Tutorials

Beginner improvisation tips

yam62

New Member
Messages
8
hi guys just wondered if any of you could give me a few extra tips on improvisation.

am trying to work with a 12 bar blues rhythm and a c blues scale
but each time i start free styling i cant seam to come up with new licks i keep ending up playing the same ones i have already worked?
:gathering::sax:
 

stefank

Member
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368
Location
Hobart, Tasmania
Think about varying the rhythm - the same notes in the same order can sound totally different when the timing changes. Throw in a few long notes, and use silences as part of the structure of the solo.

Try starting on a different note each chorus. With a bit of luck that may send you in a different direction!
 

half diminished

Senior Member
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Location
Buckinghamshire
A good tip I read was to chose 'licks' from the melody of standards that you like (and can already play) and try them in the relevant key for your improvisation - of course you should always try to learn them in all keys. Now vary the rhythm and articulation, add a leading note to two/three, start the lick in a different place. Try reversing the lick or inverting it. Change octave for part or all of the lick. So the original lick just becomes a starting point or a point of initial reference. Eventually you'll find something you like.

I also listen to the masters playing a lot, especially the way they use intervals, articulation, phrasing.. Little by little I seem to be absorbing some of it. Imitate, then innovate seems to be the way that works for me and yes it can be a bit mechanical and contrived to start with and hard going but eventually I am finding that I am able to internalise some of it to use when I am improvising freely.

What has also helped me even though I don't actually perform in gigs etc is to separate my playing into practice and performance and I rarely move from one to the other in the same playing session. So practice is about methodically working through things, performance is just going for it!
 

thomsax

Well-Known Member
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Sweden
-Try to tell a story with your saxophone.
- Plan your solo. All solos have a start, middle and end. Don't rush away! Leave some space. Less is more.
- Play safe. Use the tones of the chord.
- Add some effcts: Growl, subtones ....
- Play loud! You've something to tell! You want to be heard!
 
OP
yam62

yam62

New Member
Messages
8
thanx for all the tips.
my teacher recommended that i learn and memorise all scales, arpeggios
doing steps like 2 up 1 back learn them so hard that i get "muscle memory" in my fingers
then when i start free styling i could try incorporating a few different scale rhythms.

does this work? as scales are not my most favoured thing to practice.
 

stefank

Member
Messages
368
Location
Hobart, Tasmania
Bite the bullet and learn them, so you are fairly reasonable in all (or at least most) keys. If you start hanging around with guitarists you will find yourself having to operate in what are initially fairly awkward keys - but you get used to it after a while.
 

Nick Wyver

noisy
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Minster On Sea
Definitely scales and arpeggios. Major, dorian, mixolydian, minor pentatonic (+blues) are probably the most useful, depending on the style of music.

When practising, try doing a solo using just 2 or 3 notes. It forces you to think about rhythm. You can do this at gigs too. If you're inventive enough with it no-one will notice you've only used 3 notes. Playing rhythmically is far more important than playing the right notes. Think of the sax part at the beginning of "Let's Stick Together" - all on one note.

Following on from that, as a sax player you can get away with murder in a solo. Play any old crap and nobody bats an eyelid - "it's the sax player doing jazz again". If the guitarist plays a slightly duff note everyone turns and looks at him.
 

TomMapfumo

Well-Known Member
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5,232
Location
Skabertawe, South Wales
Another alternative starting point is to essentially "sing" the improvisation and then try to work out what notes you might have used afterwards (you could record it, if possible!) This can help in several ways :

1. You can find your own voice in improvising......
2. You are unlikely ever to sing a wrong note.
3. You are more likely to come up with certain licks/riffs/phrases which you could expand on.
4. If you are listening to a backing track practice singing quietly, and try singing short phrases in response to the music.
5. Also gives you a break from the sax for a bit - come at it from a different direction
6. Sing in "Do Be Dat, Bap Bap Buh Bap" type phrases.

It's likely to mean that you are able to come up with more personal licks.
Kind regards
Tom:cool:
 

thomsax

Well-Known Member
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3,457
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Sweden
A good exercise is the 1-, 2- and 3- tones solo. We use to practise this at our Rock-Blues sax workshops.
 

Jules

Formerly known as "nachoman"
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4,465
Location
brighton by the sea
Another alternative starting point is to essentially "sing" the improvisation
:
I was about to suggest the same thing- sing solos over.. well, pretty much anything... copy bits of melodies from other players (not just sax players)... good for practicing in traffic jams!
 

saxnik

Member
Messages
381
Location
Poole, Dorset, United Kingdom
thanx for all the tips.
my teacher recommended that i learn and memorise all scales, arpeggios
doing steps like 2 up 1 back learn them so hard that i get "muscle memory" in my fingers
then when i start free styling i could try incorporating a few different scale rhythms.

does this work? as scales are not my most favoured thing to practice.
Yes it does - there's no secret, it's just graft, sorry.

I also agree with what Tom says - trying sounds out along with the chords helps no end, so singing (or just whistling/humming) really helps.

Nick
 

TomMapfumo

Well-Known Member
Messages
5,232
Location
Skabertawe, South Wales
The thing with scales is to make practice interesting. For example choose any given scale and play around just with those notes for 5/10 minutes - maybe think of a style to play in (Loud Rock, Funk, Blues, Pastoral - or an image, such as Dawn, The Rush Hour, and rhythms that may seem appropriate to those images

1. Make up some 4 note phrases - see what the different ones sound like (with C major you might try CEGB, then CEGA, then CEGF then CEAG, and so on. Then put them together into 12 note or 16 note phrases)

2. Practice all scales from top to bottom, and back.

3. If you have a metronome/or something which can to backing/rhythm, just put it on and play around with notes of a particular scale - long notes, fast notes.

4. With my main teacher we would start each practice with an improvised duet using a chosen scale, or take it in turns to play alternately. I wish that these were the things that were written down in a book about making practice creative so that players put in the hard yards out of interest, rather than a sense of duty. There may be, I may not have done my research. In this regard some of Jamey Aebersold's stuff bores me rigid - I just don't have Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder

There are endless possibilities so you don't just get stuck/bored playing the same notes up and then down for an octave or more. As Nick said it does take graft, but that means time rather than just repeated doses of something you don't find enjoyable.

Kind regards
Tom:cool:
 
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