Saxophone confidence. Playing the Blues

Here’s a good way to gain loads of confidence playing the sax after only a few lessons.

Have you started your scales yet? If not don’t worry just try a C major scale now, it’s quite easy, all you have to do is play C,D,E,F,G,A,B,C on your saxophone. It is often easier to start on the C in the middle of your sax (3rd finger, right hand) and work backwards descending down the sax.

Now a little music theory. Try think of your scale like this:

C = 1

D = 2

E = 3

F = 4

G = 5

A = 6

B = 7

C = 8

Why do this? Because numbering your notes will not only help you remember where you are in blues, but it can then be applied to any key signature whilst playing blues. To apply it to another scale just remember that if you are in the key of C then the note C is the first one you play and so becomes note 1. If you were in the key of F then F would be the first note you play and so F becomes note one, G note two, A note three etc.

Next question; what is the twelve bar blues progression? This is a series of chords which form a style of music used in many jazz and rock n roll numbers. You’ve probably heard it and not realised, but if not then YouTube it and you’ll find thousands of examples. A good place to start is C Jam Blues by Duke Ellington. The original videos of this are a little difficult to follow so look for a school jazz band version.

You’ll notice the same melody being played interspersed with solos. Now listen to the rhythm section (Piano, guitar, bass and drums) even during the other instrumental solos they’ll be playing the same thing, again and again. That’s the twelve bar blues progression and it goes like this:

Bar Number

Chord Number

one

1

two

1

three

1

four

1

five

4

six

4

seven

1

eight

1

nine

5

ten

4

eleven

1

twelve

1

 

Now compare that to the way we numbered the notes in the C major scale and you have a key for playing the beginnings of a blues progression.

In bar one you need chord number one. Chord number one is based on the first note in the C major scale so in bar one you begin by playing C. Skip to bar five; in this bar you need chord number four in the C major scale. Chord number 4 is based on the 4th note so in bar five you play an F.

Using this guide you can try and play along to many blues based songs using the basic notes of the progression. Be aware though that saxophones are transposing instruments. To keep things nice and simple we need to find songs that let you play in the key of C major so if you are playing an alto you want to search for blues in Eb and if you are playing a tenor, blues in Bb.

(Eb and Bb are the concert keys or the notes as they would sound on a piano. Because a saxophone has a different range than other instruments we have to play in different key signatures in order to sound correct with everyone else.)

If you have any question please leave a comment and I will answer you/

Links to free score downloads

I’ve spent the morning looking for free downloads and found some stuff I thought I would share. I should add that I have been looking for simple piano scores to popular songs rather than classical piano.  There are some fantastic free sites out there for piano music http://www.freesheetmusic.net been a good place to start.

Sites like the following promise a lot but are either hideously complicated, broken, or not what they advertise.

http://www.sheetmusicengine.com

www.8notes.com  – this site is just confusing. If you go in through the main web page and follow the free links you can access a limited number of free gif files. However, if you follow a google link for a specific song, you’ll end up playing for it.

http://www.free-scores.com – This one goes under the ‘hideously complicated’ heading. There seems to be a lot of content but finding something useful is very difficult.

My most useful site for popular music has been http://www.pianofiles.com/ The listing here isn’t huge but it is varied and comprehensive.

Just as an aside there is a fantasic(ish) blog called http://truepianotranscriptions.blogspot.com/ It contains full transcriptions of possibly many piano pieces. However, there is no index of blogs, no blogger info, no list of pieces. It’s like an idea almost realised.

But by far the most useful overall has been:

http://www.free-midi.org

There are hundreds of free Midi sites out there. True, you do need a MIDI player. I have been opening the files in Sibelius which instantly creates you a full score.

 

Obviously I’m not the only one to have this idea so here is a selection of other bloggers who have made lists of free sheet music sites:

http://truepianotranscriptions.blogspot.com/ – A blogger who started played in Januray 2010

http://thepianostudent.wordpress.com  – A brilliant resource directory

http://worship1.wordpress.com/2009/08/20/tough-times-small-budget/ – Links to a website for free Gospel sheet music