Sax Powerhouse Tim Lin Teaches Melodic Shapes for the Modern Improvisor

Introduction

I recently had the chance to speak with San Francisco Bay Area sax pro, Tim Lin, and he was nice enough to share some examples of melodic shapes, which I believe could benefit any player, whether they are beginning or advanced. My hope is that the exercises included in this article will be a welcome addition to your practice routine, especially if you’ve found yourself focusing a bit more on practice, perhaps due to additional free time at home as we go through this challenging time, weathering a pandemic that has the music world grinding to a halt.

These examples I am sharing are from Tim’s book Melodic Shapes For The Modern Improviser – exercises which I hope you can take advantage of and incorporate into your practice routine. If you have not yet checked Tim out, below are some details to get you up to speed.

Bio

  • Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area
  • Tim is a Taiwanese American jazz talent whose progressive sound comes from his appreciation of the bebop jazz tradition
  • Junior year in high school, Tim was mentored by Bay Area saxophonist and educator Dann Zinn
  • Attended the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music, Tim received a scholarship to study with the world-renowned jazz recording artists Bob Sheppard & Bob Mintzer
  • Tim has performed as both a leader and sideman with jazz luminaries such as Kenny Burrell, Tootie Heath, Russell Ferrante, Terri Lyne Carrington, Carl Allen, Mike Clark, Essiet Okon Essiet, Joe Gilman, and many others
  • Tim was the first runner up for the International Taichung Saxophone Competition behind Tivon Penicott.
  • Tim currently resides in the San Francisco Bay Area with his family. He is an active jazz artist and freelance musician, educator, author, and composer.
  • Tim is currently preparing to release his debut album in the upcoming future.

How To Practice These Examples:

  1. Play slowly and learn the shape or “lick” in an easy key (such as C). Once learned, play this shape in all 12 keys. For advanced players, try to transpose each shape by ear instead of reading off the page.
  2. Insert this shape into a common 12 bar blues progression (remember to play it slowly!)
  3. Insert this shape into a common jazz standard. Leverage this shape to create tension and release within the harmony.
  4. Move away from these lines and play your own ideas

I will be providing one shape or “lick” from each section of Tim’s book which is broken up into 6 sections

Example #1: Two Bar II-V-I in Major Key

Overview: Here is a simple two bar II-V-I that leverages chromaticism.

Click here to download the PDF for Exercise 1

 

Example #2: Four Bar II-V-I in Major Key

Overview: This four bar II-V-I showcases the altered notes that are high-lighted in red on the V chord being the b9, #9, and b13.

Click here to download the PDF for Exercise 2

 

Example #3: Two Bar II-V-I in Minor Key

Overview: This two bar minor II-V-I highlights the b9 (noted in red) on the V chord.

Click here to download the PDF for Exercise 3

Example #4: Four Bar II-V-I in Minor Key

Overview: This four bar minor II-V-I showcases the altered notes that are high-lighted in red on the V chord being the b9, #9, and b13.

Click here to download the PDF for Exercise 4

Example #5: Two Bar Diminished in Major Key

Overview: This two bar diminished phrase showcases the diminished scale leveraging triplets and resolving on the 3rd of the I chord.

Click here to download the PDF for Exercise 5

 

Example #6: Four Bar Diminished in Major Key

Overview: This four bar diminished phrase showcases the diminished scale descending and resolving on the 5th of the I chord.

Click here to download the PDF for Exercise 6

Final Thoughts

I would like to thank Tim for sharing these melodic shapes which can be found and much more in Tim’s book Melodic Shapes For The Modern Improviser . Like any book or material, I highly recommend playing through these exercises slowly, which I believe will help you further absorb this material with the ultimate goal of creating your own lines and phrases.

If you currently have been working through Tim’s book, please share your thoughts (would be curious to know which was your favorite exercise in the book!).

If you are interested in checking out more melodic shapes from Tim’s book, please check out his website where you can use the code BESTSAX to receive 20% off your purchase (physical or e-book).

Click here to visit Tim’s Website