Why is melody important when you’re learning saxophone?
Understanding melody is what separates a GREAT saxophone player from an average one.
In our recent Guest Masterclass with the amazing Derek Brown (BeatBox Sax) he shared some great tips on melody.
Derek is a great saxophone technician – playing the bass, and the melody, and the drums in his performances and holding the audience’s attention entirely on his own.
At college in America, Derek trained in both classical and jazz saxophone. “I always recommend that people check out as many different styles of music as you can – jazz musicians can learn a lot from classical musicians, classical can learn from jazz, we can all learn from pop, or country and western… we’re all trying to connect and communicate with people, because music is a language – right?” says Derek.
Learning about Melody
As a teenager, Derek listened to smooth jazz sax players like Kenny G and Dave Koz, and their focus on melody made the music more accessible. “ I would go into my garage and put on a CD and that was my first transcribing. If someone had given me a Charlie Parker CD I would have thought “this is impossible – I give up.”
It’s easy as a young saxophone player to get excited about blistering solos, and technique, when actually a focus.on melody would benefit your playing.
Derek is perhaps best known for his BeatBox sax playing, but melody is still central to his music. “When people hear me play, they might first be impressed (or put off) by all the technique and the double tonguing – and it’s fun to impress people. But what I’m really trying to get… what I really believe is going to last, , is the melody,” he says.
In Derek’s performance he is the whole band – he’s the rhythm, and the harmony, and the tune. But it all has to start with understanding how the melody works.
So how do we approach improving our melody as saxophone players? Here are four things we can all do in our saxophone practice.
1. Listen to singers and players
Listen to all the details, such as where the notes start and stop, where the breathing happens, and the expression. Listening to a range of different singers and different instruments will help you understand different styles.
2. Start simple
Start with a simple melody. It could be classical, jazz, or a simple pop ballad. Check out some of the videos on my channel such as Whitney Houston’s I Have Nothing or Eric Clapton’s Tears in Heaven. Choose really strong melodies that force you to connect with the melody. Get some emotion and expression into your playing.
Record yourself along with a vocal track. Put the audio track into GarageBand, and record yourself playing along, then listen back and see how your saxophone playing compares with the vocal part. This is a super-fast way to fine tune your melody playing.
4. Record and Share
Challenge yourself to make a recording of you playing that melody. Share it on Facebook or YouTube. In Sax School we share recordings with our Community – it’s a great way to get support and feedback.
I hope that’s given you some inspiration and insight into how to use melody to enhance your saxophone playing.
If you’re ready to really make progress, come and join us inside Sax School.