The Value of Transcriptions

I”ve recently started a weekly series called Transcription Tuesdays and it is aimed to uphold tradition in this coming musical age of anything goes. Now don’t get me wrong I think it’s important make the music that you want to make BUT I think it’s at least important to be informed as much as possible about the history of the music you”re making. For that reason, I always strive to transcribe daily whether it is something as short as a lick or as long as a full album. This keeps my ears sharp, allows me to get more grounded in the music and also allow me to grow musically.

A little background on me and my start at transcribing!

I got my first private saxophone teacher pretty late in the game. I was 15 years old and my teachers Morgan Russell and Paul Carr always stressed the importance of studying the Omnibook (a collection of Charlie Parker solos written out) as well as the importance of listening/copying artists that I liked. This was always a major component of my lessons. Paul Carr would assign me a Cannonball Adderley solo (like “Minority”) to have written out and memorized for next week. This type of fast paced instruction pushed me to grow very quickly. In a couple years, I had gone fom a novice to playing in the All County, All State Bands and even national groups such The Grammy Band, Vail Jazz All Stars and YoungArts Fellows. I honestly believe this rapid development came not from mere running scales and arpeggios but from learning hundreds of solos and listening non-stop. I learned thousands of solos by ear during that time. I would sing them, play along with them on piano, and of course learn them on saxophone. When learning any language you have to emulate those that do it well and Jazz is no different. So to anyone reading this wondering how do I get better? Or feeling like they”ve hit a plateau. Trust me, there’s more to do and more to learn. Keep transcribing! There’s always someone better than you out there’s transcribe them! LOL

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