It’s funny that my most view post was about playing altissimo on the baritone. I wouldn’t have guessed that it was so important so so many people. So much so that the post in question is rank #2 after a Youtube video when searching for “bari sax altissimo “. With that in mind I set out to find another finger chart that was specific to the baritone.
I recommend practicing these slowly with a tuner. Let me repeat this: WITH A TUNER. The tuner will show you just how far you are from the desired note without being amazed that you even hit them. It’s either in tune or it’s not. There is very little which stands out like out of tune altissimo.
I also recommend that before playing any of these notes you need to have a firm sense in your mind on what the note should sound like. Take a moment, to visualize your embouchure, fingerings, and finally hear the note before you take the breath. The act of pre-hearing and pre-playing the note in your mind will help to solidify and instill confidence in that note. You will be more likely to be in tune and more likely to hit the intended note when you want it.
This brings up the question of which fingering do I pick? I recommend picking a fingering based on 2 criteria: how well does it play in tune, how easily does this fingering transition in the next one.
Once you are able to hit these individual notes the next step is to take it from being a parlor trick to a valuable tool in your musical toolbox. How do we do this? With slow and deliberate scale practice. Place the metronome on 60bpm and play whole notes up and down the scale. Eventually as you master the new octave you move to halves, quarters, and finally eights.
My first album was Miles Davis’s “4 and More” album. This album was a mind opener for me. It was fast, free, and fun while at the same time allowing me to use my fathers turntable with his permission. For a kid of 12 suddenly allowed to use the turntable this was a big deal. Listening to Miles, George Coleman on tenor sax, Herbie Hancock on piano, Ron Carter on bass and Anthony Williams on drums excited me to no end. I wanted to learn to play with the energy these players were bringing to the music.
Fast forward 2 decades and change and I am a more nuanced player but sadly I’d never gotten the bebop under my fingers. Years of playing ska, punk, and rock never asked that kind of musical commitment so it was placed on the back burner. Now armed with my copy of the Bebop Bible by Les Wise, yes I have a seemingly rare print copy, and musical accompaniment software I have begun transposing and starting down the path toward bebop understanding and hopefully some small measure of proficiency.
As recommended by Les Wise and several great local boppers I have the privilege of calling friends and musical colleagues, the second step to learning bebop is to build a vocabulary. This is done in 2 parts, the first is to listen and play along with the great players. The second is to practice bebop phrases in all twelve keys while carefully listening. This is what brought me to Les Wise’s book. It is full of great material to help you build a solid bebop vocabulary.
For this section I will be choosing one phrase, line, or lick from Les’s book and transposing it into all 12 keys. I recommend playing these over the chords using software like band in a box. This will help to place the phrases into musical context and should help you to assimilate them into your playing more quickly. If you don’t have Band-In-A-Box then the android app Chord-Bot is the next best thing and is easy to use. I keep ChordBot handy on every device I have. It’s seriously that good of a tool.
This weeks bebop vocabulary building exercise: Bebop Study Lick 1