Just a little bit of background first
I’ve been a great fan of Smooth Jazz ever since I discovered it back in the 80’s as a young kid. That’s when my brother brought home a cassette tape with Kenny G and I was instantly hooked. The flawless technique and amazing speed just blew me away and I knew that I just had to learn how to play in the smooth jazz style.
Now, countless practice hours and late night sessions later, I can say that I’ve got a pretty clear idea of how to play smooth Jazz sax.
Don’t get me wrong, the education never stops and there are always new things to learn and to improve for all musicians.
However, it’s great feeling having a solid foundation and being able to play fairly freely in a genre that you love.
How to get started playing smooth jazz sax anyway?
A big part of building your sound on the saxophone is figuring out how you want to sound. In order to work out how you want to sound you need to listen to and reference other players. That’s the first step – listen, listen and listen.
There are many great musicians in the smooth jazz genre and my suggestion would be that you listen to sax players like Dave Koz, Warren Hill, Kenny G, and Michael Lington….. a lot!
The principal is similar to learning a language really.
The more you listen to and mimic, the closer you’ll get to mastering the “melody” and “phrasing” of the language.
So, that’s definitely your starting point. However, to make things a little bit more concrete I’d like to take it a step further and suggest that you choose one song with your favorite sax player and try to copy the way he/she plays the melody.
Now, I mentioned a cassette tape with Kenny G music in the beginning of this post. I actually wore that tape out(!), no kidding, and I had to go out and buy another one. THAT’s how much I listened to that tape.
These days, you can access pretty much every artist and song that you can come to think of and I’ve actually included a playlist from Spotify, that you can use as a starting point.
I’m a big fan of the 80’s sound so I decided to add some early Kenny G on there which you may not have heard. The song “Come close” was actually one of the first songs I learned in the Smooth jazz genre.
The genre has developed a lot since then but I still really dig that some what corny tune. I’ve even included a couple of my own tracks, so that you can hear what I sound like. No further comparison with the other Sax players mentioned though.