Chase Sanborn is an engaging modern jazz trumpet voice with a warm, inviting tone, fluid lyrical phrasing, and a style that always swings. He exhibits the cultivated sensibility of a player at the peak of his powers.
Music Business Tactics is an easy and enjoyable read that provides sound, practical advice. If you are an aspiring musician, or you know one, get this book! You need this information!
Chase Sanborn goes right to the heart and soul of the music. His performance was an inspiration to hundreds of festival participants, and his positive and upbeat outlook made a lasting impact on our students
Jazz Tactics presents the material in such a clear and simple way, with the vitality and spirit of a live teaching session. This method speaks to all musicians, regardless of age and previous experience.
Chase addresses the needs of developing musicians in a manner that is understandable and relevant. My students were thrilled to work with someone who understands their learning curve.
Tuning Tactics teaches you to listen. In just a short time, I've witnessed strong improvement in my students' awareness. Tuning Tactics makes good intonation attainable for all!
Chase Sanborn has a natural gift for engaging and involving an audience. He shares a wealth of honest and knowledgeable information about music and the music business.
Brass Tactics offeres authoritative instruction balanced with sage and homely advice. It shows you how to handle yourself in any professional or amateur situation. No trumpet player should be without this book!

The Four Ts

The jazz musician needs two basic abilities in order to improvise a solo:

  • She must be able to play what she hears.
  • She must be able to hear something worth playing.

Following the Four Ts will develop both your ability to play what you hear, and to hear something worth playing. Each day you should:

  • Learn music by ear (Transcribe)
  • Memorize Tunes
  • Transpose: develop your key fluency
  • Study musical Theory and harmony


Music should be learned by ear. Explaining to a student that a C7(b9) chord calls for a diminished scale is virtually useless until she not only recognizes the sound of that chord and scale, but has heard it used in context. Every day you should learn something by ear, simply trying to reproduce on your instrument what you hear. Even though the majority jazz musicians today have had the benefit of jazz education, most will tell you that they really learned to improvise by listening and copying, rather than by reading jazz improv texts or practicing scales and patterns.

Start with nursery rhymes or Happy Birthday, a melody that is already deeply ingrained in your mind. Pick a starting note, and sing the melody, then try to figure out the notes on your instrument. It doesn’t matter how many mistakes you make, as long as you eventually get it. Once you figure it out, pick another starting note and try it in another key, remembering to sing it first. (Brass players can buzz it on the mouthpiece.) Eventually you’ll get over your fear of playing without music in front of you. Next, try transcribing a simple jazz solo. Solo transcription is the most important part of learning to improvise. If you do nothing else but transcribe solos, you will learn to improvise. If you do everything else but do not transcribe, there is NO guarantee you will ever sound like anything other than a robot, spitting out scales and patterns but not making any real music.

Which solos should you transcribe? That is up to you. You will develop your own musical vocabulary based on the players you listen to. It behooves everybody, however, to spend some time studying players who speak the straight-ahead vocabulary of jazz, clearly delineating the chord changes. If you love late-60’s Miles, you must realize that he didn’t learn to play the way he did on ‘Bitches Brew’ without first knowing how to play on ‘Stella By Starlight’, and neither will you. Learn the basics of the language before veering off towards the outer fringes. Besides, there will be a lot more gigs playing ‘All The Things You Are’ than ‘Ascension’.

Initially, choose solos that are simple to hear and to play; it is important to be successful in your first attempts at transcription, not get bogged down trying to figure out a slew of 16th notes in the first bar. If you come to a section that is too difficult to hear, skip it and move on. A year from now you may find that you can hear it without difficulty. Chet Baker is my choice for initial attempts at transcription, since his solos are always melodic and lyrical. Some of Miles’ solos on ‘Kind of Blue’ are also good to start with.

Whether to write the solos down is a subject of some discussion. It is most important to get the solo into your head and then out your horn, but trying to notate what you hear is good for you. Also, you’ll have some record for posterity of all your hard work. Learn chunks of the solo (or the whole solo) by memory first, then write it down, rather than jotting down one note at a time. This forces you to learn phrases and improves your powers of memorization. Don’t fret about whether the solos are perfectly notated-the written transcription serves primarily to remind you of what you already have in your head.

Once you have transcribed the solo, play along with the recording many times, trying to match the soloist as closely as possible. In this way, you’ll get the feeling of playing a great solo, and will gain insight into the mind of a jazz soloist. Try ‘trading fours’ with the artist. Just think how much you’d learn by trading fours with Charlie Parker or Clifford Brown! You’ll have to ignore the fact that they play right through your fours.

By copying your musical heroes, you will learn from each one. Little by little, your style will emerge as a product of your influences. As Clark Terry so aptly said: Imitate, Assimilate, Innovate.


It is important to memorize tunes for two reasons. One, every jazz player needs to have a repertoire of tunes that she can play without resorting to a fake book. This shared repertoire allows a group of jazz players to get on the stand, call a tune, and start to play. This amazes people who do not understand jazz, that we can ‘spontaneously’ play music. It is because we have a common understanding of the framework of a tune, and how to create within that framework.

Two, the primary goal of a jazz improviser is to compose new melodies. To learn what makes a good melody, study songs that have stood the test of time (standards). When you learn a tune, learn the correct melody, preferably from several sources. Always try to have both a recording and a lead sheet for a tune that you are learning, comparing the way the melody was originally written with at least one player’s interpretation of it. It is best to learn tunes from vocalists, since their use of words promotes good phrasing. Besides, a melody is quicker to learn with words than without, and it will be easier to recall the melody if you can think of the words. You will always play a tune better if you know the words.


A jazz player must be comfortable in all keys, since any chord might occur at any time. For most players there are roughly 7 or 8 ‘easy’ key signatures, and 4 or 5 ‘hard’ keys. They are not really harder, just less familiar. To improve your key fluency, take a short phrase, lick or pattern through 12 keys every day. This may seem onerous at first, but you will get better at it quickly. Think of the melody as chord tones, this translates quickly into all keys. When you learn a tune, play the melody up and down a half-step from the original key. This ensures that you really know the tune, and forces you to deal with some of the less-familiar key signatures.


This is where aspiring jazz players often start out-learning about scales and chords. Frequently, it is where they give up, as the whole process seems just too complicated and academic. While it is crucial that a jazz musician understands music theory, it should be taught in a practical context, always associating a sound with the theory. Being told that the notes of a Cm9 chord are C-Eb-G-Bb-D is just rote memorization. Playing those notes on the horn while the piano plays the chord provides immediate gratification and an understanding of the sound, rather than the theory that explains the sound. For starters, concentrate on the following three scales and chords. They will get you through most standard tunes, and will help you play through the ubiquitous II-V-I progression.

  • Major scale / Major Seven Chords
  • Mixolydian scale / Dominant Seven chords (lower the 7th note in both scale and chord)
  • Dorian scale / Minor Seven chords (lower the 7th and 3rd notes in both scale and chord)

There is your strategy for learning to improvise. Follow the 4-T’s, listen to music every day, and take every opportunity to improvise.

Chase Sanborn

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