Beginners’ Impro TTS Vol 2

In this section of the site we expand on some of the material in the book, Taming The Saxophone vol2.  Some of the pages in this section of the site include the basic sheet music of the tunes, ie “leadsheets” but when you buy the book you will also receive a download with printable leadsheets, audio (mp3), performance notes and explanations plus transcriptions of the example solos as played on alto and tenor. You can either make up your own solos or play the transcriptions. Study the transcriptions to learn how to put into practice what you have leaned from the theory book.

The book itself contains easy to follow practical theory. We start at the shallow end, no complex jazz harmony just yet. What you learn in the book will of course set you up for more complex jazz theory, but it is aimed mostly towards learning simple blues, ska and pop improvising.

Some of these tunes are quite simple, others are a bit more complex than you might find in many absolute beginners studies, but don’t worry, that’s why we have the audio examples to help you learn along with the sheet music – use your ears, your eyes and your memory.

If you have any comments, questions or want to share your own recordings please register at CafeSaxophone forum (TBA) where we have a dedicated area for anyone using TTS vol 2. You will get advice and answers from myself and other players learning to improvise.

If you are scared of  learning to improvise, this book is for you.

As well as the book you also get (free):

  • Download:
    • Backing tracks (mp3). Sheet music and performance notes.
    • Chord scale charts.
    • Free bonus: archive of Beginners PDFs (approx 100 pages) previously sold for £4.95
    • Scale Appendix (also available with TTS3)

As well as the backing track versions, there are also fully produced finished tracks with saxophone playing the melody and improvisation which is transcribed so you can choose to play the transcribed version or make up your own improvisation.

Each has performance notes so you can easily refer to sections of the theory book to help decide what to play, or you can just play along, use your ears instead of worrying about the theory.

Saxophone Beginners Starter pack
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What’s in the book?

  • What are chords?
  • How chords are formed.
  • Why do saxophone players want or need chords?
  • About chord sequences, how harmony helps music to “tell a story”
  • How to make your solos more melodic, not just running up and down scales
  • Blue notes and blues scales

Who is it for and what do you need?

  • Ideally you already know some very basics of music theory, e.g. about key signatures and notes on the staff. If not we advise getting a basic music theory book such as Grade III.
  • Any saxophone player, beginner to intermediate who may or may not have reasonable saxophone technique, but is not yet confident enough to improvise.
  • Anyone who wants a simpler yet highly musical approach to improvising – no complex jazz theory to make your brain hurt. No mixolydian dominants or modes of the melodic minor.
  • Harmony examples need to be played and although you don’t need to be a piano player, you need a keyboard (either piano, MIDI or virtual, e.g. keyboard app). It doesn’t matter how slow you are finding the notes.

Many theory books start off quite simple but then suddenly progress to the very complex jazz harmony. In this book we will try to keep it as simple as possible for as long as possible, while still giving you a thorough grounding in how to do some basic improvisation. It’s recommended that you be able to read music so you can try out the musical examples, but you don’t need to be a great sight reader. You don’t even need to read the tunes in the playalong, you can learn them by ear from the fully produced versions if you want.

Contents

  • Understanding chords
    • Major chords (triads)
    • Minor chords (triads)
  • Chord functions
    • Two sets of numbers
    • Major, minor and diminished
    • Major chords
    • Diminished chords
    • Minor keys
  • Beyond triads
    • Major 7 chords
    • Minor 7 chords
    • Dominant 7 chords
    • Four-note chords (summary)
  • A harmonic journey
    • Why is there tension in a dominant chord?
    • Voice leading
  • A closer look at minor harmony
    • The harmonic minor and leading notes
  • Using chords in improvising
    • Right notes and wrong notes
    • Passing notes
    • Suspensions
    • Avoid notes
    • Honing your improvisation
  • The Blues
    • Blues chords
    • Blue notes
    • Blues scales
  • Glossary

In the Beginners Impro Section:

  • Beginners Scales

    The 12 Step Scale Chart Use this chart to visualise how a scale is made up of whole tones or half tones (aka tones & semitones). You can click on the Buttons to move forward/backward through the different scales. For example to quickly understand the difference between a major and minor, click on “Major”, then “Minor” (Melodic or harmonic”   As you learn the ... Read more…
  • Chords For Beginners

    Here is a very simple lesson in the beginnings of harmony. As you probably know, there are 7 notes in a major scale. In C these are C, D, E, F, G, A and B. We number these 1 to 7, often with roman numerals instead of note names, which makes it easier to think about this in any key. Read more…
  • Rock & Blues

    Rock & Roll (& Blues) for Beginners I Although you might think that theory and rock or blues playing don’t have much in common, it’s surprising how useful a bit of basic music training can be when learning any style of music, however much that style relies an a “feel”. I have met many great rock and rhythm & blues saxophonists, ... Read more…
  • Chords and Numerals

    If you have read part 1 of TTS vol 2 you should know how we use different types of numbers to help us understand about chords and chord sequences. This page gives you a visual explanation/reminder of the relationship between the chord note numbers (arabic numerals) and the function of the chord itself within the key (roman numerals). This sounds a ... Read more…
  • Special Chords

    We will call these “special chords” as they don’t quite fit into the method of chord construction we have learned so far, but really they aren’t that special so don’t be scared of them. Up until now we have been constructing chords by counting up the scale form the root of the chord, and leaving out every other note. So ... Read more…
  • Voicing & Inversions

    A quick recap about chords We learned in the book that chords are two or more notes played together. We know how chords are constructed, that they are derived from scales by counting up alternate notes: 1 – 3 – 5 – 7. We also know that chords are used for two main purposes: Chords in the backing music This is the music you play ... Read more…
  • Impro Exercises

    Minor Chords Im IVm & Vm (Gorilla) This exercise looks at how to work on the key scale and chords for the first tune in the Volume 2,  Gorilla. You can take two approaches to this: Key Scale only – this means you don’t worry about the chord notes, just use the scale of the key. This makes it very easy, but it’s ... Read more…
  • Gorilla

    The chords here should be familiar, they are the same as our Practical Impro Exercise. Alto     Tenor     This is a simple ska tune, you can take a few liberties with the phrasing of this, add some effects such as note bending or growling. Use the “Gorilla” slider on the previous page to see how the chords relate to the key scale: Gorilla (Full Version) Gorilla Playalong) Alto (Key scale D ... Read more…
  • Ooh Ah Ooh (2 Chords)

    This tune is a typical two chord tune that uses chord I and V7 in a short 8 bar sequence. This is a common form which you can hear in songs such as All About That Bass, Jambalaya, Iko Iko, Sea Cruise and many others. This has a very slightly different format as it starts on the V7 chord. This is ... Read more…
  • Sand Dance

    Every now and again a friend of mine brings their son or daughter (who is learning the saxophone at school) round, and of course they are asked to play for me, which is probably as awkward for me as it is for them because I’m expected to give a critique. I ask them what tunes they know and they seem ... Read more…
  • The Saints

    This is a famous tune everybody must know and is ideal for that moment when you are asked “come on, play us a tune then!” I have simplified this version in some respects. Very often the IV chord at bar 11 changes to a minor. In this version, which as a New Orleans rock and roll feel, that chord stays as ... Read more…
  • Slinky

    This is a nice comfortable tempo simple jazz blues. Playing the blues is not as simple as many people suspect. Although we can use just one key scale, the one scale that will (most times) be OK is a minor type scale, e.g the minor pentatonic or minor blues scale which is the same but with an added passing note. In the ... Read more…
  • Doreen a là Mode

    This is as close as we get to jazz in this section, this is in the style of 1960s modal jazz which became popular in the late 1950s and 1960s. perhaps it was a backlash against the complexity of bebop. In this type of jazz there is often only one chord, or a vamp, which can last for a long time. ... Read more…
  • Jumpin Blues

    This is a blues in a “jump” style. As with Slinky we can use just one key scale, e.g the minor pentatonic or minor blues scale which is the same but with an added passing note. Again, if you feel like it you can add major 3rds to add some variety. These can work very well, but you must be careful where you ... Read more…

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