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Teaching Blues Imrovisation


ex Landrover Nut
Just north of Munich
Had an interesting lesson last night. Was told it was on blues improv. So I had to improv on one note from the scale while he played blues chord progressions and improvised as well on the piano. Worked through individual notes of the scale. Then repeated with two notes (e.g. 12, 13, 56) and so on...

Never tried this before. (Never tried any improv, just noodle when I feel like it).

Really makes you think trying to get something meaningful out of just playing one or two notes in the scale..... Rhythm, attack/volume/phrasing/tone.... Some of the combinations are pretty discordant, but with good rhythm/phrasing can be interesting... It it's even more of a challenge when the two notes you're allowed from the scale are only a semitone apart..

Enjoyed it immensely, found it really challenging and it's something you can do at home with pretty much any blues backing track.
I used to despise blues as an inferior form of music when I was young, but you live and learn. Still can't play it. More feeling, less notes. More heart less head. I do best on tenor in an awkward key lol

Blues is so very different to jazz. Too many notes can spoil a blues piece. The first blues band I tried out for they said I was too jazzy. I had no idea what that meant at the time. I think they realised this young alto player was too busy trying to be Charlie Parker.

Quite challenging to solo on one note but a good idea to get a jazz based player out of his comfort zone and into the groove.

I think I'll give it a go.
"Never tried any improv..."??? there you go, life is full of surprises sometimes...well; hats off to you Kev - it's so refreshing to see some humility in some experience players - (while too many out there get stuck in their role play games).

There is a very simple exercise which helps a lot creativity and improvisation - it's not that dissimilar from what you were doing in your Blues lesson, only, you can practice this on your own at anytime:
Get a scale (a blues one is highly recommended), play it up/down the whole range of the sax a few times and then pick up only a few notes from it (e.g. the first 3) - play with these few notes trying to improvise some melodic lines - it helps a lot if one tries to anticipate the next note (by singing loudly or internally)...initially it seems a bit boring and impossible to get any fun from it but after a while creativity starts kicking in (give it at least 10 minutes) - not only one starts creating some meaningful melodies but also rhythm, dynamics and staccato/legato and other factors starts working in synergy to make some music sense.
Once you get the hang of these 3 notes - get another bunch from the same scale e.g. 4,5 and 6 (and later on you can combine the lot to play/improvise over the whole blues scale (6 pitches classes)...or simply, add another note or two to the notes you've just "mastered" (eg. 4 and then 5...) - the more notes the more the time required to master the lot -this is basic maths really the brain has to be trained.
Bear in mind though that there is more than simply adding a few notes (or 2 or more group of notes) cos' there are more combinations out there which aren't explored much until you specifically lock into it....for example if you select 1,2,3 from a blues scale and then 4,5,6 from the same don't assume you are going to master that scale by simply adding the two groups together - e.g. you haven't tried to lock into 2,4,6 or 1,3,5 though you got plenty of opportunities to explore those specific combinations if you open your range to all the 6 notes of that blues scale (and relatives octaves too).
My suggestion is to not to push too far - adding a 4th to the group of 1,2,3 is a safe bet.

The concept of this exercise is very simple but the actual process is not....this is in fact a very demanding training which is never ending (depending on ones' ambitions really). I dare to say, one can safely chuck away all the books out there about learning music and all the complicated theories and just stick to this "simple" exercise...the essence of music creativity is there (it won't turn you into a Bobop genius but it would help a bit...;}).
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My assumption was that Bari players must be very experienced players...wrong!
There we go again; sax playing means different experiences and learning depending on individual choices - in my case for example I can't be bothered to make reading music a more pleasurable experience (reading a score is just an avoidable chore - rhyming isn't) - let's simply conclude that we all have strengths and weaknesses.

Happy Christmas!
My assumption was that Bari players must be very experienced players...wrong!

I've an affinity with the deeper/lower notes, and finally persuaded my wife I needed one>:). Bari's easier to play then the others, :thumb: but size/weight are obstacles. :w00t: I struggled for a long time to really get a rich warm sound from alto, was always too nasal. But finding how to get the sound I wanted (partly mouthpiece) really improved my tenor sound as well. Also rubbing off on soprano, which initially was a little unpleasant, but has improved immensely with a decent mouthpiece and really learning to open my throat.

Hi Kev

Are you selling yourself short? What is the criteria then for "experienced" ?

Just a thought that you may be a tad hard on yourself here. It IS Christmas!


Just very slow progress. And the new teacher and I are still trying to find out how to work together. He's picked up a lot of problems I was aware of and wanted to work on, the old guy was glossing over them. But I feel as if I'm going backwards at times. It's like getting a house half built and then someone comes along and makes you change a lot of things...

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