I don't have set rules to follow, as each song I play requires it's own set of rules. There is no one-size-fits-all in my world.

And since I've been doing this as a pro since 1964, I rarely think about what I'm doing on stage, thinking is done when I learn a new song, when I get on stage, no words enter the brain, no rules are recited, everything is on auto-pilot and it seems the the music is flowing through me instead of from me. It's magic.

Notes
Thanks this sounds like what I'm going toward. Appreciate you laying it out K
 

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You know, this thread got me to thinking that when I sing/hum a melody or phrase over changes I'm not thinking cerebrally much about intervals, patterns, scales, modes, etc. I think a good exercise would be to record myself singing a solo over changes (via irealpro or abersold, whatever) and then play it on the horn. Has anyone done this and what did you learn from it? Because, ideally, this is how I should be "thinking" to get closer to seeing the tune for the changes.
 

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My best advice would be to learn to play the piano.
I tried that about 5 years ago thinking it would help me understand music better, which it did. Much much easier said than done though. After about 1 1/2 years of weekly lessons I didn't learn much. Maybe I needed a different teacher. I liked her approach but progress was glacial.
 

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My best advice would be to learn to play the piano.
I tried that about 5 years ago thinking it would help me understand music better, which it did. Much much easier said than done though. After about 1 1/2 years of weekly lessons I didn't learn much. Maybe I needed a different teacher. I liked her approach but progress was glacial.
Maybe some tips here?

https://forum.saxontheweb.net/showthread.php?323809-Finally-learning-piano-at-47
 
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