Category: Saxophone

Combining the Blues Scale With the Minor Scales

There is a lot of talk in improvisation texts about the three minor scales (which start on LA), the Dorian mode (which starts on RE), and the blues scale (which can begin on either one).   However, the reality is that master jazz improvisers glide freely between all five scales with additional nuances interspersed.  Below is a lick to illustrate this principle.  Listen to the mp3 recording while looking at the chart.  Try practicing this lick in all 12 keys.  If you have difficulty, try slowing it down or looping the hard section with the FREE DOWNLOAD  Best Practice.   Or contact me for a FREE chart of the lick in 12 keys by filling in your email below.  Your address will NOT be used for any other purpose, and it will NOT be saved.   Better yet, if you want to learn to play jazz by ear, download New Ears Resolution.

10-14-13 LICK

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”?”

Sonny Rollins’ Solo on “Blues for Philly Joe”

Sonny Rollins is renowned for his unique approach to thematic development, which is somewhat similar to the way Beethoven worked in a piece such as his famous Fifth Symphony.  His solo on his original tune “Blues for Philly Joe” (named for drummer Philly Joe Jones) is a perfect example of this type of development.  Parts of the solo are so rhythmically driven, one can imagine that Rollins was consciously emulating the way a jazz drummer would approach a solo.  Here is a great blues lick that works well over the IV chord (bars 62-63).  Doesn’t it sound like something Cannonball (a great blues master) might have played?  Try playing it in all 12 keys. If you can’t figure out how to transpose it, leave a comment below or email me for a free copy of the figure in all 12 keys.

 

Cannonball Adderley: The Way You Look Tonight

Cannonball Adderley’s solo on “The Way You Look Tonight” is an amazing tourdeforce!  He blazes through an entire chorus in 53 seconds.  But, if you play this solo**  at half speed, it is as melodic as a Johnny Hodges invention.  Played in concert F, it is written for alto sax in D major.  In this key, the bridge modulates to F major.  However, the wonderful phrase shown below actually begins in G minor and ends in F major.  Try playing this lick in all 12 keys.  It works well over a II-V change.  If you cannot figure it out on your own, email me for a free chart of the lick in all 12 keys. 

**   This solo is found in “The Julian Cannonball Adderley Collection” edited by Tim Price, published by Hal Leonard.

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.

Charlie Parker: “An Oscar For Treadwell”

Page 43 of the Eb Charlie Parker Omnibook contains this cool phrase in lines 12 & 13.  Why does this particular lick sound so nice over a V7 chord?   One reason is that the 3rd of the chord (TI), the 7th of the chord (FA), and the 13th of the chord (MI) are prominently featured on the strong beats 1, 3, & 1 respectively.  These are the most interesting notes in the chord.   FA & TI form an attractive tritone, while MI is a major 7th above FA.  The line also has an interesting contour.

Although Bird’s solo on “An Oscar For Treadwell” is in the key of A major (on alto sax), you will notice that the lick shown below – which occurs in the first 2 measures of the bridge – is in the key of F#.  For the benefit of New Ears Resolution students, i have written in the solfége syllables below the notes.  (The syllable “SE” – pronounced “say” – is between SO and FA.)    As always, you will derive the maximum benefit from playing this phrase in all 12 keys.  If you cannot figure out the notes in the other keys, email me for a FREE pdf of the complete chart and an mp3 recording you can practice along with.

The more you study the work of the masters such as Charlie Parker, the richer your own musical vocabulary will become.  Playing the licks in all 12 keys develops your “hand / ear co-ordination” and prevents you from falling into “finger familiarity” ruts.

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””

Lick from Bird’s Solo on “Cosmic Rays”

This phrase from Charlie Parker’s solo on his composition “Cosmic Rays” is 1 more example of his stunning melodic gift.   Study a whole encyclopedia of great Bird creations in “The Charlie Parker Omnibook.”  Click on the arrow below to hear the audio file, which was created from the original recording slowed down & transposed into all 12 keys.
BIRD COSMIC RAYS

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 .

COLTRANE’S FAVORITE LICK

This lick is in the John Coltrane solo to “I Love You.”  Coltrane used this lick throughout his career.   Many of his disciples also picked up on the lick.   i work on it in 8 keys (the range shown for the first lick is 8va).     For variety, try playing it in retrograde (backwards) as shown in the second example below. 

 COLTRANE LICK

MIXOLYDIAN BLUES LICK

For those studying “New Ears Resolution,” this blues lick is in the mixolydian mode.   (See the chart showing the modes at the end of your book.)  Try thinking of this melody first in mixolydian and then in ionian.  Both sets of syllables are shown.  Which ever set of syllables feels more comfortable to your ear, that is the set you should use.   Try to play the melody as smoothly as possible, in order to realize the underlying swing.   As with all exercises, start slowly and smoothly, gradually increasing the tempo.  I play this at dotted quarter = 150.

MIXOLYDIAN BLUES LICK

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”

Can You Learn to Play by Ear?

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.

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?

“New Ears Resolution” is a hands-on method. Learn to play by ear by playing, rather than studying abstract theory! It’s fun, and it’s practical.

The audio contains 26 enjoyable play-along tracks in many different styles: swing, bossa, bop, rock, folk, country, jazz waltz, ballad, and fusion.

The 78-page book includes charts for each of the 26 exercises along with clear, simple instructions and lots of handy tips on how to succeed on the gig or in the jam session.

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE SECOND EDITION

Learn to use these scales:

  • Major
  • Natural Minor
  • Harmonic Minor
  • Melodic Minor
  • Blues Scale
  • Extended Blues Scale

Learn to use the following modes:

  • Ionian
  • Dorian
  • Phrygian
  • Lydian
  • Mixolydian
  • Aeolian
  • Locrian

Learn to improvise over these chords:

  • Triads
  • Major Sevenths
  • Dominant Sevenths
  • Minor Sevenths
  • Minor 7 Flat 5 (Half Diminished)
  • V7(b9)
  • sus b9
  • V7#9(#5)
  • Diminished
  • Augmented

Learn how to navigate key changes (modulations) smoothly and effortlessly.

Learn techniques for improvising.

Learn about harmonic context.

Understand how to play over these progressions:

  • The ii-V-I progression
  • The I-vi-ii-V progression
  • The 12-bar blues progression

Learn the art of melody embellishment.

Learn how to play polytonal passages.

Master rhythm and learn to swing!

Click here to purchase “New Ears Resolution using logo_paypal_106x29

Only $19.99 plus $6 shipping ($10 international)

You can also download the New Ears Resolution course from FastSpring for only $9.99USD.  Click here for details.logo-fastspring-sm

CAN YOU LEARN TO PLAY BY EAR? YES YOU CAN!

How do i know? Because I have taught over 100 musicians to do it over the past 15 years. These are musicians of all ages and levels of ability on various instruments, and you can be one of them.

Playing by ear is a thrilling experience. With this skill, your instrument can reproduce any song you can whistle or imagine, in any key. You can write down melodies while sitting on an airplane, without consulting a piano. How is this wonderful feat accomplished?

There are two ways a person plays by ear. Either you are born with perfect pitch or you learn to play by ear using relative pitch.

One in 10,000 people is born with perfect pitch. These rare individuals can hear any note and tell you what that note is. Some folks say perfect pitch can be learned, but I am very skeptical of these claims.

Relative pitch – by contrast – is the ability to name any note once you have been given a reference pitch. You figure out the second note by calculating its distance from the given note. I can teach you to do this.

In order to improvise, you must be able to transfer any melody you hear (on the radio, in your memory, or in your imagination) to your fingers and your instrument.

How do You Do It?

My “New Ears Resolution” ear training method is based on the “movable Do” system as elaborated by my teacher, Alvin Learned. Al was Dean of the legendary Westlake School of Jazz, which trained many of the leading Los Angeles musicians of the 1950’s, including Paul Desmond, Les McCann, and Billy May.

By playing along with the “New Ears” audio tracks, you learn to discern the relative position of various notes in a scale, and you become adept at finding any scale degree on your instrument in any key. The difference this makes in your playing is immediate & dramatic!

Visualize two typists, one laboriously “hunting & pecking” for each letter, the other effortlessly “touch typing,” spinning out error-free paragraphs. Now imagine two musicians, one painstakingly searching for each note (by trial & error), the other soaring through a melody as if it had been carefully memorized.

A very talented and ambitious young student told me he was trying to memorize one tune per week in all 12 keys. I responded, “That sounds like a mountain of work, and it will take you 10 years to build a repertoire!”

When you play a song by ear, you do NOT memorize the sheet music. Rather, you hear the tune in your imagination, calculate the tune’s formula in real time, and translate the formula into actual notes in any desired key on your instrument, also in real time.

This may sound like it would consume a staggering amount of brain power, but the process becomes amazingly simple, once you have worked through the exercises contained in the “New Ears Resolution” package. The 26 exercises on the CD (or mp3 download) start out quite simply and grow increasingly complex as your ability and confidence grow.

You will play along with the 72-minute audio a minimum of three times.

  • The first time, you read through the charts given in the “New Ears” book while you play along with the audio track. This also helps refine your sight reading ability.
  • The second time, you play along with the recording without looking at the book. You are now playing the exercises by ear. This increases your confidence.
  • The third time through, you improvise variations as you play along with the recording. This builds your improvisatory vocabulary.

While this method is primarily designed to teach you to play by ear in all 12 keys, many other benefits are derived from practicing with the “New Ears” recording.

  • Your sight reading grows stronger.
  • Your tone develops.
  • Your intonation improves.
  • Your rhythmic sense increases.
  • You begin to develop an improvisational vocabulary.
  • Your confidence blossoms.

While the majority of my students incorporate the “New Ears Resolution” ear training method within a series of 12 or more one-hour private lessons, scores of self-motivated students have found they can learn on their own from the book & audio tracks.

The brand new, comprehensively redesigned Second Edition answers numerous questions which more than a hundred students have asked me over the past 15 years.  Its 26 audio tracks and 78-page book are packed with helpful tips to prepare you for the gig & the jam session.

Students who encounter questions or road blocks along the way need only send me an email, and the issue will be promptly addressed.

Click here to purchase “New Ears Resolution using

logo_paypal_106x29

Only $19.99 plus $6 shipping ($10 international)

You can also download the New Ears Resolution course from FastSpring for only $9.99USD.  Click here for details.logo-fastspring-sm