Alternate Saxophone Fingerings for Timbre Variation

I used Bret Pimentel's woodwind fingering diagram app to make some timbre variation fingering diagrams. The fingering were taken from Ronald L. Caravan's Preliminary Exercises & Etudes In Contemporary Techniques for Saxophone book. These fingering change key venting to subtly change the timbre of the note, without drastically changing the pitch of the note. Very cool indeed.

Alternate fingerings for B

Alternate D2 fingerings

Alternate fingering for E:

Fingering Diagram Builder

Bret Pimentel has designed a very cool web application that allows you to create fingering diagrams for woodwind instruments (flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, and recorder). This app could be quite useful for teachers or even for someone just trying to keep track of different unusual fingerings (for example: multi-phonics, alternate fingerings, altissimo, quarter tone, or alternate fingerings). There are also customizable setting that allow you to control which keys show up on your fingering chart.

Nice job Bret!

                               Here's a freaked out fingering I created with Bret's application: 


NAMM Show 2011

I'm always wanted to go check out the NAMM show, but it just never happened, until now. Next month I'll be playing some gigs in SoCal (at the Blue Whale in LA and Crescendo in Bel Air) with saxophonist Matt Otto and guitarist Tim Fischer's trio. I found out that the NAMM show was going to be happening that same week, luckily Aaron Drake was able to get me a demonstrator's pass a few hours before the deadline. It looks like it will be a massive orgy of gear. I'll get to go geek out on every type of saxophone gear imaginable. I plan on trying out a lot of new horns and mouthpieces, which I'll report back to you guys about. The show is truly massive, so if any of you have anything in particular you'd like me to check out while I'll there please let me know and I'll make an effort to scope it out. I always hear stories about guys coming back from NAMM with a ton of free gear and endorsement deals, but I'm just hoping to see some cool new products and hopefully run into some old friends.

Look for my NAMM report sometime in late January.


Jason Dumars- Master Engraver

Jason Dumars is a close friend of mine and has generously hosted all of this blog's media files on his server for the last five years. Jason is a mean saxophonist and a master engraver. I thought I'd feature some examples of his absolutely beautiful engraving work in this post. He can turn the plainest looking Yamaha into a visual masterpiece.

Jason can do work on any metal instrument, from soprano to tuba. He does great re-engraving on relaquered horns, which can make a bad relaq look like original factory engraving again.
You can check out all of Jason's pics here.


Jazz Robots: Pitching Club Owner

New sax transcriptions at Charlesmcneal.com

Bay Area saxophonist Charles McNeal has been busy adding lots of nice transcriptions to his website. Charles has one of the biggest free collections of sax transcriptions on the net.

Charles McNeal's sax transcriptions


Airturn- solution to the iPad page turning problem

Having an iPad to read PDF charts on gigs has been incredibly useful for me. No more frantic last minute printing and no more hauling fake books to the gig. Now I have access to every obscure tune I might feel like playing on a whim. It is a new era in gigging, except for one problem, the tunes I read on the iPad can only be one pagers because it is too difficult to reach down and change pages in the middle of a tune. This has been a huge stumbling block....until now.

I just got the new Bluetooth Airturn for the iPad. The Airturn has solved the one major problem that has kept the iPad from it's full potential as a digital score reading tool. Every musician who reads musical scores with their iPad MUST buy one of these devices, it's not even an option as far as I'm concerned.

The Airturn BT-105 is just a small black box the size of a large pack of gum.You plug two small pedals into the BT-105 and it is able to control page turns on your score reading app (such as Unreal Book, Four Score, Gigbook, ect). The iPad sees the Airturn as a bluetooth keyboard and receives page up and down signals from it. I had a bit of trouble getting my Airturn setup to work with Unreal Book, but after Hugh Sung of Airturn talked me through the setup process it worked within about three minutes.

Hugh told me that the first batch of Airturn units sold out of the first day, which is quite understandable considering how much of a game changer these things are for any iPad toting musician. The pedals that came with the full package I bought are smallish simple looking and made from black plexi-glass. You can also use pedals made by other manufacturers like Boss, but I would reccomend the Airturn pedals because they are inconspicuous and are designed with a low profile so your foot can rest comfortably on them. The Airturn BT-105 with two Airturn foot pedals will set you back $109 and the BT-105 alone costs $69.

Here is the manufacturer's product description:
More and more musicians are discovering the ease and convenience of being able to carry their entire sheet music collections in digital music reading devices like the iPad and forgoing the bulk of paper scores. The AirTurn BT-105 finally makes the iPad a practical sheet music reading tool for musicians who need to keep their hands on their instruments and their focus on the music.
The BT-105 is perfect for musicians who need to keep both hands on their instrument while using apps for reading sheet music and guitar tabs. The BT-105 is super compact and can connect to one or two foot switches. A simple tap on the right foot switch will turn pages forwards, and a tap on the left foot switch will turn pages backwards.
The BT-105 works with a growing number of iPad apps, including  forScoreMusicReader, and unrealBook. It can also be configured to work with programs running on Bluetooth-equipped Mac and PC computers that can accept Page Down and Page Up keyboard commands, such as Adobe Acrobat, Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Keynote, and most other document and presentation programs.
The BT-105 features a power switch, status indicator light, and an internal rechargeable battery with a mini USB recharging port. Battery life will vary, but users can expect up to 100 hours of standby usage. The BT-105 also features automatic Bluetooth pairing with the iPad for easy connections and fast page turns, as well as a built-in debounce filter to prevent multiple page turns for each foot switch press.

Click to order Bluetooth Airturn for iPad


Weber Iago's Chamber Jazz Trio Demo

David Valdez- alto saxophone
Eddie Parente- violin
Weber Iago- keyboard/composer

Links to MP3s:
Calm Is My Home

I Can See You Now 

recorded at Casa Valdez Studios on 11/18/2010

Ed Saindon's article on Chord Tone Soloing

Here is a nice article written by vibraphonist and Berklee professor Ed Saindon:

 Chord Tone Soloing Article

Kurt Rosenwinkle Clinic

Here is a link to a two hour clinic given by Kurt Rosenwinkle.

Kurt Rosenwinkle Clinic


Success In All Keys- an innovative approach to learning key signatures

Year after year I encounter than same issue with my private students, their total inability to read in flat keys. It's is the single biggest source of frustration that I have in my teaching practice. I seriously want to strangle some of these kids when over and over again they forget what a Gb or even an Eb is. Some of them can't even cope with the key of F. I'm sometimes amazed at myself for keeping my cool when these usually smart kids they exhibit such serious (but selective) signs of profound mental retardation. This aversion to flats is something that I've come to see as a phobia or even a brain disorder, something like color blindness. It could be called flat deficiency.

 Part of the problem is that these kids have no early experience playing in keys with a lot of flats (or even a lot of sharps) because early band method books and orchestrations almost entirely avoid the more challenging keys. One of my students the other day explained that the reason for this was that if his middle school band attempted to play a piece of music in the key of concert Gb it would be a complete train wreck from the first note. Band directors may have inherent masochistic tendencies, but they do want to their bands to sound good at concert time and easy keys are the best way to do this.

 When a student of mine has tested my patience past the point of no return by missing a particular Bb twenty times in a row or repeatedly asks how to finger a Gb I break out a book called Success In All Keys by Eric Allen. This book is my revenge. Bwahahahaha!!!  (sinister laugh)

In all seriousness, Success In All Keys is the best way that I've found to help my students play in unfamiliar key signatures.
Here is how the author describes his book:
Proficiency in all keys is an important musical skill. However, traditional etude and method books often combine difficult key signatures with a variety of other challenges such as advanced rhythms, extremes in range, accidentals and ornamentation. Many students become overwhelmed and discouraged by this complexity and struggle to make progress.

In Success In All Keys, the rhythms are simple, ranges are moderate and there are no accidentals or ornaments.  With a singular focus on key signatures, learning to play in all keys becomes achievable, not intimidating.

Every key includes two pages of famous excerpts and an original All Keys Etude.  Keys with three or more sharps or flats also feature three additional original etudes, which are different for each key. Enharmonic transpositions of all of the materials in the keys of C#, Db, F# and Gb are included for further in-depth study.

Success In All Keys is the most comprehensive, practical collection of music dedicated to this subject. Until now, repetition of scales and patterns has been the default approach to playing in all keys.  With this book, students can now practice in all keys by playing melodies, which they are sure to find more fun and effective than exercises.


* 81 pages of music
* Rhythms are simple, ranges are moderate and there are no accidentals or ornaments.  The key signature is the only challenge presented.
* For every key with 3 or more sharps/flats, there are 3 original etudes, which are different for each key.
* Every key also features an original etude transposed to all keys and two pages of famous excerpts.
* Enharmonic transpositions of all materials in the keys of C#, Db, F# and Gb are included for further in-depth study.
* The first book of its kind and the most comprehensive, practical collection of music dedicated to playing in all keys.


* With a singular focus on key signatures, learning to play in all keys becomes achievable, not intimidating
* Students will enjoy playing etudes and excerpts in all keys much more than repetition of scales and patterns.  Therefore, they are likely to practice more and make more progress in this area.
* An excellent addition to private lessons, either as weekly assignments or sight-reading.
* With so much music included, students will have the opportunity to become very comfortable playing in all keys.
* Available for all band and orchestra instruments. The more students that use this book, the less time spent in rehearsals correcting key signature mistakes.
* An excellent source of melodies for advanced students working on transposition.
Q: What is the recommended age group/skill level for Success In All Keys?

A: Starting with advanced junior high students, virtually any age group can benefit from Success In All Keys. Younger students will benefit by being exposed to all keys in our unique format and will quickly be encouraged by the results.  Even the most advanced players can utilize the materials in Success In All Keys to work on orchestral transposition skills.  And, of course, there are benefits for every skill level in between.  Please see our features & benefits page for a more complete list.

Q: Are these books an ensemble method or individual study?

A: Success In All Keys and Low Range Studies are both individual study books.

Q: How does downloading a pdf copy of the book work?

A: Once you purchase a pdf copy of a book, you will receive an email with a link that will begin your download.

Q: Is there a discount for ordering multiple books?

A: If your music program or store is interested in purchasing 20 or more books, please contact us for special pricing.

Q: What are the difference between the electric bass and double bass versions of Success In All Keys?

A: The music is the same in both books.  The double bass version includes articulations and markings such as fingerings, bowings, etc.  The electric bass version is “notes only.”   Please download the free samples in the products page to compare.

Q: What is the difference between the bass trombone and trombone version of Success In All Keys?

A: The bass trombone book has been adapted to utilize the notes that can be played by bass trombone, but not by a regular tenor trombone without an F attachment.

Order Success In All Keys 
Sample pages from Success In All Keys

New advertising policy here at Casa Valdez Studios

I need to let my readers know that after much consideration I am now selling ad space here on Casa Valdez Studios. I've had Google ads on here for quite a while now and even that was a tough decision to make. I wanted this blog to by a trusted independent source of information for my readers, not just a crass commercial excuse to hawk gear like many other music sites. All of the unique educational resources here are offered free for download and that is a good part of the reason why this blog is now ranked 9th among all the Jazz blogs on the Internet. Casa Valdez Studios now gets over 400 visits a day and over 25,000 page views a month, with loyal readers all over the globe.

 The new sponsors that are advertising here are selling products that I personally use and feel totally confident standing behind. I will not accept ads for products that I do not totally love. The Google ads that come up at Google's whim are another story entirely, so please don't hold me responsible for the Mexican time share or Viagra ads that may pop up once in a while. I try to block Google ads that are not related to music, but the system isn't foolproof.  My first sponsors are Gigbook's iPad app developer Deep Dish Design and Eric Allen, author of the book Success In All Keys. Soon I expect to be adding advertising for Drake saxophone mouthpieces, which I am now personally recommending to all of my private saxophone students.

 In the interest of full disclosure I'd like to let my readers know that some of the posts I will be writing are about products advertised on this blog, but again I'm only accepting advertising for products that I fully believe in. I'd also like to let potential advertisers know that limited ad space is available on this blog for quality products targeted to the serious Jazz musician. Interested parties may contact me at:

 I'd like to promote products that I personally believe rather than the random products that come up in the Adsense Google ads that I have on this site. I've put thousands of hours into making this site one of the most trusted sources of Jazz educational resources on the net, so I just wanted to be sure to explain this new advertising policy to my readers. Thanks.


Warne Marsh's transcribed solo on Yardbird Suite

Over at Soundbyte Culture blog there is an incredible Warne Marsh transcription done by pianist/blogger T.J. Martley.

T.J. was kind enough to include a Bb and a concert chart, along with an MP3 of the original recording. He also has a YouTube video of him playing piano along with the original recording.

 After checking this solo out there should be no doubt in your mind that Warne was one the great improvisors on the 20th century.

Warne Marsh transcription of Yardbird Suite


Matt Otto's Modern Jazz Vocabulary Vol.II

Saxophonist/educator Matt Otto has just released Vol. II of his Modern Jazz Vocabulary series. The first volume dealt with modes of the Harmonic Major Scale, which I personally got a lot of new great ideas from working out of. Vol. II consists entirely of ii- V7s. There are several pages of phrases in each and every key. There are are ton of other ii- V7 books out there and I can honestly say that Otto's new book blows them all away. What makes Otto's book better, you ask? The lines are actually hip, in stark contrast to the embarrassingly stale and corny patterns that take up a majority of space in most other ii-V7 books.

Otto uses many different modern harmonic and melodic devices in his book and the resulting lines are highly sophisticated and unique sounding. Matt's personal style is reflected clearly in this book, which is a good thing because Otto sounds somewhat like a cross between Warne Marsh, George Garzone and Stan Getz. His lines are highly melodic and lyrical while still sounding like cutting edge Post-Bop. I think if I only had one adjective to describe the lines in this book it would be snakey, and I like snakey lines a lot. Actually there are a number of straight-ahead Be-Boppy sounding lines in there as well and when you come across one it's kind of surprising after playing so much super hipness.

Pattern books are good for giving you new ideas to incorporate into your own playing. As long as you make an attempt to make the lines your own rather than learning them by rote I think they are a highly effective way to expand your vocabulary. Your source material matters however and if you start with lame patterns you'll end up with a lame vocabulary, even if you put your own slant on the lame patterns. What do they say about turd polishing again? Anyway, you'll find Matt Otto's Modern Jazz Vocabulary Vol. II on my music stand for a while.

Matt Otto's Modern Jazz Vocabulary Vol.II


Eternal Be-Bop!- Duet by Nat Kline

Here is a nice Bop duet written by saxophonist Nat Kline. There are PDF charts in concert, Bb and Eb for download.

Eternal Bop Duet


Gig Book iPad app

A few months ago I finally broke down and bought an iPad. I must admit that I was drawn in by apps like Angry Birds and Plants vs Zombies, but the thing has really turned out to be really useful as a PDF score reader for gigs. I used to have to print out copies of charts before every gig, which ate up printer toner like crazy. Now on a duo gig all I do is make bookmarks and set lists on my score reading app. The first app I used was Unreal book, which did almost everything I needed it to do. I was able to load every fake book PDF I would ever need onto the iPad, therefore having thousands of tunes at my fingertips on the bandstand. Now I no longer need a stand light in a dark club!

Recently a new app was released called GigBook that has the best organization system of any music score reader on the market. There are still a few features that GigBook is still lacking (like the ability to zoom), but overall the superior ability to categorize scores into books, volumes, collections, and set lists tromps the competition (Unrealbook, forScore, Notation Pad, ect). I spoke with the developers of GigBook and plans are underway to release updates that will give GigBook the edge  in every way over the other score apps.

The issue that I began to run into when I was using unreal Book was that there was no good way to organize my library. I had one huge list that contained all of my fake books AND all of my bookmarked tunes. It was hell trying to quickly find the tune I was looking for and the longer I used unreal Book the more disorganized it got. GigBook's architecture allows the user much more ability to organize and categorize charts and the interface is much more appealing than other score reader apps. First put all your fake books into Collections to take the clutter out of your main library.  GigBook's Super Bookmarks feature allows you to bookmark a several page tune in a PDF fake book.  It then extracts that score (while leaving original PDF book intact) and  allows you to move it into it's powerful Binders and Set List features.  This is a feature which is noticeably lacking in the competition.

For a short time only GigBook is 50% off!

Here's a description of GigBook's features from the developer's website:

The Beginning
Even back when the iPad was a mere rumor, we began imagining an app that could be used to house our extensive musical libraries and be used seamlessly at our rehearsals, on stage, in our classroom and in our private lessons. GigBook is not the first out of the gates, but we believe it’s the most mature, elegant and intuitive sheet music reader in the App Store. GigBook is simply the best way to organize, store and use your musical scores, chord charts, and lyric sheets in a live setting on the iPad.
 Quick Navigation
We’ve designed GigBook to be a powerful app that is simple to use in any musical situation. As soon as you launch GigBook you’ll see that it’s not like others out there. The Navigation drawer allows you to quickly get to where you want to go. And GigBook has been designed to grow with you. Collections of over 1000 scores will be just as easily accessible as collections of a 100.
Built In Filters and Metadata
Access your complete musical library or filter by composer, genre or simply see recently added scores. Add metadata that is always in plain sight. You can add composer, genre, tempo, key and time signatures, along with extensive notes to each score.
A Place to House Your Books, Volumes, and Collections,
Have a large PDF containing multiple scores? Store them in “Collections” to access them quickly. Or use Super Bookmarks to mark and extract a score on page 250 of a 500 page collection to use in a set list or binder with the greatest of ease. No more running down to the copier with books in hand before a show.
Binders Keep You Organized
If you play in multiple groups or have a heavy teaching load sort your groups’ repertoires into binders. Binders can hold an unlimited number of scores; and the same score can be associated with multiple binders. Make as many binders as you need. GigBook finally helps you to be more organized.
 Advanced Set Lists
GigBook is a very flexible and powerful set list creator. Add and arrange scores in any order. Add detailed notes for each score. Playing a tune that doesn’t have a score in GigBook? No problem. Create a new item for that set list. Write out your notes, chord chart or lyrics for that piece and arrange it like any other score.  You can view all your titles and notes just like a handwritten set list. And with a single touch you can flip the set list over to see all scores moving through them in set list order.

 GigBook web site


Drake NY Jazz mouthpieces

When I was over in Bend my buddy Joe asked me try a few new mouthpieces that he was going to be stocking in his music store. The first was a resin tenor Aizen, which was pretty mediocre. It had good response, but no real core to the sound. It was a C+ at best.

Next Joe brought out two alto pieces made by Aaron Drake, who is known for his ceramic pieces. These new models were made from a resin compound rather than ceramic. The Drake ceramic pieces always looked like they were really well made but the material never interested me too much. The "Drake vintage resin" (whatever that means) pieces that I tried are called the NY Jazz model. Aaron also has some ceramic/resin hybrid pieces which I did get a chance to check out.

The NY Jazz model alto pieces are modeled on a NY Meyer, so the chamber was a little smaller than my Slant Link. The baffle is long and pretty flat and every aspect of the workmanship is excellent. Joe tells me that all of the pieces he's tried have been consistent and all played great. I must say that I was kind of shocked at how good the NY Jazz piece played. I really do not expect very much from modern mouthpieces. I tried a 5 and a 6. The 6 was a little more open than my Slant 6, but it still blew easily with little resistance. It had a big fat warm core to the sound and it was easy to make subtle changes to the timbre. The 5 didn't have as big of a sound, but it was easier to control and a bit more focused and sweeter. I would think that I would probably recommend the 5 to my students over the 6, but I might feel more comfortable on the 6. One thing that was a little strange was that the shank opening was really large. I had to put some tape on my neck cork to even play it. I wondered why Aaron did that, but it's a minor issue regardless.

The pieces run about $300, which is a little high to recommend for my younger students, but still much lower than trying to find a vintage Meyer or Link (and without all the hassle). These pieces have my full endorsement and I look forward to trying Aaron Drake's other models in the future.

Drake Signature NY Jazz alto mouthpieces


Ronald Caravan's special fingerings for saxophone

With my more advanced students I often use a book called Preliminary Exercises & Etudes In Contemporary Techniques for Saxophone by Ronald Caravan. This wonderful book covers things like alternate fingerings for timbre variation, quarter-tone fingerings, multi-phonics and singing while playing. There are etudes for each technique.

I especially like the alternate fingerings for timbre variation. Working with these alternate fingerings can give you many different options for shading the same note and also for slight pitch adjustments. Below is a page from that chapter. I've also included a link to a PDF of a few pages from the chapter on multi-phonics. I highly recommend this book for every saxophonist.

(click the above graphic for a larger version)

Joe Henderson Master Class at North Texas State University

You won't find this lecture anywhere else.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7

Thanks Markos!


John Coltrane's use of patterns and harmonic progressions-by Jim Gold

British saxophonist Jim Gold sent me his excellent essay entitled 'Pattern in melodic improvisation and harmonic progression in the music of John Coltrane'. In the essay Jim analyzes Trane's masterpiece cadenza on I Want To Talk About You' . He examines Coltrane's use of symmetrical and non-symmetrical patterns, repeated motifs, triad pairs, Synthetic scales, and three-tonic cycles. 
Coltrane heads rejoice!

Coltrane Essay.PDF


Drone exercises

I wrote these exercises for a long distance student of mine named Bryan Qu. I can't say enough about the importance of working with drones. It's much more effective that just playing long tones because you are working on pitch at the same time you are working on control and support. Working with a drone allows you to really focus in on micro-fluctuations of pitch. It also can help to develop pitch memory, which ties in to oral tract position memory. When you spend time with a drone you start to remember how different notes feel and sound.

As we develop our sense of pitch we can learn to experience pitches as a single point, rather than as a range of frequencies. What I mean is that most of us do not know pitches as an exact rate of vibration. For example, we might know that we need to lip down a little to get our high Eb in tune and we may know when we are close to getting that note in tune, say within a 4 cent range (2 cents in either direction). This would be considered to be pretty respectable by most standards, but it could certainly be improved upon.

Playing long tones with a tuner doesn't engage your ears like working with a drones Working with drones is the most effective way to really dial in your intonation as well as gaining control of your sound. There are several different exercises that you can do with the tuning CD and they should be incorporated into your continuing daily practice routine. I usually only have two different categories of sound/intonation/control exercises that I have my students do: overtone exercises and tuning CD exercises.

1. Long tones with the drones-

a.  Play long tones over the entire range of your horn with the drones. Strive to keep your hands and embouchure totally relaxed while taking complete inhalations and playing each note as long as possible. Play at different volume levels while trying to keep your notes perfectly in tune with the drone. The main purpose of playing with drones is to try to rely only on your ears to play in tune, but you might want to also try putting headphones on and using a tuner to check your pitch. The tuner is a crutch ultimately; so do not depend on it for intonation. Make sure you also go into your altissimo when doing these long tones.

b.  Next play intervals with the drones. Try jumping octaves while keeping the pitchperfectly centered. After 8vas do 5ths, 3rds, 6ths, 4ths, min 3rds, in that order. Play unison with the drone, then skip to the interval, and then back to the drone. You need to learn to keep every note on your horn in tune when skipping from every other note.

2. Pitch bending exercises with the drone-

a. Start with a concert E drone. First play your high C# and center it. Then finger a palm key D and bend down to a C#. Hold this note and center it perfectly in tune while playing it as long as you can. Try to be conscious of an open and relaxed throat, rather than just a lowered jaw. Do long tones in this manner in descending half steps. You will find that some notes are much easier to bend and stabilize than others.

b.  Do the same thing as the prior exercise, but bend down from a whole-step above each note instead of a half step. Do not worry if some notes do not stabilize, the very act of trying will improve your control.

c.  Wait until you have mastered the first two pitch bending exercises before doing this third exercise. This time finger a minor third above each drone note and bend down. Remember to always first play the drone note to get it firmly internalized before fingering the higher note and bending down. These bending exercises force you to learn to play with a relaxed open upper oral tract and to get used to using no upward pressure on the reed. They also greatly increase the difficulty of playing long tones in tune with the drone and force you to internalize the pitch. They also help stabilize pitch in the palm key register where you are constantly required to lower the pitch to play in tune. As you try this minor third pitch bend exercise you will find it impossible to do in the lower registers of the horn.

3. Improvising with drones-

  Try improvising freely using the drone as a pedal. Try many different modes against the drone and occasionally return to play a unison or 8va to make sure you are still dialed in. Practice switching smoothly between every different type of minor scale against the drone. Practice playing totally chromatically and resolving smoothly to the pedal note.


Art's thoughts on use of space

While Art Lillard was staying with me last month he said something that was interesting:

"Leaving enough space in your solos isn't just a good idea, it's MANDATORY. Otherwise the rhythm section can't even respond to you. When you play with a player who doesn't leave enough space then it's a fight just to find a way to play with them."


List of Essential Jazz Tunes

I prepared this list of essential tunes for my students because they were asking which tunes they should be spending their time learning. This list is somewhat arbitrary, being only a list of the tunes that I have personally experienced players calling most frequently in the 25 years that I've been playing Jazz professionally.

It's a good idea make a list of the tunes that you know and take it to gigs with you. This way the other players on the gig will be able to pick tune to play that everyone knows. Until you know all of the tunes on this list by heart print them out in your key and put them in a binder.

There are many other tunes that I have not included that should be on this list, including many of my personal favorites. The list is just a rough starting point to help you make the most of your time as you are building your repertoire. You would be pretty well prepared for a Jazz career if you learn all the tunes on this list.


Reverb nation widget- NEW TRACKS!

Check out the new tracks I just posted on the Reverb Nation player widget in the sidebar of this blog.


Ed Saindon's Four-Note Groupings Technique

 Vibraphonist and Berklee professor Ed Saindon sent me some of his articles on Jazz improvisation. He has developed his own concept based on four note groupings, which obviously must have been shaped by being a four mallet vibes player. Here's how he describes it:

"Four-Note Grouping is an improvisation technique that uses major and minor triads along with specific passing notes as a means of generating lines. The concept of Four-Note Groupings allows the lines to be more “out” and stretch the possibility of available notes over a chord due to the structural integrity of the triad-based line. Another benefit of this concept is that the improviser can work on the concept and specific sound of Four-Note Groupings without falling into the trap of playing licks and repetitive phrases. The fact that this is a broad concept and there are many possible four-note grouping choices creates a “deep well” from which an improviser can draw."

Coming from the “four mallet school,” Ed Saindon has developed and continues to refine a pianistic approach to mallet playing which involves a consistent utilization of all four mallets along with a variety of dampening techniques. Saindon has absorbed and transferred the influences from the piano lineage that stretches from Waller and Tatum up to the present. Originally a drummer, Saindon began playing the vibraphone along with piano while attending Berklee College of Music in Boston from 1972-1976. 

As a concert artist, Saindon has traveled throughout the U.S., Europe, Brazil, Mexico and Japan. He has played and or recorded with Ken Peplowski, Warren Vache, Kenny Werner, Mick Goodrick, Fred Hersch, Peter Erskine, Jeff Hamilton, Louie Bellson, Howard Alden, Herb Pomeroy, Dick Johnson, Dave McKenna, Marvin Stamm, Michael Moore and others.

In addition to performing, Saindon’s other passion is music education. In addition to being a Professor at Berklee where he has been teaching since 1976, he is also active in the field of music education as a clinician and author. Saindon is a clinician for Yamaha and Vic Firth giving clinics and residencies on vibraphone, marimba, piano, drums, jazz theory and harmony, composition and improvisation. Berklee Press has published his book Berklee Practice Method: Vibraphone and German publisher Advance Music recently issued his new book Exploration in Rhythm, Volume 1, Rhythmic Phrasing in Improvisation. 

In addition to writing books, Saindon has authored many articles on music education, jazz theory and improvisation. He is currently the vibraphone and jazz mallet editor for the International Percussive Arts Society’s magazine Percussive Notes. His articles have appeared in many publications including Downbeat, Percussive Notes, and Percussioner International.
Recordings as a leader include Swing on the Sunnyside featuring trumpeter and legendary educator Herb Pomeroy and clarinetist Dick Johnson, The Great American Songbook featuring clarinetist Ken Peplowski, trumpeter Warren Vache and trombonist Dan Barrett, Key Play featuring pianist Kenny Werner and Ed’s most recent release, Depth of Emotion featuring soprano saxist Dave Liebman.


Michael Rush & the 4 Hornsmen of the Apocalypse- live @ El Barrio

 Here's a live recording of a recent gig I played in Vancouver, BC with a sax quartet (+bass & drums) called Michael Rush and the 4 Hornsmen of the Apocalypse. The recording has quite a bit of crowd noise since my Zoom H4 was pretty far away from the stage, but the music was interesting and worth a listen. Four of the tunes were written and arranged by the drummer Art Lillard and other band members contributed the rest of the material.

 (This sound clip is an hour and twenty minutes long so it may take a while to load)

alto- David Valdez
tenor & soprano- Evan Arntzen
tenor & bari- Colin Maskell
alto, flute & bari- Neelamjit Dhillon
bass- Michael Rush
drums- Art Lillard

 Michael Rush & the 4 Hornsmen of the Apocalypse- live @ El Barrio

Evan Artzen's MySpace
 Colin Maskell's MySace
 Neelamjit Dhillon's web page
Michael Rush's MySpace
Art Lillard's web page


Tim Fischer's Triad Pair exercises

Guitarist Tim Fischer wrote this sheet of Triad Pair exercises. He has more free lessons available for download on his website: Tim Fischer Music.

"Triad Pair Melodies-
This lesson represents one of my attempts at integrating triad pairs into my linear and melodic vocabulary. After working on the different triad pair exercises from Walt Weiskopf's Intervallic Improvisation, I have wanted to utilize triad pairs in a more personal and melodic fashion, while still retaining the wide interval sounds that make triad pairs so interesting. This handout contains twelve melodic fragments based on two major triads a whole step apart, as well as four ii-V-I lines demonstrating their use in a harmonic context. While there are several triad pair options over the ii-V-I progression, I chose to explore two major triads a whole step on each of the three chords to help acclimate my ears to the sound of that pairing.

Try practicing the first section of triad pair melodies over the chords derived from the C Major scale (Cmaj7, Dmin7, Emin7, Fmaj7, G7, Amin7, B half dim) and note how the harmonic scheme changes the color/effectiveness of the melody. After you have worked on the smaller triad pair melodic fragments, practice the ii-V-I lines over a backing track or with an accompanist to get the full bi-tonal effect that triad pairs invoke"
- Tim Fischer

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Triad Pairs Redeemed!

When I hear players (including myself) using triad pairs I usually find myself cringing. In theory it is an interesting technique that generates lines that are neither horizontal nor vertical. The bi-tonal effect can be pretty cool as well. I've worked out of both Gary Cambell's Triad Pairs for Jazz and Bergonzi's Hexatonic books and was pretty excited about the possibilities, at least at first. I soon realized that this technique usually sounds too much like a simple formula, which is of course exactly what it is. I even get bugged sometimes when I hear great players like Weiskopf or Bergonizi use Triad Pairs too blatantly.

Here are some ways that I have found to make Triad Pairs sound less formulaic and more organic:
  • Play only two notes of a triad before switching to the second triad
  • Use two different  types of triads (Maj/Aug or Min/Dim)
  • Try using two notes of one triad and three notes of the second triad
  • Side-slip chromatically to a triad(s) a half-step above or below one (or both) triads
  • Stack the triads on top of each other to create uneven (chunky) vertical structures
  • Add a pentatonic scale to the mix so you are alternating between three different elements
  • Displace notes of the triads to create unusual spread structures (see exercise #2)
  • Add a third triad to the mix (example: Over C-7 use Eb Maj, F Maj and G Maj triads)
  • OR one of my favorite things to do- just start throwing some chromaticism into the mix
This last technique can really obscure the fact that you are using a formula to construct your lines. You can add simple single note chromatic approachs (like exercise #1) or fancy-pants multi-note Bebop enclosures. Since the Triad Pair/Hexatonic formula is a simple one to execute adding some chromatic approaches to it isn't a huge stretch.

Below are some examples I wrote to illustrate how chromatic approaches can make Triad Pair lines a little hipper sounding.  I've kept the patterns fairly simple for illustration purposes, so some of these still sound a bit formulaic. If you really mix all of these techniques together you can create some truly organic sounding lines.
(I used Major triads from the #11 and b13 over the dominant chord for an altered dominant sound)

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Analysis of Bill Evans' Very Early- by Pere Soto

Here is another analysis from Pere Soto's upcoming book.

Very Early analysis


Bert Ligon's collection of transcriptions

Bert is a professor of Jazz studies at the University of South Carolina and has some very nice material on the USC site. There are some great solo analyses here as well, like the Sco solo he examines in great detail. It seems to me that USC has a strong Jazz program.

Bert Ligon's collection of Jazz transcriptions


Bolivar Blues Analysis- by Pere Soto

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Pere Soto has been working on a book with detailed analyses of selected Jazz tunes. His goal is to get inside the composers' minds in order to understand exactly what their intentions were when they wrote the tunes. Pere's approach reflects his background as a highly skilled and prolific Contemporary Classical composer. There will be more of these here on this blog in the future and I will be sure to let you know when his book is available.


Complete Saxophone Alternate Fingering Chart

This exhaustive fingering chart starts at low A and goes up all the way into the stratosphere.

Complete Saxophone Alternate fingering chart

Reed Smile

Smiling because I actually found one.


JazzQuotations.com- the #1 source of Jazz quotations on the web

This site is worth checking out. Lot's of great quotes.
Jazz Quotations.com

"Hipness is not a state of mind, It's a fact of life!" - Cannonball Adderley 

Blues Studies from Joe Pass Guitar Styles

When I was younger my teacher Paul Contos turned me on to a book called Joe Pass Guitar Styles.
This book had a big influence on my linear concept and I played out of it a lot. Joe's lines are pretty close to something like the Platonic ideal of Be-Bop lines. I used them as a model in learning to create long connected lines. I would play through the exercises until they were under my fingers and then I would try things like altering notes, displacing notes, using just the general shapes to create novel lines, and then just using Joe's changes to create my own lines.

I recently bought myself another copy of this book and I've been using it with my students. There are a few parts of the book that are guitar specific, but most of it is perfect for horn players. When you limit yourself to only using connected 8th note lines it forces you to focus more on the overarching shapes of your lines and it also makes you think more about how your lines connect from change to change. If you practice this way it also prevents you from playing as many familiar licks.

I highly recommend this book for any serious students of Jazz.

Blues exercises excerpted from Joe Pass Guitar Styles


Pere Soto's Swing Gitane videos

Pere Soto, my partner in crime, just sent me these links to YouTube videos. These are from a live gig and a radio show with his Mexican based Gypsy Jazz group Swing Gitane. The radio show was recorded in Guanajuato, Mexico and the live gigs were from San Miguel Allende. These guys are smoking.

Menor-K Blues
Viper's Dream
China Boy
La Gitane
Minor Swing
Take the A Train