After many years of study and reading many jazz improvisation books, I have reached a conclusion that one of the best ways to learn to improvise is to use motives. Motives are short melodic ideas usually consisting of 2-4 notes. Riff is a slang term for a motive. The basic idea is to pick a motive and move it through the chord changes while you are improvising.
It is necessary too keep in good physical shape in addition to practicing the saxophone. I like to think that it is necessary to “spend time in the gym” on both activities. When I go to the gym I usually download vidcasts or podcasts to my iPhone to listen to while I am working out. During a vidcast search on iTunes I came across a series of vidcasts named the “The 250 Jazz Patterns Vidcast” by Evan Tate.
Evan is a professional saxophonist and instructor with more than 20 years experience. He is currently on the jazz faculity of the University of Music and the Performing Arts in Munich Germany.
Evan has written a book entitled “250 Jazz Patterns”. The book starts out with simple patterns or motives that are appropriate for a beginner and then moves on to more advanced patterns. Once such pattern is the 1,2,3,5 pattern. If you are improvising over a C major chord the 1,2,3,5 notes would be C,D,E and G. This pattern is built from notes of the C major scale. Evans book is full of excellent useful patterns.
I highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to improve their improvisation skills. You can learn more about the book and purchase it from the following link:
Eventually you will proceed to a “Pay using PayPal by clicking here” link. Once you click on this page you will be redirected to a PayPal screen that is in German but don’t fret. You just need to change the “Land” field from Deutschland to USA ( if you are English speaking ) and all fields on the form will change to english. The price of the book is 35 Euros. At the time of this writting that’s about $47.24. This book is a real bargain at that price.