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Beginner c mel practise - help

malamute1

New Member
Messages
4
Hi there folk,

thanks very much for the warm welcome,

Would anyone care to offer some advice on what I should be doing with regards to learning all over again?

I am looking for some kind of structure but please note that I do not read music neither do I understand music theory. Last time around I was akin to 'play the track, find the notes and then practise, practise and practise some more' I am aware that this type of approach has inherent problems, namely that I could not always find all the notes in a piece (if that makes sense) and also that I was limiting my improvisational skills (that I never had to be honest)

So at the moment my plan is this;

1 - Tune sax, Play long notes naming the note as I play them (using thechromatic scale)

2 - Practise the 12 step scale program, learn one key in one scale and keep practising it before moving onto another scale using the same key, naming each note as it is played,try to remember the intervals between every note.

3 - Listen to some music I apreciate and noodle around.

My aim is to be able to pick up the sax in a few years time and be able to improvise on a piece. The music I listened to back then was Ska (madness, the beat) rock n roll. Nowdays it is the same but I am leaning towards swing and blues. Right now I am very much liking Boots Randolp - Yakety album. I also love count Basie and Louis Jordan.


Any and all advice apreciated

thanks Mal
 

BigMartin

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,886
My advice, as you're talking in terms of years rather than weeks. Is to learn to read music (alongside playing your sax, of course) and then learn a bit of theory. It's not as hard as a lot of people seem to think it will be, and it opens doors to all kinds of musical resources (eg Pete's improv tips on this site). You don't absolutely need to be able to read, but then you don't absolutely need a clutch in a car. It just makes life a lot easier.
 

Sweet Dreamer

Senior Member
Messages
505
Would anyone care to offer some advice on what I should be doing with regards to learning all over again? ...

My aim is to be able to pick up the sax in a few years time and be able to improvise on a piece....

Any and all advice appreciated
If you're serious about wanting to learn to improvise I would strongly recommend this ebook course with mp3 backing tracks. It's aimed specifically at the art of improvisation.

Improvise For Real

This course claims not to use "music theory" but actually that's a bit fat lie. It just teaches the concerts of music theory in an intuitive way without the standard formalism.

Moreover, if you wish to learn to actually read music this course won't prevent you from doing that. You'd do very well to actually learn both methods. This guy also suggests that you should obtain a keyboard as a "second instrument". I highly concur with that advice. Any playable keyboard will do. It doesn't need to be fancy. If you can pick up a cheap used keyboard at a thrift store, garage sale, or whatever, that would serve the purpose.

That's my advice. And of course if you can find a teacher who actually knows how to teach improvisation as opposed to standard music theory that would be the best of all, but good luck with that! Such teachers are quite rare. That's why the ebook I suggested above is more than worth the $20 investment. That's exactly what he's teaching.

Good luck on your musical journey whatever path you choose to take. :thumb:
 

Tenor Viol

Full of frets in North Shropshire
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5,888
A lot depends on your 'learning style' but it might be worth investing in a few lessons to get yourself pointed in the right direction?

The basics are not that tricky to pick up with the right book/teacher. I've run some basic music sessions at lunch time at work for people and I've got absolute novices managing the basics very quickly.

It's like anything we're not used to - we don't understand it so it seems daunting: doesn't matter if it's reading Anglo-Saxon or Latin , writing computer programs, calligraphy, photography, or reading music.

Sure, it can get very technical if you want it to but you can do a lot with the basics. I'm reading a book at the moment on Medieval music notation - but I probably come under the heading of 'stark raving bonkers' and I can guarantee that even in groups such as the choirs I sing with, even the early music ones, there won't be many who've read it but that's me - I like to understand how things work, not everyone wants to, or needs to.
 

Taz

Busking Oracle
Messages
3,657
Hi Mal, I can't read music and I don't understand it's theory either. In fact, I can't even commit to memory, the names of each note on the sax. I get confused, especially as I play alto, tenor and bari! I do try, but then I try to add in the fact that they are transposing instruments and my brain turns to jelly!

I do feel that this has held be back quite a lot in as much as it takes me a little longer to work out a piece, and even longer to remember it. If I could read the dots it would make life so much easier. BUT, and this is a big but, whenever you hear me play, that's exactly what you hear. Me. Not someone else's version (albeit the original version) but my version, my inturpritation and to be quite honest I'm very proud of what I do.

To get where I am (nowhere really) I just listen to a track and attempt to find a few relevant notes. Then, once I know where I am (most people would just find out what key the piece was in) I start to add the rest of the piece as I hear it. Now I'm quite lucky as I've got a good musical ear. It doesn't normally take me too long to get the piece nailed as long as I know the tune in the first place.

What I'm trying to say, in my usual clumsy way, is you don't have to learn the theory to be able to play the sax. What you do need is a little determination, someone to support you and maybe to guide you every now and then, and the ability to have a whole heap of fun. If you ain't having fun, you ain't gonna have fun!

Good luck.
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
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21,999
If you get an instruction book, you'll pick up the reading and enouigh theory on the way. O'Neill's Jazz method has a lot of fans here, but I haven't tried it myself.

I guess you realise that most of the written sax music is for tenor and/or alto, there's not a lot written/published for C Melody.But that shouldn't stop you.

Might also be an idea to start with the notes around the middle of the range, say G upwards to E and then expand from there when you get comfortable. Gets you used to playing over the break, and avoids the harder lower notes. Also a good idea, when you're learning scales, to progressively work up the number of sharps and flats - so start with C major (no sharps/flats), F major(1 flat), G major(1 sharp) and so on. Chromatics scales are also good because they teach you the complete key sequence, and then playing any of the others is simply a matter of which notes to leave out. Trouble with chromatics is that they don't sound too good.
 

Filton

Member
Messages
243
Sounds like you have your head on the right way roound and sound slike you have done your research :)

Another +1 :thumb: for the O'Neill method.. As a musician (guitar/violin) for some 30 years I was looking for a book that took a 'free' approach to learning Sax. The O'Neill book, whilst still covering the basics, covers things like scales and rhythm in a way that relates them to tunes and improvisations rather than just as individual items and has you improising from the outset with the accompanying cd.

Probably may not be the ideal book for kids but for an adult beginner it is a good'un (even is Jazz is not your thing - don't be put off by the title)
 
OP
M

malamute1

New Member
Messages
4
Plenty of great info for me to digest there, many thanks to all of you whom posted. I will leet you know how I am getting on in a few weeks or so.



good luck all



Mal
 

Nick Wyver

noisy
Subscriber
Messages
5,943
Another +1 :thumb: for the O'Neill method.. As a musician (guitar/violin) for some 30 years I was looking for a book that took a 'free' approach to learning Sax. The O'Neill book, whilst still covering the basics, covers things like scales and rhythm in a way that relates them to tunes and improvisations rather than just as individual items and has you improvising from the outset with the accompanying cd.
That might be a problem with a C sax.
 

jonf

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,685
For a play along CD/book you'll need something pitched in C to use a C mel (obvious, realy). Should find something good for flute will work well.

To make a C mel into a more raucous sounding instrument, which I guess you want from your original post, there are a few things you can do.

1. Buy an Aquilasax, they're pretty bright sounding.

2. Buy an old C mel and have the pads replaced with modern, metal reflector ones,

Then, whatever you choose, you'll need a mouthpiece. Most c mel mouthpieces are pretty dull. Tenor mouthpieces often work well, but are usually too long and can screw up the tuning, if they fit at all. The easiest way to get a good, bright sounding c mel is to buy a Rico Metalite and saw 1cm off the shank. They're cheap, and made of material that's easy to cut. Yes, I'm serious. You'll then have a mouthpiece short enough for a c mel, with a big baffle for brightness, and it'll be faced for tenor reeds.

I've done this myself, and it works very well.
 

Sweet Dreamer

Senior Member
Messages
505
With all this talk about finding books in the proper key I just thought I'd mention that with the Improvise for Real course none of that would apply. It doesn't matter at all with this method. This method is all about improvising without even needing to know anything at all about keys or transposing, etc. Because ultimately you're not reading music at all, you're just playing what you here in your mind. And that should include any tune that you have heard. If you can hear it in your mind, you can play it, using this method.

He does the "keys" but in a far more intuitive and abstract way calling them "Harmonic Worlds" instead of keys. He gives you exercises and lessons to learn how to hear, by ear, which "Harmonic World" you're listening to, and thus which "Harmonic World" you need play along with the music. It's the same basic concept as "keys" except there's no need to name them. You just recognize them by ear and play in that "Harmonic World" which he teaches you how to recognize intuitively on your instrument.

He does the same idea with "scales". He doesn't teach scales by name or by key signatures. Instead he teaches the basic pattern structure across the landscape of the "Harmonic Worlds" of your instrument in terms of step patterns. So you only need to learn one step pattern and suddenly you have 12 scales (all twelve keys) and 12 modes to play in each key. That's basically 144 "Harmonic Worlds" by just learning ONE thing.

In other words, you'll have all the Ionian scales in every key, and all of their modes, like so,...

I. Ionian
II. Dorian
III. Phrygian
IV. Lydian
V. Mixolydian
VI. Aeolian
VII. Locrian

You won't know their names, or what they look like on sheet music or what their key signatures are. But you'll know how to play them all by ear, and when to play them just by ear, by only learning ONE THING.

Compare that with music theory that would be trying to teach you this very same musical concept as 144 separate things, 12 modes in 12 keys. 12 times 12 is 144 things. That's GROSS!

When really all you need to learn is how to do ONE thing. And you've got the whole shebang.

I'm just saying.

If improvisation is your goal rather than how to read sheet music, you really need to check out IFR.

No need to worry whether the backing tracks will match up with your instrument. No need to transpose anything because you aren't reading anything to transpose. All you're doing is playing by ear naturally.

It's a totally different approach to the same concept that "music theory" makes extremely complicated.

Not knocking "music theory", by the way. It's actually required if you want to write things down in musical notation and read them from paper.

But if you're ultimate goal is just to play what you hear in your mind. You don't need any music theory at all. None. At least not in a formal sense.

This abstract concept of "Harmonic Worlds", and "Scale step patterns" on your instrument is "music theory". It's just being taught in a totally intuitive way that makes it far simpler if your goal is to PLAY music instead of writing or reading it on paper.

As you can probably tell, I'm a big fan of IFR. ;}

But hey, if improv is your goal, then it really is the highway to improv heaven.

Music theory is condemnation to the chains of notated dots and key signatures written down on paper. Not saying that's not useful. It certainly has it's place. But improvisation is definitely not the goal of written music. The goal of written music is regurgitation of what's been written down. That's why it was written down in the first place, to be regurgitated. :)
 

Tenor Viol

Full of frets in North Shropshire
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Hmmm... I don't usually disagree with SD's posts but I feel this one is a tadge strong in its sentiments....:)

There are no universal ways of learning - different mechanisms work for different people.

Once upon a time music was purely an oral tradition - either as a social thing in the community, or passed on from master to pupil via an apprenticeship (i.e. the 'bardic' type of tradition of professional musicians).

This was the only way that music could be learnt as there was no literate tradition (i.e. it wasn't written down). The development of written notation (earliest surviving western music is Gregorian chant from about C6th onwards) enabled the development of a literate tradition where you no longer had to serve a lengthy apprenticeship to a master to learn: if you coud read music you coud perform it yourself. It took a long time for this to happen and it doesn't begin to spread widely until about C12th (the trouveres / troubadors etc).

Music notation liberated music and made it available to the masses.

Theory is something else. In general, theory is always playing 'catch-up' with practice. Techniques evolve and theory has to develop to accommodate it. Also, theory isn't an 'absolute' - it's a set of views at a point in time. Time moves on and theories change.
 

Sweet Dreamer

Senior Member
Messages
505
Music notation liberated music and made it available to the masses.
I'm actually in agreement with much of what you say here. Music notation has indeed been a great thing for humanity in general. It has allowed musical ideas to be passed down in a more precise form, and that has also allowed musical ideas to become more complex as well. In a cultural sense written music is as powerful as written language. It can also be a great tool for individuals as well. Especially if they are interesting in reproducing precisely what someone has done before. Or if they'd like to convey their own musical ideas to other people via written notation.


Theory is something else. In general, theory is always playing 'catch-up' with practice. Techniques evolve and theory has to develop to accommodate it. Also, theory isn't an 'absolute' - it's a set of views at a point in time. Time moves on and theories change.
That's correct. All that any "theory" amounts to is nothing more than an explanation of why things work. In truth, IFR is its own explanation of why music works. So it's just yet another form of "music theory". The only difference is that IFR focus on how to improvise music, instead of how to read it from musical notation.

IFR focuses on the art of improvising. So if that's the goal, then this is the theory you want to use to achieve that goal. ;}

I'm just responding to the goal that was suggested is all.

Malamute wrote:

My aim is to be able to pick up the sax in a few years time and be able to improvise on a piece.

Any and all advice appreciated

thanks Mal
If Mal studies IFR sincerely for a few years this goal will most certainly be achieved.

I would strongly hesitate to suggest that studying conventional music theory would necessarily achieve this goal in such a short period of time. It may or may not. Like you say, that can all depend on the individual.

I'm just offering food for thought, for whatever it's worth. ;}

I study both. I recommend studying both. For example, IFR starts a person out playing every note their instrument can play (i.e. the chromatic scale over the entire comfort range of their instrument). Well, there's no reason why they can't look at sheet music of chromatic scales at the same time to see what that looks like.

Same thing when moving on to studying the scales as "step patterns". Fine. Look at scales written down on paper in musical notation when you do that. Then you'll see what it looks like on paper too.

When you start to play those same step patterns starting on different notes, look at how all those different modes are written down on paper as you practice them.

It can only result in even a deeper understanding of everything.

So do BOTH.

And yes, I highly recommend the O'Neil books too. I have them for trumpet, sax, clarinet and flute. They're great! They'll also introduce the pentatonic scales as well.

So my ultimate "advice" is to do BOTH. Learn to read music, and learn it intuitively on your instrument through IFR as a "Harmonic Landscape of scale-step patterns". You can't go wrong learning both ways of viewing music on your instrument. One method doesn't need to exclude the other.
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
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21,999
With all this talk about finding books in the proper key.....
It's not just the book - it's the CD/book combination.

In general you can take any book, and play it on any sax, but unless the book / CD combination are right for your instrument, then you won't be able to use them together. Hence Jon's suggestion of flute - the normal (soprano) flute is in C, like the C-Mel.

I'm not sure about O'Neill, but many of these tutors & playalongs which are available for different instruments, have a common CD, same tunes but the scores are transposed for the instrument in question. And, of course, they show the fingering for that instrument.

Trouble with flutes is that they have a much bigger range of tones than a sax.
 

Sweet Dreamer

Senior Member
Messages
505
It's not just the book - it's the CD/book combination.
Well, like I say, that's a folly of written music. You're either stuck in the key it was written in, or you've got to transpose it into the proper key. If you're learning to improvise you're totally free. Any backing track will do. You're not stuck with sheet music written in the wrong key.
 

Nick Wyver

noisy
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5,943
Trouble with flutes is that they have a much bigger range of tones than a sax.
Ahem.

No, they don't.

Back to the other question: the Aebersold and Hal Leonard playalongs cover all the usual keys in each book.
 
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Tenor Viol

Full of frets in North Shropshire
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I was in a music shop today and there were things like Real books in C etc.
 
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