If you are just starting out with improvising, I’ll bet your solos sound a bit…. boring.
If that sounds like you then you’ll love this really easy improvising jam session for saxophone that’s perfect for beginner players!
In fact our Easy Swing Jam for Saxophone uses only 4 notes. Plus, I’m going to show you a cool little technique that will make your solos SOUND far more interesting and complicated than they really are, and it’s dead easy…
Watch the full lesson, then grab the worksheet and practice track below.
In this lesson
Now this lesson isn’t about the theory of improvising. It’s really just about building your confidence by creating simple solos that really work.
I’m a huge believer that this is super important when you’re starting out your improvising journey. In Sax School we’ve helped thousands of students become really confident improvisers using exercises like this as a starting point. Then they can progress to the more detailed courses and lessons on improvisation that we’ve got inside our Sax School Members’ Area.
About Sonny Rollins
The main inspiration for today’s jam session is one of the most popular sax players, Sonny Rollins. I’ve actually been checking him out a lot lately, and one of the techniques we’re going to learn today is something you can hear Sonny Rollins use a lot in his improvising. You can check out the full video here that I did recently, where I talk about why Sonny Rollins is a player that you really should be learning more about and listening to.
The notes for the jam
So let’s check out the notes that we’re going to use in our swing jam for saxophone session today. Now, I’ll be jamming on my tenor sax, but I’m gonna show you the notes on tenor and on alto, so you could jam along with me on whatever sax you’ve got including soprano, or baritone sax.
So on the tenor saxophone, our notes are F, A, C and D. So for the C, I’ve got my octave key off, but for the D, I’ve got my octave key on. And you can use those notes over your whole range.
On the alto saxophone, our notes are C, E, G and A. So for my E, my G and my A, I’ve got my octave key on, and you can use those over your whole range too.
Let’s get stuck in with our first jam session. Here are the rules.
- I want you to only use those four notes that I’ve shown you
- Try and keep your melody lines super simple
- Keep your rhythms really clear and simple.
I’m going to play the first four bars. I’d like you to copy what I did in my four bars, in your four bars.
I’ll show you what note I started the phrase on, but I’m not going to show you my fingers. So I want you to try and work out what notes I’m playing, using your ears.
If you’re struggling to get the notes I’m playing correct, don’t worry. What I’d really like you to focus on is getting the rhythm the same as me, and then you can choose any of those four notes yourself, but let’s focus on getting the rhythm as accurate as possible. Have fun with it!
There’s always more that you can get from this easy improvising jam session for saxophone, so it’s worth playing it over and over a few times.
About Sonny’s Improv Technique
If you watch that Sonny Rollins video that I mentioned above, and grab the free PDF transcription from that lesson, you’ll recognise something we did in that jam session that Sonny Rollins does in his solos too. He keeps his melodies super simple, and developing his ideas throughout a solo, just like we did. It’s a powerful technique that everybody can use.
Right. Let’s take things up a notch now, and add a little more complexity.
Making our solos sound more interesting
For our second jam, we’re going try something that’s a little bit more interesting. This is a great, easy technique that will make your solos sound far more complicated than they actually are.
Now, we’re not talking about the theory here. This is just a simple little technique that you can apply to your improvised lines.
We are going to take our four original notes, and move them up a half step or a semitone.
So that means for the tenor saxophone, where we before had F, A, C and D, we’ve now got G flat, (which is the same as F#), B flat, D flat (which is the same as C#) and E flat.
For alto sax where we had C, E, G and A, we’ve now got D flat (which is the same as C#), F, (octave key is on for that one), A flat, and B flat.
If you’re unsure of the fingerings, watch the video above where I demonstrate.
The rules to the technique
Now there are some rules to use these new notes in our soloing. When we move a half step or a semitone away from our safe notes, our four original notes, we create a lot of tension, or excitement, in our melody lines. So it’s really important when we create tension, to have some resolution and we can do that by coming back to our safe notes.
The main thing I want you to think about, is that when we move away and we play these exciting new notes, we’ve got to resolve our melody lines by ending on one of our safe notes. You’ll see what I mean as we get stuck into the jam, let’s have a go at it.
The second jam
With this jam we will do the same thing, so I’ll take the first four bars, then it’s over to you. I’m going to show you the notes that I start on, and I am going to move into those new notes and then resolve my melody lines back to the safe notes.
Have a listen to that and see if you can copy the lines that I’m playing.
Remember that if you’re unsure of the notes I’m playing, then try to just think about the rhythm that I’m playing, and apply that to your own choices of our notes.
How did you get on with the second jam?
It’s a bit more challenging and I did get a little bit crazy towards the end of that jam session, just to give you some ideas of how you can apply this technique and take things up to the next level.
Don’t forget you can grab the PDF and the backing track for this lesson from the link on this page, and I’d urge you to grab that too. Add this easy improvising jam session for saxophone to your daily practice routine.
And, the more you do it the better you’ll get at it, and the more ideas you’ll explore in your improvising as well, which will help you to really come up with some fantastic, exciting things in your improvising.
Easy improvising jam session for saxophone next steps
Now of course this easy improvising jam session for saxophone was just a taster to get you started with building your confidence with improvising, but to really move ahead the next step is to dig in with the theory of improvising, and we can help you to do that with the courses and the lessons that we’ve got inside Sax School.
So when you’re ready, go and check out what we’re doing at Sax School. You can sign up for our free 14 day trial that we’ve got running at the moment, and get involved with those courses and lessons, and get some help from our tutors as well, to really explore the subject of improvising and get you off on the right path.