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      Let’s talk about modes. When playing “Wonderful World” by Sam Cooke I can play the melody note for note or I can play along using modes. The music I have is in A major. First bar is A major, 2nd bar is F#m Aeolian, 3rd bar is D major. 4th bar is E Mixolydian. 5th bar is back to A major.

      How do I play along using modes while keeping the beat and keeping up with the backing track at 120 BPM



        a music sheet has 1 or 2 chords written above each bar – Chords not modes.

        to go down the improvisation route these chords written on music sheets come in useful.

        The chord on your 1st bar is A major.

        To be an improvisor, you must practice the following
        – pract


          Thanks JB. What do you mean by -pract


            if you are going to improvise, obviously you have to know all your scales and all their arpeggios – a bonus is also knowing the major/minor pentatonic scales and the blues scales.

            Song sheets always have the name of the scale the song is in, but the sheet doesn’t tell you which of the 7 modes the song is written in. As an improvisor you need to know which mode the song is in. Play the track 7 times, and each time play up and down starting with a different mode, only one of those modes will sound ok with the backing track.

            now moving on to improvisation, its the same as a child learning to talk.

            You have to go through the following stages
            1 – just play the root note of each chord in all the bars. improvisation is all about feeling, so you have to feel the root note harmonising with the bar in track. This is the equivalent of enjoying the flavour of a good cigar – you have to develop this feeling of the note you have just played sounds enjoyable with the backing track bar, otherwise improvisation is dead in the water.

            2 – for each bar play just play the arpeggio – now experience a different feeling of what is happening. this is the equivalent of a child first forming words of speech instead of speaking alphabets.

            these 1st two stages will sound boring to a listener, but this is the back bone of improvising, you have to immerse yourself in feeling each note blending in with the backing track. emphasis – feel the sax note is it in harmony.

            3 – this is harder. This is where you join up words to make sentences. In musical terms, when you jump from bar to bar, the last note you play in a bar can often be joined up with the 1st note you play in the next bar. Example if you’ve just improvised a C chord in bar, and the next bar on the sheet is an A chord then the last improvised note in the C chord bar could be a B note ( the note closest to the note you intend to play in the A chord bar) sometimes you can use a note outside of the arpeggio of the 1st bar. example if you move from a C chord to a B chord, the last note going up in the C chord could be a A note or the last note on a C chord coming down could be a C note – otherwise known as in between notes.

            4 – in improvising as well as harmonising, you have to play discordant notes, these bring tension into the mix, so you must experience the feeling of note played in a bar that isn’t in the arpeggio. This is where you spit out a bit of bitter cigar leaf stuck on your tongue. Its all part of the child throwing a tantrum and stirring up stress in music

            When you get to this stage – start trying out an improvisation course or a sax teacher. Lots of courses out there, different styles, some will give you fixed rules of improvisation, others will teach you to memorise a bunch of tricks.

            improvisation is a journey, an art skill that develops over time. scales and arpeggios are a must. A lot of students go round the circle of 4ths and 5ths and play each arpeggio one after another – 12 major arpeggios, or 12 minor arpeggios, or 12 dominant arpeggios, etc


              here’s an example where i practice the most important 36 Arpeggios you must know for all 12 major scales, commonly found on all music sheets, when looking at chords.

              This backing track i created, learns you to play the 36 arpeggios in the 12 major scales in groups of 3 (Major, Dominant7 and Minor7, going round the circle of 4ths (C, F, Bb, Eb….G)

              9 beats count you in to play up the 1st 5 notes of an arpeggio and then play back down the 4 notes ending on the starting note (ex go up C E G B C then go down B G E C – total of 9 notes)

              this is for practicing 36 arpeggios in order the circle of 4ths starting with C Major arpeggio
              ex play in this order
              C Major Arpeggio going up play notes: C,E,G,B,C then notes back down : B,G,E,C (play 9 notes in the 1st bar)
              C Dominant7 Arpeggios going up play notes: C,E,G,Bb,C then notes back down : Bb,G,E,C (play 9 notes in the 2nd bar)
              C Minor7 Arpeggios going up play notes: C,Eb,G,Bb,C then notes back down : Bb,G,Eb,C (play 9 notes in the 3rd bar)

              move to the next group of 3 arpeggios in the circle of 4th
              play F Major Arpeggio (9 notes) in bar 4,
              play F Dominant7 Arpeggio (9 notes) in bar 5,
              play F Minor7 Arpeggio (9 notes) in bar 6,

              proceed round the circle of 4ths playing all the rest of the arpeggios
              The final Arpeggio you play in bar 36 should be
              the G Minor7 Arpeggio.


                Thanks JB. You wrote a book. I found my Vol 1 Jamey Aebersold, “How to Play Jazz and Improvise.”


                  if you use the jazz improvisation, they practice arpeggios going round the circle of 4ths but just playing the 2-5-1 chords
                  So the music book backing track could play
                  C F Bb
                  Bb Eb Ab
                  Ab Db Gb
                  Gb B E
                  E A D
                  D G C

                  or similar chords probably start at a different place on the circle of 4ths. It quite difficult and it gets you to recall all the different arpeggios.

                  When you finaly come to playing all the different chords on a music sheet, if you don’t know them, then you find yourself fumbling around the sheet


                    way too complicated guys….follow my Major Scale Improvisation Course
                    every time I hear someone asking or talking about modes it always gets too complicated and makes me want to not even go there.


                      Hey Johnny’
                      I was just over checking out your improv course. Blues in D or the tenor sax. NOTES ARE D,E,F#, D,E,F.THERE’S more to the little rift you play to make the blues. How do I go to the GGGGGGGG AAAAAAAA back to D?


                        Pentatonic scale. Let’s play “Sweet Home Chicago”

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