Fly Me to the Moon Critique

Dave sent in a video of himself playing ‘Fly Me to the Moon’ by Bart Howard. A tune that I like. Tend to think of Sinatra’s version.

Download Video (.mov file, right click and save onto your computer)


The video is probably the better way to see the critique I have done since the audio has been split apart into different segments, but if you have any trouble viewing the video, here is a version of the critique that you can view on this page, and you can hear the comparison of Dave’s recording and mine (mp3 file, right click and save)

Or if you prefer this format, let me know!

Tone and confidence have some strength. Good start. Will get into some things to work on in this critique.

The first phrase appears to be not quite right.  Try just working on that first phrase and recording it.  Part of the process is slowing down, sometimes a great deal.

The rhythm seemed a bit uneven in some places.  Slowing down and working on it piece by piece will help with that.

First Two Notes

First note, the word ‘fly’ in the lyrics is written as a dotted quarter note in the music.  Sinatra sang it long, not short.  Phrasing can be a choice, but I would suggest playing the first note long.

Dave: “I think I heard that there were no rules in Jazz so I guess I’m trying to play things my way instead of correctly.”

Neal: In general, you want to learn the  ‘rules’ before you break them I would say.


You might reconsider your choices for the articulation in terms of the notes you tongue and articulate.

Try singing the lyrics along with what you played and seeing if it seems to fit.

There are certain ways of phrasing and articulating the music that fit different styles.  If you want to play in the style you need to learn the nuances of how it is played.

After that, you can play around with things, but I would learn the rules first.

Comparison of Dave’s Recording and Mine

Stylistic Choices

If you shift the rhythm around with phrasing, you have to be careful and really know the tune in the first place.

I would recommend learning it as written first and then  playing around with phrasing as you really get it down.


1. Slowing down and practicing the first part, playing the music as written or as heard on the recording.

2. Be more conscious about articulation and tonguing.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Doug August 26, 2012 at 3:36 pm

Hey Neal,

Thanks for the video Dave as we all learn form them and I get a lot out of your critiques Neal. I personally can see how having the words to any song can be a big help as singing it really gives me insight as to how the rhythm matches the wording. I have the music to “I Left My Heart In San Francisco” and have been starting to work on it and can see how the words would help, so I need to get them.



Neal August 26, 2012 at 9:46 pm

Hey Doug,
Thanks for saying so. Can’t always match up words to how you play, but for some tunes you can!

Couldn’t hurt to get the lyrics for that, able to find them all right?



KT August 26, 2012 at 4:06 pm

Dave, great song choice. I am married to sheet music, but too often I want to play it with “my take”….I think I still do that unintentionally. The critique helps me. I tend to never tongue a song or tongue too obviously in sections. . . ( usually the sections I have delays fingering.”

Thanks for helping us all.


Neal August 26, 2012 at 9:53 pm

A caveat about playing it your own way versus reading it- eventually you do want to put in more of your own style. And if you read some fake books, the way it’s written isn’t all that interesting. But there’s a difference between playing what you think it should be after you can very accurately play exactly how it’s written and just playing what you think it should be without really knowing the tune.

I’m thinking that working more on classical music will help with this since in that case, you don’t really interpret, you learn how to play something how it’s written and it’s good as a sort of diagnostic tool to figure out what areas you need to work on.


KT August 26, 2012 at 9:09 pm

I am working on main melodies as Davevia, but when I listen songs that are not by saxophonists , I don’t hear sax playing the main melody / vocal line. How do you know what notes to play when not plaing the main melody?


Neal August 26, 2012 at 9:54 pm

Hey Kate,
The pitches with a voice or another instrument are going to sound different from the saxophone because they include different combinations of harmonics to give the tone. But the main ‘note’ you hear will be the same, so it’s going to be a little harder to sound like the voice/other instrument, but you can do it. Let me know if that’s what you meant.


KT August 27, 2012 at 9:52 pm

Maybe we Are on different planes. I just meant, sax is not the main instrument often unless it is a sax solo. Is it best to play onlt measures/phrases that are clearly sax than squeeze sax into every note of a song….

Oh, typo auto correct…I meant Argentina. Not Davavia.


KT August 29, 2012 at 10:40 pm

Neal, visually differences in volume is clear. How important is volume?
Differences between notes is clear visually, too. If you had the same differences, would you work spacing/timing between notes or volume control?


Neal August 31, 2012 at 3:01 pm

Hey Kate,
Dave was probably a little closer to the microphone than I was, might have been playing a little louder too, one or the other.

Visually though, what happened is I changed the sizes on the images so they would be the same length horizontally. The ratios of the length and height stayed the same though.

Since what Dave played appears to have more volume, what it actually means is that he rushed the melody and didn’t hold the spaces for full value. You can see that there’s more space in between what I play.

The spacing/timing is more important than volume control, in my opinion. Though you do want to know how to play with dynamics.


Michele Pippen August 22, 2013 at 12:26 am

Really Nice tone Dave! And I love that tune (pretend I can sing it sometimes!)

In your practice recordings I hear clearly what Neal is saying with the timing (all improv/own style aside) especially on the first note – initial rush from the first note to the second, just a tad longer for that first note then short second – e.g. “daah, da,” give the feeling of flying like a bird not a rocket. ?

Instead of your “da da”.

Guess you can ‘make up for it’ by changing the timing on other notes, otherwise when you’re playing along with others, or with a backing track, you’re going to reach the second bar before anyone else?

I’m not good at it either, so I totally empathize with struggling with ‘own ideas’ and keeping to initial timing of the original written tune – I got reasonable handle on the ‘principles’, in my head that is!, but just like you is hard to put them to the right action on the horn.


Leave a Comment