Beginner Can anyone give me any information about improv for jazz band on Tenor?


New Member
Charlotteotown, Prince Edward Island
I have only begun playing tenor saxophone at my school today and i am a member of our Jazz Band and our Improv Band. I have only joined improv band yesterday and the rest of the band is several weeks ahead of me (I had to audition for tenor and it took 6 weeks practice.) I find that when i try to solo, it just sounds like I'm picking random notes out of the scale and it has to pattern to it at all (it really sounds horrible!) Please, any tips would be appreciated.
Welcome to the world of improvisation. I'm a relative beginner myself but I've learned this much:

You've made a good start by having the sense to ask for advice from people with more experience. Keep doing this.

Listen (carefully!) to players you like. This is the single most useful thing you can do.

Try to figure out what they're doing and copy it. Play along with the recording if you can.

Learning some theory can help you with the figuring out bit, but it's your musical ear that you really need to develop. The good news is that you can do it. Like everything else in music it's a matter of practice. And what more pleasant way to practice could there be than listening to great players play jazz?

The more I get into this, the more I realise it's all about listening, whether to recordings or to the rest of your band so you gradually learn to "feel" the rhythms and harmonies.

Be patient (I'm presuming you're quite young so you've got more time than most of us here), pat yourslf on the back when it goes well and forgive yourself when it doesn't. Most importantly of all, REMEMBER TO ENJOY YOURSELF. It's surprising how easy it is to forget that last bit.
An Easy way to get started on Improv wiould be to identify a Pentatonic Scale that would fit the music that you are given.

Two main Pentatonic Scales:

1. Major Pentatonic: notes 1 2 3 5 6 8.

2. Minor Pentatonic: notes 1 3 4 5 7 8.

Hence with C Major it would be C D E G A C; with C Natural Minor it would be C Eb F G Bb C.

By having fewer notes you can just play randomly whilst producing something quite musical. After a while it is possible to do some or all of the following:

Repeat notes

Repeat short phrases

Start low, start middle, start high

Vary the rhythm of the piece

Produce short phrases of 4 - 8 notes, and then have a brief break.

So I would suggest limit the number of notes that you are going to play (Pentatonic Scale) and then play around with those various notes in some of the ways suggested above. It should provide you with a good starting place, and avoid an over focus on going up and down a scale with not much sense of purpose.
If you add the flattened 5th to your minor pentatonic you've got a blues scale, so C blues is: C Eb F Gb G Bb C

Throw that extra note in occasionally. Somehow it's addition makes a load of difference.

If you're not sure where to start, you could repeat the rhythm of the head (The bit that's written down to start with before you break out to the impro bit) but sticking only to one or two adjacent notes from that blues scale for the first 4 bars (measures), for the next 4 bars add a couple more notes, or choose 2 different notes.

I hated improvising when I began, I thought I sounded like a bag of nails! But with time and practice it becomes more natural and you'll feel more comfortable with it.

As with everything....practice...
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