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 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
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!
If you think of it,sax players (and any other musicians,for that matter) need a lot of accessories when practicing. You need your horn,of course,but you also need a metronome,a tuner,a robust music stand,one or more exercises books,the RealBook or other music scores. To practice improvisation you also need a CD or MP3 player with some Aebersold play-along records. If you study harmony you surely need a piano or at least a keyword where you can play chords.
It’s a lot of stuff to carry around,uh?
The good news is that today all you need is an iPhone or an iPod Touch,or an iPad if you like larger and more screens. Well,you still need your saxophone,but nothing other than that!
If you search for “metronome”in the App Store you get about 350 matches,so it’s easy to pick up that one that fits your needs. Some of these matches are programs that do a lot more than just keeping the time,but even not counting them you still have a couple hundred apps to choose from. All those that I have tried out are accurate enough for training purposes.
If you just need a “plain”metronome there is no point in spending your money,because most free metronome apps are enough accurate and complete. I especially like the Steinway Metronome,because of its nice “wooden”interface. It supports most common time signatures and has a handy visual indicator that doesn’t force you to connect your iPhone to a loudspeaker to make its click audible when playing your horn.
There are many other apps that offer fancy variations on the basic metronome job,for example progressive changes towards faster or slower tempo. I am not interested in these variations,because they defy the main goal of a metronome. However,they are in the store,if you need this and other additional features. For example,you might invest 0.99$ for the Ultimate Metronome,which additionally supports weird time signatures,different sounds for each click,custom/compound time signatures inside a single song,and more.
Another interesting metronome app (also at 0.99$) is PolyRhythm,which helps you work with compound polyrythms,such as 7-over-2 or 11-over-3. This is more geared towards drummers,but mastering this sort of complex rythms can be useful to any musicians. Its author Wolfram Winkel has also created a reduced version of this software that runs inside any browser,so you can have an idea of how the apps works before purchasing it. (The main difference between the iPhone app and the browser-based app is that the latter doesn’t let you specify the exact BPM value.
As for most music apps,remember to disable auto-lock when working with metronomes,else you’ll spend most of your time unlocking the screen.
The category of tuners is nearly as crowded as the category of metronome apps and,like for metronomes,you can find a tuner inside many popular apps,especially apps for guitarists such as AmpliTube,AmpKit,and iShred Live. As for metronomes,you can save your money and get a free tuner.
For my setup I chose n-Track Tuner. There isn’t much to say about it,except that it works well and that only a few years ago I spent about 30$ only to get a “real”chromatic tuner that does the same thing and that I never carried around because I had no room in my sax case.
There are many iOS apps that can help you develop the ability to recognize individual notes or even chords. Several free apps cover the basics (e.g. simple intervals),but you might need to spend a few bucks for a complete ear training course. It’s a good way to spend your money,though. The good news is that all commercial apps also offer a free version that lets you try before you purchase.
The three apps that you should try are Karajan at $14.99 (or its free version Karajan Beginner),Ear Training at $14.99 (or the free Ear Training Lite),and Ear Trainer at $5.99 (or Ear Trainer Lite for free).
Play By Ear offers a different and interesting approach to ear training. In this case,instead of touching the screen to indicate your guess,you just play the note on your instrument. Last but not the least,it is absolutely free!
If you are transcribing,studying,or practicing a solo you badly need a player that can slow down a song without changing its pitch,or maybe by changing the pitch so that all notes are in a more comfortable key. In the good old days,when records were made of vinyl,it was possible to play a song at half velocity (and lower the pitch by an octave,more or less),by playing the LP at 16 r.p.m. This is how I learned by first solos by Bird or Coltrane,but luckly there are better means today.
In my opinion,the most versatile app in this are is Slow Down Music Player,that supports importing from the iPod library,the ability to bookmark a point and to loop over a section of a song,and to share individual phrases via email. Best of all,its absolutely free! It’s only limitation is that it doesn’t work with DRM-protected songs,becase they can’t be imported from the iPod library (a limitation that is common to all apps of this type,though).
In the App Store you can find other programs with similar features,though. For example,you may want to try Slow Notes Music Player,which has a better user interface and is free as well.
If you own an iPad you can finally leave all your Real Books at home! In fact,there are several great apps that allow you to browse music scores in PDF format.
For starters,any PDF reader can work as a music score browser,for example the great GoodReader,which also supports annotations and the ability to display two pages in landscape mode. For example,I use GoodReader to store the PDF version of my exercise books. However,there are a few apps that fit the specific needs of musicians much better than generic PDF readers.
The two apps that I regularly use are forScore and forScore Both are available on the iPad only,because it would make little sense to view a score on the iPhone’s tiny screen.
At $4.99 forScore is the less expensive of the two,and includes virtually any feature you may desire,including importing from iTunes or Dropbox,bookmarks,the ability to search for title,genre,composers,etc.,annotations,zoom,landscape support,and page cropping (so that you can discard large margins and make better use of iPad screen estate). It comes with an integrated metronome,a tuner,the ability to automatically turn pages (even half pages) or link two portions of a score (great for repetitions,codas,etc.),score sharing via Bluetooth,a piano keyword,output to an external monitor,support for AirTurn pedal (for hands-free operations),and more.
iGigBook costs three times more ($14.99) than forScore,however if you are a jazz musician the extra money might be well spent. The main iGigBook feature,in fact,is the index of about 60 fake books,including all the most popular ones (e.g. all Real Books editions,including their Bb end Eb variants). This means that –if you have the PDF version of one or more such books –you can find all the versions of a given song in a few seconds.
iGigBook includes many other interesting features,such as chord changes (no themes) for 1200+ popular jazz standards,that can be transposed to any key,and the ability to build a PDF book of selected stored (quite useful to hand out printouts to your fellow musicians before a rehersal). As for forScore,you can point at repeats,D.S.,D.C. so that iGigBook can turn pages for you,and in my opinion iGigBook is slightly better in how you can organize your score lists. The authors also offer a separate iPhone app,named iGigBook Pager,which allows you to wirelessly turn pages on the iPad,a great feature if you are display the score on an external monitor. On the other hand,iGigBook doesn’t support half-page turns,doesn’t include a tuner,doesn’t support sharing via Bluetooth or DropBox,just to name a few of its current limitations.
To recap,as of this writing forScore and iGigBook apps aren’t perfectly equivalent. For this reason,you should carefully compare their features before you pick your choice. Or maybe buy both of them and use one or the other depending on the circumstances,as I did.
In this area there is only one app that you should absolutely have:iReal b. This app has been in the store for at least a couple years and it’s updated and extended on a regular basis. When it started it just offered a “chord-only”version of the Real Book (the melodies could not be included for copyright restrictions),with the added ability to transpose it automatically to any key and to account for Eb,Bb,F,and G transposing instruments. Great for all wind instruments.
Some time later the author added a few in-app purchases (for jazz,pop,and latin styles) that allow you instantly generate the accompaniment for any song in the archive,using the style and the tempo you like most (see left image below). Thanks to this great feature not only can you practice on Giant Steps at a slowed down tempo,you can even try changing the style,and maybe play Donna Lee with rock or latin flavor.
The newest releases of iReal b come with no songs,but you can easily download 1300+ chord changes or enter your own (see right image below). On the authors website you can find several tutorial videos that teach you how to leverage the many features of this great software.
iReal is priced at $7.99,and the jazz,pop,and latin style packs cost $5.99,$4.99,and $3.99 respectively,so be prepared to spend about $23 for the entire suite. It’s much more than the typical iOS app,but it’s absolutely worth it. It’s like owning the entire Aebersold series in your pocket:the computer-generated accompaniment can’t compete with the great musicians that play on Aebersold records,but the result is absolutely first class and can keep you busy for years and years of practicing.
Even if you aren’t interested in the play-along feature,iReal b is still a must-have even just for its repository of chord changes. I never go to a jam sesssion without my iPhone now.
Practicing can be quite boring,especially if you play sax,flute,trumpet,clarinet,or another monophonic wind instrument . Worse,practicing with your instrument alone can bring to some bad musical habits,including not being able to play “on the beat”and not being aware of the relationships between the notes/scales/arpeggios you play and the chords these notes were supposed to be playing upon.
Virtually all teachers recommend to use a metronome to prevent bad timing habits,but what about the inability to hear and “feel”the actual harmony implied by the scales you are playing?
Many players remedy to this issue by using play-along records (e.g. Aebersold,Hal Leonard). For example,Aebersold’s volumes 1,3,and 16 offer great backing tracks for practicing scales,II-V progressions,and turnarounds,respectively. Other musicians prefer making their own backing tracks with Band-in-a-Box (BIAB). However,both approaches have limitations.
Play-along CDs include realistic backing tracks,but limited choice of keys,chord sequences,and tempos. Most recording tracks are medium speed,which can be problematic for beginners,who should practice scales and arpeggios VERY slowly to master the subtleties of rhythm,such as playing “ahead”or “behind”the beat.
Band-in-a-Box and other similar programs far more flexible,in that you can enter any chord sequence as well as easily change the key and the tempo. Recent BIAB versions include features such as RealBand and RealTracks,which can produce natural-sounding tracks that are much more realistic than the computer-generated sounds of its earlier versions. However,all these additional features make BIAB quite a complex software to learn,so complex that BIAB maker PG Music had to produce many tutorial videos to let users learn how to master all these features.
Finally,both play-along CDs and BIAB surely don’t come for free. Aebersold CDs are 10-15$ each,whereas BIAB starts at 129$ and goes up to 669$ if you want all the RealTracks you might need. No pocket money,really…
In a recent post I introduced ChordPulse,a simple yet useful Windows program that can generate backing tracks in a very easy manner. Chord Pulse accompaniment styles are simplicistic –if compared to BIAB,at least –yet they exactly what you need to practice rhythms over basic harmonies. More important,ChordPulse is so simple that it takes only a few minutes to discover all its features. Like BIAB,you can define chord sequences of (almost) any length,define loops inside the sequence,change the tempo,the accompaniment styles,and the key. You can even tune the software to frequencies other than the standard 440Hz.
What I overlooked in my review is that there are as many as THREE versions of ChordPulse,namely:ChordPulse (full version,$27.95 or 19.95 euros),ChordPulse Lite (freeware,has limited number of chord types and accompaniment styles),and ChordPulse Player (also freeware,can play songs created with the full version but can’t create new songs). The great thing about the Player version is that you are still able to change the tempo and the key,define loops,etc. It was perfect for what we need!
Using the full version I created a few chord sequences that are specifically meant to be played while practicing with a wind instrument. You can download and play these files with ChordPulse Player at the speed you prefer,starting at lower tempos and going faster once you feel comfortable to do so. Most sequences are available in all keys,but you can change the key by pressing the Up/Down arrow keys.
You can download these sequences as a single ZIP file,which contains the following exercises:
Simple Chords -Major,minor,dominant 7th,augmented,diminished,and half-diminished chords,played by themselves or in simple sequences (e.g. Major to Minor). The first 12 sequences (or pages,according to ChordPulse terminology) only contain chords in C key,but you can easily transpose them using the Up/Down arrow keys. Pages from C to Z include sequences of chords of same type that raise or descend chromatically,whole tones,minor thirds,perfect fourths,etc. Great for practicing Brecker-like patterns!
II-V-I Sequences –The first 12 pages contain the basic II-V-I sequence in all keys. If you want to practice on the II-V sequence,you just create a loop that includes only the first two chords in each page. You can practice each page separatedly,until you feel confident in that key,or you can play these 12 pages as a loop (read later). The remaining 24 pages contain II-V or II-V-I sequences that raise or descend chromatically,by whole tones,minor thirds,major thrids,and perfect fourths.
II-V-I Sequences (Minor) – Same as previous exercises,except it contains IIm7/5b –V7+alt –Imin sequences. (Unfortunately,ChordPulse can’t easily generate complex chords such as dominant augmented chords,therefore the sound of the V7+alt chord isn’t perfect.
Turnarounds –Contains many variations of the common I- VIm7 –IIm7 –V7 turnaround,including variations with tritone substitutions. The first 10 pages contain only turnarounds in C key (use arrow keys to transpose),the remaining pages contain turnaround in all keys,in ascending or descending sequences. When creating these turnarounds I used this page as a reference.
A few tips for using ChordPulse and these chord sequences:
- Use the File-Session Notes menu command (or just press the N key) to read a description of the contents of each file.
- Use the Up and Down arrow keys or the commands near the bottom-right corner to transpose to different keys.
- Use the Repeat All command to play the entire sequence,or the Repeat Page command to loop over the chords in current page. (You can alternate between these modes by clicking the third button from the right,near the top border.
- You can loop over chords in the same page by clicking the mouse immediately under the first chord of the sequence,and then dragging the mouse to the last chord in the sequence.
- You can loop over chords in different pages by right-clicking the first chord and selecting the “Loop from this Bar”menu command,then right-clicking on the last chord of the sequence and selecting the “Loop to this Bar”menu command.
ONE LAST WORD! If you find ChordPulse useful,consider purchasing the full version! Even if you don’t do it immediately,at least send its author Laszlo Oroszi an email saying how much you appreciate his work and his generousity (don’t forget that the Lite and Player editions are completely free!).
I purchased a license of Band-in-a-Box in 2009 and recently updated it to version 2011. Overall,I am quite satisfied with it but I have some complains.
BIAB is surely a great piece of software,but at times I feel overwhelmed by all its features. After all,I purchased it mainly to practice over common (and not-so-common) chord progression,or improvise over jazz and rock tunes that weren’t available as an Aebersold play-along,or improve my playing over any key and any tempo. I wasn’t the least interested for 90% of the remaining features,that were added mostly for song writers and composers. For example,I don’t really care for the ability to generate a solo over a chord sequence,or add lyrics,recording vocals,etc. Granted,BIAB lets you precisely define every minor detail in its music,but many of these advanced features require some effort to learn,which I don’t have. I prefer spending my time playing,not learning how to use this software. To make things worse,BIAB user interface isn’t exactly modern and intuitive.
More recently I have found myself more at ease with simpler programs,such as the fantastic iRealB (formely iRealBook),which is available for iPhone,iPad,iPod Touch,Android,and Mac. If you own an iPhone,odds are that you already know this app. If you don’t,let is suffice to say that it’s a sort of pocket Real Book (only chord sequences,no melodies) that has been enhanced with additional play-along style packs (jazz,pop,latin,fusion,etc.) that let you practice over more than one thousand popular songs,or define your own. (iRealB enthusiasts often post new songs to iRealB forum.). The quality of the computer-generated accompaniment is good:it can’t match BIAB’s Real Track feature,but it’s more than sufficient for practicing. For less than 20 euros –including the main app plus all style packs –I have all the BIAB features that I like most in my iPhone,and I can often leave the Real Book home when I join a jam.
iRealB isn’t available for Windows so it seemed to me that no viable alternative to BIAB is available for some million players that have neither an iPhone nor a Mac,until I found this little gem named ChordPulse. Its feature list is so short that I can summarize it in a few lines:
- you can quickly enter chord sequences of any complexity;it supports 16 common chord types,plus inversions,slash chords,and bass notes
- chord sequences can be arbitrarily long and are subdivided in “pages”that can contain up to 16 bars;chord length can be modified with the mouse
- you can repeat the entire sequnce,or just the current page,or play the sequence only once
- over 100 comping styles are provided,and new styles are added on a regular basis at each new minor release –styles range from jazz,blues,rock,pop,and fusion to more traditional styles such as waltz,shuffle,and bluegrass
- chord sequences can be transposed to any key and BPM value can be changed very quickly,with the mouse or keyboard
- limited ability to customize the accompaniment style on specific measures and beats
- mixer for the four instruments,export to MIDI file,precount,fade out,tuning
- resource-savvy:takes only 5M on disk and 64M of memory,downloads and installs in a few seconds,works on all Windows versions starting with XP,works at 1024×768 resolution…runs nicely on a 300$ netbook
and above all
- very simple and intuitive user interface,no real need to study the manual.
- only 28$ / 20 euros
Again,the best thing about ChordPulse is that it’s so simple,easy and intuitive that you need less than one minute to use it,and less than five minutes to explore all its features. Watch these videos for more information.
According to its author Laszlo Oroszi,the software is also good for songwriting,but I don’t fully agree with this as it lacks a few features that might be necessary. For one,you cannot change style,time signature,and BPM in the middle of the chord sequence. These minor limitations,however,don’t decrease ChordPulse’s usefulness as a great tool for practicing and improvising.
You can download ChordPulse and use it freely for 14 days. After the trial period,you must register. The trial edition has all the feature of the real product,including the ability to save your chord sequences.
Quite generously,the author makes a Lite version available for free. The Lite version has only 5 chord types and 24 styles,and fewer options to customize the comping style,but is otherwise as powerful as the complete version. If you just want a better metronome,it’s more than enough. But if you are looking for something more inspirational,have a look at the complete version.
I started playing sax when I was sixteen,and that was some years before James Aebersold begun producing his wonderful play-along albums. (Yes,I am *that* old…even if we prefer the term “experienced”).
In those days,the only way to practice a solo on My Favorite Things or Impressions –short of having a very patient friend who could spend hours on the piano while you assimilate the subtle differences between Dorian and Phrygian modes –was to play over the actual Coltrane’s record,trying to ignore their immensely beautiful melodic lines and concentrating on piano,bass,and drums.
Aebersold changed all this,and since then virtually every jazz player on the planet has perfectioned his/her style thanks to these or similar play-along albums. It is great to “virtually”jam with professional studio musicians (in some cases,*great* musicians). After all,what can be more inspiring than a pianist comping behind you in the same style of McCoy Tyner?
Of course,that McCoy Tyner is far more inspiring than any other pianist who plays in his style,but –again –it’s hard to play over Coltrane’s solo and still preserve some sort of self-confidence about your playing 🙂
Today I read an announce from Roland that might change all this. The new R-MIX software promises to be the next new killer-app for improving your music skills. In short,this audio processing software allows to “visually”manipulate an audio track and do a few wonders such creating “minus-one” type karaoke files from existing songs by lowering the level of the pre-recorded vocal or any other instrument you select.
This appears to be much more sophisticated than any “vocal canceling”software seen so far,none of which works particular well. These programs simply remove sounds that are equally balanced between left and right channel,on the assumption that the vocal part appers at the center of the stereo image. This is seldom true for the voice and rarely true with sax,trumpet,guitar,and other jazz solo instruments.
Not only does R-MIX allow you to play with your favorite pianists,bassists and drummers,it only allows you to change the tempo and/or the pitch of the song. Now you can practice your favorite blues in all 12 keys and speed. That’s even better than Aebersold!
R-MIX can also perform sophisticated audio processing. For example,you can remove the noise from the amateur recording you made the last time you saw Michael Brecker on stage (something within reach of other similar software) or add reverb or delay to only your sax in the recording you made at your last rehersal (something no other software can do,as far as I know).
The great news is that R-MIX will be also available on the iPad,in a reduced (and less expensive,I guess) version that is still capable of producing the “minus-one”playing-along thing that I am so interested in.
R-MIX Tab (the iPad version) will be available in November 2011,whereas the full Mac and Windows versions will come in January 2012. Until then,it’s impossible to know whether it will keep its promises,even if this video is quite intriguing. In the meantime,I think I’ll keep my Aebersold collection under lock…just in case 🙂
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