Using the iPad for Gigs and as a Practice Aid

Like many musicians, I’m used to carrying music stands, music, music stand lights, and clips for the music (to use if playing outside when its windy).  For quite some time I have been wondering when technology would improve and be affordable for musicians and music students.  I’m from Austin Texas and for the past several months I have been seeing more and more musicians showing up to gigs with an iPad.  They usually clip the iPad on a vocal microphone stand.  After speaking with several musicians with iPads,  I decided to take the plunge and purchase an iPad myself.

I purchased a new iIPad with Retina display and 16GB of storage space ( wireless only ). I also purchased a high quality microphone stand.  I purchased an iKlip to attach the iPad to my microphone stand.

I use the following music ( or music related ) applications on the iPad:

1. iReal b

2. OnSong

3.  kindle

The kindle application is not a music application but it is very useful to use with music. One of my most favorite music education websites related to jazz improvisation and saxophone is Neff Music. I have purchased all of Steve Neff’s pdf format  books and I upload them to my kindle application on my iPad using the “Send to kindle” application.

Send to kindle for PC

Send to kindle for mac

I work through the Steve Neff books on my iPad and it works well. I have no problem reading the music on the display. Here is a picture of my iPad on a mic stand.


After using the iPad on gigs for the past couple of months I am convinced that it was a good investment.


The Major and Minor Blues Scales and Improvising

Did you know that their are two blues scales? A minor blues scale and a major blues scale. Many students are introduced to improvising on a blues tune using the minor blues scale. The music teacher usually says just use the same scale over the entire song.

The C minor blues scale consists of the notes: C,Eb,F,F#,G,Bb.
The biggest problem with only using this scale is that it limits what you can play and the solos tend to be boring. Furthermore many beginning improvisors don’t know how to properly resolve their ending notes. This scale is most importantly missing the major 3 and also the 2nd and the 6th.

The major blues scale may be conceived by starting with the major pentatonic scale and adding a minor 3rd. The C major blues scale consists of the notes: C,D,Eb,E,G,A.

Please not that the major blues scale contains the same notes as the minor blues scale that is down a minor 3rd. For example the C major blues scale consists of the same notes as the A minor blues scale

Practice Suggestions for simple 3 Chord blues:
1. Practice playing the ascending major blues scale over each chord.
2. Practice playing the descending major blues scale over each chord.
3. Practice playing the major blues scale over the I chord and the minor blues scale over the IV and V chords.
4.Practice moving between both scales.
5. Add the b7 and 4th to the major blues scale
6 Add the 6th or the 9th to the minor blues scale.

Do you have any suggestions for practicing the blues?

Review of Mastering the Minor II V Software

A few months ago I attended a jazz jam session in Austin Texas at Kickbutt Coffee. While at the jam session I heard a wonderful sax player and all around nice guy named Tony Bray.

A couple of week ago I learned that Tony was CEO of a company named “Jazz Apps Mobile LLC“. As of the date of this writing, Jazz Apps Mobile has released two applications for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. Droid versions are under development.

Many beginner and intermediate players are challenged with the minor ii v i chord progression. This application was developed to help players feel confident when playing over these chord changes. The application provides an introduction of how to use the application, the theory, a nice way to learn and practice all of the scales. The application presents the Lydian Augmented scale. Tony studied with the renowned jazz player and educator Jerry Coker and brings many years of playing experience to the application. The application also includes JAM-A-long tracks to woodshed individual chords and the entire progression. The tempo can be adjusted and the music can be transposed to any key. I plug my iPhone into my home stereo so that I don’t over power the backing tracks with my tenor sax. This application can be used with any instrument.

The software can be improved by including some examples of how students can apply the knowledge of the lydian augmented scale over the changes. I have asked Tony to consider adding this capability to a future version of their software. Tony indicated examples would be added to a future version of the software. I also suggest that a user forum be added to the Jazz Apps Mobile website so that students can communicate with the Jazz Apps company as well as each other.

I endorse this application. Stay tuned because I will be reviewing their Modal application in the near future.

What do you use to help improve your ability to play over the minor ii v progression?

Harold McMillen Blues Jam at Victory Grill

I attended Harold McMillens blues jam at the historic Victory Grill last night. Everyone was friendly and I had a nice time playing tenor sax. There was a $3 cover charge for the musicians but I did not have to pay for parking. I was joined by alto saxophonist Art Martinez during the jam. Art is a wonderful blues saxman with a very good personality! I look forward to attending this jam session often!

Antone’s Blues Gig

Last night I performed with Ted Hall and The Pleasure Cats at the legendary Antone’s blues club. It was a surreal experience to realize that I was performing on the same stage that the following people have performed on: Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Buddy Guy, John Lee Hooker, Pinetop Perkins, James Cotton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimmie Vaughan, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Los Lonely Boys, Ian Moore, Bob Schneider, Bono & The Edge of U2, Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, Eric Clapton, Dwight Yoakam, Bruce Willis, Elvis Costello and many others.

Ted Hall’s Blues Church/Jam

This past Sunday night I attended Ted Hall’s Blues Church/Jam at Jax Neighborhood Cafe near the U.T campus. The jam session is from 8PM-Midnight and musicians of all levels are invited. The house band is named “The Pleasure Cats”. The house band had a horn section consisting of  Dave Boostrum on trumpet and valve trombone, Tommy Wald on baritone sax and  Art Markman on tenor sax. Everyone in the band was very friendly to me and I had a great time playing the blues.

Ted Hall is a wonderful guitar player and owns the Austin Guitar School. If you’re are looking for a good guitar teacher – contact Ted!

Louis Richard Emerson 1921-2011

Photo of Richard Emerson

Richard Emerson

This post is a tribute to my friend Richard Emerson.  Richard was a friend, fellow musician and my world war II hero. He was nearly 90 years old when he passed. Richard played the keyboard and we performed at the Baker Theater in Lockhart Texas for several years. When Richard and I first met and discovered that we were both musicians – an instant connection was made that transcended the generation gap.

Richard told me many stories. He was a WWII pilot that towed gliders into Normandy on D-Day. He was shot down behind enemy lines and lived to tell the story.

I learned many new ( to me ) songs from Richard that I have added to my bands song list. Richard greatly enriched my life and many others. He was able to introduce me to Opera’s – without his prodding I would never have even tried an opera.

Goodbye my friend and thank you for sharing a part of your life with me!

Modes of the Major Scale

If we begin by naming the notes in the C Major scale and then placing numbers beneath each note we have the following:



The Major scale generates 7 modes and they are named Ionian, Dorian, Phyrgian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian and Locrian.

C Lydian can be constructed as:

123#4567 or C,D,E,F#,G,A,B

C Ionian can be constructed as:

1234567 or C,D,E,F,G,A,B

C Mixolydian can be constructed as:

123456b7 or C,D,E,F,G,A,Bb

C Dorian can be constructed as:

12b3456b7 or C,D,Eb,F,G,A,Bb

C Aeolian can be constructed as:

12b345b6b7 or C,D,Eb,F,G,Ab,Bb

C Phyrgian can be constructed as:

1b2b345b6b7 or C,Db,Eb,F,G,Ab,Bb

C Locrian can be constructed as:

1b2b34b5b6b7 or C,Db,Eb,F,Gb,Ab,Bb

Notice that as you change from one adjacent mode to the next in the above list that only one note changes.

The next thing you need to do is to apply this information to the remaining 11 major scales and their respective modes.

TC-Helicon Voiceworks for Sax Sound Samples

I have received a number of requests asking me to post some sound samples of the TC-Helicon Voiceworks effects box. I am playing a tenor  tenor saxophone in all of the samples.

The first sample is bypassing the Voiceworks box and is the dry sample:


The second sample sample is the Voiceworks box with the reverb effect. Reverb time is 420ms and Feedback is 25%:


The third sample sample is the Voiceworks box with the reverb effect and Chrous. Reverb time is 420ms and Feedback is 25%, Chorus is -6dB.


The fourth sample sample is the Voiceworks box with one unison voice, reverb effect and Chrous. Reverb time is 420ms and Feedback is 25%, Chorus is -6dB, unison voice is -6dB.


The fifth sample sample is the Voiceworks box with one unison voice,one harmony voice ( above), reverb effect and Chrous. Reverb time is 420ms and Feedback is 20%, Chorus is -6dB, unison voice is -3dB, harmony voice -3dB.


The sixth sample sample is the Voiceworks box with one unison voice,two harmony voices( above), reverb effect and Chrous. Reverb time is 420ms and Feedback is 20%, Chorus is -6dB, unison voice is -3dB, first harmony voice -3dB, second harmony voice -6dB.


Improve your Sound with Audi-Graph-Part I

How often is a beginning musician asked to develop a quality sound?

A new software application has been developed by a NASA engineer and it is named Audi-Graph. It turns out that the notes on our instrument consist of a fundamental frequency and a number of harmonic frequencies. The timbre of a flute playing a particular note sounds different than a saxophone playing the same note. The harmonics are what make the instruments sound different.  If you compare a professional saxophonists sound to a beginner – you will notice a difference in sound quality. Once again the difference is the harmonics.  Prior to Audi-Graph the student would listen to a good professional sound and then try to emulate that sound. This is usually a process that is trial and error and can take many years.

Audi-Graph provides visual cue’s that can allow a student to make changes ( e.g. more pressure on the reed or opening up the throat ) and see how the changes compare to a professional’s harmonics.  Simply put – if you can match the harmonics  then you will have a professional sound. The Audi-Graph software includes an ever expanding library of classical and other musical styles artists that the student can use as a reference point and try to match harmonics.

After visiting the Audi-Graph website, I was so interested that I purchased the software. I am not a beginner but I see many potential applications that I will write about in future blog articles. In addition to greatly accelerating the time it takes to develop a professional sound, I see many other applications of this software for the developing and professional musicians.

Stay tuned for future articles.