Playing Jazz by Ear

“I’ve always loved jazz. I played the piano for about 3-4 years
when I was about 9 to 12 or 13. I learned music casually from a
good teacher and then gave up when I changed teachers and found
it hard to do exams, etc. This year, I picked up the saxophone
(In January) and I’ve learned a lot since then. I’ve learned that
the sax is very easy to play and my fingers have really caught
on. I play completely by ear because my sight-reading is very
rusty and I find it hard to concentrate on a piece with all the
time signatures and keys and everything. I know most of my scales
and can improvise quite well too. My knowledge in music is not
all ship-shape … but I’m learning slowly … I’ve never studied
music in school; only in private but that was very basic. My
question is about performance. I really would like to perform (on
a small cafe-club scale); what are the possibilities of me being
a potential “performer” with very bad sight-reading skills and
lack of musical knowledge?”

Thank you for your question. I am sorry to have made you wait so
long for a response. I’ve been away.

Your question is really quite easy to answer: the sky is the
limit, there is no end to your possibilities, especially on “a
small cafe-club scale” without the ability to sight-read or
musical knowledge.

The question is, how much ability have you to play? I would like
to hear you play. The question would be answered within a few
notes of your playing. That is always so wonderful about hearing
anyone playing anything on our instrument. It is like a
signature, a personality picture, a sketch of one’s abilities,
and of one’s potential, full potential. That is what the years
and years of listening to students has given me, or anyone with
that kind of experience.

It is NOT something that is recommended however, because these
people whom I mention are enormously gifted people, people with
perhaps the talent of a Mozart, or similar. These people of whom
I speak are not common in our world, both the world of yesterday
or tomorrow. The chances that perhaps you are one are quite

However … you may be.

I would suggest that you play it very very safely and learn all
there is to know about your chosen instrument and the music you
love. You can only benefit from that advice. If you are a very
gifted, talented person, you will only be better for your
acquired knowledge and technic. If you are just an everyday kind
of person, you can still “make it”; however without reading,
musical fundamentals, or a real technic on your instrument, you
stand as much chance as there is of winning the lottery. If you
are a Mozart … well, then you have won the lotto! But you
probably knew that already. If you don’t know it, and you don’t
because you would not have asked, get to work!!. You are very
young, plenty of time, which is on your side. Don’t wait until it
is too late. Good luck!!!


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