Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Improv Etudes and their benefits

All those who have read my articles and know my books, you’ve read that how I evangelize the benefits of “Improv Etudes”. In this article I’m going to attempt to explain some of those benefits.
First of all, “What are Improv Etudes?“
Improv Etudes are comparable to Jazz Etudes or Studies with the special hook. As Jazz Etudes are more like tunes written in order to help learn jazz phrasing, articulation and such, Improv Etudes are written in order to simulate improvisation, or an improvised solo in a jazz style.
My first acquaintance with Improv Etudes (as I call them) was during my lessons with saxophonist Steve Grossman. Part of my homework for my lessons were that he would write out a chorus on a blues or any other standard we were working on, all eighth-notes, without rests (more on that later), he asked me to practice it, and then demanded that I would write at least one more chorus myself, continuing the solo. At my next lesson, I play everything and we would review what I wrote in order to check out if I used correct voice leading, etc. Basically, to find out if what I wrote sounded any good. (Luckily, I did not make many mistakes. )
One of the coolest benefits of this practice was that I could be anywhere to write my choruses. I write them on the train on the way to school, I write them in the cafeteria during lunch, before going to bed at night, waiting at the dentists’ office, anywhere. That is, once I was able to get to the point of not needing my saxophone to write them.
It’s a good idea that one should use your horn at first to write your improv etudes in order make sure that they sound the way you imagine them.
After using the horn to write for a while, you should be able to evolve to the level that you know how your instrument sounds without having it with you. You should be able to literally hear what you write as you write it.
What about the “all eighth-notes, no rests” thing?
Basically, this is about learning how to develop your linear thinking in improvisation by keeping a continual flow of melodies. Secondly, this also prevents you from just memorizing your solos ant then just playing them on stage.
On top of that, you’ll improve your timing immensely. Take a breath when you need it but keep the time and don’t go back to play what you missed. That won’t happen on the bandstand, so don’t do it in your practice session.
Take a breath when you need it but keep the time and don’t go back to play what you missed. That won’t happen on the bandstand, so don’t do it in your practice session.
Eventually, after practicing the improv etudes, creating your own and practicing them as well, most of this will become a part of your playing style. It will also happen sometimes that your ideas my wind up being longer than what you have air for, but that’s ok. That will change as well.
And this is by far the coolest benefit of them all – you are engaging in an intense, focused, practice of working only on how you want to play. If you want to play like Charlie Parker, you can incorporate his licks in your improv etudes. Want to add Coltrane?Brecker? Cannonball Adderley? Kenny Garrett? Work intensively on your own licks? You can do all this with Improv Etudes and do it faster than any other method to do so.
Do you want to play like Charlie Parker, Coltrane, Brecker, Cannonball Adderley or Kenny Garrett? Or work intensively on your own licks? You can incorporate all playing styles in your improv etudes.
In closing, I can only highly recommend that you start on the practicing of using Improv Etudes to improve your playing. You’ll find plenty of them in my books “Blues & Rhythm Changes in All Keys”, “250 Jazz Patterns” and “Coltrane Changes”.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Xmas / New Years Sale!

Save 20% on all products

by using the coupon code: xmas2009

Go to: NOW!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

SaxTips Podcast # 30 - Quick Tip

Here's a quick tip I recorded today about finding your way to master not only the saxophone, but anything!

Download the audio here, or

Download the video here

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Coltrane Changes out NOW!

I have a SPECIAL OFFER for you!

From Today, until Sunday, the 22th of February 2009, I will be offering the Digital Download version of the Coltrane Changes book for HALF PRICE!

That means:

The Treble Clef Instrument version (C, Bb and Eb), 90 pages will be sold for only EUR 7.00!

Download it now here


Order the printed version here at:

The Bass Clef instrument version, 75 pages will be sold for only EUR 5.00! (Coming Soon!)

From Monday, the 23st of February 2009, the prices will set higher to their regular prices of EUR 14.95 and EUR 11.95 respectively.

Print versions of the books will be available from Monday, the 16th at their regular prices of EUR 19.95 and EUR 19.95 respectively.

So, be sure to take advantage of this ONE TIME DEAL! After next week, I will not offer these books at half price ever again!


Be sure to go to and buy "Trane Trax" to practice along with!


Sunday, November 23, 2008

Coltrane Changes Sneak Peek!

"Coltrane Changes" NEW!-

This book is designed for intermediate to advanced jazz improvisers.
Full of exercises and Jazz Etudes (Improv Etudes) over John Coltrane's compositions "Giant Steps", "Countdown" and "26-2" for Eb and Bb instruments

Available in December 2008 as a Digital Download and in Print

Download "Play Jazz Now" Rhythm Tracks and practice with them!

Click here for "Trane Trax"

Hi!, the feedback I've been getting for "Coltrane Changes" has been great and some are already wanting to "pre-order". The book is almost done but waht I will do right now is give you a free taste. You can download the first 2 choruses of a Jazz Etude on "Giant Steps".

Click here for the Jazz Etude on Giant Steps for Alto Sax.

Click here for the Jazz Etude on Giant Steps for Tenor Sax.

Note: The Jazz Etudes are not identical. The are written to suite each instrument well. Have fun!

By the way, that reminds me. Some time ago I checked out some play alongs from Hal Leonard Publishing. They have a jazz series on different styles and artists. On a positive note, they include tracks where the melody is played along side a track with just the rhythm section. This is good for people who may not be familiar with some tunes and/or not sure of their rhythmic reading.

On a negative note, not only do I find the tracks a bit short (only 2 to 4 choruses, in some cases only 1), but I had to discover that some of the melodies were incorrect. That should NEVER happen!

Anyway, I checked out what they had on Coltrane. They had a nice pick of tunes, but "Giant Steps" and "Countdown" are only recorded at break-neck tempos. No chance for anyone trying to learn the tunes for the first time and want to get their feet wet. What were they thinking? Do they really believe that anyone who buys their play alongs will be able to play those tempos right away? Those recordings are a sad testament to a publisher who's just out to make a buck, but not really provide helpful materials for students of improvisation.

That gives me even more reason to give props to Bill Harrison of His new play alongs Trane Trax gives you Coltrane's "Giant Steps"three times! - As a slow bossa, a medium tempo swing, and as an uptempo swing. That is a system you can really learn with!


Sunday, November 16, 2008

News from SaxTips!

In this issue:


The SaxTips Newsletter will now produced in a new format in order to give you more information on what's happening on the SaxTips Podcast, jazz aids, and more. These issues will also have practice and/or improvisation tips.

So, I do hope you enjoy your newsletter and please feel free to contact me at anytime for any suggestions, criticism, kudos, questions, whatever! ;-)

The new SaxTips Vidcast

I've just begun expanding the way to present saxophone tips to the SaxTips Podcast audience. It's been great to have over 1.000 listeners per month download these podcasts and even more just listening to it in their web browsers. Some techniques are not always easy to explain, that is why I've decided to finally bring more tips to you per video in the new SaxTips Vidcast. The first episode "One Note Theory" is already out. Check it out and tell me what you think.

Get exciting new play-alongs for Blues in All Keys!
Click here to view more details

Coltrane Changes

Have you played on John Coltrane's "Giant Steps", "Countdown" or even his composition "26-2"? If so, you know how difficult that can be, and how humiliating that is if you can barely make it through the changes. If you haven't played on those tunes yet, maybe it was because you knew it was difficult and didn't dare to try. Well, I'd like to offer some help here.

Starting in December 2008, I'll be offering my new book "Coltrane Changes" at a special introductory price, and maybe even free print copies for the first 10 responders.

Included in Coltrane Changes will be exercises over the chord progression to "Giant Steps" and "Countdown" - in ALL KEYS! Included will also be patterns using alternate changes on Giant Steps as well! Then there will "Improv Etudes" over "Giant Steps", "Countdown" and "26-2" for Eb and Bb saxophones.

To sweeten it all, new play-along tracks have been created by Bill Harrison of "". Bill Harrison is a jazz bassist and teacher in Chicago and has created some great play-alongs. A lot hipper than the Jamey Aebersold tracks in my opinion. I will be providing links to those tracks along with my book offering. So watch out for it in the upcoming newsletter.

Get exciting new play-alongs for Rhythm Changes in All Keys!

Playing in Duo

Playing in duo, whether it be with a pianist, a guitarist or a bassist is an art form. It is not an easy thing to do and can be very tiring for a saxophonist. The challenge is not only to keep it interesting in the choice of tunes to play, keeping the energy up, but also being able to "speak" the chords clearly within your improvisation, along with keeping excellent timing (especially if you don't have a drummer playing with you).

How playing in duo ever started in jazz, no one knows. It may have been for economical reasons. Less guys to pay for a gig. Or, the venue owner didn't want to spend his money hiring a big band, or any band with more than 4 people. I remember quite well back in New York City, there was the "Carabet Law". That was a law that prevented clubs that were present in residentials areas from having more than three musicians perform on stage at a time (and drums were forbidden!). For the longest time, this law was not enforced, until the official that was preventing this law to be enforced was involved in a scandal, and he eventually commited suicide. After that, the doors were open and the law was enforced - hard! That put a lot of musicians out of work. So what did musicians have to do? Get creative. Do the best with what they had.

In the next issue, I'll get into this topic, especially improvising in duo, a little further. Stay tuned!

Get exciting new play-alongs for Major Turnarounds in All Keys!
Click here to view more details

Improv Etudes

You're listening to your favorite players and you're wishing that you can play at least nearly as good as they are and do a lot of practice to get there. But your efforts don't seem to get you any closer. I know how you feel. When I was a kid just starting out in jazz improvisation, I listened to jazz, tried to learn the melodies to tunes, tried to learn to improvise per the "Chord/Scale" method, played transcribed solos, imitate players from records - everything I could possibly think of.

At one point, while I was practicing Charlie Parker solos, I realized that I really didn't understand what he was doing. It all sounded great, but the notes he was playing to the chords, theoretically, didn't make sense. But it must somehow be right, right? So, I continued to practice in blind faith. Trusting that one day I'll be able to understand.

Finally, after 2 years of practicing and playing, I began to understand what was going on! "Oh, man! THAT'S what he's doing!" After that, everything seemed so simple and my improvising improved 100%, almost overnight!

Later, when I was in college, while I studied with Joe Allard at the Manhattan School of Music in New York, I was studying with saxophonist Steve Grossman privately to improve my improvising. Steve turned me on to the concept of what I call Improv Etudes. He said, just as there are etudes in classical music to learn the language of that music, there should be no reason why we should create etudes to learn the language of jazz improvisation. After starting using this method, my improvising improve dramatically within a short period of time!

In my books "250 Jazz Patterns", "Blues & Rhythm Changes in All Keys", and in my upcoming "Coltrane Changes", Improv Etudes are used to learn chord progressions and to intensify concentration to learn to play exactly the way you wish. In the future I will creating instructional materials so that you may learn this method in greater detail. So, stay tuned!


Sunday, September 28, 2008

SaxTips Vidcast # 1 - One Note Theory