During a Skype lesson, one of my students was having trouble using his front F key on the saxophone. He couldn’t get comfortable with it. I created this lick to show him how I often access the key.
I refer to this as an “idiomatic” lick because it lays so well on the horn. This is not the only way to use the key, but it’s a good introduction to get comfortable with the unique hand position required for front F.
Includes PDF practice notes.
LESSON 2: Major Seventh Chord Inversions
In this video lesson, I play the major seventh chords in all inversions with what I call the “top margin” of my “C” on tenor, with all notes descending: C B G E (Cmaj7), C Ab G Eb (Abmaj7), C A F E (Fmaj7), and C Ab F Db (Dbmaj7).
Playing the inversions in this manner really highlights the interval structures of the chords and improves the accuracy of the ear. This is a great practice approach for ear training and improved control of your major seventh chords.
Advanced level. Includes PDF practice notes for Bb, Eb and C instruments.
LESSON 3: Getz Double Note Articulation Effect
In this video lesson, I demonstrate a specialized type of articulation that I call the “Getz Double Note Articulation Effect.”
This is a device that I first heard on an album called “Stan Getz Plays.” It gives the illusion of double-tonguing, but it’s single tonguing with very strategically placed slurs.
Learning to use this effect has really improved my control and speed for articulation. This is a great tool to have in your “special effects” bag of tricks to add something unique to your solos.
Includes PDF practice notes for Bb, Eb and C instruments.
LESSON 4: The Blues Scale – Part 1 of 2
In this video lesson, I explore the blues scale. This part one video teaches scale construction and application of the blues scale over a dominant and a minor chord.
I share my thoughts on using the scale over the full range of the horn and demonstrate some popular techniques used by the masters with this scale, including sequencing and repetition.
Includes PDF practice notes for Bb, Eb and C instruments.
LESSON 5: The Blues Scale – Part 2 of 2
This video lesson continues where part one ended, exploring options for adding extra chromatic notes to the scale.
Includes many examples in which I play some of my favorite phrases using the scale with the extra notes.
I also share my thoughts on the overuse of this scale by beginning players and explain why I look at this scale as a sort of musical spice, used to enhance the flavor of a chord progression.
Includes PDF practice notes for Bb, Eb and C instruments.
In this video lesson, I discuss the importance of practicing each item on my practice planner. I developed this approach in my 20’s when I was practicing many hours each day. I experimented with many different approaches to practicing and found that these six items yielded the best results.
Many people get stuck practicing only scales or chords and never seem to get to other items like vocabulary, transcriptions, etudes, and tunes.
Includes PDF practice planner.
LESSON 2: Secret Applications for the Bebop Scale
In this video lesson, I share what I call the “secret” applications for the bebop scale. These are not the types of applications that you learn in school. In both my undergrad and graduate studies, there was no mention of these applications of the scale.
And yet, when I transcribed the masters, I found that they routinely applied the scale in this way when they wanted to get more harmonic flavor from the scale.
If you’ve ever been at a loss for how to use the bebop scale over a minor ii / V situation, this video will show you how to apply the scale like a seasoned professional.
Includes detailed PDF practice notes for Bb, Eb and C instruments.
LESSON 3: Creative Scale Practice
In this video lesson, I share a story about one of my Skype students who was very bored with his scale practice. He was in a rut, always playing his scales like a technical exercise, rather than finding the music hidden within the scales.
I showed him these creative practice strategies that I use in my own practice and he was instantly playing with more energy and creativity while also improving his musical memory and his instrumental technique.
Includes detailed PDF practice notes for Bb, Eb and C instruments.
LESSON 4: C.E.S.H. – What it is and How to Use it.
In this video lesson, I explore and explain C.E.S.H. The term was coined by one of my former teachers, the great Jerry Coker. It stands for “Contrapuntal Elaboration of Static Harmony.” Basically, it means that you apply voice leading to a chord within itself by moving the sevenths (and sometimes the fifths).
This is a common harmonic device used by all pro players. You’ll recognize it as soon as you hear it. I explain the device and break it down in a way that makes it easy for all levels of players to immediately use this in their solos. Includes detailed PDF practice notes for Bb, Eb and C instruments.
LESSON 4: Thumb Position for the Octave Key
In this video lesson, I discuss and demonstrate the importance of good thumb position on the saxophone. This topic is often overlooked. Over the years, I’ve taught many students who needed to correct bad habits with their thumb position. In some cases, students were experiencing pain from using the wrong position or from using too much pressure.
The left hand cannot operate with efficiency without an excellent thumb position, combined with a light touch. If you’ve ever had issues with left-hand technique problems or pain in your left hand or arm due to the octave key, this video will address all of those issues and provide a clear strategy to fix the problem.
In this video lesson, I share my system to develop a strong, consistent tone when changing from the upper register to the lower register. The video lesson focuses, especially on slurred descending octaves.
I explain a common problem of aspiring saxophonists dropping their jaw to get to the low register, which causes a pitch drop to the upper note, as well as a weak sounding lower register. I call this problem, “the donkey” because the sound reminds me of a braying donkey.
This is an essential lesson for tone development. Key elements in this lesson include a discussion of jaw positioning, throat tension, and air support. ESSENTIAL FOR ALL LEVELS.
LESSON 2: TUNES
In this video lesson, I share with you the basic bebop style blues changes that my famous Chicago teacher, Joe Daley showed be when I was studying with him in the 1980s. These are what I consider to be essential blues changes for bebop era blues heads, like Billie’s Bounce, Tenor Madness, Now’s the Time, etc.
There are many advanced options for the blues, but this video will provide you with the essentials to get started. I play the progression slowly, with the chords in all four directions. I also take you through singing the roots of the chords while playing the changes on the keyboard. Includes PDF with these changes for C, Bb, and Eb instruments. Intermediate level.
Includes detailed PDF practice notes for C, Bb, and Eb instruments.
LESSON 3: Mi(maj7) Chords with Echo Game in Four Directions
In this video lesson, I explain how to play minor(maj7) chords. This is one of my favorites. it has a kind of “film-noir” quality to the sound of the chord, with a dark minor third, a neutral perfect fifth, and a very bright major seventh. I often refer to this chord as the “Vertigo” chord because this sound was featured so prominently in Alfred Hitchcock’s classic film “Vertigo,” starring Jimmy Stewart.
This chord is also featured in songs such as: Harlem Nocturne, Nica’s Dream, Chelsea Bridge, Solar, and many more. I take you through the “echo game” in all four directions, with Direction 1 at 2:16, Direction 2 at 4:00, Direction 3 at 5:36, and Direction 4 at 7:10. Starting at 8:08 I have a high-speed echo game for advanced players. At 10:48 I give suggestions for practicing with this chord.
Includes PDF for C, Bb, and Eb instruments.
LESSON 4: Addition by Subtraction
In this video lesson, I share my thoughts on transforming your playing not by adding more and more layers to what you’re doing, but by subtracting things that are holding you back. This is a very powerful concept. Who would have thought you could sound so much better by simply subtracting a few things from your playing?
In this video lesson, we’ll play the echo game, in which you will imitate or “echo” whatever I play. I have the metronome at 160BPM and play many variations on Hip Lick #1. Each of my demonstration phrases is one measure in length. You’ll have one measure to play the echo, by ear.
The video is divided into two parts. The first part of the video is intermediate level, with all variations on the lick remaining in the same key. The second half of the video takes all of the variations for the echo and puts the lick into the cycle, playing different variations in each of the twelve keys. This is an ear-training video designed to improve your musical memory. So, by intent, there are no PDF notes for this lesson. INTERMEDIATE & ADVANCED LEVEL.
LESSON 2: Stop Scooping Your Notes!
I think of this video lesson like a public service announcement for all intermediate level aspiring player. In my earliest playing days, I was a guilty of this as anyone. I thought it sounded “jazzy” so scoop into my notes. Wrong! Thanks to my old teacher Joe Daley, who told me in quite harsh terms, but really cured me of doing this, I found a better way, through Sonny Stitt, to get the effect of sliding into a note while maintaining the pitch center of the note.
This video demonstrates how it sounds when scooping and then how it sounds when applying the Sonny Stitt way of using a grace note from a 1/2 step below, to slide into a note. Totally hip. This is designed to be an ear-training lesson, as well, so there are no PDF notes with this one. INTERMEDIATE LEVEL.
No PDF materials for this lesson
LESSON 3: The Bad Toupee Theory – How to Blend Licks into a Solo
In this video lesson, I share what I call my “Bad Toupee Theory.” The basic idea is this: Nobody points to a guy and says, “what a great looking toupee!” They only say “look at that bad toupee on that guy!” If it’s a great looking toupee, you can’t even tell that the guy is wearing a toupee. It’s similar with licks.
You don’t want to make it obvious that you’re using licks. They need to blend into the musical surroundings. In this video, I demonstrate an obvious usage of a lick (bad toupee) and I also demonstrate a subtle way to use a lick, blending it into the development of the solo. Includes PDF lesson notes for Bb, Eb and C instruments. INTERMEDIATE & ADVANCED LEVEL.
LESSON 4: Dealing with Practice Anxiety – How to Have Fun While You Practice
Recently, I’ve been hearing more and more from students of all levels who tell me that they’re constantly stressed out about practicing. They feel overwhelmed and anxious about the amount of musical material they need to master in order to move forward. I used to have these feelings, and it took me a long time to change my attitude and approach turn my practice sessions into really fun experiences. I
n this video lesson, I share my personal journey with you and give you some suggestions that, to this day really help me have fun in every practice session. BEGINNING, INTERMEDIATE & ADVANCED LEVELS.
In this video lesson, I demonstrate two of my favorite approaches to bebop ornamentation, based on my observations of Rollins and Coltrane and the way that they dress up their lines with ornaments. Intermediate & Advanced level. Includes detailed PDF practice notes for Bb, Eb and C instruments.
LESSON 2: The Jackpot 7-7-7 – Hearing a major scale over a II V I
In this video lesson, I show my technique for harmonically aligning a major scale over a ii V I. This strategic approach provides great clarity and voice leading, giving you all 3’s, 5’s, 7’s or 9’s over a ii V I while simply playing a diatonic scale.
A key factor is setting up your ear to hear the roots of the chords in relation to the starting note of the line. I demonstrate the process throughout the video lesson. Intermediate & Advanced level. Includes detailed PDF practice notes for Bb, Eb, and C instruments.
LESSON 3: Speed Bag – Cool Minor Lick
In this video lesson, I share one of my favorite minor patterns that I used for working up my technique.
This is a short but very effective lick for improving your precision on the keys, as well as improving alignment between your articulation and fingers. ALL LEVELS. Includes detailed PDF practice notes for Bb, Eb and C instruments.
LESSON 4: Greg’s Philosophy of Music: Playing by Theory vs Playing by Ear
In this video lesson, I discuss the difference between playing by theory and playing by ear. I share many examples from my years as a student and later observations from the perspective of a pro player and teacher.
If you’ve been trying to figure out music theory to make up for the possibility that your ear isn’t all that developed, this video will really shed some light on the reason that the theory (as much as I enjoy it) is no substitute for a highly trained ear. I’m not saying that theory isn’t important, but when it comes to playing jazz and improvising, the ear must be first, not the intellect.
LESSON 5: Listening Recommendation: Frank Sinatra: Point of No Return
For me, Frank Sinatra was the greatest singer, ever. He had it all…perfect intonation, diction, dynamics…the way he could tell the story of the lyrics in a way that felt like he was speaking directly to the listener. And, his phrasing…the breath control…astounding.
This album isn’t one of the most popular, like Live at the Sands, or Come Fly With Me (both equally good, but different). This is a mellow, introspective Sinatra, not the ring-a-ding Sinatra. Axel Stordahl’s arrangements are great examples of beautiful, clear, uncluttered orchestration. Like all of Sinatra’s Capital album’s, the engineering is top notch, sounding like it was recorded today.
In this video lesson, I share a concept that I call “mirrored intervals.” By this terminology, I’m referring to the sound of playing, let’s say, an E up to a G, and then playing the same E again, but dropping to the G below. The result is that you’ll go up a minor third and the “mirrored” interval produced when you drop down to the G below E will be a major sixth. One of my favorite players, Gene Ammons uses this device quite a bit in his solos. In this lesson, I’ll demonstrate several ways to practice this concept and get it into your playing. Intermediate & Advanced level. Includes detailed PDF practice notes for Bb, Eb and C instruments.
LESSON 2: Fixing the Break: How to play smoothly from C to D
One problem for many aspiring saxophonists is “the break,” which is the part of the horn that switches from the lower register, without the octave key, to the upper register, with the octave key. The break can be especially challenging when going from middle “C” to middle “D.” The thing that many aspiring players don’t realize is that while there’s just one key to press on the horn, there are actually two octave keys. One is located on the neck, and the other is located on the body of the horn. In this video lesson, I demonstrate both the problem and the solution. Includes close-up camera shots of my hands as I play the horn. If you’ve ever wanted to smooth out your transitions from the low register to the middle register of the horn, this video will immediately put you on the right path.
CLICK HERE to download PDF lesson materials
LESSON 3: The Harmonic Minor Scale
In this video lesson, I demonstrate the harmonic minor scale, first comparing it to the major scale, and then showing how to use it strategically over a minor ii / V / I. I also demonstrate the scale in 3rds in the four directions, followed by an improvisation on the scale. Includes detailed PDF practice notes for Bb, Eb & C instruments. INTERMEDIATE LEVEL.
LESSON 4: Greg’s Philosophy of Music: It’s Bigger than You and Me
In this video lesson, I discuss my thoughts about a student who came to me feeling down about his playing. He is a good student. He practices a lot. He always shows up prepared for the lessons. I’m proud of his progress. And yet, he had such negative feelings about his playing that he was considering quitting.
I shared my personal philosophy about music with him and told him about my own experience with feelings of frustration and self-doubt as a younger player. After I shared these thoughts with him, we proceeded to have a fantastic lesson and by the end of the lesson, he was feeling much better about things. I hope that you enjoy the video.
An all-time classic 1958 Blue Note album. Miles Davis rarely appeared as a sideman after his time with Charlie Parker, but he made a rare exception and appeared on this Cannonball album. There’s great chemistry between all of the players on this album.
The vibe, the grooves…this is one of those albums that just sets a great mood and when it’s finished playing, you want to play it all over again. My favorite track, “One for Daddy-O” features one of my all-time favorite alto solo breaks. Also includes classic renditions of “Autumn Leaves” and “Love for Sale.” A must for all jazz collections.
In this video lesson, I explore Hip Lick #9, extending the lick with the same ii / V chords, as well as making the lick resolve to a I maj7 chord. I also demonstrate the effect of starting the lick in four different locations; beats 1,2,3 & 4. In addition, I also demonstrate the lick in 12 keys. Includes detailed PDF practice notes for Bb, Eb & C instruments. INTERMEDIATE LEVEL.
LESSON 2: Major II V I vs. minor II V I – Apples to Apples Comparison
In this video lesson, I’ll give you an “apples-to-apples” comparison of a line played over a major ii / V / I and then that same line, harmonically adapted to fit a minor ii / V / i. If you’ve ever felt unsure about the sound of the minor ii / V / I, this video will put things clearly into focus. Includes detailed PDF practice notes for Bb, Eb and C instruments. INTERMEDIATE LEVEL.
LESSON 3: Bebop line over the bridge of “I Got Rhythm” from Two Voice-leading Lines
In this video lesson, I show you how I constructed a Bebop eighth-note line over the bridge of “I Got Rhythm,” using two voice-leading lines to nail the changes. Next time you’re playing “Oleo,” play this line on the bridge, and you’ll hear how clearly this approach outlines the changes. In the lesson, first I’ll play the eight-measure line for you and then I’ll deconstruct it, going step-by-step through the process I used to construct the line. Some very good and practical information about using the Bebop scale in this lesson, as well. Includes detailed PDF practice notes for Bb, Eb and C instruments. INTERMEDIATE LEVEL.
LESSON 4: Palm Key Hand Position Exercise
In this video lesson, I share my system for fixing years of poor palm key finger positioning. Most intermediate players, or even advanced players with poor left-hand palm key technique, tend to play with flat, straight fingers when it comes to playing the palm keys.
This causes a lack of fluency when switching between the palm keys and the lower range of the horn. In order to achieve fluency of technique, you will need to keep the fingers as curved as possible while pressing the palm keys. This lesson presents a three-step approach to gaining control over the palm keys.
There are no PDF notes with this lesson, as it’s best that you watch the video and imitate the moves on your horn. INTERMEDIATE & ADVANCED LEVEL.
LESSON 5: Listening Recommendation: Stan Getz – Focus
This Stan Getz masterpiece from 1961 is simply like no other record. This was Stan’s own favorite album of all of his many wonderful recordings. It’s a suite of seven pieces with a string orchestra, composed and arranged by the great Eddie Sauter.
Stan’s part is completely improvised, and the freshness and searching quality of his improvisations make this a truly unique classic. It’s not “straight-ahead,” though. Sort of a hybrid between jazz and classical. Highly recommended.
LESSON 1: System for Creating Diminished Scales on V7b9 Chords
This lesson demonstrates my system for creating diminished scales for the V7b9 chord. If you haven’t yet learned the diminished scale, or if you learned it via the traditional “half step/ whole step” approach, this system is a total game-changer! Check out this video to master your diminished scales over V7b9 chords.
LESSON 2: Theme & Variation – Singles, Doubles & Triples
This lesson demonstrates a technique I call “Singles, Doubles, and Triples.” This is a fun way to practice your chords or scales while creating lots of rhythmic variations by varying the number of times that you play each note. If you’ve ever been bored while practicing your chord arpeggios, give this new approach a try! BEGINNING & INTERMEDIATE LEVEL.
LESSON 3: Irving Park Road (Etude Studies) – ALTO
Ideas and exercises for practicing, and getting the most out of this original jazz Etude with your ALTO sax.
LESSON 4: Irving Park Road (Etude Studies) – TENOR
Ideas and exercises for practicing, and getting the most out of this original jazz Etude with your TENOR sax.
LESSON 5: Using Major Scales to Learn Intervals
With this lesson, we’re going to take the familiar C major scale and use it to train the ear to hear ascending and descending intervals. This approach lets you hear the intervals within the scale in much greater detail.
LESSON 6: 24 Permutations for the Fingers
This video features my method for sharpening independent control of each finger. This exercise will improve your technique and keep your fingers in shape even when you’re away from the horn.
LESSON 7: Road Tips – Location of Notes within Maj7 Chords – Part 1 of 3
In this lesson, I show you how to think of one note in four different locations within a major 7th chord. For example, C = Root of Cmaj7, but C = the 3rd of Abmaj7, C = the 5th of Fmaj7, and C = the 7th of Db maj7. The importance of enharmonic notes is also discussed in the video
LESSON 1: Interval Study – Major 7th intervals
Intervals are one of the most overlooked practice items. However, I consider them just as important as practicing scales and chords. In this video, I demonstrate my approach to practicing major 7th intervals by playing them in the cycle, both ascending and descending.
This approach is great for the ear, and it will help you to recognize the interval when you hear it in melodies. Once you get this approach under your fingers and in your ears, we’ll take the next step with intervals and apply them to many different harmonic situations. (more videos on this subject are coming in the future).
After working with this video, review many of the melodies you like to play, and look for the presence of this interval used both ascending and descending. When you do this, your ear will start to pick up on the interval, and you’ll be hearing at a deeper level.
LESSON 2: Hearing the Location of the Root, 3rd, 5th, and 7th in Chords
This lesson demonstrates my system for hearing the location of a specific note in a chord. If you can already play your chords from the 1-3-5-7 ascending and 7-5-3-1 descending, this video will take you to the next level. This system has helped many of students reach a deeper level of hearing harmony, to the point where they can play a “C” and hear that note clearly in their mind’s ear as the Root, 3rd, 5th or 7th of any chord type.
LESSON 3: Transforming a Maj7 Chord into a Diminished (maj7) Chord
This is a common trick among pro players, temporarily transforming a maj7 chord into a dimMaj7 chord for added harmonic flavor.
LESSON 4: Six Melodic Variations on a Descending Minor 7th Chord
In this lesson, I discuss and demonstrate Six Melodic Variations on a Descending Minor 7th Chord, and the theory behind them.
LESSON 5: Sunrise/Sunset Neck Exercise
This lesson features a technique I call “Sunrise/Sunset” for improving your breath support and dynamics. I use the neck alone to produce a concert E, demonstrating some of the techniques I use to improve tone, dynamics, and breath control.
LESSON 6: The Butterfly Tongue
This lesson features a technique I call the “Butterfly Tongue.” The is a technique for slightly muting the note and changing the timbre while the tongue rests on the reed. Getz, Prez, and many of the old-school masters use this technique to achieve both ghosted 8th notes, as well as quickly repeated notes, similar in sound to double-tonguing, but much smoother. This is a challenging one, but well worth the effort!
LESSON 7: Road Tips – Location of Notes within Maj7 Chords – Part 2 of 3
In this lesson, I show you how to think of one note in four different locations within a major 7th chord. For example, C = Root of Cmaj7, but C = the 3rd of Abmaj7, C = the 5th of Fmaj7, and C = the 7th of Db maj7. The importance of enharmonic notes is also discussed in the video.
LESSON 1: Hearing Intervals from the Roots of the “Big 5” Chords
Demonstration of a system for training the ear to hear the intervals from the root to the 3rd, 5th, and 7th of what I call the “Big 5” chords; Maj7, dom7, mi7, mi7b5, and dim7 chords. Also includes instruction on hearing from the 7th of the chords down to the root. BEGINNING & INTERMEDIATE LEVEL.
LESSON 2: Major 7th Chords in Four Directions
This lesson demonstrates ways of practicing Major 7th chords in the cycle, in four directions. Essential for ALL LEVELS.
LESSON 3: Mainstream Articulation
Greg demonstrates his system for learning mainstream jazz articulation. INTERMEDIATE LEVEL with some tips at the end of the video for ADVANCED LEVEL, as well.
LESSON 4: Adding Lower Neighboring Tones to the Descending Major Scale
This lesson demonstrates a system for adding Lower Neighboring Tones to the Major Scales. INTERMEDIATE & ADVANCED LEVELS.
LESSON 5: Road Tips – The C = ?
Greg shows how to keep your mind focused and sharp even when you’re away from the horn. This music theory game involves thinking of the note “C” as different degrees of major scales.