How to Play Killer Blues Solos on the Saxophone

August 10, 2017 | Author: Johnny Ferreira | Category: Saxophone, Blues, Jazz, Rock And Roll, Tenor Saxophone
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Want to learn how to improvise on the saxophone? Discover the "How To Play Killer Blues Solos With 7 Notes or Less&...




How To Play Killer Blues And Rockin’ Sax Solos With 7 Notes Or Less A multi-media course for all intermediate and advanced saxophonists who want to learn blues & rock soloing

by Johnny Ferreira If you want to learn how to solo along with blues, rock and pop music then this is the course for you!

What People Are Saying About This Course: "… at first I thought that it might be too difficult for me when I bought the book but boy oh boy am I enjoying this." Marqueritte Clasquin


"… this training course is perfect for the sax player that wants to take his playing to a place where they can perform with a band." Hr Mayers "… his chatty style is a refreshing contrast to the other sax lessons I have taken. Learning Sax has become fun again with a real bluesy sax sound coming through almost straight away and encouraging almost instantly noticeable progress." “… after putting in huge amounts of commitment to learning the Tenor Sax over the last 7 years and buying endless books that promised the key to the craft, finally the one that lives up to its promise.” S.R Gibb “… this is a delight to learn scales and exercises that help promote improvised playing and understanding how it is done. This is really fun and challenging.” Etch About the Author Johnny Ferreira is a professional saxophonist, band leader, composer, recording artist and saxophone educator who runs several websites including: and, a large membership site which you can join for free and learn more about playing the saxophone through videos and communicate with Johnny and other sax players on related topics within the members forum. Check for other saxophone articles, video lessons, and all upcoming courses by Johnny Ferreira

Table of contents Introduction


A Little History 8 Two of the most famous and influential rock & blues saxophonists


The Blues Scales The three blues scales that are your key for killer solos


The Basic Blues Scale Simple daily exercises to help you really learn these scales


Brown Sugar Sax Solo Revealed A perfect example of the most basic blues scale in action and sounding great


Let's Break It Down Dissecting and analyzing this classic rock sax solo


7 Licks To Help Your Solo Off To a Good Start Every Time Quick and easy 4 bar licks to learn and use


All Backing Tracks 39 All the backing tracks used for the exercises, solos and licks plus two bonus tracks You can order this complete course as a downloadable PDF at



All types of saxophones welcome! This is not intended for just alto sax or tenor sax, all lessons are written out for Bb and Eb saxes. You don’t need to have a lot of musical knowledge because these lessons don't get too technical, just enough very basic musical theory to understand simple blues scales that will lay the solid foundation needed for the soloist you want to become. Even though there is written notation for all the examples, the primary focus is on listening and playing, and not so much on reading. In fact, you can do this entire course without reading a note if you wanted or had to. There is a lot here for you to learn if you decide to consume it all: • • • • • •

Composition of blues scales and how to use them Exercises guaranteed to ingrain the notes into your brain Copy some of my favorite go-to licks Develop your own style of soloing with play-along tracks Take your soloing up a notch with a few “sax tricks” Learn the sax solo from the classic song "Brown Sugar"

"The Blues are a simple music and I'm a simple man. But the Blues aren't a science, the Blues can't be broken down like mathematics. The Blues are a mystery, and mysteries are never as simple as they look!" -BB King I once read an interview from a famous musician who said, "If you can't say it within a range of five notes then it's not worth saying". When you consider that musician was a jazz player this can sound a bit surprising. The truth is that most famous songs and even the best known classical pieces are composed of a melodic idea or "riff" that encompasses a small group of notes that come in at, or under an interval of a 5th. A great lick or melody does not have to be complicated, in fact most of the best ones are very simple consisting of only of a few notes.


Just think of some well-known melodies and you'll notice that most fall in this category of being within a 5th, except for the odd jump on occasion. The classic Chuck Berry guitar riff that helped to put the guitar in the forefront of rock & roll such as the intro to Johnny B. Goode and many others of his. A Blues Lesson From Beethoven? One of the most recognizable intro riffs is Beethoven's 5th. Of course the trick, or in this case his genius was how he developed a simple two note riff. The point is that you can, and should start by implementing a simple riff within an interval of a 5th, and even as small as a 3rd or even less to start off with. Hey, that’s how Beethoven did it! Once the theme or main riff is established you can continue to play around with it and of course expand on it as much, or as little as you like. This is the beauty and freedom of improvisation. Just What Are The Blues Anyway? The blues mean different things to many people ranging from musical styles to a way of life or philosophy. The blues do have musical influences from Europe and Africa but it is truly an American musical form and tradition fully rooted in the black experience of the post-war southern United States. I want to be clear that when I talk about the blues or the blues scale I'm not only referring to this type of musical tradition and style but include all types of rock & roll, funk, R&B, country, jazz and pop. Like the old saying goes; “The blues had a baby and they named it rock & roll” and from there came just about every form of pop music in western history since that explosive time in the mid 1900's. So, I think it's safe to say that the blues scale is easily one of the most used and important scales for all types of western popular music.


In these lessons we will focus on the most powerful and useful group of notes we have available to us in modern western music for playing in the rock and blues style, and that's the blues scale. From this basic and very simple scale came not only blues but rock and roll and even jazz so don't ever overlook it as something that is too simple or not important enough. I truly believe that it can give you the solid foundation needed to be the player you want to become, I know it did for me. If you're a saxophone player interested in playing any type of blues based music like rock & roll, swing, funk, R&B, pop, punk and even jazz then you need to use these blues scales as your main tools to make things sound right.


A Little History The Blues - To investigate back to the beginnings of the blues as it came about in America, we start with W.C. Handy, who was a black composer and musician active in the early 1900's when the blues form began to get popularized because of his instrumental compositions "Memphis Blues" (1912) and "St. Louis Blues" (1914). Of course the blues oral tradition can be traced back to the mid 1800's. W.C. Handy is credited for taking that raw folk style that was being sung during the 1800's and nationalized and popularized it into the form we have today. The Saxophone - Although the saxophone had already been invented in Belgium by Adophe Sax, it had not made it’s way to America yet at this time early in the 1900’s. Several years later when it did arrive, it wasn’t too long before it became a popular instrument, most notably on the jazz scene where it became synonymous with that style of music. As the swingin’ big band era was losing steam, a new sound was gaining it. During the 1940’s you probably couldn’t find a jump blues or R&B group that didn’t feature a sax, and it was usually a tenor that was front and center. As the forties came to an end, rock & roll was in full swing, regardless of what and when the DJ Allen Freed said it, since he “announced” rock & roll to the world in the mid 50’s. There are rock and roll records from 1948 and 49 that sing about the term rockin’ and rollin’ which at this time was often used as slang for having sex. Rock is what the pounding of the piano and the strumming of the electric guitars were doing and roll was the rolling, almost swinging feel created by the drummers which together created that groove… rock and roll.


Important Early Blues and Rock & Roll Saxophonists Worth Listening to If you’re a jazz fan there are plenty of famous names for saxophonists. Guys like Coleman Hawkins, Charlie Parker, and John Coltrane were not only great saxophonists but were innovators of the jazz musical art form as well. Although there aren't a lot of really famous blues and rock saxophonists that are household names recognized by everyone, there are quite a few that you may, or should know about. Just prior to the big commercialization of the style called rock and roll, there was a group of players that were instrumental in the formation of this style, and some of these were saxophone players, which in those days were usually the main soloists in the band. Honkers and screamers as some were called because of the raw, early rockin’ style of screaming in the highest possible range of the sax and then instantly over-blowing the lowest notes, making a honking sound. Although you don’t hear it too much now, in those days it was new and exciting and was what rock and roll was all about. Personally I’ve always loved this style and it remains a big part of how I approach the instrument. Some of the most important early rockers, honkers and screamers were Joe Houston, Illinois Jacquet, Lee Allen, Red Prysock, Sam “the man” Taylor, Arnett Cobb, Earl Bostic, Wild Bill Moore, and Big Jay McNeely.


McNeely was probably the wildest and craziest of them all, taking the honking and screaming aspect of it to the fullest extend possible with some parts of his solos having nothing but high piercing screams, interrupted with only a thunderous low honk. It was extreme but he wanted to make a point. Earl Bostic, interestingly enough was an alto sax player. His tone was very close to that of a tenor, and sometimes when listening to him you think you’re hearing a tenor sax instead of an alto. A young alto player named John Coltrane was asked to join Bostic’s band and since the leader Bostic was the alto player, Coltrane was forced to make the switch to tenor if he was to keep the job, and the rest is history. Sam “the man” Taylor had a big beautiful tone which got him on to many recording sessions of big hit records of the day. Likewise with Lee Allen, who was also the main sax man for years with two of the biggest stars of the early rock & roll era; Fats Domino and Little Richard. One of the most famous, because he was also a singer and composer was Louis Jordan. Louis Jordan - King of the juke box, jump blues, and early rock & roller. Jordan came on the scene in the late 30's and early 40's when it was all about the big bands. He quickly found his own voice leading a small 5 piece combo consisting of himself playing alto sax and singing, a trumpet, drums, bass, and piano. The guitar wasn't added till much later in the 50's. when rock and roll was all the rage and hitting the main stream. Since the sound of the electric guitar was starting to be the focal point in rock & roll Jordan re-cut many of his earlier hits just to modernize his sound and cash in on this popular sound.


Louis Jordan was nick named "the jukebox king" because at one time he had more hits than anyone else around him. Although adding the guitar didn't really do much to boost his career in the later 50's, he is still recognized by many well known artists who have sited him as a major influence. Such diverse musicians as Van Morrison, Robert Plant, Ray Charles, BB King, James Brown, and Chuck Berry who eventually was responsible for solidifying the electric guitar as the lead instrument in rock and roll, not to mention his clever song writing abilities.

King Curtis - Born Curtis Ousley in Texas 1934, he grew up listening to Louis Jordan during his formative young sax playing years. King Curtis said that alto players Earl Bostic, Louis Jordan, and two fellow Texan tenors, Illinois Jacquet, and Arnett Cobb were his main influences on the saxophone. Making his move from Texas to New York in the early 50's he landed a gig with Lionel Hampton's band. This was the same band that Illinois Jacquet played with about 10 years earlier. Jacquet of course had rocked the sax world with his screaming sax solo on Flying Home with this same band. That solo has been called the birth of modern day rock & roll saxophone soloing by many music historians. I can tell you that while learning the sax and spending hours copying some of these guys solos, you can boil most of it down to what we'll be studying here, these few simple little blues scales…

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