Challenges

Note:

You may submit recordings for the current challenge if you have completed the first five steps (red level #1). Having worked on technique some will make everything you play better. Thanks

(The challenges are not ordered by difficulty, so #8 is not ‘harder’ than #1. They are labeled in the order they were created.)

These challenges will help you if you do them, but they won’t help you nearly as much if you just observe what others do. Before I took Quantum Mechanics, I read the book by David Griffiths in the summer, cover to cover. It helped as an introduction, but it would have helped me a lot more if I worked through the problems.

Taking action is part of improvement.

Try not to be shy about how you play these, we’re all learning and moving forward.

Time Limits & Availability

Try them! I’m going to place a time limit on when I’m going to accept submissions with feedback. And they may vanish after some amount of time to be placed in separate courses.

You’ll have time to check them out. But there will be deadlines on submission and eventually on access to the earlier challenges.

That will also make the challenges, as the list grows, become more manageable for new members who won’t see an enormous list of challenges to tackle.

So try them out! And submit recordings on the current challenge if you would like feedback.

Current Challenges

 

Challenge #35: Major 7th Chord Riff

Learn the line and send a recording.

Submission Deadline: December 5, 2016

 

 

Archived Challenges

(Submission deadline passed, for the challenges that are still available, try them out if you would like, and you can ask question, but feedback will not be given on recordings)

Challenge #34: Rhythm Game

Challenge #33: Blues Scales

Challenge #32: Besame Mucho

Challenge #31: Two versions of a melody

Challenge #30: Critique a solo

Challenge #30: Minuet, Smooth

Challenge #29: Cielito Lindo

Challenge #28: Three Tempos

Challenge #27: Autumn

Challenge #26: Sentimental

Challenge #25: Fifth Avenue

Challenge #24: Scale Transitions

Challenge #23: Cry Me a River by Ear

Challenge #22: Bourree

Challenge #21: Transposition Exercise

Challenge #20: Taps by Ear

Challenge #19: Balkan Sax Line (Talk Dirty) by Ear

Challenge #18: Feliz Navidad by Ear

Challenge #17: Counting Rhythms

Challenge #16: Paul Desmond Solo on Black Orpheus

Challenge #15: Minute Waltz and Flow

Challenge #14: ‘Line’ for soloing

Challenge #13: Phrase of a Jazz Standard

Challenge #12: Triplets

Challenge #11: Rhythm, Visual Comparison #1

Challenge #10: Minor Seconds & Major Seconds

Challenge #9: Midnight Sun Phrase

Challenge #8: Phrasing & Connection

Challenge #7: Constant Tone & Dynamics

Challenge #6: Melody with Space by Ear

Challenge #5: Rhythms with only downbeats

Challenge #4 Rhythms with Downbeats & Upbeats

Challenge #3: One Note Solo

Challenge #2: Intonation on three notes

Challenge #1: C Major Scale with Perfect Rhythm

{ 44 comments… read them below or add one }

KT March 20, 2013 at 9:59 am

Neal, I am on a 5 1/2 hr layover at JFK. Could listen a lot, but video currently unavailable comes up.

I should be able to start this challenge soon. Travel ends tonight. My sax is safe and sound as my carry on. My. Neighbors told J they missed me…knew I was gone because they did not hear sax! I must be way too loud!!!

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Ted March 20, 2013 at 11:46 am

Neal – great idea hearing the others. Would it be possible to show the make of horn, reed and mouthpiece for each? I don’t really like the sound I produce, but I don’t know if it’s me or the equipment I have.

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Neal March 20, 2013 at 5:35 pm

Hey Ted,
Thanks. Those affect your sound, but you are the biggest piece of your sound. Comparing different people on different saxophones would have a lot of different variables.

I was thinking about doing a video comparing different horns/reeds/mouthpieces. And it would be me playing them all, so that variable would remain constant.

What are you using?

-Neal

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Ted March 21, 2013 at 3:05 am

I have an Andre Bardot with a Yamaha 4C mouthpiece and Rico 2 1/2 reeds.

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Neal April 5, 2013 at 3:27 pm

Hey Ted, I’m not too familiar with the saxophone, more with the mouthpiece and reeds. Not a bad thing to play, you might want to try a different mouthpiece or reed.

What are your options with stores around you? The other thing you can do is order a few and return some from a catalog/website.

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Vijai Anand March 20, 2013 at 12:12 pm

Hey Neal,

I tried this on Monday when you emailed me and sent the recordings in email. Please feedback/comment 🙂

I surely play better without metronome because with metronome so much to concentrate 🙂

Regards,
Vijai

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Neal March 20, 2013 at 5:35 pm

Hey Vijai,
Slow down the metronome more, it should become easier to handle that way.

I know what you’re saying about adding something new to focus on, it will become more natural.

-Neal

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KT March 23, 2013 at 3:10 pm

So far, I am still with Vijai re metronome. It just seems to be one thing too many….at east right now. Working on it.

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Vijai April 4, 2013 at 2:45 pm

Hey Kate, The trick made me better with metronome is to look at the needle movement. So once after few tries I don’t look at the metronome but listen to the beat sound which works

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KT April 4, 2013 at 7:31 pm

Hi Vraj,
I have an old schol wind up metronome. It easy to watch but after a minute or less at times, I cannot focus on fingering, breath, posture, metronome, and tone I am producing.

Thanks for your suggestion. I will try it.

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Neal April 5, 2013 at 3:28 pm

You can, it’s just difficult right now since it’s a new element you’re adding in. Once the other pieces become more comfortable you can do more at once because you don’t think about them. It all becomes automatic.

Great sax players aren’t contemplating the details of their solos as they play them, it just flows out. They’ve done the work so it can.

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J April 5, 2013 at 5:04 pm

Neal,

your challenge text and video are different. did you want three notes individually – Low, middle and high C? or the C major scale?

Also,
Have you noticed the tone of the horn changes with the temp? ie- if cold, hot etc.

When i play in the carpark underground, it is much higher than in my lounge, so i have to pull the mouthpiece out.

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Neal April 5, 2013 at 5:17 pm

Hey Jay,
There are now two challenges on this page, numbered one and two.

There is a video for each one.

One challenge is about intonation, one is about rhythm.

Yep, I’m aware of that.

Thanks

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KT April 5, 2013 at 8:26 pm

Of corse I can! Question is When?

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KT April 6, 2013 at 4:53 pm

Hey Vijai,

I did the metronome challenge. Recorded them and looked at wave as listening and tapping beat. I at least learned where I went off and tht I can do it…not easily. More practice on that. Played guitar about five hours today, sax three hours yesterday. Have rhythm on guitar. .?.??? More practice is the answer.

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Neal April 6, 2013 at 7:14 pm

Also slowing down will help. If you’re more comfortable on guitar, that would make sense that your rhythm would be a bit better.

If you can drive a small car well, you probably won’t be able to drive a semi truck immediately, without any practice. In both cases you’re driving though.

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KT April 6, 2013 at 7:49 pm

Yes, on guitar I feel better. Feet keep the beat.

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Neal April 8, 2013 at 10:41 am

It seems like you play guitar while sitting and saxophone while standing?

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KT April 11, 2013 at 6:22 pm

I stand to play guitar. Sit only at piano.

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Sam Golden April 15, 2013 at 6:33 am

Hey Neal, On Challenge 2, lower D, fluctiouates from flat to sharp. Middle D, little flux, high D, nearly no flux. Ajustment of mouth peice on low D mostly. Mouth peice, reed, embrasure , and fingers or factors in steady low D/lower note sound.

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Neal April 15, 2013 at 6:23 pm

Hey Sam,
When it fluctuates does the name of the note displayed on the tuner change? From D to D# or vice versa?

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KT April 17, 2013 at 8:02 pm

Challenge 3 proved I overplay when I am just playing. It was soooo hard to use only one note! I approached …I think the correct term I’d enharmonics? Learned I not only overplay, I also do not do a good job on changing volume.

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Neal April 17, 2013 at 11:33 pm

Close for the term, that would be harmonics, you went up the octave, similar to the exercise with the low note fingering, but you don’t want to do that not on purpose. Seems like you learned some things by trying this out!

Enharmonics refers to notes written different ways that sound the same, like D# and Eb

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KT April 22, 2013 at 9:36 pm

I thought I should do everything on purpose? I did resort to harmonics because the same note bored me.

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Neal April 24, 2013 at 11:44 pm

Yes, you should do most things on purpose.

Using more than one note means you didn’t follow the directions and missed the point. Did you use articulation, phrasing, space, and dynamics creatively?

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KT April 29, 2013 at 11:40 pm

I tried. It is clearly the reason the first 5 notes of Jamsica have dogged me.

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Gil April 25, 2013 at 6:22 am

Hi Neal, could you give an example sound byte of articulation, phrasing, space, and dynamics. I guess a demo, thanks.

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Neal April 25, 2013 at 12:52 pm

Hey Gil,
Sure, I recorded something, figured I would put it together in a video with some of the recordings I received.

The idea was to use musical options other than notes. Notes are basically the default thing we go to for a different sound.

But you can also use articulation and dynamics for a change.

Say you play eight quarter notes of one note in a row, exactly the same. That wouldn’t be very interesting. But if you accented the fourth and eighth quarter note it would become more interesting or if you played the fourth and eighth shorter (or longer). You would get a similar effect if the fourth and eighth notes were a different note. It’s a change.

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Gil April 25, 2013 at 2:49 pm

I follow what your saying, thanks, what your looking for is variation if still only using one note. That’s where you can become creative and still improvise on something very simple.

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Bengt May 1, 2013 at 7:02 am

I do not have access to a saxophone just now, but I sat down at a piano and started playing. I found that C Jam Blues can be used as an (almost perfect) example of 4 measures based on one note (however, the last note in the third measure, is different)

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Bengt May 1, 2013 at 7:04 am

My suggestion above is as a reply to CHALLENGE 3

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Neal May 2, 2013 at 5:42 pm

Thanks Bengt, good observation

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Ted May 11, 2013 at 1:20 am

Challenge #4 has given me a new appreciation of just what an accomplishment it is for a band, especially one with a horn section, to be really tight.

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Neal May 11, 2013 at 11:04 am

Definitely!

And you also have to factor in phrasing- how notes are grouped together and some other stylistic choices. If there are five saxophones, the ‘lead alto’ does tend to lead some things which helps.

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KT May 13, 2013 at 7:57 pm

Neal,

I played challenge five many times. Same note, G. All qtr notes and rests. I could not make it sound interesting. At all. I guess I could have played some louder and some notes softer. I will spare you this recording, and try again. Meantime, tips would be appreciated.

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Neal May 14, 2013 at 5:52 am

Hey Kate,
This challenge is an exercise, not music. Don’t try to make it sound good, just play it accurately. Thanks

-Neal

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Daniel lee October 6, 2013 at 10:01 pm

Hey Neal I was just wondering, for challenge 15, I am starting off slow, but wondered what sort of tempo I should be aiming to play this piece at? Thanks!

Dan

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Neal October 6, 2013 at 10:51 pm

Hey Dan,
The important thing is to make the rhythm and phrasing good. Don’t play it faster than is comfortable.

If you were going to perform the piece, it would be pretty fast, I might record an example. But as an exercise in working on phrasing, you can take it a bit slower.

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jeff January 30, 2014 at 2:06 pm

I go the first f 3 notes .of TAPS, not sure of the 2nd phrase 3rd. I am falling a little behind . with other things going on in life. ILL TRY TO KEEP UP .
It’s good to know I am not the only one that has a problem following the metronome.

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KT December 10, 2014 at 1:06 pm

been busy w Christmas concerts. Hallelujah Chorus and the Christmas Pipes among a dozen others took modt of my time. Had to stop practicing in my new condo due to one neighbor!

So, I get enough Practice for concerts and have not done challenges in some time.

Hope January will be better….Merry Christmas, all!

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Neal December 10, 2014 at 1:53 pm

Hope the concerts go well!

Thanks

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Y. Rideaux November 19, 2016 at 7:06 pm

Hi Neal, Rhythm Game #34

Challange #34 is that active? I click it and nothing comes up.

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Neal November 19, 2016 at 9:03 pm

I checked just now, and it doesn’t seem to be up on their website now. I’ll come up with a new challenge though.

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Y. Rideaux November 20, 2016 at 9:28 pm

Ok, no problem?

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