I'm trying to play the sax solo part (with trumpet) on 'Hey Laura'- Gregory Porter (my own improvising), and I'm not sure exactly how the piano's supposed to back me. I think the chords are D, f#m, bm, but not sure on the rhythm/timing of the chord changes.

This is my first shot at improvising - any tips on improvising would be appreciated. The way I'm going to approach it is just play the notes that I already know are within the chords/key, and go with what sounds right. I play trumpet.

5 Answers 5


I tell my students to improve their improv skills by playing along with the radio on whatever station they like best. They tend to know the songs on rotation and thus where the notes are going. Most importantly, you listen to what you love so you FEEL the music which is the foundation of all improvisation.


Listen to a couple of different interpretations of the song, while you are looking at the fake book style notation of the tune. That will give you a feel for what the piano will do, and when the chords change, and what the groove of the tune is.

Try improvising with your voice in the shower. There you can be uninhibited and experiment to your heart's content.

When you've got some sequences of notes that you like, see what they sound like on your trumpet.

You'll need a recording of the accompaniment of the tune you're working on. You could ask the keyboard player who'll be accompanying you to record it, or you could try plunking something out on a piano yourself.


You could just improvise using the D major Scale which is also the B minor scale.

Notes are: D E F# G A B C#

The chords you mentions are in that scale.

It may be worthwhile starting out to play the corresponding pentatonic scale on each chord.

When the piano player plays a D chord, try D Major pentatonic: D E F# A B

When the Piano player plays an F# minor chord try F# Minor pentatonic: F# A B C# E

When the Piano player plays a B minor chord try B Minor pentatonic: B D E F# A B

Playing the notes of the chords like you mentioned is a great tool and you should definitely practice doing so.

If you just stick with D major scale, you should be fine.


The best place for a person to start learning a solo is the pentatonic scale (or the equivalent blues scale which is the same plus an added note). The reason is because these five notes work over almost every chord change that is in the key, and is a simpler scale that lets you learn how to focus on phrasing. You'd be suprised how many solos in every genre of music are using only a single pentatonic scale. Since your song is in the key of D major, the pentatonic scale to use is: D E F# A B and the blues scale to use is: D E F F# A B


Well you just gotta watch your balance and try and land with the drum. If your drummer gives you an 8-bar grow-then-crash or 16-bar whisk it can shift how you'll rise and fall. Land with the drum and just watch your balance, your piano person can accompany lightly but your interest should be whatever is driving the tempo and tapping together.

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