San Diego Saxophone Lessons

San Diego Saxophone Lessons
presented in conjunction with

Monday, August 3, 2015

Francis Parker Jazz Workshop week two

I had a great time (along with my teaching-partner pianist Danny Green) working with the kids during the High School week of the 2015 Francis Parker Jazz Workshop. In our group we covered tunes by Brad Mehldau, Dexter Gordon, and trumpeter Joe Gordon.

Here are a few pictures from throughout the week:

 Bassist Rob Thorsen before clinic performance

Quiz time

Vocal coach Leonard Patton in action

Richard Sellers during clinic performance

Jazz vocal ensemble performing for the workshop

 Final concert on the big stage at House of Blues, downtown San Diego

I'm looking forward to next year! If you are a student interested in signing up, please check the Francis Parker School website.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Jazz Workshop week one concert

We had a great time last week with the kids at the Francis Parker School/House of Blues/Jazz 88.3 Summer Jazz Workshop. It was middle school week and some of the students are just starting 5th grade in the fall. One saxophonist was 10!

At the end of the week all the kids get to perform on the big stage at the House of Blues in downtown SD. They run the entire show themselves, including counting off tunes, announcing the band, etc. Pretty impressive for 10-13 year olds.  Songs included Unit 7 by Sam Jones, Coltrane's Mr. PC, Ray Bryant's Chicken An' Dumplings, and more.

Here are a few pictures from the concert:

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Francis Parker Jazz Workshop - Day 2

We've made it through two whole days of the 2015 Francis Parker Summer Jazz Workshop! It's a great group of kids this year and they are exploring a lot of new territory. So far we've gotten deep into some tunes by John Coltrane, Kenny Dorham, Cannonball Adderley and more.

The saxophones were put on the spot a pop-quiz which involved identifying classic bebop alto players. 

Tomorrow it will be out of the frying pan and into the fire when the John Coltrane Ensemble will perform a tune at the end of the day!

Here are a few pictures (and more to come):

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Saxophone fingering diagrams

I know I am a total nerd, but I'm really excited about this fingering diagram builder I found on Bret Pimentel's site:

Fingering Diagram Builder

It supports most woodwinds (including saxophone, of course) and is loaded with functionality.

Here's a high G# and a high F (double-F) fingering just for fun! Notice the fingering diagram includes all the keys on the horn.

G# (best for tenor)

F (alto or tenor)

2015 Francis Parker Jazz Workshop

The 2015 Francis Parker School/House of Blues/Jazz 88.3 Summer Jazz Workshop (whew, that's a mouthful) starts today! Good luck on the auditions.

The students will showcase their skills on Saturday morning at the House of Blues for the final concert. Stay tuned for more details!

Monday, June 1, 2015

Summer update

I've been MIA from the blogosphere for a bit! Sorry about that...

Here are two things I'm excited about:

#1 - This very well produced Army Field Band video featuring incredibly rare saxophones:

#2 - I'll be teaching again this year at the Francis Parker Summer Jazz Workshop. Open to all middle and high school musicians. Check it out:

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Saxophone "Bb" fingerings and using the "bis" key

This post is geared toward beginners, but there is useful information here for all saxophonists.

When fingering the note "Bb" on the saxophone, we have a few different options:


The first fingering I teach saxophonists is "side Bb", which is fingered just like the note "A" while simultaneously adding the first side key with the right hand (see below):

side Bb

This is a great fingering, especially for fast chromatic passages where you might go from "Bb/A#" to "B" or "A" very quickly. It is also a good trill fingering when trilling up from "A". Many saxophonist who started on clarinet tend to favor "side Bb" as this fingering translates to the clarinet (similar to "Bb" in the upper register).


Another much less used option is what I'll call the dreaded "1+1 Bb":

1+1 Bb

This is fingered by closing the first finger in each hand, aka 1+1. I do not favor this fingering on saxophone because it shuts a long row of pads in the middle of the stack, which can flatten the pitch and muffle the tone of "Bb".  This means the color of your "Bb" might not match the adjacent notes. However, it is useful in a few situations. If you have a fast arpeggio or passage where you must go from "F" to "Bb", it can come in handy. However, even in these situations I'll most often use the "bis Bb" fingering.

Unfortunately, this "1+1 Bb" seems to be the fingering that band directors teach. This is very frustrating, as it's the least-used fingering among professionals. I can't imagine how much time has been wasted un-learning this fingering.

The "1+1 Bb" fingering can be modified to be "1+2" (using the second finger in the right hand instead of the first). This option might get you out of a jam in certain very specific situations where you'd be going from "Gb" to "Bb", or their enharmonic equivalents.


"Bis Bb" (rhymes with "this") is executed by holding down the "B" key and the very small "bis" key at the same time with only your first finger.

Bis Bb

Because you are only using your pointer, mentally this fingering is similar to "B natural". The difference is that your finger is positioned slightly to the south. This makes "bis" a very easy fingering to get to on the horn. I've also seen many jazz (and classical) players slide on and off of the "bis" key very quickly to execute grace notes or chromatic passages.

Among pros, I tend to see players using "bis Bb" the vast majority of the time.

See educator Greg Fishman's great YouTube video demonstrating his "Bis" technique: