Sax Man Bobby Stern Offers Up a Non-Standard Approach to Technique and Ear Training

slick-licks-that-stick-bobby-sternBobby Stern Bio

Bobby Stern got his professional start in music playing at various US military clubs, and then went on to tour Spain with the Thad Jones Septet. After attending the Berklee College of Music, Bobby played with a wide variety of groups in addition to playing with guitarist Joe Perry of Aerosmith. Bobby was awarded the National Endowment for the Arts study grant to study saxophone and jazz improvisation with jazz master David Liebman. After Bobby studied with Liebman, he was a guest teacher for two semesters at Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany, teaching saxophone, improvisation & ensemble.

The Book

Slick Licks that Stick, Bobby Stern’s new 100% digital book in PDF format (you need to read it off of a computer or iPad screen, or print it out yourself) contains 177 pages and is full of various exercises that will help you develop your technique as well as ear training. There are 10 chapters in this book, in which Bobby covers such topics as the pentatonic scale, augmented scale, “Coltrane changes”, triad pairs, chromatic exercises, intervallic ii-V7, melodic minor bebop scales, melodic minor 4th stacks, melodic minor polymodal ii-V7s, and finally, his melodic minor etudes.

What I enjoyed about this book was that every exercise besides the melodic minor etudes was notated in all 12 keys. Having the exercises in all 12 keys really helped me get them under my fingers and helped me figure out which keys I had to put more time into. Since working through the book, I have seen an improvement in my technique in terms of playing consistently throughout each exercise, as well as training my ear to the various chord sounds. I’ve found it very helpful to understand how these exercises could come into use when playing over jazz standards.

Overall thoughts

Like many of the jazz saxophone books I have reviewed, this book is not one that you can rush through, because if you do, you won’t gain the full benefit of what this book has to offer. I felt that Bobby’s exercises were useful in developing my technique as well as getting my ears accustomed to various chord sounds. I am still working through the book and trying to incorporate these lessons into my musical vocabulary, so there is plenty to keep you busy here.

The only change I’d recommend be made to this book is that each chapter would include an introduction which would give some more background on how the exercises could be applied over specific, namely, common, chord progressions. I believe this would solidify what each exercise will help you do. That said, the etudes were great because Bobby labeled what scale was used for each chord, but if these tunes were based on jazz standard chord progressions, I believe they would have been even more helpful in seeing how these exercises can be applied.

If you have any questions in regards to Slick Licks That Stick, or would like to leave your own impression of the book, please do leave a comment below.

You can check out some free sample exercises and pick up a copy for yourself here: