100 new sax and trumpet solos

I’ve updated the saxophone and trumpet solo index with about one hundred new transcriptions.

Some of the new additions are actually great videos that show the score WHILE playing the actual solo,which is a terrific educational approach. The ability to visualize the melodic lines and listen to the music at the same time reveals a lot about the performer’s intention and style.

Big thanks to Geoff Spector for sharing several transcriptions with saxopedia!

50+ new transcriptions by Thomas Høeg-Jensen!

Thomas Høeg-Jensen from Denmark transcribed a lot of solos in the ’80s,from funk and fusion sax players of the caliber of David Sanborn,Michael Brecker,Tom Scott,Marc Russo,and Jay Beckenstein. He kept this precious material in the closet until last week,when he scanned the hand-written scores and sent them over to Saxopedia. You can find these never-published-before solos in the transcription index.

Thank you,Thomas!

Alistair Parnell lecture on EWI

I just discovered a very informative lecture by sax/ewi expert Alistair Parnell,that covers an introduction to the EWI,demonstrations of sounds,sampled sound via laptop computer,looper pedals and software sound manipulation. The lecture was given at XVI Worlds Saxophone Congress St Andrews 2012 (Scotland) and the YouTube video has been viewed fewer than two thousand times,which is a shame because it deserves a much broader audience. Give it a look and share!

Over 1500 sax solo transcriptions,3000+ in total!

With today’s additions Saxopedia’s index contains 1521 sax solo transcriptions,plus 1520 transcriptions of other instruments.

This amounts to no fewer than 6-7000 printed pages in total. Or nearly FOUR days of continuous playing,if you prefer! WOW!

[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!

New transcriptions by Sandro Fontoni

I wish to thank Sandro Fontoni for sending in five solo transcriptions that haven’t been published elsewhere,two for saxophone:

Larry Schneider’s solo on Bill’s Hit Tune (soprano)
Larry Schneider’s solo on Comrade Conrad (tenor)

and three for double bass:

Dave Holland’s solo on Spot that Man (Night Town,1992 –Don Grolnick)
Dave Holland’s solo on Blues for Pop (Night Town,1992 –Don Grolnick)
Anders Jormin –Sommarnatt (Alone,1991)

I’ve also updated the sax trascriptions page with additional transcriptions found on the ‘Net,for 1399 transcriptions in total.

Six (or more) iOS apps for 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!

Metronome

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.

Tuner

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.

Ear Training

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!

Tempo/pitch changers

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.

Score Readers

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.

Play Alongs

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.

The definitive solo index

I added many new sax,trumpet,piano,and guitar sections,with brand new pages for bass and for miscellaneous instruments,such as trombone,vibes,and violin.

With this additions,Saxopedia now features over 2700 transcriptions and my plan to create the most comprehensive index of solo transcription can be considered as complete….at least temporarily,until I find new websites with this kind of material. Now’s the time for something completely different.

New section for piano solos

I just created a new section for piano solo transcriptions. It contains only a few dozen solos,but I hope to add more stuff in coming months.

I also added new entries to the page for sax (including an original transcription of Gene Ammons on Confirmation) and many guitar transcriptions,for about one hundred new items in total.

 

Mouthpiece facing comparison charts

After reading this Steve Neff’s review,I decided to try the SAXZ David Sanborn Signature Model mouthpiece. If I manage to get the sound I heard on some video,it should be a good complement for my Meyer,Vandoren Jumbo Java,and Jody Jazz NY mouthpieces.

Having to select the tip opening,I scouted the ‘NET,looking for good comparison charts,using my Meyer as a starting point. It’s good to have these charts always at hand,thus I am sharing them here. I loosely sorted them in decreasing order of usefulness.

JodyJazz –Compares all models of JodyJazz alto sax mouthpieces’with Bari,Beechler,Berg Larsen,Dukeoff,Meyer,Ponzol,Rico,Rousseau,Runyon,Rovner,Selmer,Vandoren,Yamaha,Yanagisawa,and a few others. Other charts are available for soprano,tenor,and baritone. (Image above comes from JodyJazz website.)

JunkDude –Covers several models by LeBayle,Morgan,Meyer,Otto Link,Ponzol,and Vandoren. This chart compares Ralph Morgan models and also provides reccommendation about which reed to use.

Saxman –covers Bari,Beechler,Berg Larsen,Dukeoff,Meyer,Otto Link,Selmer, Vandoren,Yanagisawa,and a few others. Newer models are not covered,yet it’s a very good reference. Apparently,it’s based on 1996 The Saxophone Shop’s catalog,which I have seen in many other sites,such as this.

SaxGourmet:comparison of most popular alto sax mouthpieces in a printable GIF image. They have similar charts for soprano,tenor,and baritone.

Vandoren –Provides tip opening and reed suggestions for all Vandore alto sax mouthpieces. Similar charts are available for soprano,tenor,and baritone.

Warbunton –Compares Warburton mouthpieces to models by Otto Link,JodyJazz,Selmer,and Berg Larsen.

Yamaha –Tip opening and facing length for Yamaha Standard Series and for the Custom Series Mouthpieces.