Playing Saxophone By Ear +


This comes in 12/29/2022 (11 months since I started playing the saxophone, and on average I played 1.5 to 3 hours per day) and what I've got here is a high level guide on how a person can go about learning to play the saxophone by ear.  I'm far enough into learning to play the sax to have some perspective, but not so far down the road that I've forgotten what it's like to be a beginner.  The fact is I DID  first learn by taking the classical approach, and I write about that in my saxophone journey.  I still do subscribe to Scott Paddock's online course and use his materials, in addition to the books I purchased. Scott's program is step by step and he's really good at explaining and demonstrating, so you understand. So, I highly recommend his method.  As I get further along, I'm picking and choosing more, but he has a solid course. You can just sign up there and you'll probably be good to go.  For $30/month to get full access to his site and all his courses, it's worth it. 

But he doesn't teach playing by ear.  It's all sigh reading.  So, what I have documented here is for learning by ear. 

I've confirmed that playing music by ear helps me remember it much better than trying to remember sheet music.  I started a thread on SaxOnTheWeb by asking if there was a method to learn to play saxophone by ear.  Wow, what a discussion, but early on a guy says "just start playing simple tunes that you know, by ear, in different keys". This apparently is the whole idea behind the Suzuki method; playing by ear, for children.  I've heard of Suzuki (besides the motorcycle), but didn't really know anything about it. I ordered the first CD and book of Suzuki method for flute just to understand more about it.  They don't have one for sax.
I've found that to play a song by ear I have to know the tune and be able to sing it in my head.  Many of the experts on the SOTW say that it's the harder way to learn to play. Some say that the best bands only play by ear. I talked to a music teacher I know, and that's how he taught himself, before he went to music school, both his kids, and how he prefers to teach music.  Of course he does teach grade school and high school kids, and the thinking is that if you don't learn this way when you're young it may be more difficult.  I'm old, but it definitely seems like I'm catching on and it's helping me to remember songs.

There are plenty of teachers and methods out there for learning in the classical, visual, approach, like Scott.  And it's not an either or thing, you can combine the methods, or you can choose to just go classical for a while.  Most people will tell you about the classical method, because that's how most people learned.  But Suzuki's idea is that music is just another language and you can learn music just like you learned your native language, by hearing it, and duplicating the sounds.  Not just that you can, it's actually the preferred, more natural, approach.  I've realized also that just about any material with a Video, like Scott's classes, can be used to play by ear.  Just skip looking at the sheet music and play it strictly by listening to the portions of the videos where he's playing the material.

One way or another, maybe years, eventually you'll want to know some theory, buy there are professional band players, that play completely by ear, so don't think you have to rush into it.  What you get in a beginner sax book will get you started, Scott's program is a good next step, but it's not going to hurt you to study theory as a side project.  I'd recommend Idot's Guide to Music Theory.  There's also Music Theory for Dummies, but it's not as good.  And if at all possible, try to tie in what you read in the theory book to something you do on the saxophone.  Because theory by itself is useless.  That's why it could take you a long time to get through that theory book.  You can do a quick read just to get an overview, but really making it count will require you slow way down and apply it.  I did the quick read and the exercises and it does help with understanding music.

And this s a great video that tries to get at this issue of playing by ear vs. learning theory and playing patterns, etc..

Summary of Steps to Playing Saxophone by Ear
Assuming no prior knowledge of playing the saxophone.  Hopefully you listen to music and you like to hum or sing some tunes from your head.

The steps are written to be followed in order. Read each step entirely before following it.

1. Decide on Soprano, Alto, Tenor
2. Where to buy and what to buy
3. Find some simple songs to listen to
4. Starting reed stiffness
5/6. Assembling mouthpiece, reed, neck and blowing.  Your first sounds.
7. Using your tongue
8. Don't bite
9. Holding it, placing your fingers and first notes, and discussion about "by ear" vs "classical"
10. Practice up and down the keyboard (the un-scale)
11. Start playing simple songs by ear

Steps to Playing the Saxophone by Ear, in Detail

1. Listen to Soprano, Alto, and Tenor saxophone music.  Decide if you like higher or lower pitched music.  If you can't decide, get an Alto.  I like the lower sound so got a Tenor right away, but it is harder to blow; not as easy for a beginner.

2. What to buy? The Sax: To just try it you can get a $300 Alto on Amazon, like the Eastar AS-Ⅱ Student Alto Saxophone.  Or you can buy a sax on E-bay.  My Eastern Music worked out well (you can see photos and my thoughts on it here).  The advantage of Amazon is that if there's anything wrong with it you can just return it, no hassle.  Eastern Music comes from China, so if you have to return it, you're waiting weeks both ways.  Luckily mine worked out for me.  There are some on E-bay that are from China or Taiwan, but they ship from the US.  Obviously there's all sorts of name brand instruments also and some people will tell you you're better off getting a used name brand student version of a Selmer or Yamaha and spending some money to get it tuned up.  You can buy some nice instruments on Reverb. A Book: Get a Level 1 beginner Saxophone Method book, also on Amazon or E-bay.  I used "Play Tenor Saxophone, Step One" .  If you're getting a saxophone you care to keep clean then get a "Hodge" silk swab.  Works way better than other types of swabs.

3. While you're waiting for that you can start listening to the melodies below.  Get them into your head, so that they will be easier to play once you begin. I have you start slow, and you can't really do much with just seven notes.  Listen to the songs, make sure you know the melody and that you can sing it or at least hum it. You don't have to be a professional singer.

4. When your saxophone comes, it should have some reeds and a mouthpiece.  Look on the back the reeds and see what hardness (there's a number from 1 to 5, or an H, M, S (for hard medium soft).  I'd recommend starting with a 1.5 or 2.0, the softer end.  If would be nice to have both to try.  But either one should be fine.  A 2.5 or higher would be too stiff for a beginner, but it can be done.  There's no shame in playing on a light reed either.  I have a whole section here talking about my journey with reeds.

5. Toss the reed in a glass of water, and go look up how to assemble the reed to the mouthpiece.  My Teacher, Scott Paddock has a good video: .  In the video Scott's ligature has the screw on the bottom. Most beginner ligatures will have the screws on the top (same side as the reed).  The ligature and the mouthpiece are tapered, so figure out which way you should slide it on.  Always put your ligature on the mouthpiece first, and then slip the butt end of the reed under the ligature.  If you put the reed in place first and then slide the ligature over it, you're likely to damage the reed.

6. Now that you have a reed in the mouthpiece you need to learn how to blow into it.  Scott has a great video on how to form your embouchure (how you hold you lips). .  I suggest you do it with just the mouthpiece and neck.  Forget about the saxophone for now. Here's a video by Jamie Anderson talking about how to put the thing together.  Put a very light film of cork grease (hopefully you got some with your beginner sax, or get some chapstick) on the cork first, and use a twist and push motion when assembling the mouthpiece to the neck

It will take a while before your lip muscles get stronger.  M
aybe several times a day use this setup and try to make a steady sound.  You won't be able to do it for long because your lips will get tired out. Then, nothing you do will sound right and you'll start compensating by biting too hard. Now after playing for 11 months, 2-3 hours per day, I finally feel like my lips are strong enough to give me full control,

Now let's back up a minute.  Put down the MP and neck.  Sing two sounds, one high, one low.
Try to make the high one, almost the highest you can reach, and the low one, the lowest you can reach.  Close enough. You don't have to sing anything, just make an Aaaaaaaa sound.  When you're doing this, put your hand around the front of your neck.  You should notice that the different sounds produce a noticeable movement; something is going on in your throat.  Now do the same thing, but think about making the sounds, don't actually make the sound.  You'll notice the same thing; your throat is getting set up to make the sound you want.  Your body just knows what to do.  This is one of the ways your control the sound that's coming out of your mouthpiece and saxophone. It's called voicing.  You're not actually using your voice, but you will change the sound coming out of your sax. 

One of the misconceptions about making low and high sounds on the sax is that you tighten and loosen your embouchure, your lips.  Yes, you do that very slightly when you go from the highest notes to the lowest (highs may require some tightening, lows some loosening) but actually most of the change in pitch comes from a combination of sax and your throat and what you do with your tongue.  Especially with the early notes, you should be able to hold a steady pressure with your lips, and make the note go slightly higher or lower just by thinking about a higher or lower sound.  Your throat will do the rest.  May take some practice.
When you can make a steady sound on the MP and neck consistently, (or even better, when you can make a lower sound and gradually raise it to a higher sound, by using your voice), then you can move on to the full instrument. 

One tip about how far you should put your lower lip over your lower teeth; make the "f" found, like you're going to say "four".  Notice how much of your lower lip hangs over your lower teeth. That's about what it should be like when you're playing .  Also, notice where your top teeth hit your lip, that's where the reed should contact your lip.  Also, don't spread out the corners of your mouth like you're smiling, bring them in, like you're puckering.  In his video Scott also explains where on the mouthpiece, and reed, your lips should be.  You can experiment by sliding it more into your mouth, or less.  It will give you a different sound. But there is a "sweet-spot" where you'll be able to hit most of the notes well.  Just a final note about puckering, when you do it, less off your lower lip will cover your lower teeth.  That's ok.  You can think of your lower teeth as just backing up your lip, with minimal lip being over your teeth.  You'll have to experiment.  And puckering will become easier as your lips get stronger.  You can watch this video, you get some pretty good closeups of her chin and lips.  This is more of a flat embouchure and you can see her chin is slightly compressed and her lower lip is tucked in.  You can pucker more and have less lip in your mouth. 

If you want to make sure that your sounds are in tune, download Tonal Energy Tuner onto your phone and start it up. For the "Sound" setting at the bottom of the display, choose your instrument (Soprano, Alto, or Tenor saxophone).  Then just under that, select the "Sound" circle.  Now, when you play a note, it will show you what note you're playing and how close it is to perfectly in tune.  Don't stare at it constantly.  You play a note, get it steady, then look to see if you're close. If it's too high, think about making your voice lower, if it's too low, think about making your voice higher. (No, you're not singing with your voice, but your vocal chords do effect the pitch of the note.)  If it doesn't work, don't worry about it, it takes practice.  See the below step (7) also.  But by occassonaly looking at the tuner, you'll start to get a feel for when the note is in tune.  Newsflash: A saxophone is not in tune, you play it in tune.

It will take months to fully develop your embouchure and your tone, maybe even years.  Just because it's not perfect doesn't mean you aren't making progress.  That's how it gets better, you keep doing it.  Keep at it, and think about what you're doing.  Have fun, try different things.  Review the videos to make sure you're remembering all the right stuff.

7.  Once you can make a sound steadily, the next thing is to be able to stop the sound with your tongue.  There are many videos on tonguing on a saxophone.  Scott has one, but his method is a bit unorthodox.  He uses anchor tonguing. One that shows a different approach, more common, is  here  . Notice Jamie also talks about building pressure in your mouth.  Breathing is important.  Don't be afraid to blow harder.  Most people don't blow hard enough or steady enough.  Take a deep breath, and blow out steadily with force.  You can try different amount of force/pressure as you blow.  When it comes to playing notes the tongue also rises and falls and Scott explains that here  So, now you can practice tonguing, to start and stop sounds. 

8. Now you're getting somewhere!  A word of caution.  The majority of students bite down on the mouthpiece too hard because they are trying to make up for not having enough lip strength to hold the mouthpiece firmly.  Your upper teeth should be just in contact with the top of the mouthpiece.  Use your upper lip to apply matching pressure to your mouthpiece, not your top teeth.  Biting down is a hard habit to break once your start, and it chokes your sound, so just be aware of it up front.  One way to be conscious of it is to try not to contact the top of the mouthpiece with your top teeth; just barely contact.  That will force you to use your upper lip more to hold the mouthpiece firmly.  Top teeth should be just lightly in contact with the mouthpiece.  I encourage you to try it with very little pressure, and with more pressure, to understand what changing pressure does. 

9.  Ok, so now that you can make a sound fairly steady, assemble the mouthpiece (MP) to the neck and the neck to the body of the sax and use your neck strap to help support the weight of the saxophone, that's the first part of this video

When he gets to the point where he says you're going to play the first notes, pause the video. Why? Because there's a note you can play with just your two thumbs.  That's right, jut put your two thumbs where Jaime showed you, don't press down any of the other fingers, and blow. That's actually a C-sharp note (C#).  Now, you can just follow along with Jamie as he teaches you the first few notes with all your other fingers. 

This is where the classical learning approach splits from the Suzuki method.  The Suzuki method starts you playing by ear.  You hear a sound, you play it. Initially you'll have to search for the sound until you can match it.  But the idea is that as you practice more, you'll be able to play what you hear and find the notes faster, not because you know their name, but because your brain has learned what keys to press to get that sound. Listening to sound clips is the other way.  Just be prepared to do a lot of backtracking, stopping and repeating of sections.  If you can find a Suzuki teacher, and afford one, try it.  Buy really, with Suzuki, it's the parent that should be there with every practice.

The classical approach is what you get in any other Book 1 Saxophone method, or sign up for a program like Scott's.  You learn to read music (music notation) on the staff (the lines), you learn the names of the notes, think of the names, or read the notes off the staff, and then play that note with your fingers. It's like learning to type on a keyboard, with all your fingers, while looking at something already written. You also start to learn major scales, in different keys, and so on.  The main difference is that in the classical approach you start with theory, learn to read sheet music and play as you read, but in the Suzuki method you learn to listen and play what you hear, and the theory comes later.  The method allows young children to start playing without being confused by theory and reading music.   Just like you start talking long before you ever study sentence structure in English class.

10.  Let's get you prepared to play more than just three notes.  You're going to play all the notes under your fingers, from top to bottom.  Let's number your fingers so we can talk about them:
On the left hand: LT - Left thumb, 1-Index finger, 2-middle finger, 3-ring finger, 4-pinky
On the right hand: RT-Right thumb (it doesn't play anything, just  sits there), 5-index finger, 6-middle finger, 7-ring finger, 8-pinky
You'll use 1,2,3 and 5,6,7.  Place your fingers per the video.  In that position, you'll play the notes under your fingers, bottom to top, as follows:
To Play Note Hold Down Fingers Comment
D 123567 All fingers down
E 12356 And you just start lifting fingers
F 1235
G 123
A 12
B 1 Just one finger down
C 2 Just one finger down

And then play them in reverse order, going back down the neck; CBAGFED.  That should keep you busy for a few practice sessions.  When you can play up and down fairly smoothly, consistency is more important than speed, then you're ready for the next step.  You do not think about finger numbers or note names while you're doing this.  The numbers are just there until you understand the pattern you need to follow. 

11.  Let's start with Mary Had a Little Lamb.  It starts on the note A, and I recorded it with my Tenor (and I didn't spend any time recording and rerecording to try and get it perfect), so the notes will sound lower than on an Alto. Click to download it and save to your computer: 01 Mary Had a Little Lamb  Get it in your head and play it from there.  Don't try to play along with the recording.
The song should be played until you can play it smoothly without hesitation.  If you like it and want to memorize it, than play it until you memorize it.  Otherwise you can move on to the next melody.  I'm going to put some songs from the Suzuki for flute book in the table below, but some are kind of annoying so I'll put others in there that you should recognize. Work through the table before you start trying to play other songs. 

If you want to monkey around with songs you like, you can try, but the problem is you wont know all the notes to play it.  It would be tough to play a song that uses notes you haven't learned yet. 

One quick way to add a bunch of notes to your knowledge base is use the octave key (LT).  If you press it and then play any of the notes from step 10 above, you're playing a note by the same name but one octave higher.  To practice, start like in step 10, play all the notes from D to C, then repeat, but this time hold the octave key down for all of them.  As in step 10, you'll want to practice going all the way up and down, with and without the octave key.  Slow and steady.  Speed will come as you get used to the fingering.  In fact, one of your daily exercises should be to play each note steadily for 5-10 seconds (called long notes).  This helps you breath and play better in general, develop your tone and embouchure (lips).

The second way to learn all the notes is look in your Saxophone Book1.  It will have a chart in it that shows all the notes and all the fingerings for each (sometimes there are multiple fingerings for each note, pick one). In the same way you play the notes from step 10, you can start to play all the notes from bottom to top in order, so you get used to playing them all.  The lowest notes will need some practice (remember the three tongue positions in Scott's video) and so will the high one's.  Remember, stay lose and put only as much pressure with your lips as needed.


Fireflies  Starts on B (Finger 1)

03 (Added 1/5/23)

When the Saints Go... Starts on G (Fingers 123). For this one you're going to need a new note. B-flat, which is finger 1 pressing two keys, the key it usually presses plus the small one right below it (bis key), at the same time.

04 (1/6/23)

Ode to Joy  Starts on middle E (Fingers 12356 + LT-Octave Key)

05 (1/6/23)

Joy 1, Joy2, Joy3 (Joy to the World in parts)

06 (1/18/23)

You Are My Sunshine


Jingle Bells Part 1 and Part 2


Mona Lisa - Willie Nelson 


Rudolph The Red Nosed Raindeer Part 1 Part 2


Love me Tender


Jingle1 Jingle2 Bells


Shallow - A Star is Born Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4

13 (1/22/23)

Somewhere Over the Rainbow Part 1 Part 2  That's all you really need, the rest just repeats.

14 (2/8/23)
All of Me P1 P2 P3 P4 P5

Piano Man

My Personal Play By Ear Diary

And I did start, with Jingle Bells.  I've basically got it down after a few days without looking at any sheet music.  It's an interesting mental process. There was definitely some trial and error, but it just keeps getting better.  I'm not thinking about the notes, A, B, C, etc.. strictly going by sound.  After the fact, I may recognize what note I've played but most of the time I'm moving faster than my thoughts.  As I hear it in my head, my fingers play it.  If the head singing stops, the fingers stop.  A direct inner-ear to fingers connection.

I also have I Can't Help Falling in Love down, but that was mostly memorizing from notes.  But now I'm redoing it by ear.  Next will be Mona Lisa.

While I was practicing this morning.  I actually played a part of Joy to the World.  I can't remember when or if I've ever played that, but I just caught the sound and played a few measures. That's what I'm shooting for, to hear a song in my head and just play it.

I had an idea.  One of the suggestions in the SOTW discussion was "learn your intervals!". I've done some work with intervals, using an online program that would do random intervals, within limits you gave it, but that's not playing. Hearing two notes being played, and naming it, is way different than hearing the two notes and playing them.  One is ears->vocal abstraction, the other is ears->fingers.  I want ears to fingers.

Got to thinking, I could actually record each interval, me playing it on the sax, then put the tracks in a media player, shuffle them, and play them back, leaving myself just enough time to play what I hear.  I either match it or I don't, before the next one comes up.  I'm guessing eventually I should be able to play them all back soon as I hear them.  Then I'm learning intervals, by sound, and while I'm playing the sax. I looked at how I could do that.  I can record the tracks on my iPhone using the simple Voice Memos app., then export to my computer.  Then put all the tracks in a media player, shuffle them and play along.  When I'm done, reshuffle, do it again. 

I could use the same approach with anything.  I have exercises that I do, what Scott Paddock calls "Chop Shop", which are just patterns that help you develop your technique and speed.  I could record sections of a given exercise.  The bottom line is that it's listen and play, with an element of randomness to encourage you to use your ear more.  No sheet music.

Got my Suzuki Method for Flute today! The CD has the music for the first two books in it, 29 track total.  I also got the 1st book.  The book has a few pages of talking about the method, and then how to play the flute.  The rest is just the music for the tracks on the CD.  The book is used, and shows that it took the student just over a year to get through the first book; the assignments are date.

No time like the present.  First I thought I'd just play the songs by sight while recording, then use those recordings, but then figured why not just play to the CD? I'm after the melody, that's it.  Obviously the pitch is way different, but close in the higher octave.  Even that doesn't really matter.  So, I started with the first song, Mary Had a Little Lamb.  Was able to play most of it pretty quick.  Occasionally I glitch, hit the wrong note, or I need an extra second to hit the right note, but most of it is right on!  I intermixed it with playing Jingle Bells, to see if I could go back and forth.  Not bad.  Got a bit lost, but at this point it's just a matter of refining both melodies, or playing them enough not to have those glitches.

The discussion on SOTW continues!  And some people still don't get that ear training and playing by ear are two different things.  All, or most of those guys have been playing for decades, and seems like most learned the classical way, just like I did, and all most of them keep talking about is theory and analyzing music, which definitely has it's place and is a nice skill to have.  But it misses the point that you don't need any of it to just play.  Aside from having the physical dexterity to find and play notes.

Wow, it's hard to describe what I'm going through as I was practicing in this way.  I feel free!  Without restriction.  This morning I was doing my C scale, and then the C Chop Shop (CS) exercises, but instead of reading it off the paper, I did the CS by sound, actually kind of a combination of pattern and sound, but then relying mostly on sound.  I can move fast because there's no processing to slow me down. 

I also just started noodling around on the C scale, improvising too.  I started working on Mona Lisa by Willie Nelson, but I realize I don't know the tune completely, can't sing it from start to end, so need to listen to it more.  That one I want to be able to play, so I need to learn it better.

Thought more about the Suzuki method songs.  Aside from a few of them, I really don't recognize the others, so that's not really going to help me. And the one's that I do recognize, when played on the CD, are played in what I would call a Japanese style. I'm going to have to focus on songs I know, otherwise I have to learn the one's in the book.  If I'm going to learn songs to play from my head, then it might as well be songs I actually want to play, like sections of songs I'm already playing by sight. So, since Joy to the World came out the other day, I found a copy of the sheet music and put it into Muscore to record it and then play it back to myself.  Otherwise my "play by ear" will turn into "play by sight" again.  The song Shallow is also relatively simple, in the key of C, and I can play it, so I'll record that and play it by ear also.  No shortage of material.

And the SOTW discussion still continues.  Anyway.  I'm still playing the C scale as a major part of my practice and the Chop Shops that go along with it.  One of the things I'm doing is for the CS's which play on all the scales, I'm just playing the notes in the key of C.  Which ever key starts at the lowest note and which ever one goes the highest (so I'm playing across a wide range of notes).  Basically ignoring the key signatures and just using it as an exercise.  Also, the CS's are arranged so that you play the similar exercise starting with the first 8 major keys.  I don't know why that's the case.  Why do I want to confuse what I'm doing by switching constantly between keys.  Seems better to get one key down, and then move to another, and then stick with that one, and so on.

I can now play Jingle Bells, Joy to the World, Can't Help Falling in Love, working on Mona Lisa and Shallow.  Focusing on playing by ear, I now realize that I have to learn the songs better to play them.  I have to know the song from start to finish.  So, part of it is listening to the songs, to the point where I can sing them.  Only then can I attempt to play it.  In that sense sheet music is definitely easier.  No need to memorize anything.

And the discussion on SOTW continues, but sounds like it's winding down.  Looks like everyone seems to agree that knowing theory doesn't inhibit playing by ear, but it's also not necessary. 

This mornings practice session I focused a lot on key of C practicing the Chop Shop material again.  I'm done with the main C Chop Shop, going to move on to F in the main exercises, since Mona Lisa and Can't Help Falling In Lover are both in F.  In the rest of the Chop Shops I'm going to play the portions in the key of C and F as they are written and play additional in F, again trying to cover more of the keyboard than normal for those exercises.

Also using Total Energy Tuner to drone all the notes, chromatically, and match them.  That's helping me to develop my pitch awareness.  While I'm practicing it I also look at it occasionally, to see if I'm hitting pitch on random notes and correct as needed.  I think it's really helping.

Working on Shallow.  Have to listen to it a lot to get the song in my head.  Listening to the song with Lyrics on YouTube.  Also occasionally playing sections in Muscore to work it out.  Muscore has a feature that allows you to pick a section of the sheet music and loop it.  So, you can listen to it until you can remember it.  This is probably too complicated a song for a beginning play by ear student, but I've played it by sight many times.  I've almost got it down.  It's tough to hear the notes if you just listen to the YouTube video. 

Still working on shallow.  What's making it difficult is there's parts that have no words in the song and there's the parts the drag out the Sh-al Sh-allow Sh-al Sh-al la la la low.  So, hard to commit that to memory, and if I can't hear it correctly I can't play it.  More just listening to the song and making sure I can sing along to even those parts.

Can't Help Falling in Love, Joy to the World, and Jingle Bells I've got.  Sometimes I get lost for a note or two, but recover quickly.

Made key of G my focus on the Chop Shops.  So, I play the parts in key of C, play some other part in the key of C to give me more exercise on higher or lower notes.  Then I play the G exercise and also pick another row to play in G to get more exercise.  I do this through the first 9 shop shops.  Doing it all by sight reading. 

How time flies.  In honor of New Years Day I took a shot at figuring out Auld Lang Syne. Took me about 20 minutes to figure out most of it.  Not bad.  Did my Chop Shop and focusing on key of G.

Decided I'm actually going to tackle the Suzuki book, meaning, I'm going to learn the songs by ear, and when I learn them, then I'm going to record them, so that I have all the songs in the Suzuki books on tracks.  Recorded Mary Had a Little Lamb, and stared working on the next one, Fireflies. Mary was easy.  Fireflies I don't know, and there's no words to it anywhere I can find so have to internalize it first., but got almost half of it worked out.  After I started getting it, I went to look at the notes.  I was playing it higher in terms of notes written on the staff, but obviously because I'm on a Tenor it's actually lower in pitch.  I guess this is the whole thing of Concert Pitch vs Whatever the opposite of that is.  But see, I don't have to know any of that, I just play what sounds right.  I can see that I wasn't completely true to the song.  In the book it's in the key of C and starts on A, but I'm playing it  in C and I start it on B, but close enough.  I think it sounds better starting on B, but I don't want to be worrying about keys right now.

Then I just started monkeying around, free soloing.  That was fun! Jumping around the keyboard, coming up with rhythms on the fly.  Making it up as I go along. 

Makes me wonder about the whole "scale" and "key" thing.  I mean there's basically 12 notes, yet we like certain combinations of them and we call those different types of scales, but then there's so may different scales, so that just about any note pattern can be found in some scale, it's like what's the point of scales, just know all the notes and what sound you want.  It helps you to move a song from one key to another, but all songs do not sound good in all keys, because the keys are not exactly interchangeable.  We call the notes that don't fit into a given pattern incidentals.  But there's nothing incidental about them, they're notes just like the others.  Interesting.  In that sense a key is actually just that, a key.  It just tells you what incidentals you're going to play. Rather than writing sharp or flat in front of every note on the staff, you just put it in a key at the start of the music, to avoid all that notation.  If we didn't use the key, we'd have to expand the staff with more lines and spaces.  And instead of having ABCDEFG we'd have ABCDEFGHIJK.  Who decided to make the staff 5 lines and 4 spaces?  Sure, people can learn just about any system, but if you were going to design a system, would this be the best approach?

Worked out the second song in the Suzuki book, Fireflies.  Recorded it.  Also, worked a little more on Shallow, basically have that down as well.  Also, ran through my Chop Shop again.

Morning. More chop shop.  Shallow. Also was playing up and down the horn chromatically; all the sharps and flats in order.  Figured if I'm going to play by ear, can't hurt to do that.  Also changed my concert A from 440 to 432Hz on Tonal Energy Tuner.  Seems that 432 is the natural frequency but for some reason we changed it to 440.  That's not a big difference at all, but it will be interesting if I notice any difference when I play.

Meh, yeah the 432Hz I switched back to 440.  I was going over some of the melodies I've already learned by ear.  Worked on Auld Lang Syne again.  And Shallow.  Got to thinking about should I keep going over the same songs once I've played them by ear, if I forget it in a day or two; can't find the notes immediately?  Suzuki teacher says Move On.  Unless you like the melody and want to memorize it.  Getting more exposure to different songs and working through them helps you improve faster.

One of the things I tried today was to take Scott's Chop Shop Exercises in the key of C, record it, and break it up into pieces of 3-5 note sequences.  I then loaded those on a player, shuffled them, and then randomly played them, trying to match what I hear.  Just running through it twice, the second time was already faster than the first.  I'm going to do more of that and I may add this to the above learning process.

Over the last couple days I've been playing my songs I've figured out, and the Chop Chop C exercises.  I prepared more of them also.  It's funny how some of them I can play soon as I hear them.  Definitely going to do more.  I think I'll come up with interval exercises and play those in the same way.  Training to hear intervals seems to be a big deal in understanding music. 

Thought more about it, and I'm going to stick to learning songs, by ear as much as possible. But I may go back and read some more theory.  A lot of it will probably make more sense now that I'm approaching one year of learning/playing. Mona Lisa by Willie Nelson is proving to be really difficult, it was like that before, not sure why.  Probably because it has incidental sharps in it and when Willie sings it he kind of wanders, and the words don't always fit the melody.  After trying to play by ear, I made a few corrections to the sheet music I had.  Almost have it down now.

Started learning /playing Unchained Melody by ear.  Doing the same thing, listening to the music, then playing it and correcting my sheet music.  It's tough.  I have to listen to section over and over again.  In the saxophone version I found on YouTube there's a lot of nuance, some very difficult to hear notes, way beyond what's on the sheet music I've found.  That sheet music is terrible.  I'll have a good version when I'm done. Though not sure about remembering it.  The words don't help any because they don't naturally fit the melody in a lot of places, and the range of the music is way bigger than I can sing.  Have to just hear it in my head completely.

Put down Unchained Melody and started figuring out Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer, just by listening to a video.  It's funny, I was trying to work it out and something wasn't sounding right.. then I just started messing around for a while.  Came back to Rudolph and I got the note I was missing, just like that, my fingers just went there as I was playing it.  Surprise!

Did some scales this morning, but mostly worked on Rudolph again and messed around in-between.  Also took the right hand thumb hook off my sax.  It was just annoying.  I was looking for all sorts of different Rudolph music.  A lot if it is axageraged, using notes that more complicated than they need to be, even the singers.  Then I looked at saxophone versions of the song.  One was really nice but didn't have the initial part "You know dasher...".  Found one good tenor sax version, but the guy is definitely improvising, and I just wanted the clean melody.  So, just doing it after hearing the combination of videos.  I'll settle into one of them.

I realized one of the things that makes playing Rudolph somewhat difficult is that all the songs are sung high and the saxophone video must be using a soprano.  So, it helps to figure out the tune one octave higher, and then just play it at the low octave.  I'm also slowing down the playback to be able to pick out the melody easier.  Not sure why all the songs are so fast.  Maybe because they're for kids!

I put my lessons with Scott on hold, unsubscribed.  I'm just moving slow through his material and going back over it, so not really worth paying him.  The good thing is that with your email you don't lose your place, so when I do come back to him, and I probably will at some point to get more of the Intermediate and the advanced classes, I can pick up where I left off.

Today I recorded all the notes on the sax, at least from low Bb to high F anyway.  I'm going to cut those up and do random playback to learn the notes by ear better.

Was playing the Chromatic scale (all the notes) up and down the neck.  Amazing how much slower that is than playing a C scale.  Clearly I need to spend some time doing that.  I find myself thinking about the names of the notes.  I need to do it until I can just play them all quickly without thinking.  I was messing around with sound and my embouchure.  Amazing what you can do like stay in the middle between two harmonics, and what a difference the amount of mouthpiece in your mouth makes.

Finally got Rudolph The Red Nosed Raindeer down.  Just kept at it.

Did G and D scales and some chop shops.  Worked out You Are My Sunshine by Johny Cash for the first time.

This moring I played the Chromatic Scale up and down.  Later I was playing You are My Sunshine in the Key of C starting on low C.  Johny sings LOW.  But then I figured why not try and play it in a different key.  I played it in THREE more keys; D, F, and G, with very little effort.  That's amazing, I just did it.  Didn't have to think about it, didn't have to convert notes to degrees, didn't even have to think about intervals, didn't think about notes except a little to hit the sharps and flats when needed.  Just started on the correct note and it just happened. 

So, this is interesting.  The question is if I just knew all the notes on the saxophone, without playing the keys and exercises for the last year, could I still do that.  This is actually why I played the Chromatic Scale, I started thinking about that.  Just know all the notes, regardless of what key the fit in and you can figure it out.  But I guess something could be said for playing a key enough times to get some muscle memory.  I know while I was playing  keys,  the flat  one's can be really difficult.  You can't do those smoothly unless you get some practice.  But wouldn't it be even better to be able to play the Chromatic Scale quickly?  I'm going to keep practicing that.

Started working on Love me Tender. 

More Chromatic scale; all notes up and down the neck.  Working on Rudolph again.  Yes, you forget it if you don't really memeorize it, but it comes back way faster.

Did some regular major scales also more Chromatic scale.  It's going faster now.  Certainly begs the question, if I can just play all the notes as one scale, why do I need to break it up into 12 major scales? And minor, and pentonic, etc., etc..  All major scales sound the same effectivley, that's why you can just shift music from one scale to the next.  For the sax it's Low A#, B, C, C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, G, G#, A, and repeat. 

Started working on Over The Rainbow.  Got the first section down.  It was kind of difficult to get the second part of the first phrase.  It was much lower than I thought. Goes all the way down to low B.  But I don't like playing it an octave higher, too high.  This would be the time to actually start shifting it up the neck, from the key of C to something higher.  Goes back to the advise about playing by ear, to take a song and play it in all the keys.

Scales and chop shop for first four sharp keys.  Started and finished Over the Rainbow, Judy Garland version.  Tried the Israel version, but it's just a bit too busy, not as clean.  Maybe later.

Been working on All of Me.  It's one of the first song in my First 50 Songs Book and I've played it quite a bit, want to be able to play it without the music.  Proving a bit difficult, so doing a combination of listening, playing, and checking against the sheetmusic. Listening to the music, turns out the sheet music has a secion in it that doesn't belong there. 

Haven't noted anyting all week because I had a glitch with my computer... well user screwed it up (me).  So had to reinstall it from scratch, and on top of it my file backup became corrupted, so I lost a ton of files, including all the sheet music I had transcribed in Muscore (Doh!).  Guess I'll be doing more by ear!  Unless I want to redo some of them just to have them for when I'm lazy.

2/1-3/2023: Still working on All Of Me.  Making progress.  Playing Scott's chops shops focusing on shark keys. Continue practicing the Chromatic scale.  After losing all my sheet music I found Bohemian Rhapsody again.  Couldn't find the same one I used before, but it looks good.  Put it into Muscore and fixed what I thought was wrong with it.  That's a good way to develop your ear, fix what's wrong with transcribed music.  Also playing songs in my song books.  Playing full songs definiltey keeps your mouth in shape.  Working things out by ear is a slower process, not as sustained work for the mouth. 

2/8/2023:  Moving on from All of Me. Got most of it, the rest is kind of repetitive.  Been working on Bohemian Rhapsody just playing it off sheet music, but I think I'll start learning that.  Also thinking about Piano Man by Billy Joel as a short term project.

2/27/2023: Been taking a break from learning songs by ear.  Still play a few that I like, but haven't been doing any new one's.  My computer crashed (user error! with Ubuntu a little knowledge is dangerous) and I lost all the songs I transcribes.  I was devestated, but I'm over it and working on building that back up and picking the songs I really liked.  And the learn by ear will definitely be a scondary thingl.  Like I siad, I just don't get enough exercise working out a song.  So, I'd rather play songs from sheet music to exercise than do exercises.