Beginner Jazz Improvisation; How to use scales in your solos

In celebration of Jazz Appreciation Month, here are 3 videos to jumpstart your Beginner Jazz Improvisation skills.

Beginner Jazz Improvisation; Where to begin

In this video from a recent Facebook Live session, I answered a great question on beginner jazz improvisation if you have no experience soloing. Honestly, these tips are for everyone who wants to improve their improvisation.

Some key points:

  1. Listen, listen, listen! And not passive listening, but active listening. Listen to the person's tone, phrasing, articulation, dynamics, choice of notes, how the notes sound with the chords in the rhythm section, how the solo reflects the time period for the tune, etc.
  2. Jazz is about being in the moment – quote from Herbie Hancock.
  3. We all improvise everyday when we have conversations with each other. You had to develop a vocabulary to do that; same in music.
  4. You can create a solo using only 3 pitches. (Watch the video for that demonstration!)
  5. If you know 1 major scale, you know 7 scales (really modes).
  6. You do need to know a little music theory.
  7. Don't just start on a Blues scale to improvise!
  8. Your tone is super important! (Find out more about my course, Killer Saxophone Tone here)



How to Use Blues and Pentatonic Scales in Jazz Improvisation

In the following video from a recent Facebook Live session, I answered questions about:

  • Getting away from just playing the notes in a Blues scales when improvising
  • How to construct a Blues scale, and how it's related to a minor Pentatonic scale
  • How to make Pentatonic scales sound interesting
  • How to construct a minor Pentatonic scale

How to play the Blues

In this video, I go over the process to approach the Blues. Hint…it's not just playing the Blues scales up and down.

A Final Note

It can be incredibly overwhelming trying to figure out the right steps to learn how to improvise.

And if you randomly search on the internet for the latest, greatest, coolest licks, you may get frustrated because they won't make sense to you nor will they “stick.”

But, if you know what your Improvisation Type or Stage is, you will have a clearer direction and focus, and will make faster progress.

Want to know your Improvisation Type?

I’ve got a Free Quiz that can identify the stage you’re in right now and help you get unstuck with your improvisation.

You will also get your next best step for improvisation free video lesson.

Just click HERE , take the short Quiz and get your free video lesson with your next best step for improvisation, no matter what genre you play. 



  1. Johnny Paulick says

    Translated from Google Translator from Danish.
    Will ask you to be aware of getting mic. Closer to yourself and not the Saxophone. We can easily hear that anyway ..! Also be aware not to film into a window but away from the window so it’s you who get the light in. I’m a Beginner for the second time. The first time was for about 28.year ago. And have just picked it up again. I am very happy to explain your educational way of explaining things, even though I do not understand all the terms and can see your finger on your scissors. Sign up for your newsletter and your Facebook and hope to learn a lot of your posts in the future.

    Do you have places on your site where I can print the different Scales so I can learn it right.!

  2. Donna,

    I’m a professioanl saxophoinst and have been playing for over twenty five years, I have a number of jazz standards under my belt (My One And Only Love, Footprints, Now’s The Time, Tune-Up, So What, All Blues, Doxy, St. Thomas, Perdido, Take The A Train, C Jam Blues, In a Sentimental Mood, Work Song, Summertime, My Favorite Things, Giant Steps, Impressions, Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye, Over the Rainbow, A Night In Tunisia, Well You Needn’t, Round Midnight, The Shadow Of Your
    Smile and Body and Soul). I have learned to play them from memory and have also memorized the chord changes and solos. I have been very blessed with having a wife who understands what it takes to become a good musician and the financial obligations involved. As I mentioned, my wife plays the upright bass. She has been playing for twenty years and she is the bassist in my trio in Albany, NY. I just moved to NYC for Acting, Modeling, Voice Overs and Playing Bebop Jazz but my solo’s need work . I’m looking forward to getting started with your course on soloing.

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