Fourths Practice Template

Nat Kline wrote some very helpful exercises to practice fourths after he saw Dan Gaynor's Fourths Exercise. Nat designed a template that covers the entire range of the saxophone (or flute depending on where you start). He calls it a 'template' because he meant for the player to play through it while adding different key signatures each time. If you're ever tried to practice fourths you'll know that it is sometimes confusing when you come to the bottom or top of your range, because it can be hard to determine how to turn around smoothly. By adding your own key signatures you are also forced to think rather than just reading through the exercise on autopilot. Often improvisers get stuck in the rut of playing either horizontally or in thirds, ignoring wider intervals like fourths, fifths and sixths.

Fourths Practice Template


IMAGINE THE SOUND-Tim Price's Improv. Workshop

(From Rico's Facebook with Rico artist Tim Price)

In this lesson, I’ve taken an in-depth approach to give you all some information, new ideas, ear training, and fresh approaches to this form.


Pick out a few licks that you like and that lay well for you that you can hear. Now, think of how your favorite player such as Sonny Rollins might play this lick articulation-wise or how Lester Young might play one of these licks very legato and behind the beat, or from a rock frame of mind, how someone like King Curtis, Gene Ammons or Cannonball might play these.

There are infinite ways to take all these licks and patterns and make them your own and, as I always say, get an ACTIVE MENTAL IMAGE of the sound you want this phrase to have and start to shape it. Also, another technique is called... IMAGINE THE SOUND.

Imagine how one of these dominant 7th blues licks might fit somewhere else. Hear the sound in your head, then try to apply it. This can be a very subliminal approach that will come out in your playing when you least expect it.

These are just a few little ideas that everybody can start to get a personal technique on these blues licks with. Last but not least, try to play them by ear in other keys. The possibilities are endless.

A lot of lines are self-evident..."I just played the blues scale..." but a lot of them aren't. As an example (a very simple lick and line, but interesting to analyze) is #17 of my Blues Phrases & Licks. While it appears to be a simple chromatic climb from the root to the 9th and then a b9 to contrast against, there are more possibilities for the improviser to think about:

a) This is a G blues scale over a C7 -- so you can borrow blues scales from a 5th above. This helps connect lines through blues changes. Once you get used to this, you can even use the blues scale from the b3 (Eb in this case)

b) The "interior" line here is D-Db-C -- so when you think about playing a line, you can aim at each of these notes in succession and you'll get a coherent blues line. This means you can jump away from each of these note, play around, and come back to the altered (chromatic) note, and continue along. You get intervallic lines, but with a nice chromatic, linear signpost for the listener to grab.

c) Displacement of the accented note; the Db (flat 5 in the g blues scale) appears on the 3rd beat, but you can experiment with putting the unaltered note on the beat and the flatted note off the beat. You get interesting contrasts as you go back & forth (similar to what happens when you play consecutive triplets using the same 2 notes).

This next study, is a fun and "hands on" study in making the ii-v sound bluesy and funky.


#1. ON Dmi7 ... Blues scale off the root.

#2 ON G7...Blues scale off the 5th ( same as Dmi )

Just check the scale degree, and listen.Many times there's some built off the 6th of the chord. Everyone from the old blues guitar players to Keith Jarrett have used this.I've heard Gene Ammons use things like this on pop tunes or Jimmy Forrest lay stuff like this down behind singers.All the r&b and rock guys use this as well.

It's universal, and...a nice way to add your touch to the chord via some inflections from the blues scale. Cannonball, had this going on big time.

Check them while jamming with a friend,or against various Aebersold tracks, and put them to use.At first keep it simple.Listen,make motifs you hear, and make the music FEEL good. Play these...and keep the sound in your mind and ear. Good luck!


Music should inspire, also uplift the soul. Keep this in mind as you perfect your music.

Till next week, thanks. I hope your path is filled with untold vistas and knowledge as you practice this week!



Musician Wages.com- The website for working musicians

I ran across and interesting site called Musician Wages.com. It's all about the business side of making music, from ideas for hustling new gigs to motivating musicians as a bandleader. It's worth checking out.

Musician Wages.com


The Jazz Problem- by Aaron Johnson

Here's an article written by Aaron Johnson, one of the most talented students I've had in the past few years. Aaron recently moved from Portland, Oregon to NYC to study as a Jazz performance major at the Manhattan School of Music.

Here I am, at a world-renowned conservatory in the greatest city in the world. I am sitting in a class with 15 or so other musicians, bright young artists from all over the world. I can't help but wonder, "Who here will actually end up with a career?” It doesn't seem very fair or indicative of the spirit of Jazz that musicians, depending on aesthetics, will starve or headline Birdland. Since I’ve been here in NYC, I've hung out with a lot of true WORKING musicians. The foot soldiers of the scene per se. The players that are out at smalls until the early morning, NYC swing and traditional jazz musicians and other students, trying to hustle a career out of thin air. None of these musicians are playing at the Village Vanguard or the Blue Note, yet they are in my opinion, the greatest that this city has to offer.

It seems like a cruel joke to me, that young, hip 20 year olds are getting GREAT gigs while jazz LEGENDS aren't even touching their horns. Why isn't Bob Mover playing the Vanguard this weekend? Why did Clarence "C" Sharpe (The Genius altoist on Lee Morgan's Indeed album) have to lead a sad life of obscurity? Why was Frank Hewitt living in the freezer at Smalls in his last years?

Because the public is too stupid to realize that Jazz is a cultural treasure.

Instead, young "lions" are sought out by the media to "push the barriers". It's funny, to me, because very few of these young lions will ever find their own voice. Even if they do it will either be excessively modern without any validation or sense of lineage or it will be a sad, lukewarm pastiche of the music of years past (lacking the true essence and spirit). If I don't sound the least bit jaded or bitter, wait until you read what I have up my sleeve next.

The Modern Jazz Scene in a Nutshell (ie. What is hip?)

1. Your website must claim all of your innovations without detailing any of it. *This is especially important if you are young and inexperienced. *

2. You must wear the hippest, most urban looking clothes possible. Skinny jeans, v-necks....anything slightly hipster-esque is adequate. Oversized Nike kicks are a *MUST*.

3. It's very beneficial to have dreds. This means that you have soul.

4. Abandon every American Songbook, standard tune you know. Replace this with rock and classically influenced, odd metered and through-composed numbers. This IS 2009, right?

5. Never, ever mention Louis Armstrong, Lester Young or Charlie Parker as your influences. They aren’t obscure or hip enough for you to land a career from. Mention Bjork, Schoenberg, Aaron Parks, Mark Turner and Ambrose Akinmusire. That way, you might win the Monk competition.

6. Go to a really hip jazz "school" and listen to everything your professors tell you. Do everything they tell you to do, never attend real sessions and let your peers at school influence you more than the masters. Dismiss any musicians that learned on "the street". Chet Baker? Schmuck! (He didn't have a degree to prove his genius.)

7. If your name isn't hip enough...change change change it! Joshua Redman wasn't always his name....

8. Watch the Spike Lee film "Mo’ Betta Blues". It will show you more about jazz than listening to it or playing it ever will.

9. Move to Brooklyn

10. Become a vegetarian and look emaciated. The moodier you look, the more albums you'll sell. Don't smoke cigarettes or use any substances; instead, do lots of yoga and investigate eastern religions (not for any true interest in it, rather, just to be able to say in your liner notes that Tibetan chanting and Buddhism changed your conception of "sound").

If you couldn't tell, that was a little tongue-in-cheek. I'd like to hear some responses from musicians and my peers. Maybe I'm not alone in my thinking? At least I know that I'll never have a career playing the music that truly touches me (Armstrong-Young-Parker continuum).

Aaron's MySpace page