I have been fielding a number of questions recently about learning to improvise. Folks have been telling me various stories about how, what, and why they want to learn to play this horn. A basic theme is “how do I get from Point A to Point B without having to work on scales?” I dig that for some, scale work is what was described to me as “soul-sucking”. They are a necessary evil. Now hear me out, I am not saying that we need to just play scales over and over in endless repetition with no rhyme or reason as to how to use them. I am saying that we get strategic with our scale studies. For those of you just starting out or trying to get better, the place to start is the blues.

By concentrating on this one musical style, we can build a foundation that will propel us forward to play other genres. So as we prepare to attack this improvisation problem, keep these things in mind-

Center, play, absorb, move on.

  • Center yourself with long tones and overtone warm ups.
  • Play the exercises in a methodical, mindful approach. You will get to higher, faster, louder eventually!
  • Absorb little bits at a time. We want to eventually have the work you do become part of what you play outside of practice time.
  • Move On to new challenges after getting a handle on what you are working on.

 I am not saying that you won’t add new things as you work the old stuff out, but be sure to practice until you have a handle on the initial goals. For now, start with Long Tones and Overtone warm-ups. You can the overtone video by clicking here. And click here for the long tone video.

Below are links to the PDF’s for these exercises-

[Long tones]


This is where we start to get from Point A to Point B. So kick back, chill, Center, Play, Absorb, Move On, and next week we can talk a bit more about starting your journey towards improvisation!