If you struggle to get a good feel or play in time on your sax, then this will help you.
Want to know how to get better rhythm on sax? Saxophone legend Tom Scott shared this cool exercise in our recent Sax School masterclass and we break it down for you here.
I’ll admit, I’m a Tom Scott Fan.
I’ve been listening to his albums for years from his playing on Steely Dan’s AJA through to commercial album successes like Reed My Lips.
Chances are you have been listening to him for years too, because Tom is one of the busiest session and touring sax players ever with a huge list of artists and album credits. He was also a founding member of The Blues Brothers along with Lou Marini.
What gives you good rhythm on saxophone?
One of the things I love most about Tom’s playing (apart from his awesome tone – he is a fellow Jody Jazz DV mouthpiece player) is his sense of time.
Tom has a really deep understanding of rhythm and that comes through in every solo he plays.
In this lesson I play a transcription of his iconic solo on “So White and So Funky”. (grab the transcription below).
What you’ll notice when you look at the transcription is how rhythmically complicated the solo looks, but it sounds AMAZING.
Also, Tom can pull off solos like this on a live recording – which is amazing.
So how does Tom do this? And what can we learn about how to get better rhythm on sax?
Tabla and Indian Rhythm training
I had seen an interview Tom did with Andy Snitzer where he mentioned some rhythm training that had helped him, so I needed to know more. In our Masterclass with Tom he shared that as a teenager he studied Indian rhythms and Tabla. Part of that training was understanding Polyrhythms – and that is what Tom’s exercise is all about.
In the lesson Tom demonstrates an exercise where he is playing two rhythms – a group of 3 against a group of 4. This type of polyrhythm is complicated to pull off and definitely takes some practice.
The great thing about working on tricky rhythms like these is it strengthens your sense of time, and this will help you with every part of your playing, from staying in time better, to staying with a backing track, and also having a more rhythmic feel in your solos.
Watch the video for a full breakdown of how to tackle this polyrhythm exercise. Then, grab the worksheet below (and transcription) to give it a go.
Check out this full masterclass with Sax School Membership – try it for 14 days here.