How to Solo on “Confirmation”: Guide Tones

In recent months I set myself to tackling a project that I had put off far, far too long: getting my arms around Bird changes. In one way or another, the Charlie Parker tune "Confirmation" has been a regular part of my practice sessions these days. Recently I finished transcribing a Richie Cole solo on "Confirmation," and of course that was enlightening. I'm currently in the process of memorizing both it and a Parker solo on the changes. It has all been profitable in unlocking the logical but nevertheless challenging harmonies. Developing a set of guide tones is immensely helpful in mastering Bird changes, particularly in the first four bars. The exercises on this page will help you do so. Click on the image to enlarge it. Note that the exercises are written for Eb instruments. If your instrument is pitched differently--eg. Bb tenor sax or C flute--you'll need to transpose accordingly. In exercises one and two, I've stripped the guide tones down to a whole note for every bar. You can modify them as you wish, but I find it helpful to start by keeping things as simple as possible. Exercises three and four take the form of boppish etudes that utilize the guide tones. I highly recommend that you practice these exercises with some form of harmonic accompaniment so you can hear how the pitches sound in context with the actual chord progression. That's it--gotta scoot. I hope you find these little nuggets profitable. If you enjoy them, you'll find plenty more on my jazz improv page.

Confirmation: A Richie Cole Alto Sax Solo Transcription

I am not the world's most accomplished jazz solo transcriber, but every time I tackle a project, I discover anew just how beneficial the discipline of transcribing jazz solos is. This latest transcription has kicked my butt. Richie Cole is--to put it in words you'll rarely hear from a sedate, late-middle-aged Germanic male--one bad mofo on the alto sax. He has carved his niche as a bastion of bebop, and as such, his language is largely accessible. However, Richie has a way of interpolating material that requires serious effort to figure out exactly what the heck he's doing.

So it is with his rendition here of the Charlie Parker standard "Confirmation." Some of Richie's rhythms and trills caused me to sweat blood for hours trying to at least approximate in a measure or two ideas that flew glibly from the man's horn in the matter of a second.

The solo is transcribed from Richie's 2007 CD The Man with the Horn. A quintessential bebop tune, "Confirmation" rips along at 246 beats per minute, providing Richie with a perfect vehicle to demonstrate his formidable chops and his broad bop vocabulary. Anyone who wants to gain mastery of Bird changes will profit from working on this one.

Note: I transcribed Richie's solo for Eb instruments, specifically the alto sax. I haven't attempted to show all of Richie's slurs and nuances, just a few that I felt needed to be indicated. To get a real feel for his articulation, you'll need to listen to the recording.