When the Saints – Traditional Dixieland Jazz lesson and backing track


When the Saints Go Marching In (110bpm, Concert Bb)

When the Saints Go Marching In fpr Bb instruments (Trumpet etc)
When the Saints Go Marching In chords for Concert Pitch instruments (Trombone etc)


Here are the notes we’ll use to start with:

saints chords
When the Saints chords and inversions

Step by Step practice

Using the concept of “Mental Boxes” as described by Marquis Hill. We start by improvising with certain rules or restrictions to master a certain concept (rather than just freely improvising). Sometimes without these “Mental Boxes”, we can end up just going back to the same phrases we’re already comfortable with rather than gaining fluency in other choices. Later on, you remove the boxes and just create music with no rules, but your subconscious brain will be more free to be creative if you’ve built up the foundations first.

  1. Start with 1 3 5 and come up with a 2 bar rhythm.
    1. Play the set rhythm with the backing, changing to match the chords (use the inversions mentioned above)
    2. Improvise rising phrases – Keep it simple and make sure you keep the note order, but make some rhythms up.
  2. Try descending order (5 3 1 on the first chord)
    1. Play a new set rhythm
    2. Improvise in descending order
  3. Mid-High-Low (3 5 1 on the first chord)
    1. Make up a new set phrase and get used to it with the backing
    2. Improvise in that order (mid-high-low)
  4. You could try the other 3 possible orderings 1 5 3, 5 1 3, 3 1 5, but you might be ready for step 5
  5. Add chord tones in other octaves above and/or below and get used to soloing with 1 3 5 in any range on your instrument and try to make sure you’re not always starting on the root note (1) for each chord. Try to use “voice leading” such as moving from the root of the first chord to the 3rd of the next chord which is a semitone away in the example of C to G7 or Bb to F7.
  6. Once you’re getting the hang of this it’s time to introduce the 6th of each chord (maybe I should make a picture for this… try and figure it out for each chord as the 6th is just a tone higher than the 5th. Get really comfortable using 5 6 and 8 (the high root note i.e. 1)
  7. Time to bring in a note that approaches the third of the chord from a semi-tone below. In the case of the major and dominant chords this approach note will be the #2 from the scale (Or you can think b3)… but for the minor chord in bar 12 you will approach the minor 3rd of that chord with a 2 (e.g. for the F minor chord you’ll aproach the Ab from a G natural, or if you have an Eb minor you’ll approach the Gb from an F natural).
    1. Get comfy doing patterns that use #2 3 then down to 1.
    2. Then try a few that go #2 3 up to 5.
    3. Then make use of those 4 notes i.e. 1 #2 3 5…
    4. Add in the 6 and the root note above (the 8 or high 1)
    5. Start to use those 5 different notes in all octaves 1 #2 3 5 6
  8. Now start to consider the 7th of the dominant chords. Especially in bar 10 when the chord moves from a regular major chord to a dominant there is a good “guide tone line” descending from bar 9 highlighting Root, 7th, 3rd, minor 3rd, 5th, 7th, 3rd, 5th and then you’ll reach the root for the next chorus.
  9. Then it’s time to learn a few more phrases such as triplets chromatically between 3 and 5 (and back down if you like)
  10. Another cool phrase is b3 3 4 #4 5. That is all the notes chromatically between the flat 3rd and the 5th. Works well as quavers starting on the beat or as a syncopated pattern. I like to add a bit of a growl sometimes as this is a bluesy sounding phrase… Try it with a ghosted 1 on beat 4&, leading into the b3 3 4 #4 5 phrase and then you can do something bluey like b3 1
  11. This brings us to the “Blues Scale” which is 1 b3 4 #4 5 b7. This scale can get boring if it’s used all the time, but you can try switching between our previous note choices of 1 #2 3 5 6 following the chords and then switch over to the blues scale in the key of the tune (Concert Bb) – don’t worry about following the chords at all when you switch to the Blues Scale – just use the blues scale from the key area at this point. Notice that the blues scale doesn’t have many happy sounds so when you switch back to one of the Happy sounding notes such as the major 3 or 6 using our other approach it’s a great contrast to the dark funky sounds of the blues scale and keeps things interesting as you’ll have light and shade in your solo.

Time to play it in the key of Concert F if you’re pretty comfortable in Concert Bb

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