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Keys, jazz, improv, etc.

Posted by trojan_sixtyone 
Keys, jazz, improv, etc.
July 31, 2006 10:13AM
Here's the problem:

I'm a business major in my school's jazz ensemble. I'm a pretty decent player (good enough to be lead tenor sax in the top ensemble) but unfortunately I went to a high school with little musical instruction capability and not being a music major I have missed a lot of basics along the way. So there are a few things I need to know so I can better my improv skills:

1) When our director calls out (for example) "F blues scale" or "Eb major blues", what is the best/simplest way to quickly apply that scale to Bb for my tenor sax? I always have to scramble and really think about it when he calls out a scale, because I've never used them enough to memorize them and am not familiar with the rules.

2) I'm not gifted enough to be able to pick tones by ear, so I have a hard time during improv trying to recognize which notes I can play. Is it best to look at the key signature, the chord listings (if available on the music) or what? Sometimes the chord changes aren't listed (and I can't keep up with them in my head), or they are listed as concert pitch and I cannot play in tempo while trying to transpose.

I have good ideas for improv, but I'm not comfortable enough with decoding the scale and notes to know which ones to play. When I know exactly which notes I can choose from to play, I can come up with good stuff. Any info on this will be GREATLY appreciated.

--Zach
Re: Keys, jazz, improv, etc.
October 22, 2006 04:19PM
Sorry to reply to this months after the post....

I'd suggest talking to the band director about it. Is he also music department faculty? He should have a good idea of the best way to get you just the Bb tenor sax jazz-specific tricks you need without requiring a full music theory course. He might even be willing to spend some time with you to answer questions and help you along.

Once you have your "quick" way to figure out the safe notes to play and the "mostly safe" notes, etc. etc. it's still going to be too slow... from there, it's just practice. Once you know the basic chord progressions without even thinking about them, progressions that are just a little different won't throw you off either.

Good luck.
-Rob
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