Having a good technique on the saxophone is vital in so many ways whether we play in a jazz, pop or classical context. For example, when we improvise a jazz solo we want the freedom to express what we want to say through the saxophone at that very moment. It’s having command of our instrument that allows us to do this. I’ll therefore try and answer how you can improve your saxophone technique in this article below with some useful tips and advice.
In this post I’m going to go over the key area of how to add licks to your improvised jazz solos. It’s a great way to start building your jazz vocabulary for improvisation, plus it’s great ear training too!
For this I’m going to be using my “Top 5 Bebop Licks” introduced in one of my earlier posts. Please check that out or just grab the PDF download from the resources section below.
Are you new to the sax? Unsure of which saxophone you should be learning on? I’m here to help…
The short answer is I always recommend that people start learning on an Alto Saxophone.
“Why?” you might ask…
So, as you might have gathered I’ve been teaching for quite a few years now and during that time I have literally taught hundreds of saxophone students. I’ve taught complete beginners (both adults and children) right the way through to advanced level students studying for their performance based degrees at the London College of Music.
I’ve seen how a lot of people handle and can cope with the various types of saxophone at different stages of their advancement and have drawn some conclusions.
Ensemble playing of any nature is one of the great joys of music making. There is something uniquely special about working as a collective whole to create something of beauty (or, something that swings your socks off!) in the concert environment, or just for fun!
The saxophone quartet is arguably the most similar ensemble to that of a string quartet, with it’s blendable combination of soprano, alto, tenor and baritone saxophones. However, it is an ensemble that is often wrongly overlooked by classical music composers and enthusiasts.
There is an absolutely crazy amount of content on the internet with saxophone lessons aimed at beginners, but from a lot of the videos I’ve seen they either get the basics wrong or they don’t explain things particularly well. I thought I’d therefore do a post providing some useful tips aimed at beginner saxophonists. That way you can get off to the best of starts!!
Here are 5 top tips for beginner saxophonists everywhere: –
With the Coronavirus, Covid-19 currently bring life as we know it to a standstill I thought it would be a good time to write a post focusing on teaching music lessons online.
Having music lessons of any any nature online is nothing new. With the development of broadband and platforms such Skype people have taken music lessons via the internet for years.
If you think about it there are some serious benefits to having online lessons. Arguably the biggest one is that you can take saxophone lessons with whoever you want to as there are no physical requirements to be in the same place. With only a good broadband connection and a webcam you can benefit from lessons with some of the best professional saxophonists working today, and not be limited to those who lives close by to you. (ed. As a professional saxophonist with (usually) a busy performing schedule as well as my teaching and lecturing positions at both the London College of Music and Royal College of Music, I hope that does include me! – modest I know!!)
Following on from my previous “Favourite Jazz Saxophonists – The Greats” post here’s part two as promised focusing on contemporary artists. Hopefully it will provide you with a useful introduction to some fantastic and inspiring musicians, all of whom are well worth checking out.
With this playlist I’ve tried to create a selection that covers a wide range of players and styles, and if you listen carefully you will hear that all of them have learnt from the Past Masters like the ones featured in my previous “Favourites” post.
The saxophone is so well known for the output of the many great jazz saxophonists, the fact that there is a huge wealth of classical repertoire written for it is often wrongly overlooked.
As Professor of Saxophone at the London College of Music, as well as being an alumni of the Royal College of Music, the Classical Saxophone is something that I hold very dear to my heart and actively aim to champion whenever possible.
For this article I therefore thought I would create a Spotify playlist featuring a number of my favourite classical saxophone works, covering a range of repertoire including core french, concerti, and contemporary classical. Celebrated composers such as Claude Debussy, Alexander Glasunov, Mark-Anthony Turnage, and Michael Nyman all feature.
As you’ll have probably seen from this website already I like the analogy that Jazz is a “Language”. We all know that when studying any language learning the written form will only get you part of the way there. You need to understand the inflections (articulation, swing), the way it flows and cadences (phrasing), as well as it’s structure (harmony, voice leading). See what I am getting at? We need to learn how to “speak” Jazz!
Luckily not only do we have great masters both past and present to learn the art of jazz improvisation from, but we live in a time where we practically have unlimited access to recordings and videos online. Bearing that in mind, there has probably never been a better time to learn jazz saxophone because of these available resources!
Are you looking to strengthen your jazz improvisation?
Building a “language” is invaluable if you want to become a convincing improviser, whatever the genre that you are interested in.
Bebop is undoubtedly the building blocks of jazz as we know it today and so at the bottom of this blog post is a pdf file for you to download and keep of 5 of my favourite jazz licks. They are by four of the greatest exponents of the idiom, namely Charlie Parker, Sonny Stitt, Sonny Rollins, and Clifford Brown (Yes, a trumpet player. It’s extremely useful to transcribe solos by the masters that didn’t just play your instrument!).