The Musings Blog

Using Jazz Transcriptions as an Improvisation Language Primer

Photo is from Mr. Burnett’s In-Service Workshop Clinic at KMEA – Type the words “jazz transcriptions” into the Google search engine and it will return nearly 4 million hits in less than one second.

jazz transcriptions – Google Search

Why is it important to transcribe jazz solos?

There are several benefits to transcribing improvised jazz solos and studying those accurate transcriptions done by others as well.

Transcribing jazz solos by professional improvisers is similar to jazz as learning vocabulary lists is to reading and writing a spoken language.

There are so many choices on the Internet, where do I start?

Here is one of my favorite transcription websites and why:

Solo Transcriptions (Sax) – saxopedia
  • This site is a repository and lists 1780 solo transcriptions that are available somewhere on the Internet. The list also includes solos for flute, clarinet and EWI.
  • In addition to saxophone transcriptions it lists transcriptions for other instruments too.


Find transcriptions by instrument using the menu.

Some Suggestions …

Be methodical in studying transcriptions!
  1. Listen to the jazz master artist playing the solo.
  2. Use as a great resource for all of the jazz music you could listen to in a thousand lifetime – IT’S FREE and the owners of the music get paid a royalty when their music is played.
  3. Example, if you are studying a particular jazz solo transcription, find the artist on YouTube and study how that master is playing the solo.
  4. Play along with the artist. You may want to start with a slower tempo.
  5. Imitate that artist’s jazz style and musical interpretation to being with toward developing the skills toward your own artistry.
  6. If the recording is too fast, use a slow-down app to slow the music down.
  7. Among the most important things to get from studying transcriptions of jazz solos performed by professional improvisers are experiencing their excellent note choices, the great characteristic sound of their instruments, and the jazz style the player is using.

Recommended Listening …

Any of the players on these lists are worth your attention!