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Gil’s Path

Gil’s Path

Gil_pathGil has worked very hard and improved a lot with his playing. A few things took some time, but he kept at it and has a good attitude. Here are a few conversations that Gil and I have had as well as his initial introduction.


Hi my name is Gil, living temporarily in Michigan and moving back home to California at the end of September, I play the Alto Sax, I’m 63, played when I was in middle school, and taking it back up again, probably at the Intermediate level

As far as playing, but want to learn to improvise and play by ear and master all the different keys to play in, know about 5 scales by memory, love all types of music genres, my goal eventually is to play in a church contemporary worship band, also I would like to send in a recording of a simple song so they you can critique my ability and sound, I don’t know how to go about that, thank you for your time, thanks Gil

Hi Neal, no I don’t know all 12 scales I need to work on those as you say and I will, also I sent a little sample of my playing via my Iphone to get your opinion.
(July 12, 2012)
For that initial recording, tone is decent, it’s good you’re using some vibrato, rhythm isn’t very precise.-Neal
(July 25, 2012)
I like Paul Desmond, love his sound
on Take Five, when I first heard the
Dave Brubeck Quartet in the late 60’s
When I was in High School also Stan

Getz. Girl from Ipanema.

(August 9, 2012)
Hi Neal, I have a question what does
it mean when some one says listen
to the music in your head and how is
that cultivated???
Sometimes it has to do with how you respond to the rest of the music, the drums, the bass, the rhythms etc.  The music is built in layers and you’re adding a layer to it with the saxophone.Part of it is cultivated by listening and listening carefully.  And really getting into different styles of music I think.

(August 21, 2012)
Hi Neal, I’m working on memorizing
the 12 major scales, long tones, and
A couple of ballads to get a better sound
and it’s really helping, tried the altissimo notes
had trouble getting this high.
Playing the altissimo is a fairly difficult thing to do on the saxophone.I would work on the overtone series using low Bb before trying altissimo.  Have you done that before?Altissimo is not something to really work on unless you have been playing for at least a year or two.  And probably want to be able to be able to play some harmonics on the low Bb fingering without moving your fingers before even trying this.Also, I mapped out a progression on this page,

(August 29, 2012)

Altissimo wouldn’t be in the first three steps, it would be a bit farther down the line.

Hi Neal, I worked on the Altissimo notes today, I got the high D and high C#&Dflat but not the other two, maybe not enough or to much pressure on mouthpiece is my problem, Im not sure??


Hey Gil,
That’s a good start.  How long are you able to sustain those for?

With altissimo, I like to approach it from some different angles – harmonics, fingerings, etc.  Play what you can and try to sustain it, try playing it with vibrato.

You should be able to get the next two pretty soon. The mouthpiece and reed can influence how easy it is to get the altissimo notes.


(September 8 , 2012)

(Lindeman Exercise)

My view on this exercise is coordination of
breathing, sight reading, keeping hands curved
And as little movement of fingers possible
causes a real smooth&even tone through
out the exercise, I felt pretty comfortable
with this exercise.


(September 18 , 2012)

I have beenworking on Lindeman exercise and found it

to b helpful, I feel my fingers are moving
smoothly and even, I will look into your video,

Thanks for all your help.

(September 20 , 2012)

I recorded a few bars of Lindeman
Exercise, 9/20/2012, Gil Ross

Hey Gil,
Looks like you got a decent recording.  And good start, the tone is coming along.

A few things to check out,

First off, slow down a lot.  Don’t think about it as sixteenth notes, try it more like slow quarter notes.

Second, you attack the beginning with an accent and then reduce the volume, like a sforzando.  That’s not written, try to not do that.  It’s good to be able to do a sforzando consciously, but you don’t want it to be a habit.

Try recording again, much slower, and I’ll check it out.



(October 2 , 2012)

Hi, Neal, just moving into our new place in
Concord, California, still unpacking, will be
able to play my horn in a few days, I am trying
to remember what the 4 steps were??? And if
I completed them all, have a good evening,

Hey Gil,
Cool, they’re up in the top left in the navigation “>>Steps” https://saxophonetribe.com/how-to-use-saxophone-tribe/

You did the first four, so I sent you on to the next steps. And you are on the list for the first statue. Will probably make the next statue a little bit harder to get!

(October 6 , 2012)

Hi Neal, yes as I told you b4 I played

up to JrHigh band, still need to learn
my 12 scales& minor by memory, and
want to work on playing by ear&Improvisation

(October 10 , 2012)

A few favorite players:

Paul Desmond, Greg Vail, Dave Koz, Phil
Woods, Euge Groove, Stan Getz,  Charles
Loyd, Johnny Hodges, Cannonball Adderley

(October 18 , 2012)

Hi Neal, besides Jazz, I do like smooth Jazz, Blues, Bossa Nova style, also you had Other, I like Contemporay Gospel like what Greg Vail plays, also Funk like what Euge Groove plays, heard him play at Yoshis in Oakland, and also Phil Woods.

(October 18 , 2012)

Step 1. Name your goal= Memorize and learn all 12 major scales, plus improving my tone with long tones besides doing the scales.
Step 2. List what you’ll do=I will learn 2 scales per day and 1 on the 6th day and 1 on the 7th, plus incorporate some time for improving tone, with long tone session.
3.List how you itend to do it=by breaking it down by 50 min for scales and 10 min on long tones.

(October 19 , 2012)

Today Oct 19th, I worked on Cmajor & Bmajor which has 5 sharps and worked on long tones with chromatic notes ended my practice by playing the song Misty several times to also improve my tone. What I learned that you can play with a low soft tone and still accomplish what your trying to do. The reason is I just moved into a Condo and neighbors next door sleep during the day, and have to be considerate of noise, Im still trying to work out the best time to practice, I may purchase a mute to put into my horn, well that about raps it up for today, take care everyone.

(October 20 , 2012)

Hi Neal, I have been playing this song “Misty” the last couple days
to help with improving my tone.

Pretty good start.  A few things to work on.  The first three notes
you blast, I would back off and make it more smooth.

You’re using a little vibrato in there, that’s good.  I have an
exercise for vibrato that I’ll have you work on pretty soon.

How are steps 5-7 going?

When there are parts with eighth notes, they’re not always even.  So
slow down a bit as you practice.  And think about control of your
fingers, I can hear them moving, so that probably means they aren’t
staying on the keys in a very controlled way.



(October 21 , 2012)

(St James recording)

Hey Gil,
Good start.  I like how you play parts of it.

In terms of working on it,

First thing, play it at half that speed.  The rhythm is shaky and slowing down helps.

Second, have you listened to my recording of it?  Listen to that a few more times and try playing along.

Also, do you have a metronome?



(October 25 , 2012)

Hi Neal, could not find my metronome, my wife must have
packed away, anyway I listened to
your recording a few times to try to
get that slowed down tempo and give the notes their full value, let
mr know your critique, thanks.

Hey Gil,
It’s getting better, most of it is pretty good.  I made another diagram with the red, orange, and green.  Most of it is green.

You held the half note for the full value, that’s good.

But the first note, you made shorter than when you played it before.  You need to give the first quarter note its full value too.

The two eighth notes toward the end of the phrase are a bit uneven.

And then the quarter notes that are tied together should have the same duration as a half note.

I think you almost have it.  You can just send me a recording of this first phrase next time.



(October 26 , 2012)

Today I worked on Amaj thru Fmaj
of the scales and memorized, also
worked on long tones, and made a
recording of Misty. I sent U a recording of St James Infirmary
Yesterday to critique also, thanks

Hey Gil,
Just responded about St. James.  Misty is sounding pretty good, you play it with some interpretation and you add some notes.  That’s all right, but you want to play it how you really want to play it if you do that.

A couple parts, I think your fingers became a bit uncoordinated and you skipped some notes or added some extra ones.  You want to slow those parts down and get them to be really comfortable, then bring them back to speed.

Make it so you can play it really well as written, then add more interpretation, it will sound better that way.


Hey Gil,
Would you say you were playing the music exactly as it is written?  I assumed you weren’t.  Interpretation means changing things around a bit with phrasing, holding notes longer or shorter.  Singers do this all the time.

Sax players can do it too if they’re the soloist on melody.  It doesn’t work with a bigger group unless everyone is playing the same way.

Were you trying to play Misty as written?  If so, I’ll have very different feedback for you.  And if you were, what version of it were you reading?


Hi Neal, it’s from a song book I bought at a music store, it’s not from Aebersold or Real fake book,
on the page on the right it says words by Johnny Burke & music by
Erroll Garner.

(October 28 , 2012)

Hi Neal, Im doing fine, Im still working on memorizing the 12 major scales, long tones, and practiacing a balad also,  I believe some of my frustration is that because I dont know all of my scales its hard to play by ear, knowing the full range of the saxophone, I can pick a few notes on my sax when I hear a song but then cant get all of the notes, I can read music pretty well, I know I have to work on rythums and giving notes their full value, etc. I will check out you recording.

Hey Gil,
Yep, knowing the major scales will make learning things by ear easier.  But you probably want to get the more common scales under your fingers first and then gradually add the rest.

Keeping rhythms in mind is definitely a good idea.


(November 17 , 2012)

Hi Neal, responding to earlier e-mail, regarding playing by ear, you asked how long did it take to learn those 3 songs I sent to you, after listening to you a couple of times on each song, I was able to pick out the notes on my alto sax without looking anywhere or on your saxsite, I have memorized Amaj scale thru Gmaj, and working on the other 5 major scales.  Also playing long tones
Regarding favorite sax players, it would have to be Paul Demond, Stan Getz, Dave Koz, Phil Woods, I like the smooth jazz sound, funk like Eugegroove, and also Latin and Bossa Nova sound.
Also regarding the long note duration that U did, I found myself playing those notes approximately on average 15 seconds. It does seem some particuliar notes you can play longer, take care Gil

(December 4 , 2012)

Hi Neal, what I mainly wanted to learn was to play by ear and learn to Improvise. To be able to transpose when playing with different instruments, for example the Piano is in the key of C, Tenor Sax in the key of Bflat, I play Eflat Alto, to be able to be on the same page, and you demonstrating a song slowly to learn has been beneficial, like to get input from other sax players on this website, I know learning by ear takes time and practice, practice, practice.
(December 10 , 2012)

(St James)

Do all of these things and I think you’ll get it.  Let me know if you have any questions.

1. Do you start on the upbeat?
2. Do you hold the first quarter note for its full value?
3. Do you hold the next quarter note for a full beat.
4. Do you hold the half note for two beats?

You started on the downbeat again.  The upbeat is halfway between two downbeats.  The song starts on an upbeat.

And you’re not playing the half note for two beats, you’re playing it for one and a half.

Are you understanding what I mean by that?  Let me know what is unclear.


(December 17 , 2012)

Hi Neal, doing well thank you. I feel
my biggest struggle is Ear Training,
I feel pretty good about the other areas.
What I’ve learned so far I can usually get the first few notes, usually at least 5 or 6, but have a
a hard time getting the rest of the song, I guess it doesn’t come easy or natural, as opposed to reading
music. Is the answer just listening
more&more, or if u memorize all the 12 major scales and figuring out the notes that are usually found
within those scales??

(January 7 , 2013)

Will do, I have to hear something
many times before I can pick it up,
I don’t know if it’s because I’m older
or what but repetition after repetition is how I learn, I was always amazed by my Father who
Played the violin he could hear a song after just a few notes and play the whole song with no problem. Often he could learn it by
hearing it just one time thru.
With ear training, it’s just a matter of practice. There’s a connection between what you hear in your head and how comfortable you are transferring it to your instrument.  Part of it is hearing the intervals and being very familiar with them too.Could you distinguish between a minor third and a perfect fourth if you heard them?
I guess I need to read up on theory
more, no I can’t distinguish between a minor third and perfect
fourth because I don’t know what they are.
Hey Gil,
All right, thanks. Good to know. There are probably some others who could work on it some more too, I’ll write some more about the intervals on the ear training page.  There’s also a neat toolhttp://www.musictheory.net/exercisesThe interval trainer.Try playing around with that.

(January 15, 2013)

(Saxophone Wavelengths)

Neal, this is a good analogy regarding light and  colors and sound, the wavelengths of music makes sense and sums it up pretty much.

(January 17, 2013)

(St James)
Hey Gil,
You’re not starting on the upbeat. You’re starting slightly after the downbeat. And you’re not holding the half note for two beats.Try counting out loud one and two and three and four and with the metronome (same setting) for two measures. Send that to me.Summertime sounded pretty good btw.Thanks

(January 19, 2013)
B to C and C to D (the last two measures) need work. Spend time on those two bars and send them to me when you have eliminated the schmutz between the notes. It will probably help to slow down more.Thanks

(January 19, 2013)
(St James)
All right, so you theoretically understand what’s going on.Does it feel like you were playing on the upbeat when you came in?Thought it might help to see what it looks like with a metronome and hear me playing with a metronome too, so I made a recording of that. Try listening to it a few times.The click of the metronome is the downbeat.I illustrated that with down arrows. Then halfway between the down arrows are the upbeats, where I use upward facing arrows.A downbeat is exactly halfway between two upbeats.

You seem to be coming in on the downbeat, with the metronome, almost every time. You should come in a half beat earlier.

The half note you played for 1.5 beats, so not long enough. The next note after the half note comes in on one.

Compare what you played to what I’m playing and look at the diagram, let me know if that helps by the way.

Thanks, will get back to you on it.
(January 22, 2013)
I can hear the movement of your fingers in the recording, that means you’re slamming them down a bit, it’s harder to control when you do that.The B to C got a bit better, the C to D needs more work.Try making ‘softer’ movements of your fingers with more control.See how that changes what it sounds like.Thanks

(January 22, 2013)
(St James)
Hey Gil,
Good job, you pretty much have it. The first note could be about 10% longer, but this is definitely the best recording you have done. That brings up a good point actually. When we play saxophone, there isn’t exactly an instant response. The air has to travel through the horn and that introduces a delay. If you don’t take that delay into account, you’ll be late, pretty much all the time. And it’s pretty common for horn players to be slightly late.Something to keep in mind.
(January 28, 2013)
Hey Gil,
C to D seems a bit better, a few transitions were good, most seem to have a little space between.Do you hear the schmutz between B and C?Can you slow it down so that doesn’t happen?Thanks

Hi Neal, yes I can slow down,
the Schmutz in between yes, I had
some Jewish friends in High School the word sounds like s Jewish phrase, one called me a
Schmutz one time 🙂
Hey Gil,
Work on that then, basically get it as slow as you need to eliminate that. Don’t worry about being even rhythmically as you work on that. We shift attention to different things sometimes.That’s funny you got called a Schmutz. Wouldn’t have thought of it in that context. It’s a German word, part of Yiddish too.
(February 1, 2013)
(Jamaica Farewell)
Hey Gil,
Seems like you got the notes pretty much right.The rhythm is a bit different than what I did though.The first note is repeated something like five times, really listen to the rhythm on that.Work on it and send it again when you think you have it.Thanks


D to B continues to be a tough transition, but it’s getting a little better.For E to C, it’s not bad. A little uneven, try to make slow movements with your fingers. Slow down the tempo if need be.Thanks
(C, F, Bb Scales)
Hey Gil,
These scales are fine. Think about rhythmic evenness and keeping the dynamics constant. Certain note transitions are more difficult within the scales, so think about what you’re working on in the Lindeman and how it applies to scales.Thanks

(February 5, 2013)
(Jamaica Farewell)
You got the notes, but not the rhythm. Check out the diagrams at the bottom of this page:https://saxophonetribe.com/jamaica-farewell/Just added those.You made one of the mistakes that Katie did by playing only four times of the first note instead of five.The second part of your recording is better than the first in that you rush into the second note less. But there’s not enough space.



(February 6, 2013)
(Girl From Ipanema)
Slow it down, you’re not with the metronome.You’re rushing like crazy, try and relax and stay with the tempo.Bossa nova isn’t frantic.Do you have the Stan Getz recording?

Ok, no I don’t have his recording
but have heard it many times, yeah I believe I have s tendency to rush when it comes to Rythum&Timing, I
did check out the exercise onR&T,
it was definitely helpful. I will definitely slow it down. Thanks
(B to D Lindeman)

Starting to get better, improved over last time.

(February 9, 2013)
(Girl From Ipanema)
Hey Gil,
Much better than last time.Couple of questions.Are you running out of breath after one bar? It would be better if you could keep going for another two beats.And is the second measure written the same as the first measure for the music you have?Thanks


I don’t think so about the breathe,
Yes the measure is same, I believe
the sheet music is out of a Hal Leanard Book. I will send another
Recording sometime today or evening. Thanks for your input.
(February 10, 2013)
(Girl From Ipanema)
Thanks Gil,
So I think your sheet music is all right, you’re not playing one note differently than written though, and that ends up making a large difference.Though it’s written in cut time, disregard that for now. It’s helpful to slow things down and in this case we slow down by thinking of it as 4/4 initially.In 4/4,The first note is a dotted quarter note, it gets 1.5 beats. You basically play this for the right amount of time.The second note is an eighth note, that one is fine.

The rhythm gets off with the third note. The third note is a quarter note. A quarter should be twice as long as an eighth note. You play it the same as an eighth note and move right into the next note.

That means you’re cutting the music short by a half beat and everything after that note will be off by a half beat. Notes that are supposed to come in on downbeats come in on upbeats, etc.

Try it again, playing the third note for the full length of a quarter note value. That will change the feeling of the music and you might not be be used to it immediately.



Great, thanks for the critique
and will check into all that you sent

this evening, thanks.

You’re welcome. You seemed to just be off on that one note, but that affected the other parts. So get that third note the right length and it will get a lot better.Thanks

(February 13, 2013)
Girl From Ipanema is getting better. I’m not a fan of the scoop into the first note though.First four notes were about right. Then the fifth note which is written as an eighth tied to a quarter is only held for the length of a quarter. You rush into the next note. Hold notes for their full values, otherwise the rhythm is going to be off.Either you rushed, or you sped up the tempo significantly and it’s uneven.Might be good to practice this with a metronome.How is Jamaica Farewell coming along?



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