IFR blog > Student questions > How to pick up tunes and improvise confidently

How to pick up tunes and improvise confidently

Hi David,

I have been playing the saxophone for 20 years. I am mostly self-taught. I did about 2 years of jazz studies but I don't think I was musically ready to grasp what I was taught. I have problems remembering tunes and I want to feel more confident improvising. I really want to train my ears so I can just pick up a tune instantly and play. What do you think, David?


David's response:

Hi Vai,

I understand exactly how you feel. Almost every jazz student tries to take on too much information at once. The reason why it's hard to learn and remember new songs is that you haven't had a chance to learn the basic building blocks from which all of these songs are made. Just think about trying to memorize a paragraph in your own language, and compare that to trying to memorize a whole paragraph in Chinese. If you understand the individual words, it's a lot easier to remember the whole story.

The path we lay out in IFR is to take one harmonic situation at a time and give you the opportunity to truly understand this material and find your own creative voice before moving on. This changes your experience completely because each harmonic situation gets added to your own personal repertoire, and you can play with complete confidence right from the beginning because at each step you get to really master the sounds before moving on to something else. (For more on why we believe in this approach, here's a more complete explanation.)

So my advice would be to start with the IFR E-book Package and get to know these raw materials that I'm talking about. Once you've progressed through the IFR Jam Tracks series a bit, you'll be ready for the IFR Standards Workouts and you'll be picking up jazz tunes very easily because now you understand the raw material from which these songs are made.

I think you'll have no trouble picking up tunes and improvising confidently if you just take things in the right order. IFR will lead you through the complete path, from improvising over your very first chord progressions all the way up to the jazz standards that you want to play. So my advice is to take the time to get to know these essential sounds that make up the music you want to play, and just enjoy the journey!