TC-Helicon Voiceworks and Saxophone

I recently acquired a TC-Helicon Voiceworks box and even though it is advertised as a vocal harmonizer – I wanted to experiment with it and the saxophone.

I am a full time computer programmer and a part-time professional musician. The first thing that struck me was that the user interface is not very user friendly. I suspect that since the Voiceworks box has so many features – it is extremely difficult to make the user interface easy to learn and use. I next visited the TC-Helicon website and looked for free downloads. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that TC-Helicon provides an editor for the Voiceworks box that runs on PC or Mac. A Midi IN and Midi Out interface is required to interface from a PC to the Voiceworks box. The editor software is easy to use and quick to learn.

Here is the first screen shot of the editor:


Here is a second screen shot:


Here is a third screen shot:


The Voiceworks box has a a long list of tweaks you can make. After much experimentation and using the box on a few gigs here is how I setup the box. I use a wireless microphone. The output of the microphone is input into the Voiceworks box. At the gig I run a midi cable from the voiceworks box to the keyboard so the box can harmonize the note I am playing with the real-time chords that are played on the keyboard. I used the Voiceworks software on my PC to copy the first five presets on the box and I next totally changed the presets to what I wanted. Three of the presets are used to harmonize the saxophone and the other two presets were just using the top notch effects that are built into the box. I did learn not to use the pitch correction feature with the saxophone because it did not work on the saxophone. Here are the setting I used in my presets:

Paul Unison – Chorus -6dB, lowered unison voice to -6dB, Reverb Time 420 ms, Feedback 20%

Paul 1Un1Up – Unison voice -3dB, 1st harmony voice -3dB, Chorus -6dB, Reverb Time 420 ms, Feedback 20%

Paul 1Un2Up – Unison voice -6dB, 1st harmony voice -3dB, 2nd Harmony voice Chorus -6dB, Reverb Time 420 ms, Feedback 20%

I added 2 more effects only presets that are setup as follows:

Paul FX –  Reverb Time 420 ms, Feedback 25%

Paul FX+C –  Reverb Time 420 ms, Feedback 25%, also has Chorus set at -3dB

The street price for the Voiceworks box is about $500. I ordered a 3 button footswitch for $50.

I am very pleased with the Voiceworks box and how it works on sax. I am playing a tenor saxophone.

If you are considering a new effects box for sax you may want to consider this one with the added harmony capabilities.

Are you using a TC-Helicon box with saxophone? If yes, what is your experience and how have you setup your box?

Missy and Andrew’s Wedding Reception

The jazz trio will be performing at the wedding reception for Missy and Andrew from 6-9PM.

Making a Sax Mouthpiece Stand

A good friend of mine in Houston Texas just posted a “how to” article on constructing a nice mouthpiece stand. Many of us have collected a number of different mouthpieces over the years – it is nice to be able to see all of them rather than keeping them packed away. Its also convenient to try some of your old friends!

Don Kelly Mouthpiece Stand Article

3-5-7-9 Arpeggio Exercise-all 12 keys

I wanted to include backing tracks for a very useful 3-5-7-9 arpeggio exercise that appears in Bert Ligon’s “Comprehensive Technique for Jazz Musicians” book. If you don’t already have a copy of Bert’s books you should invest in them. They contain a wealth of practical information to improve your jazz chops.

The exercise is 2.20 on page 43 of this book. Due to copyright restrictions I am not able to include the chart. I have included backing tracks in all keys. The tracks are in concert key.

In the key of F the progression is:

|Gm7|C7|Fmaj7|Bbmaj7|Em7b5|A7|Dm|D7| and repeats

The point of the exercise is to start on the third of each chord. Octave displacement is used in every other measure of the arpeggio on the second note. The seventh resolves into the third of the successive chord by a step.

3-5-7-9 Arpeggio Exercise in the Key of C follows:

3-5-7-9 Arpeggio Exercise in the Key of Dflat follows:

3-5-7-9 Arpeggio Exercise in the Key of D follows:

3-5-7-9 Arpeggio Exercise in the Key of Eb follows:

3-5-7-9 Arpeggio Exercise in the Key of E follows:

3-5-7-9 Arpeggio Exercise in the Key of F follows:

3-5-7-9 Arpeggio Exercise in the Key of Fsharp follows:

3-5-7-9 Arpeggio Exercise in the Key of G follows:

3-5-7-9 Arpeggio Exercise in the Key of Aflat follows:

3-5-7-9 Arpeggio Exercise in the Key of A follows:

3-5-7-9 Arpeggio Exercise in the Key of Bflat follows:

3-5-7-9 Arpeggio Exercise in the Key of B follows:

Sharps and Flats Brain Crutch

Wouldn’t it be nice to have something that is easy to remember that tells us the order of sharps or flats in a certain key?

If you answered yes then read on.

I learned the following from bass man Rob Jewett. For sharps use the phrase “Five Cowboys Got Drunk At Ed’s Bar” ( what do you expect I live in Texas ). The first letter of each word indicates the order that sharps are added from left to right e.g. F,C,G,D,A,E,B.

You can use the word “BEAD” and the acronym “GCF” ( greatest common factor ) to remember the order of flats from left to right e.g. B,E,A,D,G,C,F.

Do you have a different brain crutch that you use to remember the order of sharps or flats?

Have fun with your new found brain crutch!

Diminished Chord Shortcut

Do you know the notes in all of your diminished chords? If not – here is a shortcut method that works provided that you know all chord tones in your dominant 7th chords.

Here is an example:

What are the chord tones in an F# diminished 7th? The shortcut is to use the root of the diminished chord with the 3,5 and b7 from the dominant 7th chord a half step below. So we would combine the A,C and Eb from the F7 with the root of the diminished chord.

The notes in the F# diminished 7th chord are F#,A,C,Eb.

Hope this helps!

Review of “Amazing Phrasing” by various authors

I purchased my copy of Amazing Phrases by Dennis Taylor about a month ago and wanted to take time to write a review.

The book is published by Hal Leonard and includes a CD. I purchased the version for tenor sax but the book also exists for also sax, trumpet, keyboard and guitar.  The book includes 50 ways to improve your improvisation skills with a focus on phrasing. The contents of the books can apply to just about any instrument.

The author breaks phrasing down into three components: Harmony, Melody and Rhythm. Due to the wealth of material covered in the book – some of the topics are covered in a couple of pages whereas in other books entire chapters or even entire books have been written about the topic. For example the Bebop Mixolydian scale is introduced in a couple of pages and Steve Neff has written a book entitled “Mastering the Dominant Bebop Scale” that is 191 pages. David Baker has written an entire book series on “How To Play Bebop”. You may be thinking that I am slamming the author for his short treatment of many topics but I’m not. I really like how the author introduces the improvisor in a condensed form to so many fascinating and practical ways to approach improv.  Once you are exposed to the concepts and the good examples you can then dig deeper using some of the other jazz resources I have written about and or to use the backing tracks on this site.

I recommend that you purchase this book.

For Tenor Sax

For Alto Sax

For Guitar

For Trumpet

For Keyboard

Check Out Eric Daniel’s “Jesus Said” YouTube Video

Sorry for the slowdown in my posts for the last couple of months of last year. I would like to wish everyone a prosperous and happy new year!

My first post of the year is to share a really cool video of saxman Eric Daniel and Friends performing a song named “Jesus Said”

I meet Eric Daniel on Twitter last year and started following his tweets ( ). Eric is a wonderful player who likes to “give back”. Last year I reviewed his book “The Saxophone Survival Kit”. This book contains a wealth of practical knowledge from the school of hard knocks!

The song “Jesus Said” is from Erics “Old Sax Nu Soul”. You can purchase at: Purchase Old Sax Nu Soul

Please visit the Eric Daniel website.

I hope you enjoy the following video as much as I have:

Austin Wedding Day Open House

The trio performs from 6-9PM for the Austin Wedding Day open house. The open house is hosted by Villa St. Clair.

Review of “Triad Pairs for Jazz” By Gary Campbell

According to the author Gary Campbell “The focus of this book is on mastering the manipulation of triad pairs while presenting a general guide to determining chord applications”.

Before I read this book I read Walt Wieskopfs Intervalic Improvisation book. I’m glad I read Intervalic Improvisation first because the explanation of how triad pairs are derived and applied seemed to be more detailed. The author recommends his book “Connecting Jazz Theory” for an in-depth study of applications.

This book has a wealth of exercises using three and four note triad pairs. The exercises are designed to show how the triad pairs can be mixed up to provide additional interest and variety. The author has sections in the book that provide examples of how triad pairs can be linked together. Also included is the use of “Approach Tone Variations” ( e.g. using the lower neighbor tones), Triad pair mutation ( e.g. two notes from one triad and four notes from another triad ). The book ends with several example solos that are based upon using triad pairs.

If you are interested in studying triad pars in jazz improvisation – this book is for you.

You can purchase the book from the following:

You can purchase the Connecting Jazz Theory book from the following:

You can purchase Expansions from the following: