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Discussion Starter #1
As an adult learner, recreational player, starting back in my trumpet days, and now in my sax days, over the past 12 years, I keep trying and trying to use Jamey's books to learn jazz licks and improvising, to absolutely no avail.
I have book #1, #21 & #24, and every so often as I work through other things to improve, I go back to these books to see if something jumps out and a place to start makes itself known.
But....still nothing.

I don't know if it is the typeface, the very busy pages, the sideways one page, upways the next, messy staff/notes or what, but i cannot for the life of me figure out where to start and how to get something out of these books.

Does anyone have tips, suggestions, etc on where to start, how to use and how to make all this info sink in and resonate in my practice?
Never seen anything like it.
I have taken and understood every Better Sax online course there is, a few from Best Saxophone Website Ever, and others, and got a lot of value out of them all.
Also gotten value out of other books and methods, but not these.

What on earth is the missing link here?
 

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OK, first off, have you read the text? I'm not saying this to be a wise guy. I have a habit myself to dive into things sometimes without looking at all the "instructions". Most, if not all of the Aebersold books I have have accompanying text that explains the exercises as well as some basic music theory. All the backing tracks are listed in the book with the corresponding exercises as well. Do you have a personal instructor? To me, the best way to understanding music as well saxophone playing is to have a good instructor. He or she can help you get the most out of these as well as any other method book.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
OK, first off, have you read the text? I'm not saying this to be a wise guy. I have a habit myself to dive into things sometimes without looking at all the "instructions". Most, if not all of the Aebersold books I have have accompanying text that explains the exercises as well as some basic music theory. All the backing tracks are listed in the book with the corresponding exercises as well. Do you have a personal instructor? To me, the best way to understanding music as well saxophone playing is to have a good instructor. He or she can help you get the most out of these as well as any other method book.
Yup, I read. Nope, hasN’t helped.
A few instructors have tried to ‘splain how, that’s why I bought them, at their suggestions.
Was hoping someone here had insight
 

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I'm right there with you Motteatoj. I have read the text but I guess I'm too dense to get it. Maybe Reet has a point. Someone to sit there and explain it and give feedback is probably the answer. I can't make heads nor tails of what Aebersold is trying to sell.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I don’t know if anyone remembers the Art Institute of Chicago’s ads in magazines to “Draw Tippy”. Tippy was a happy little turtle that you were supposed to draw and submit to them to see if you could get in and learn to draw or something. The instructions on how to draw Tippy had threes steps. The first was like a simple line, the second another basic shape like a circle, and the third and final step shoes the completed picture of skippy, and not a clue on how to get from 2 to 3.
That’s how I feel about these books.
 

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As an adult learner, recreational player, starting back in my trumpet days, and now in my sax days, over the past 12 years, I keep trying and trying to use Jamey's books to learn jazz licks and improvising, to absolutely no avail.
I have book #1, #21 & #24, and every so often as I work through other things to improve, I go back to these books to see if something jumps out and a place to start makes itself known.
But....still nothing.

I don't know if it is the typeface, the very busy pages, the sideways one page, upways the next, messy staff/notes or what, but i cannot for the life of me figure out where to start and how to get something out of these books.

Does anyone have tips, suggestions, etc on where to start, how to use and how to make all this info sink in and resonate in my practice?
Never seen anything like it.
I have taken and understood every Better Sax online course there is, a few from Best Saxophone Website Ever, and others, and got a lot of value out of them all.
Also gotten value out of other books and methods, but not these.

What on earth is the missing link here?
Have you studied in person with a teacher? I just ask because I had a lesson teacher from 7th grade-my 4th year of college, which is 10 years. Then I studied with Bergonzi another 3 years and Banacos another year. So 14 years of seeing teachers one on one every week. After that I felt I was ready to continue on my own. I'm amazed at the people I meet who are doing this on their own from day one. Don't know if this is you or not but thought I would ask.
 

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As an adult learner, recreational player, starting back in my trumpet days, and now in my sax days, over the past 12 years, I keep trying and trying to use Jamey's books to learn jazz licks and improvising, to absolutely no avail.
I have book #1, #21 & #24, and every so often as I work through other things to improve, I go back to these books to see if something jumps out and a place to start makes itself known.
But....still nothing.

I don't know if it is the typeface, the very busy pages, the sideways one page, upways the next, messy staff/notes or what, but i cannot for the life of me figure out where to start and how to get something out of these books.

Does anyone have tips, suggestions, etc on where to start, how to use and how to make all this info sink in and resonate in my practice?
Never seen anything like it.
I have taken and understood every Better Sax online course there is, a few from Best Saxophone Website Ever, and others, and got a lot of value out of them all.
Also gotten value out of other books and methods, but not these.

What on earth is the missing link here?
I have, and have had, a number of the Aebersold books. The most useful one, by far, for me was Volume 3. However, I haven't used any of them in at least 15 years.

I think that the problem with them is that they are advertised as Play-Alongs and so when you buy them, you of course want to start playing along immediately. However, most of the tracks proceed at a pretty good tempo and mix many keys and/or ideas, so, to get the most out of them, you have to spend a significant amount of time learning and practicing the suggested exercises before you can start playing along with a track.

I still think the information in the books is very useful, but I would suggest that you start with some sort of chord/rhythm sequencing program (like Band in a Box or iReal Pro) and input the exercises into these programs. The advantage is that you can isolate particular chords and chord changes and make the accompaniment arbitrarily slow while you work out the exercises. I first got Band in a Box about 17 years ago and, to this day, that's what I use to work out new tunes, new ideas, and difficult chord changes.

After you've isolated and mastered the exercises, you can come back to the prerecorded play alongs.

The other problem could be that the play alongs sort of tempt you to jump around. Instead, you should be patient and spend at least two weeks or so of practice on each exercise.
 

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I have, and have had, a number of the Aebersold books. The most useful one, by far, for me was Volume 3. However, I haven't used any of them in at least 15 years.

I think that the problem with them is that they are advertised as Play-Alongs and so when you buy them, you of course want to start playing along immediately. However, most of the tracks proceed at a pretty good tempo and mix many keys and/or ideas, so, to get the most out of them, you have to spend a significant amount of time learning and practicing the suggested exercises before you can start playing along with a track.

I still think the information in the books is very useful, but I would suggest that you start with some sort of chord/rhythm sequencing program (like Band in a Box or iReal Pro) and input the exercises into these programs. The advantage is that you can isolate particular chords and chord changes and make the accompaniment arbitrarily slow while you work out the exercises. I first got Band in a Box about 17 years ago and, to this day, that's what I use to work out new tunes, new ideas, and difficult chord changes.

After you've isolated and mastered the exercises, you can come back to the prerecorded play alongs.

The other problem could be that the play alongs sort of tempt you to jump around. Instead, you should be patient and spend at least two weeks or so of practice on each exercise.
OK, well, how easy is Band In A Box to use? I'm no technical wizard, I tend to shy away from anything to technically challenging. But I would like to have alternatives.
 

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I use the Aebersold books extensively for my practice. It's like having a rhythm section at your command.

The negative, of course, is that the rhythm section plays everything exactly the same way, always, and after a couple times through you tend to quit paying attention. Also, the arrangements will start to be the one and only way you imagine the tune, especially if you are introduced to the tune for the first time through playing along with it on the Aebersold.

If you pay attention to the development of your craft, you can work around those shortcomings.

I expect the smartest thing to do for early-development improvisors is to pick one of the so-called "beginners" or "easy tunes" sets; don't start out with the one that's all bebop heads at full tempo. In my case I was improvising along with records and in person before I ever got hold of an Aebersold set, so picking things up on the fly was not new to me. (Basically, I started playing saxophone in order to improvise; and within a week or two after getting my first tenor I was trying to play along with records, so that's the place I came from.)

Another good thing about the playalongs is that there are so many choruses that after a couple choruses you'll run out of stuff to play and you'll have to start trying other things. Are you interested in using a tritone substitution to make a descending half step pattern out of a ii-V-I? Well, find a tune that's got a bunch of ii-V-Is in it and go over and over it till you come up with several different ways to negotiate that and make it sound good.

All of these things, you can do without the playalong, and you should do that as well, but the Aebersolds do add an additional dimension.
 

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I would like to share my perspective as a retired music educator. I am familiar with many of the pro and con arguments directed at the Aebersold series and I have something to contribute to the pro side. That is to call attention to one of the most useful and essential contributions I believe Jamey Aebersold has given to jazz educators who are working with students of all ages who are just starting on the path of learning jazz improvisation.

This "written" contribution can be found in Volume 54 "Maiden Voyage" and is the portion I suspect most players skip over to get to the fun of playing the tunes. I know I did for a long time. This is the written material on small roman numeral numbered pages ii through ix.
Just to give an idea of the scope of the information, here are the headings of each section:

  • Introduction
  • Jamey's Notes to the Musician
  • Practice Procedure For Memorizing Scales and Chords to Any Song
  • Nomenclature (scales and chord symbols)
  • Introduction to the Scale Syllabus
  • Scale Syllabus including Notes at the end
  • Treble Clef Scales
  • Bass Clef Scales
  • Tips on Soloing

Another important feature in this method is the listing of a comprehensive "Discography" of all of the songs that can be found on pages 16, 32, and 48. This resource alone is worth the cost of the book IMO.
 

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OK, well, how easy is Band In A Box to use? I'm no technical wizard, I tend to shy away from anything to technically challenging. But I would like to have alternatives.
I purchased BIAB several years ago and was so "intimidated" by the "dashboard" that I didn't even want to try to learn how to use it. With the encouragement of some friends on Pete Thomas' website "Cafe Saxophone" who use the program, I got up the courage to give it a try. To begin with there are instructional videos for users at every level. With the use of these "tutorials" and taking it one step at a time, I discovered using BIAB is not difficult at all once you become familiar with it (like anything else). One of the best things I discovered was a website that has virtually any jazz tune you can name that are already created in the MGU format that you can open in BIAB. The melody and all of the chord changes are written out for you. All you need to do is choose a key and tempo, and then select the style and the rhythm section that you like. The newer "RealTracks" instrument sounds are a vast improvement over "midi" voices sound just like real players on real instruments. Check out a few of the videos at this link for more information. Band In A Box
 

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... but i cannot for the life of me figure out where to start and how to get something out of these books.
...
I hear you, my brother! For a long time I thought I was the only person having a problem with these books. What the problem is, I think, I'll explain below.

When I started learning sax (as my very first musical instrument) I chose a highly accomplished instructor - someone who has played with well known musicians anyone here would recognize. Anyway, after about two years of weekly instruction we started with book #54 - Maiden Voyage. Going through it (yes, reading the introductory text and method), I still felt like I was missing the first 53 volumes :mrgreen: I understood what he was saying, but I felt there was some core concept that he was trying to convey that eluded me. It was so mechanical, so formulaic, so lifeless and devoid of inspiration, that I just gave up on it. I've found so much more truly helpful and useful information online. I'm stunned that there are so many Aebersold books - someone must be buying them.

Here's the issue I think - it's the ability (or lack thereof) of the instructor to realize what the students don't know and being able to convey knowledge to them in a way the students can grasp. For example, when I was taking math, engineering, and computer science, I could see where the instructor had lost some of the students - no matter how well he explained something, it was from his internal comprehension of it. I could go to those students, explain the concept from the very basics, listen to what they said and perceived, and correct the misunderstandings.

I think Aebersold clicks with many people that already have a certain background, understanding, or approach, but for others his books are nothing because those people require instruction attuned to how they understand music.
 

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I feel like I had a similar challenge with Aebersold and similar instructional materials. I spent lots of hours practicing licks, reading transcribed solos, etc. In retrospect, I feel like my big mistake was trying to use the same kind of educational approach that had served me well with academic studies and even with classical music. What I finally figured out was that I was using my eyes more than my ears and what I think of as “the front of my brain” rather than “the back of my brain” where music (and visual arts) get processed differently somehow. Or, maybe the metaphor is “left brain” vs. “right brain.”

The Aebersold books are very “left brain.” Jazz improvisation is very “right brain.” You need them both, but when you’re still trying to crack the bebop code (or name your era), what you probably need most, as someone suggested, is a teacher to guide you, preferably one that has many ways of describing things in order to match how you learn. The Aebersold books and other stuff are just one way of looking at the jazz language and, in many respects, are just the dried materials that need to be combined with other, aural information in order for it all to come together in your mind in way that allows you to move forward and starting seeing and hearing new things.

Not sure if this is making sense, but hope it helps a little. I’m still working on cracking the code myself, with a teacher, but it’s starting to make sense. I’m grateful for the Aebersold tracks, but combine them with playing along with Dexter and Miles and such. I rarely read the Aebsersold texts and, at this point, would never hope that it would help me advance the way I want.
 

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Some insights/opinions if I may:

For all of you struggling with Aebersold's or just improvising.... How well can/do you truly get around on your horn? I hear a lot of "I'm not learning licks", "it's just not coming together" and "I just can't make any sense of it". I think what many people who struggle with this stuff fail to realize is that in order for you to play/learn licks, put it together and make sense of it, you better damn well be able to execute advanced things on your instrument. Can you do basic things like play all 12 major scales, not only up 'n down, but in 3rds, modes, arpeggiated, etc? Improvising is about as far from math and scientific things as you can get. You can fill your craniums with TONS of information about the scales, licks, patterns, etc., but if you lack the technical ability on your instrument to execute those things, they're......useless and all you have is a bunch of info and eternally struggle with the output. Listen to a "name" player or someone locally to you who in your opinion improvises well. You'll most certainly notice how fluent they are with the execution of whatever ideas they play. That's paramount in being a successful improvisor. As Steve Neff mentioned above, after 14 yrs. of teachers is when he first felt he was able to continue on his own. Now that's certainly not the same for everyone, but in those 14 yrs, I guarantee you that along the way, Steve eat, drank and slept listening to the SPECIFIC type and style of music he was trying to emulate. I can confidently say that because I personally knew Steve for about 3-4 years in the middle of that period. I can also say the same for me regarding the eating, drinking, sleeping part and about 30 yrs later, it continues to be the same way. It's NEVER ending, people. You don't just study out of a book, whether it's Aebersold, Oliver Nelson's Patterns for Jazz, Dan Haerle's various books or whatever. I can't tell you how many hundreds of hours I've spent practicing/playing (and continue to do so), but it also would be worthless without listening as physically and mentally much as possible to specific players, the style of the music, etc. I go back to execution on your instrument. I'm a firm believer that no matter how much you "study", you need to have licks, patterns, sound, concept (need I go on?) ALREADY in your head before you stick a horn in your face. You need to know what you want to sound like and execute before playing. Yes, before. Improvising isn't mechanically executing licks from looking at chord changes. It's SO much more. Is that part of it, sure........at times it is, but on top of being able to physically execute lines, they need to already be in your head and under your fingers. It just doesn't magically come out. "Hey, I practice licks for hours on end, but I just sound mechanical and can't get anything else out of my horn". Well, that's because if all you do is execute licks, it'll sound mechanical and quite honestly, be boring as hell to listen to. Practicing licks/lines is perfectly fine (I sure as hell have done plenty of it), but practicing things like that aren't meant to be played verbatim when improvising. Think of them as places to start.....a springboard if you will, to help get started with an idea or better put......a melodic idea. Think of playing "alternate melodies" while improvising/soloing. I can't stand hearing someone (or myself) play pre-programmed things. Learn the melody of the tune you're trying to play (memorize it) and realize the chord changes 99% of the time in the solo sections are the exact same form/progression(s) that were played by the rhythm section during the melody/head. Can you create/improvise a melody that's different, yet follows the same sound, feel and concept of the original melody? I'd certainly start with that. I think you'd be surprised at how ideas will start to flow out of your mind and horn because you're not approaching improvising strictly in a mechanical way. As Lester Young once said "can you sing a song"? Meaning......can you improvise melodically instead of trying to spit out licks and patterns? Or.....just play the melody over and over........and over with a play-along and each time through, try to change a few minor rhythms or notes from the original melody. By the 4th or 5th time through, you'll be surprised and realize you're starting to improvise more and more, but still retaining the original melody in your head......all while NOT thinking about regurgitating licks/patterns.
Wow......sorry. What a freaking novel. I know I've randomly rambled about many different things here, but the bottom line is this is a process that NEVER ENDS. Don't treat it like a math equation, because there is no "end goal" or final answer. That's both the beautiful and ugly part of this. You'll get more confident with what you can do and how you sound, etc., but if you ever *think* you've reached that final answer or "perfect solo" you're only fooling one person. Yourself. Have fun, create and don't get so stuck with the technical aspect of improvisation because it'll quickly lose its glitter and all you'll be is frustrated as hell.

Maybe I'll delete this after I read it again. All of the above is from my personal experience as both a player and teacher for decades. Don't take anything personally because it's not intended that way. I'm certainly not a know-it-all, but I've been around the "improvisation block" a few times in my life and hope some of you who are struggling can get something out of it.... I could go on and on about this topic as I'm obviously quite passionate about it, but my fingers hurt..... ;-)

For what it's worth....
 

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I think you said it well, but it could have been shorter. Your basic statement is, you gotta go deep in the shed and practice your ***** off. So true. But I always say, you really, really need a good teacher. One that will give you the proper exercises to work on and the explanation of how and why things work. I think of the Aebersold books as the tool like a weight machine at the gym. The instructor gives you a plan, tells you how many reps you need to do, explains how to apply/work the machine and tells you what it will do for your body. But the end result still is based on what information you have and how much work you put in.
 

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I purchased BIAB several years ago and was so "intimidated" by the "dashboard" that I didn't even want to try to learn how to use it. With the encouragement of some friends on Pete Thomas' website "Cafe Saxophone" who use the program, I got up the courage to give it a try. To begin with there are instructional videos for users at every level. With the use of these "tutorials" and taking it one step at a time, I discovered using BIAB is not difficult at all once you become familiar with it (like anything else). One of the best things I discovered was a website that has virtually any jazz tune you can name that are already created in the MGU format that you can open in BIAB. The melody and all of the chord changes are written out for you. All you need to do is choose a key and tempo, and then select the style and the rhythm section that you like. The newer "RealTracks" instrument sounds are a vast improvement over "midi" voices sound just like real players on real instruments. Check out a few of the videos at this link for more information. Band In A Box
Thanks Saxoclese, This is something I would need to sequester myself away for a couple of weeks and spend quite a bit of time with. Perhaps this winter, Once the snow dumps on us here in the north east that is the golden opportunity to get work like this done.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Here's the issue I think - it's the ability (or lack thereof) of the instructor to realize what the students don't know and being able to convey knowledge to them in a way the students can grasp.
This has been my problem with several live instructors, and, I think you are right, these books.
I remember one instructor explaining the pentatonic scale to meyears ago, and I just wasn't gettting how it fit in the world of music.
Took a year or so, and others explaining it differently for me to have the 'aha, that was easy' moment.
This is one reason i like the Better Sax lessons, Jay explains things in a way that i understand EVERYTHING.

So what is it that one needs to 'get' before these books become of value?
 

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So what is it that one needs to 'get' before these books become of value?
I really don't believe the Jamey Aebersold play-along series are meant to be "the books" (not that there is such a thing) to teach improvisation. What are they? They're for the most part, an instant rhythm section for people who already have basic improvisation skills to practice with. Sure, there are volumes dedicated to more of the teaching aspect, but as saxoclese pointed out in post #11, please do yourself a favor and look through the multiple volumes those topics/bullet points are in. I truly believe a healthy dose of time with those things will go a long way towards helping you and anyone else who's struggling. Honestly don't know what else to tell you.
 

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Now I'm not a great soloist, but I think I have a little something that's my own. Other people seem to like what I do and call me back for the next gig.

That said, I think that the melodic ideas come first and then the technique to execute them. If you have a ton of technique but you've approached learning to improvise as a process of memorizing a bunch of patterns and how to apply which patterns over which chord, you're just going to sound like you're running patterns. It's not very interesting. If you don't have a lot of technique but you are trying to play things that are melodic and make sense in the context of the larger structure of the tune (not just the one chord that's in front of you this instant), then your solos will sound interesting. If you have a ton of technique, and you play things that are melodic and make sense in the context of the tune, then you'll be a great improviser.

I think the instructional part of the Aebersold curriculum is helpful in explaining why certain notes sound bad over certain chords and why other notes sound better. That's helpful at a certain basic level, but once you've internalized which note sets (I don't consider them "scales", I consider them "collections of notes") are reliable choices for which chords, then it's time to move past the sense of "this chord symbol means I play this scale" and start creating actual music. I don't know how to learn how to do that other than a lot of listening and trying to emulate. Some people transcribe, some play along with records (actual recordings of artists' performances, not playalong records), and there are other paths.
 
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