Hi all, I consider myself pretty decent at improvising, using my tenor and alto saxes. Like I can take a jazz standard, and after listening to it many times, and then transcribing the melody by ear, and then outlining the chords, can usually play over it fairly well. And occasionally, something really clicks and the solo I produce is very melodic and sounds great. But I’m not consistent. Sometimes my solos just sound stiff and restricted. So my question is this.
Is this a result of not being guided by the music in my head?
I learned music theory the traditional way. Learning the scales, chords, etc, purely on my instrument. That’s how I started. Later I picked up the IFR book, and the jam tracks. I played over the jam tracks a lot, and they certainly did help. But I think I was still being guided by the hands more than the mind.
Even now to a certain degree, if I sing a line, I can usually mimic it on the instrument, but only to a degree. Anything more than four notes, usually falls apart.
Also, I learned scales by using formulas, like 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7 for natural minor for instance. I noticed IFR uses the modes approach usually. So, the natural minor would be starting on the sixth degree of the major scale. Not sure if those ways of thinking can coexist or not, they seem to be fairly different. I also built my chord knowledge on scale formulas as well. And I can play all the common chords easily, but not with my voice (yet.).
So, I was thinking about all of this, because I recently decided too finally do the sing the numbers exercise in the book. I wrongly thought, “I already know the scales, why should I have to sing them also?”. Boy was that short sighted! I guess traditional music theory can actually be quite damaging at times.
For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been doing my typical practice of playing with a Seven Worlds jam track, freely improvising, but now in addition, at the very start, doing the sing the numbers as well. First with the 1st environment, and then a mode of that environment I’m targeting for practice. I did that last night, and then went to a song based in that same mode. It was one of the best solos I had ever done on that song. I was really feeling the notes. Not quite hearing them in my head before playing, but super close to that. I literally could almost hear them.
With that in mind, the way I was improvising previously, really being guided by scale and chord knowledge, what I had listened to, and transcribing. Is that more and more going to translate in being led by the music in my head? Say as I do more sing the numbers, and really doing more and more with my voice for example. Sorry if that was long winded. I’m just really curious what happens next in my musical journey, now that I’m really taking sing the numbers seriously. When I should have done that much sooner.
Thanks for putting this forum together, I’ve already found lots of great info on it!
(Edit: One other thing I thought of. I noticed if I’m away from a song for long enough. I completely forget how to improvise over it. Like I forget the chords, and really can only remember the melody. Does that also change once I’m led by the mind?)