Category: Clarinet

Jazz Articulation, Accents, and Proper Tonguing

Some saxophone & clarinet students have difficulty with jazz articulation, because they have not learned to tongue properly.  They begin each note with a constriction in the throat, which sounds as if the student were humming into the mouthpiece.  The beginning of the note is fuzzy and indistinct. Continue reading “Jazz Articulation, Accents, and Proper Tonguing”

Dominant Seven Flat 9 Chords V7(b9)

One of the features that makes a minor key sound so rich is its V7(b9) chord illustrated below as a V-I in the key of A minor.       E7b9 TO Am

The exercise shown below will greatly increase your familiarity and confidence in improvising over this lovely chord.  Continue reading “Dominant Seven Flat 9 Chords V7(b9)”

Do You Enjoy Practicing Scales?

How often do we teachers hear students complain about having to practice long tones and scales?  Every teacher knows that long tones greatly enhance tonal quality and intonation and that scales are the raw material from which improvised solos are crafted.  The problem is that any musician who practices being bored will bore the audience.  What you practice is what you perform.  Practice joy, imagination, and  freshness, and your show will be fresh.  Practice dry technique, and your gig will be a desert.

Below is a 4-bar phrase containing a descending major scale (Ionian mode) and an ascending Mixolydian mode.  I worked on this exercise until the rhythm and note sequence started to feel interesting to me.

Try playing along with the background track provided below and see if this approach adds a bit of zest to your practice time.  Develop your own variations on this idea.  Email me for a FREE copy of this exercise in all 12 keys, if you have trouble figuring it out.  Better yet, download “New Ears Resolution” and learn how to play any melody in any key by ear.

1 1 15 scale lick

Happy New Year, Sonny Rollins!

ROLLINS

What a great way to ring in 2015!  We watched “Labor Day” on Netflix, and then I revisited Sonny Rollins’ 1998 CD “Global Warming.”  Sonny has a wonderful ability to compose simple melodies that swing.  And, of course, the unique way he develops motivic material during his solos is legendary.   Solos brimming over with life and joy.  I just had to pick up my horn and play along.  Here is the lick that emerged, Adolph Sax’s new year’s gift.

NEW YEARS EVE LICK 2014 2015Try playing along with this melodic minor phrase in all 12 keys using this background track.  If you have trouble transposing it, email me for a free chart.  Or download “New Ears Resolution” and learn how to play any melody in any key by ear.

Improvising Using Skips

Are your improvisations based more on the chord changes (Coleman Hawkins approach) or on the melody (Lester Young approach)?  Many players look at the chord progressions and derive either arpeggios or scale patterns based on the indicated changes.  Here is an exercise that will develop your ability to integrate larger leaps into your melodic flow.

12 9 14 LICK cropped

To derive the maximum benefit, practice this pattern in all 12 keys around the circle of fifths using the background track provided below.  If you have difficulty figuring out the pattern in the other keys, contact me for a FREE chart (no cost or obligation).  Better yet, download “New Ears Resolution” to learn how to play any melody in any key BY EAR!

Check Out This Great Saxophone Web Site

Jeff Rzepiela is a talented reed player and arranger.  His web site contains many transcriptions of solos by the masters of jazz.   Check out his latest newsletter Scooby-sax_Newsletter_Oct_2014(1) which features an insightful analysis of an improvised solo by Arnie Krakowsky over the tune “I’ve Never Been in Love Before.”  Jeff skillfully singles out several key phrases in the solo, shows how they relate to each other, and makes them available for those of us who benefit from “wood-shedding” over great “licks.”

Kenny Barron’s “Voyage”

Kenny Barron’s wonderful composition Voyage is a particularly apt vehicle for Stan Getz.  The phrase in bar 4 especially caught my ear (example A.)

KENNY BARRON EX A

It would be fascinating to ask Mr. Barron whether he conceived of Voyage rapidly or – as often happens – the piece evolved over a period of time.
Focusing on bar 4, you see that the melody outlines the F7(b9) chord as shown in example A above.  It’s tempting to speculate that the appoggiatura was originally part of the F7(b9) arpeggio. The Eb then takes its place as the 7th in the F7(b9) chord, as shown in Example B.  Of course, Voyage as we now know it is far hipper than it would have been if bar 4 looked like Example B!

KENNY BARRON EXAMPLE B

Speculation aside, one way you will definitely improve your instrumental technique is by playing figures such as this one in all 12 keys around the Circle of Fifths, starting with a slow metronome setting and gradually increasing the tempo.
While I practiced this particular lick, I experimented with various rhythmic combinations.  If you do that, you will keep your imagination engaged, so that your practice time does not degenerate into a dry, lifeless exercise. You will also develop your own stylistic preferences, so that choosing the hippest rhythm for an improvised passage will not slow down your reflexes during performance.  Some of the iterations I tried are shown in Example C.

KENNY BARRON EXAMPLE C

The first iteration emphasizes the third of the chord – the “sweet note.”   The rest of the sketches experiment with various rhythmic syncopations.  Perhaps you also will benefit from playing along with the final lick in all 12 keys using this background track:

Here is the chart:

KENNY BARRON VOYAGE EXERCISE 9 19 14 web site

 

A Jazz Lick From Bach? Yes Indeed!

A recent biography of jazz tenor sax giant John Coltrane verified that he had indeed studied the wonderful Bach Cello Suites.  The suites, though quite challenging, are a joy to play, and they provide numerous opportunities to build your tone, technique, and conception.  As it turns out, they also contain some amazing phrases which can be adapted as jazz improv “licks.”  What do you think of this one?   It’s from Bach Cello Suite Number 2, “Allemande,” bar 21.    Play it through in all 12 keys (see chart below) and let us know whether Bach gives you ideas for your jazz improvisation.

BACH CELLO SUITE II, ALLEMANDE bar 21

Try This One in All 12 Keys!

Here is an interesting phrase I’ve been practicing in all 12 keys.  As always, follow Kenny Werner’s cue to “play effortlessly” in order to get a relaxed, flowing, swinging feel.    Try playing along with the background track provided below.  If you need a chart, it is also provided below.   Better yet, download “New Ears Resolution” and learn how to play in all 12 keys by ear with ease.

TRY THIS ONE IN ALL 12 KEYS page 1

TRY THIS ONE IN ALL 12 KEYS page 2

Want Larger, More Enthusiastic Audiences?

What you practice is what you will perform.  A joyful practice session produces a joyful performance.  If you “practice joy” instead of merely “practicing scales,” the joy in your performances will be contagious, and your audiences will grow larger and more enthusiastic.
Now here’s the rub: Any teacher of improvisation will tell you, “You have to master scales to be a great improviser.”  But you hate practicing scales!  Your mind grows numb.  You can’t wait for your practice time to be finished.
The challenge is to keep your imagination joyfully engaged AND, at the same time, increase your technical mastery of your axe.  Can you do both?
Over the years, I have assembled a book of 300 licks that both challenge my technical ability and — AT THE SAME TIME — keep my heart and my imagination fully engaged.  Most of them evolve as I work them out in all 12 keys;  others are borrowed from the solo transcriptions of the masters.  Below is a recording and a chart for 1 such scalar lick which I just finished practicing.  Try it!  Can you play it in all 12 keys? If not, contact me using the contact form below for a free chart.  Better yet, download New Ears Resolution to learn how to play any melody by ear in any key.

8-15-13 LICK

You Can Learn to Play by Ear with “New Ears Resolution”

New Ears Resolution has helped hundreds of musicians learn to play by ear over the past 15 years. And now, the Second Edition offers scores of new innovations designed to make your learning experience more enjoyable, effective, and thorough.

Download “New Ears Resolution” for just $9.99.  Click here.

OR   Purchase the physical book and CD via PayPal for just $19.99 plus shipping.  Click here.

Whether you work with a jazz combo, rock group, or big band, or just play for your own pleasure, “New Ears Resolution” will help you become the musician you have always wanted to be.

i’ve taught this method for years and have used it in my own performances.  i’ve researched extensively in order to improve its design and have thus developed a comprehensive approach to the art of playing by ear.

HOW IS “NEW EARS” DIFFERENT FROM OTHER METHODS?

Continue reading “You Can Learn to Play by Ear with “New Ears Resolution””

What is This Thing Called “Storyville”?

“Storyville” packed Laguna Beach’s Marine Room in June.  Everybody had a great time, so we decided to do it again.
When:  Tuesday, August 14 , 2012, 7:00-11:00 PM
WhereThe LAX Jazz Club at the Crowne Plaza Hotel
Please RSVP at:  the Storyville Facebook page.
listen to samples of Storyville’s music here

          This most unique ensemble is comprised of HONK member Craig Buhler along with bassist Jack Prather, trumpet & vibes man Brian Atkinson (Disneyland Band), brass man Dan Barrett (Benny Goodman, Woodie Allen, etc.), and first call L.A. session players Karen Hammack (piano) and drummer Paul Kreibich (Ray Charles Band).  Their repertoire is amazingly diverse spanning jazz history from Louis Armstrong to Wayne Shorter, pop icons from Benny Goodman & Nat King Cole to Bob Marley & Steely Dan
Continue reading “What is This Thing Called “Storyville”?”

Effortless Mastery

Here is an exercise to develop your rhythmic precision, finger dexterity, and improvisatory diversity.

In Kenny Werner’s book “Effortless Mastery,” he states that in order for a phrase to sound relaxed & swinging, it must be played effortlessly.  How do you play a line like the one below and make it sound effortless?  You must sacrifice one of these qualities:

  •   playing it fast
  •   playing the whole phrase
  •   playing it perfectly

Try looping little sections (as few as 2 notes) until they flow effortlessly.  Use your metronome in order to keep the groove going smoothly.  Start slowly and gradually extend the length, speed, and precision of what you are able to play effortlessly.

Ralph Moore’s Tenor Solo on “SOS”

Are you hip to Ralph Moore?  He has a fabulous sound and great ideas.  The following lick is taken from Ralph Moore’s solo on the tune “SOS” from the CD “Moore Makes 4” by the Ray Brown Trio with Ralph Moore.  This is an amazing solo, packed with wonderful lyricism and dazzling technique.  For details, see the book “Ralph Moore Jazz Tenor Solos” Transcribed by Bill Sears, published by Corybant Productions, Inc., 1994.  I have recorded the lick in all 12 keys, so you can play along with the recording.  On the following page is the link to the recording along with a chart showing the lick in all 12 keys.  Below is an analysis of the various key centers traversed by the lick.  You will note that the melody & the chord changes both adhere strictly to this key center scheme.  (See “New Ears Resolution” for details on this analysis technique.)
MOORE SOS 1ST TIME

 

 

 

Continue reading “Ralph Moore’s Tenor Solo on “SOS””

CELERITY: Bird transposes up a half step

This wonderful phrase illustrates how Charlie Parker (“YARDBIRD” or “BIRD”) could take a simple chord progression (such as III minor / bIII minor / II minor) and transform it into an opportunity to modulate.   In this case, he raises the key by a half-step, a favorite be-bop modulation.  (Thus, the bIII minor becomes a II minor in the key a half-step up from the original key.)   To solo properly over this progression, you need to use the Ab major scale for beats 3 & 4 of measure 1, the G major scale for the rest of bars 1 & 2.  Try it!   As always, try to master the exercise without resorting to the printed page.      Click here to hear the audio
BIRD CELERITY no key sigs

ANTHROPOLOGY (Charlie Parker)

There are so many great phrases in this classic solo.   This one deserves attention because of its rhythmic & melodic vitality and its effortless harmonic insinuation.   Click below to see the phrase in all 12 keys.  However, it is better to practice your ear training by figuring out the lick through  melodic extrapolation.   Click here to purchase the Charlie Parker Omnibook with its 142 pages of heads & transcribed solos by Bird.  Click here to hear a play-along version.    (To slow it down or change the key, download the free program “Best Practice.”)ANTHROPOLOGY by CHARLIE PARKER (BIRD) line 14

 

 

 

 

Continue reading “ANTHROPOLOGY (Charlie Parker)”

Half Diminished (Minor Seven, Flat Five)

This arpeggio is very useful over a V7 (or a V9) chord.   Notice that the iteration beginning on A# is actually in the key of C major.  The A# is LI (sharp 6) in the major scale.    For “New Ears Resolution” students, also note that the key change is indicated by the presence of a “pivot note.”   Marked as (TI=LI), this notation is understood to mean “The note B natural, (TI in the old key of C major) will now become LI in the new key of Db major.”   Once grasped, this understanding of modulation as described by a pivot note is a very powerful concept when one attempts to navigate the changes of a song with many internal key changes (such as “All the Things You Are.”)  

TI RE FA LA FA RE

MIXOLYDIAN TRIPLET BLUES LICK

You can play along with the background track to this lick.  It’s an enjoyable & useful figure.  Note that the background track starts with a count & a 4-bar introduction before you begin playing.   Please email me, if you want a complimentary MIDI file or the Band in a Box file (to change tempo, style, or key).  The background track  is available here in 2 formats:

MIXOLYDIAN TRIPLETS

For “New Ears Resolution” students, listen for the II-V progression in the background track (Cm7-F7, etc.).  The lick is easier to learn, if you hear it as:  ti do li ti so fa la mi re so mi fa la li ti mi di re so .

KEYS TO IMPROV – V to I LICK

Here is a lick you can practice which fits nicely over the V7 – I (“five to one” or “SO7 to DO”) chord progression in major.    I like to swing it, but you can also play it straight.  You can experiment with different combinations of articulation, phrasing, and accent.   I always start these exercises slowly and gradually increase the tempo.  Right now, i am playing this one at quarter note = 115.    The range of starting notes for sax is given below the exercise.    If you are studying the “New Ears Resolution” ear training method, think of this lick in terms of:   Li Ti Re Ra Ti Do Ri Mi La Fi So Fa Le So Do.

SWINGIN 12 TONE ROW

KEYS TO IMPROV, EXERCISE IN FOURTHS

Practicing these exercises in all 12 keys will help strengthen your ear and build your “ear / finger co-ordination.”   Try to play them withOUT looking at the chart whenever possible.  Start with the metronome at a slow tempo and execute the notes as cleanly as possible with smooth finger motion.   Gradually increase the tempo, as you become comfortable with the notes.

 FOUR UP, FIVE DOWN

 

Two New CDs

cb_rh_175Craig’s new worship cd  

“Renewed Hope” offers a wonderful
selection of new worship music
composed by Craig, backed by HONK,
and featuring vocals by Rick Tatum. 

(Click here for more info.)

To listen, download, or purchase, click here.

 

 

cb_sky

Can pop hits grow up to be
jazz standards?
 

Skykomish offers 10 of them, recast
in fresh new settings, along with a
pair of original blues charts. 

 

(Click here for more info.) 

To listen, download, or purchase, click here.

 

Songs by:

Continue reading “Two New CDs”