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