399 scales in the new edition of “The Scale Omnibus”

I just uploaded edition 1.02 of The Scale Omnibus, which adds a few more scales,fixes minor mistakes and is still (and will always be) absolutely FREE. With 399 distinct scales and 1,030 scale synonyms,you can hardly find a better value at this price!

A big thank you goes to Bob Hartig,saxophonist,editor,and author of The Giant Steps Scratchpad,who kindly offered to edit and improve this book’s introduction as only a native language writer can do. If you are a jazz musician,do yourself a favor and check out Bob’s Stormhorn website. And if you need the assistance of a professional editor or writer,visit his CopyFox site

Download the new 430-page booklet or read it online at The Scale Omnibus home page.

The Scale Omnibus 1.02

The Scale Omnibus 1.02

FREE 400-page book: “The Scale Omnibus”

The Scale Omnibus is a FREE 430-page book that describes as many as 399 distinct scales in all 12 keys,with synonyms,historical notes,chords over which the scale sounds well,summary tables,and more. It took hours of researching,typing,read-proofing,and double-checking and might easily be the most complete book on this topic.

I am very glad to offer it to instrumentalists,vocalists,composers,improvisers,students,music amateurs and all saxopedia readers.

Feel free to share this material with your fellow musicians. However,instead of passing a copy of the PDF,please point them to THE SCALE OMNIBUS home page,so that they can download the most recent edition.

View PDF online

Download compressed ZIP file

The Scale Omnibus 1.02

The Scale Omnibus

 

[REVIEW] Slick Licks That Stick,by Bobby Stern

I finally got some spare time to have a look at a few music books that are stacking on my desk. The one on the top is Slick Licks That Stick,by saxophonist Bobby Stern.

Some (or many) of you might already be familiar with Bobby,him being the author of The Minor Melodic Handbook:A Jazz Player’s Perspective,published in 2006 by James Aebersold. More recently he turned to self-publishing,and the e-book I am reviewing here is his first work. (There is also Slick Licks That Sticks,volume II,that was released some days ago.)

Slick Licks That Stick contains 167 pages of exercises and etudes,plus an index and some notes. However the book uses the landscape orientation,pages are smaller than the standard A4 and each page contains only 4 staves. Broadly and large,it therefore corresponds to an 80-page book in standard layout.

Unlike most exercise books,it doesn’t attempt to cover every single chord progression or scale. Instead,it contains 10 specific (and partially unrelated) sections,that analyze topics on which the author believes he can provide a better insight,and rightly so. While the quality of the material is high,on the average,there are sections that I like very much and other that I don’t find particularly exciting. Let’s see each section in detail.

Chapter 1:Pentatonic Modes is arguably the least interesting of the entire book. It covers the classic Major Pentatonic (e.g. CDEGA),the Pentatonic b3 scale (derived from the Melodic Minor scale),the Pentatonic b6 scale,and the Pentatonic b2 scale (derived from the Diminished scale). For each scale it displays straight runs over its five modes. I assume that any average player will not even look at these pages once he or she understands the obvious pattern used to build the exercise.

Chapter 2:Augmented Scale Patterns is where the interesting stuff begins. It shows how to use arpeggios and intervals over this often-neglected scale and in this case I do welcome the fact that each pattern is repeated for each key (more precisely,for each of the 4 distinct versions of this symmetrical scale).

Chapter 3:Coltrane Changes shows how to use basic 4-note patterns over a Coltrane change chord sequence. You will find this chapter very useful if you are new to this sequence,yet it might be a bit too basic if you are already familiar with it. At the end of the chapter you can also find some interesting patterns built using the Augmented scale.

Chapter 4:Triad Pairs shows how to alternate a Major triad with a Minor triad a 3rd minor above it. Rather than leading you into creating musical ideas on this sequence,the chapter includes just one series of ascending arpeggios,repeated in all 12 keys. As it is the case with chapter 1,I found that transposing these arpeggios in your mind is a better exercise than reading them on a book.

Chapter 5:Chromatic Finger Busters is exactly what the title implies,that is a series of fast exercises built over the chromatic scale that aim at improving your chops rather than providing complete musical ideas. If played at up tempos these exercises can be truly challenging,and I like them a lot.

Chapter 6:Intervalic ii-Vs includes a couple of ii-V patterns built over fourth intervals and pentatonic scales,and shows how to momentarily play “outside” and then back inside at the end of the pattern. Good stuff that doesn’t sound as “already-heard-of.”

Chapter 7:Melodic Minor Bebop Scales includes runs of the little-used Melodic Minor Bebop scale (e.g. CDEbFGG#AB). Nothing else but straight runs up and down the seven modes of this scale. The same considerations I gave for Chapter 1 apply here as well.

Chapter 8:Melodic Minor 4th Stacks contains non-obvious arpeggio patterns built over the Melodic Minor scale,which can be useful if you are tired of playing using plain thirds.

Chapter 9:Melodic Minor Polymodal ii-V7 explains how to cleverly use modes of the Melodic Minor scales over the classic ii-V7 progression. It contains 15 different patterns (in all keys),all of which sound quite intriguing to me.

Chapter 10:Melodic Minor Etudes contains three etudes on the minor scale. It’s a good departure from the usual all-eight-notes exercises.

The bottom line:Slick Licks That Stick contains some great sections and some less useful ones. The chapters on the Melodic Minor scale (7-8-9) are surely the most interesting one,and they justify the $9.99 price tag,unless you believe that you already master this topic.

I haven’t had a look at the just published Slick Licks That Stick volume II, so I can’t really recommend it. This second volume is twice as thick (369 pages) and sells for $13.99,thus you might find it convenient to get the Volume I and II bundle for $19.99.

For more information and purchase,visit Bobby Stern’s website.

Even if you aren’t interested in this e-book,I strongly recommend paying a visit to Bobby’s blog,where you can find TONS of useful tips,ideas,exercises,and more.

[REVIEW] The Giant Steps Scratch Pad Complete

I’ve been practicing for a while on Robert Hartig’s The Giant Steps Scratch Pad Complete,whose subtitle –155 Licks and Patterns in Every Key to Help You Master John Coltrane’s Challenging Tune –gives quite a precise idea of what it’s all about.

What the title and subtitle don’t say is how well the book is organized. Unlike most other pattern books,which take a pattern and transpose it along all twelve keys,this book takes the opposite approach:it contains twelve chapters,one for each key. The material is basically the same for each chapter,except that highest or lowest notes might be altered to fit the sax range.

 

Each chapter is 20 pages long and is further subdivided in two sections,which reflect Giant Steps’A-B structure,where A and B sections are 8 measures each. (Section A is what is usually referred to as the “Giant Steps cycle”.) Patterns in the “A”section of each chapter are 4-measure long and must be manually transposed by a major third down to cover the 8 measures,whereas patterns in the “B”section of each chapter are 8-measure long and require no manual transposition.

Both “A”and “B”chapter sections end with one page devoted to patterns over the augmented scale. This is interesting because you can play the augmented scale over the entire Giant Step progression without sounding too dissonant. (You can also sound too boring,if you play the augmented scale long enough,but that’s another story…).

My experience with this book is quite positive. Most patterns aren’t the kind of 1-2-3-5 pattern that you can find in other similar books and are more musical and less predictable than most Giant Steps pattern seen elsewhere. I should add that I haven’t practiced over it for as long as I wished. Even if the author explains that the book is the result of his own studies over many years,he himself admits he hasn’t practiced all those patterns in all possible keys,and in fact I doubt that many sax players in the world can ever play Giant Steps in any key. At any rate,if you want to be among that small elite,than this book surely gives you years of studying.

The unusual A-B structure of the book is intriguing,even though in some cases I found myself wishing I had all possible transpositions of a given pattern in one page,something that may make sense if you want to play “outside”or want to superimpose the Giant Steps sequence over a modal tune or a tune with a different harmonic progression.

The pages devoted to the augmented scale are welcome,for me at least,because I never practiced this scale as intensely as I wished. To be true,I would have liked to see more rhythmic variety,as most patterns just straight 8th notes,but tweaking a pattern to make it look like an original musical idea is part of every musician’s bag of expertise and it isn’t the goal of this book.

The author recommends to practice these patterns along with an Aebersold,however it is very impractical to do so,because the A-B structure of the book means that you can’t practice a pattern over an entire chorus. Instead,you should use a Band-in-a-Box file,which allows you to repeat portions of the songs. (Of course,this latter piece of advice assumes that you own BIAB.)

As a saxopedia reader,you have a third,better choice. To practice on Giant Steps I created a chord sequence with ChordPulse,and you don’t need to buy anything because you can download the free ChordPulse Player. You can now practice any portion of Giant Steps,in any key and at any tempo,without spending a dime,by just download this ZIP file. (I have described ChordPulse in this post and also prepared some common chord sequences,which you can download from here.)

You can order The Giant Steps Scratch Pad Complete e-book from Robert Hartig’s Stormhorn web site,where you can also find many other interesting articles related to sax playing and specifically on Giant Steps,such as this one.

Happy reading and happy practicing!

Free sax tip booklet at BestSaxophoneWebsiteEver


After many years,the amount of useful information scattered over the Internet continues to amaze me. Yesterday it was the turn of this great web site,BestSaxophoneWebsiteEver,which offers a 24-page booklet in PDF format,filled with tips that all sax players can benefit from. You can find guidance on purchasing a used sax,advice on keeping your horn clean and perfectly working,tips on practicing,and more. My favorite ones are the reccomendations on how to get the best from a microphone when recording at home.

The booklet is actually only an excerpt of what you can find on this website by saxophinist Doron Orenstein,where good tips abound. I have bookmarked the following pages:

6 crucial facts about saxophone reeds
11 tips for improving your altissimo
7 tips to tell how much mouthpiece to take in (partly based on this article by Pete Thomas)
8 tips for an open throat and big sound
Flatter tounguing –The sexy sax secret

Happy practicing!

Twelve jazz albums to send to Mars

I have just finished reading “Incontri con musicisti straordinari –La storia del mio jazz”di Enrico Rava,maybe the first Italian musician who played with famous jazzmen in US and all over the world,such as Steve Lacy,Don Cherry,Joe Henderson,and Gato Barbieri.

I found the book very entertaining and informative,and it’s surely a recommended reading if you can read Italian. (BTW,its title could be translated as “Meeting extraordinary musicians –The history of my jazz”,in case the book is ever published in US.).

Among the many stories that Rava tells,he reports that many journalists have asked him about the 10 albums he would ship to Mars to let Martians know about jazz. The question is quite weird,IMHO,but the answer is interesting,even if he mentions a little more than just ten records.

1) Louis Armstrong and His Hot Seven (1927) – Satchmo at his best,with the absolute masterpiece Potato Head Blues. According to Woody Allen,one of the reasons for which life is worth living. More info here,and this is the Amazon page for buying it.

2) I’m coming Virginia – by Bix Beiderbecke and Frankie Trumbauer (1927),a demonstration of how modern Bix’s sound and phrasing are. Can be found in this collection.

3) Duke Ellington and the Blanton-Webster Band – The orchestra with Ben Webster and Jimmy Blanton that was active between 1940 and 1942. According to Rava,Cotton Tail,Concerto for Cootie,Ko Ko,and Conga Brava are the real jewels of this band,and can be found in the Never No Lament – The Blanton-Webster Band remastered album.

4) Any album by Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie – Rava doesn’t make any specific recommendation,but I’d suggest The Complete Savoy and Dial Master Takes,a 3-CD box that includes all Bird’s early studio recordings.

5) Billie Holliday with Teddy Wilson’s Orchestra and Lester Young (1939) – The most charming singer in jazz history,says the author. I don’t own this record and unfortunately Rava doesn’t provide more details about it. After a search on Amazon,I guess he means this album.

6) Birth of the Cool (1949-50) –by Miles Davis of course,with Gil Evans,Gerry Mulligan,John Lewis,Lee Konitz,and others. A break from bebop and the inspiration for all the West Coast jazz that followed.

7) Solo Monk – All Thelonious Monk’s records are compelling,thus picking just one is quite arbitrary.

8 ) Any recording by Gerry Mulligan and Chet Baker – It’s easy to find re-edited versions of this music,so I selected the one that returned from an internet search,The Best of the Gerry Mulligan Quartet with Chet Baker.

9) All albums by Miles Davis – Having to choose just one,Rava selects Porgy and Bess,with Gil Evans Orchestra.

10) Tijuana Moods – Charlie Mingus’ journey on this Mexico town near the border with the States.

11) Study in Brown – by Clifford Brown and Max Roach,but all records by Brown are a must-have for any trumpet player.

12) This Is Our Music – by Ornette Coleman,with Don Cherry,Charlie Haden,and Ed Blackwell. One of the best examples of the free jazz revolution.

It’s apparent that the fact that Rava is a trumpet player has affected his choices. Nevertheless,I found this list very interesting and I am going to grab the CDs I don’t have already.

I don’t listen to much pre-bebop jazz (shame on me!) thus my list would be quite different. Sooner or later I am going to publish it in this blog. By the way,what are your favorite albums?

A book about economy and marketing that all musicians should read

In this blog I plan to review many books about the saxophone,improvisation,and music in general. But the first review in this series is about a book that has a completely different focus:economy and marketing. It only touches music,but what it covers is very intriguing.Chris Anderson may be relatively unknown among musicians,yet according to “Time”he is among the 100 most influencing experts in the world. He is the editor-in-chief at Wired Magazine,the bible of tech-savvy people all over the world. Free –The Future of a Radical Price is his analysis of how the economy has changed now that Internet has so much to offer –for free –to everybody,and covers fields such as software,videogames,magazines,websites,conferences,books,flights,and a lot more…of course,including music. 

When restricting the discussion to music,the question Chris asks is elementary:how can emergent musicians or groups hope to stand out from the crowd,sell CDs and make mony when so much music can be freely and legally download from YouTube and dozens of other websites? This is a question all people in the music world should ask themselves,but rarely do.

There are many intriguing answers to this trivial question,and the author has a few stories to tell. Some of them are well-known outside the music business,such as the experiment of the Radiohead‘s In Rainbows album,which everyone could download from the band’s website by paying an arbitrary amount of money (including nothing!). In Rainbows has outsold any other Radiohead album:over 3 million copies,plus 100,000 copies of a deluxe box version priced at $80. When the experiment ended,the “standard”CD became #1 in US/UK charts and on iTunes (with 35,000 downloads in the first week). Even more interesting,the Radiohead’s tour that followed In Rainbows was the most successful in their history (1,2 million tickets).

Elsewhere in the book,Anderson explains how Prince could give away his new Planet Earth album (priced at $19) to 2,8 million readers of the sunday edition of Daily Mail (UK) and still make a profit of about 18 million dollars by selling tickets of his London concerts.

These success stories might induce you to believe that the Free Economy only applies to stellar artists such as Radiohead and Prince,but the author has some juicy stories about not-so-famous musicians,at least in US and Europe. My favorite one is about Banda Calypso from San Paolo,Brasil,who mix traditional Brazilian melodies with techno rhythms,a musical style known as technobrega. The band records their CDs in a professional studio,but then gives away their masters to DJs,which in turn organize parties and give them to peddlers that sell these CDs for very little money,as if they were pirated copies (but they aren’t!).

Banda Calypso has sold over 10 millions CDs and yet made no money out of them. They don’t mind at all,because they are more interested in giving concerts. The word-of-mouth marketing generated by these lowly-priced CDs has an unbelievable impact on ticket sales. The anedocte that illustrates how effective this alternative marketing can be is told by Hermanno Vianna,a journalist at Globo TV. He invited the band for an interview and offered then to send an airplane to bring them to a desolated area of the country,but they reply:“No problem,we have our own plane!

Bottom line:if you want to understand more about how the music industry works behind-the-scenes,Free –The Future of a Radical Price is a must-read. Hopefully you can get some good insights on how to promote your next CD or tour.