Feb 28 2016

~New CD Release “Soliloquy”~

Our newest CD, “Soliloquy“, features ten original compositions performed by a wonderful group of Kansas City musicians.  This ensemble has been together for just over 7 years now and out of about 60 songs in our repertoire, we picked twelve to record in the studio, ten of which make up this album. The video below contains some of the music from the recording and some photos of the group working together and the Band Camp link at the bottom of the blog post will allow you to take a listen for free.



I’m offering the album in mp3 or Wave format for any modest donation between 1$ and 100$ via PayPal, be sure to mention that it’s for the album “Soliloquy” and I’ll send you a link to the files by email or you can purchase the album at CD baby or iTunes.  There’s also a Band Camp link below so you can listen to the whole album for free if you’d like – Thank you for your support!

The ensemble features:

Matt Otto: Tenor Saxophone and compositions.

Gerald Dunn: Alto Sax

Jeff Harshbarger: Bass

Mike Warren: Drums

TJ Martley: Rhodes

Shay Estes: Vocals (1, 3, 5, 9)

Jeff Stocks: Guitar (3, 7, 9)

Molly McLaughlin: Flute (1, 2, 3, 5, 9)

The CD includes the 10 original compositions:

  1. Chibi
  2. Billie
  3. Brush Creek
  4. Soliloquy
  5. Ayler
  6. Wheel
  7. Shelter
  8. Elocution
  9. Lawrence
  10. Metaphor

Here’s some other relevant information about the album:

“Soliloquy” Jazz Collective Records (JCR)

Nate Espy: Recording Engineer

Nick Crane: Assistant Engineer

Matt Otto: Mixing, Mastering, Producer

Album Art: Jamie Rosenn


A Special thanks to Jennifer Cotter

and all the wonderful musicians, friends

and family who have supported my music

over the years.


This album is dedicated to:

Pamela Otto 5/15/1948 to 6/27/2015


Here’s a Band Camp link so you can listen to, and/or purchase the Album:

Feb 5 2015

New Drones – Arco Bass

I recently recorded new Drones with my good friend Jeff Harshbarger.  Jeff spent an afternoon over at my home studio and recorded all 12 drones with his beautiful acoustic bass and bow.

Jeff Harshbarger

Over the years, I have enjoyed using the Indian classical tambura or tampura drones and thought it would be nice to have some new Drones to practice with using a Bowed Acoustic Bass (arco).

I really enjoy these new drones as the sound of the acoustic bass is both familiar and central to jazz and other forms of western music.

Drones are great for both teaching and practice.  You can use them for ear training, to play scales, chords, melodies, songs, intervals, free improvisation or anything you can think of.

Below is a free drone track (Concert C) you can practice with to get an idea as to how rich and full they sound.  You can support the blog by purchasing the Acoustic Arco Bass Drones below:
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The mp3’s are “zipped” in a RAR file – Once you download them use winrar or 7zip to open the file on PC or RAR Extractor for Mac.

Thanks for your support!


Nov 28 2014

~ Drum and Bass Play Along Dominant 7th Chords

This play along covers Dominant 7th chords in all 12 keys.  I’ve been enjoying using these tracks in both my personal practice and teaching for a while.

The  bass and drums swing at 120bpm in 4/4 time while a dominant 7th shell voicing (root, 3rd, b7th) drones in the background.

This type of play along has been done before, but the use of the live bass and drums combined with a drone of the Dominant 7 shell voicing (root, 3rd, b7) makes it really easy to hear the Dominant 7th sound.

Also, since the tracks have  minimal rhythmic comping from a chordal instrument I find these play alongs less distracting when working on ear training or a specific phrase, scale or melodic idea.

Since each track is only a shell voicing plus bass and drums, you can play any type of dominant 7th chord or chord scale when practicing.

Dominant 7th play along


For example, you can put on the C7 play along (below) and improvise using C7 mixolydian, lydian dominant, altered, b9 – b13, H.W. diminished, whole tone, or any other dominant 7 chord scale, or just play free over the dominant 7th sound.

Each track plays for 5 minutes, and you can pick just the dominant 7th shell drone (root, 3rd and b7th) or the Drum and Bass plus dominant 7th shell drone (24 tracks in all).

You can download the mp3s from CD baby here or find them on any of the common online mp3 distributors.

Below is and sample C7 track you can play along to:



~ Enjoy!

Sep 13 2014

Modern Jazz Vocab. Vol. 3


Improvising over the minor ii-7, V7, i chord progression can be challenging for both the beginning and advanced jazz musician. Modern Jazz Vocabulary Vol.3  contains over 1600 Bars of minor ii-7, V7, i- melodies, licks and patterns in all 12 keys. The material is designed to help one develop an aural, technical and theoretical understanding of this common chord progression in each key. The lines use a variety of rhythmic groupings, chord substitutions, triads, triad pairs, chromatics, approach notes, tensions, chord tones, non chord tones, scales,  and both “inside” and “outside” concepts, all with an emphasis on melody.  You can click the cover art to buy the book from LULU press.  Thanks for your support!     Modern Jazz Vocab. Vol. 3   Work on the content as you like. You can focus on one bar or one short melody at a time or just play through the material. I recommend using a metronome and learning to sing the individual ideas that you find most interesting and compelling. ~Enjoy! Matt Otto


Modern Jazz Vocabulary Vol.3 ~minor ii-V-i~ PDF:

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Jan 4 2014

~Play Along CD in 7/4

~Buy the 7/4 Play Along CD ~

This is Vol.2 of the Drum and Bass, Roots and Rhythm “play along” which is designed for both practicing and teaching.  Vol. 1 has been well received and I thought one in 7/4 would be a nice addition.  I’ve been using Drones and Pedals along with a metronome for years but now I’ve started using these play along’s for the same basic purposes. The bass player Jeff Harshbarger plays one note (root) for the duration of each exercise while Brian Steever keeps time on the drums. This allows you to practice anything you’d like over the root; a harmony, singing, visualizing, scales, tunes, lines, melodies, or free improvisation. I’ve been using these tracks for a while now,  and I find them much more stimulating and inspiring than using a drone alone.Drum and Bass Roots and Rhythm Vol

Volume 2 is all in 7/4 at tempos 80, 120 and 200 bpm and includes roots in every key. There are 29 tracks in both straight and swing feels and also a few tracks of drums alone from 120 to 240 bpm.  I’ve included a sample track below that you can try out. You can click on the photo to purchase the mp3s from CD baby or send me a modest Donation with a message and I’ll email you a link directly.


Here’s a free track you can try out;  Swing at 120 Bpm in 7 over a B pedal:


~Click Here To Make A Donation. Thank You!~!

~Purchase my book: Modern Jazz Vocabulary Vol. 2~

~Buy The Bass and Drums Play Along CD in 4/4~

Jun 26 2012

Broken Waltz ~ 4 Stars in Downbeat!

I’m  happy to announce that the new CD “Broken Waltz” is finished!  In an effort to make the music affordable for anyone and everyone,  I’m offering both the CD and all the sheet music for a modest donation of ANY amount – 1$ to 100$.  This includes both 10 mp3s (flac or mp3) and the corresponding 10 Concert pitch lead sheets (in PDF format).


~Donate with the link below and I’ll send you the recording and sheet music ASAP! ~Thanks for your support! 🙂

 Downbeat Magazine has given the Album 4 stars: here’s the link: Downbeat Review.


~Click Here To Make A Donation for Broken Waltz. Thank You~!


The download links to a RAR file of the recording and the sheet music.

You can open the RAR file with WINRAR or 7zip – both free to use.

You can also click here to buy the recording from CD Baby at the regular price.


This new CD features:

Leonard Thompson on Rhodes

Jason Harnell on Drums

David J. Carpenter on Bass

Brian Walsh on Bass Clarinet

Matt Otto on Tenor/sop sax/compositions

Sara Gazarek on Vocals


The recording includes 10 original songs of mine, many with a folk like quality, reflecting my early musical influences growing up listening to my parents music;  Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, James Taylor, Phil Ochs, Simon and Garfunkel, Cat Stevens, Woody Guthrie and the like.  I’m very happy with how the project turned out.

Produced by David J. Carpenter and Matt Otto

Engineered and Recorded by David J. Carpenter

Mixed by Matt Otto and David J. Carpenter

Mastered by Rob Beaton

Cover art by Jamie Rosenn


Kenny Brooks transcribed my solo on “What Democracy” from this album:

Solo on What Democracy “2000” PDF

What Democracy “2000” Solo mp3


Sep 11 2016

Protected: KU Day of Improv Auditions

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May 11 2016

Skype Lessons

Having taught hundreds of Skype lessons over the last ten years, I’ve come to believe that Skype is a great way to both teach and learn from the comfort of your own home. Although I’m teaching full time at KU and gigging at night I still make time for many Skype students weekly.  I charge  25$ for a 30 minute lesson (50 for an hour), and interested people who are at at an intermediate or advanced level can email me to set up a lesson at: ottojazz@gmail.com.Matt Otto Skype picture

During a Skype lesson I will listen to you play/improvise for a duration and determine a course of study based on what I hear.

Some of my common teaching methods include:

  • Singing and visualizing melodies and harmonies over drones.
  • Playing ideas through keys.
  • Memorizing tunes and chord progressions by ear.
  • Displacing melodies rhythmically.
  • Working with a metronome with both hand drums and instruments.
  • Singing and playing scales, ideas, melodies, voicings, arpeggios, and solos.
  • Transcribing, singing, memorizing and playing solos through keys.
  • Diatonic harmony – sub-dominants and modulation .
  • Analysis of standard progressions and songs.
  • Chord-scale theory.
  • Synthetic scale analysis and application for both improvisation and composition.
  • Long tones, Over tones, Diaphragmatic Breathing.
  • Establishing an effective daily routine.
  • Writing contra-facts and solo etudes.
  • Composition.
  • Interval recognition.
  • Harmonic recognition.
  • Singing and playing over progressions and songs.
  • Learning to play by ear.
  • Working on rhythmic feel.
  • Developing a vocabulary.
  • Working towards performance and recording.
  • Dealing with and working with RSI and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

I’m also willing to work on specific personal goals that an individual may have.

I’m happy to work with people who play any instrument.


Matt Otto



“Over a short summer Mr. Otto helped me develop an effective holistic practice routine that works for me. Through the use of clear and thorough methods of organizing melodic and harmonic material, application of the material over standards used in the performing world everyday, and different methods to engage with subdivision and rhythmic accuracy including hand drumming. His cohesive and luculent teaching style has changed the way I approach my instrument, practice routine, and music in general. Making my former methods of practicing akin to mere noodling. I hold his instruction in high regard and recommend it to any musician regardless of instrument.”

~Ian Rhodes – Guitar, Kansas City, Missouri


“As a musician, Matt plays at a very high level. I’ve taken lessons with monster players in the past, and Matt is the best teacher I’ve had, at that level of playing. Learning the jazz language is so incredibly daunting, and in the past I’ve felt overwhelmed to the point of feeling like I should give up. What I like most about my lessons with Matt are that his assignments are doable. I am able to reach a basic level of ability on his assignments, and this makes me feel good and want to go on. Matt’s approach to music and teaching is clear, organized, and the result of much careful consideration. I am looking forward to going deeper into the music with Matt’s guidance.

~ Doug Nguyen – Tenor Sax, Portland, OR



“Taking lessons with Matt Otto has been invaluable in my development as a musician. His approach has connected my ear to the music, helping me find my own voice. From the very beginning, he was able to pinpoint my strengths and weaknesses, and implement strategies to help me improve. He has constantly pushed me to learn and improve, while staying positive and encouraging. The utilization technology with the use of Skype for lessons has been great for me. Whenever I’m not in Kansas City but still want to work on something I can reach Matt. The use of Skype has never diminished the quality of the lessons, each lesson being just as enriching as lessons in person. He is so invested in each of his students, going out of his way to create time so he his able to meet with all them. It’s been fun to see myself grow from lesson to lesson.  I would recommend taking lessons with Matt Otto to anyone ready to take the next step in their musical development. Matt is personable, generous, and will curtail every lesson to fit each individual’s needs. His insight and dedication to his students sets him apart as a great teacher. As you work with Matt, you will gain a better understanding of jazz improvisation and become a more mature musician.  I owe so much of my musical growth to Matt Otto – I can’t thank him enough.”

~ Samuel Riley – Alto Sax, Columbia, Missouri


“It is very rare to find in one person such a deep knowledge of music and discipline together with respect and  patience.  Matt is an awesome teacher and Musician, you can hear yourself achieving new useful skills for improvising and for music in general, from lesson to lesson.  He has been a true inspiration for me as he is a very disciplined and gifted musician who has not forgotten what the process of learning is, that is why he is so respectful and encouraging.  These five words: “Remember to Listen and Relax” that he keeps reminding me about all the time, have been to me, together with all his musical suggestions, more important than everything else in my musical journey. I would recommend Matt to anyone who wants to improve his/her music knowledge, both beginners and advanced.”

~ Giuseppe “Joe” Murgia – Alto Sax,  Italy/England


“Matt is an awesome teacher.  He has helped me improve every aspect of my playing.  I’ve studied with many other teachers, but he has given me a wealth of new practice ideas that will serve me for years.  He’s also patient and a pleasure to interact with.”

~ Chuck Hersch – Tenor Sax,  Shaker Heights, OH


“Matt Otto is an exceptional educator who is in possession of a quality rarely found in teaching. Often times excellent players struggle with the ability to empower their students with the tools necessary to play and improvise. Students are given recipes, but are not really taught how to cook.
Matt gives you the recipes and then shows you how to and where to use them to create meaningful music.  Of all the professions invented by humankind, education is by far the most noble. Matt Otto is one Great and Noble Educator.”

~ Timothy Corpus – Tenor Sax, Seattle Washington


“Matt Otto is an incredibly gifted teacher. I consider myself so fortunate to be able to study and work with him and I couldn’t recommend him highly enough. His calm demeanor and thorough approach create an atmosphere thats comfortable and conducive to healthy growth and learning. Matt is a great listener, as you all must know having heard him play, he gives me space to express my interests and goals and then guides and informs me how best to actualize them, with resounding success. Though I have only studied with him for six months, applying his methodology has transformed my approach to my instrument and music, and reaffirmed my identity as musical creator. ”

~Vangel Athanas – Alto Sax, Charlotte, NC.


“For me, Matt is one of the top jazz saxophonist all over the world, but, beyond that, he has the rare ability to really understand the process of learning the jazz idiom and he is able to show you, clearly, how to do it for yourself. He is the best teacher that i’ve ever met and i can not recommend Matt’s teaching skills enough. Book him right now and he’ll take you to the next level in music!”

~ Xose Miguelez – tenor saxophone, Gz, Spain

“Matt Otto is a gifted teacher and a warm-hearted person. I’ve been fortunate enough to study with him and have applied his
teachings to many facets of music-making, from sound production and ear training to improv and composition. I can’t recommend him
highly enough. He’s approachable, friendly, and has a casual way of making difficult concepts easy. His methods and philosophy
are geared toward developing the whole musician and guiding the student in finding their musical “voice”, which has been a joy
to experience first-hand! He’s been a great mentor and I would recommend him to any musician interested in improving the quality
of their playing in a way that is true to the self.”

~Peter Gilli – tenor sax, Rhode Island

I have been studying with Matt for over six months now. With his guidance, I’ve been able to move past several musical obstacles allowing me to set new goals as an artist and saxophonist. The bar has been raised, so to speak. His teaching effortlessly encourages growth within the idiom of jazz improvisation, while still maintaining clear awareness of the student as an artist in their own right. Simply put, my lessons with Matt have allowed me to deepen my relationship with music directly.

~Jason Moore – tenor sax, North Carolina www.jasonjmoore.com


“I studied with Matt Otto from 2000 to 2006 and during that time, Matt was a true mentor. In those years of study, I developed an understanding of elemental aspects of sound, rhythm, and musicality that I felt ownership of. Matt stressed the importance of developing a personal and instinctive command of the instrument, and I credit his teaching style for enabling me to mature from student to artist. Beyond teaching, Matt produced and engineered a recording of mine, which helped me win a competitive artist’s grant from UC Berkeley — the funding from this grant payed for my travels and first year expenses moving from California to New York City where I live today. Learning from Matt and being influenced by him has been a great gift that continues to be a part of who I am both musically and personally.”

~Kenneth Auyeung – Alto Sax, Brooklyn, NYC.


“Studying with Matt is the best. He really taught me how to sing through my instrument, which completely transformed my approach to music.”

~Ryan Seward – Guitar, Los Angeles, CA.


“After years of going around in circles in my practice, lessons with Matt finally got me to break through the blocks and rise above the plateaus. His positive, encouraging approach to ear training and teaching jazz improvisation have given me the tools and confidence necessary for any measure of success I’ve reached. In short, Matt has basically taught me everything I know.”

~ Josh Welchez – Trumpet, Los Angeles, CA.

“I have only two regrets about taking lessons with Matt Otto. 1. That when my friends recommended I take lessons with Matt, I had done it sooner and 2. That I didn’t take more advantage of him when he lived in town. Matt is easily the best teacher I’ve ever had regardless of instrument. I’ve never seen anyone with a more clear approach and was so quickly able to get to the my weaknesses. Another one of Matt’s strengths was giving you a way to work on those issues that were really easy to implement. I don’t think I could have asked for more from a teacher.  With Matt’s help I was able to accepted to the Master’s degree program at Cal Arts for Jazz Studies, a feat which I never could have done without his guidance. For that I’ll always be indebted to him.” (and Sallie Mae).

~ Scott Cummings – Drums, Los Angeles, CA.

“I recently started playing saxophone again after a 10 year break. However I was dissatisfied, as many of the issues that bothered me about my playing years ago, where still present such as: solo’s that lacked thematic direction and did not ‘tell a story’, an over-reliance on ‘hot licks’ and a disconnect between my fingers and ears’ . I decided I needed to get some help If I was going to make any progress. After reading Matt’s blog and hearing him play I started taking lesson’s earlier this year and it has led to massive changes in my approach to improvisation and level of musicality. Here are some of the things we worked on: Slow motion improvisation and using thematic development. Learning tunes inside out by singing the melody and bass, voice leading, shell & drop 2 voicing’s. Technical problems with air support and tonguing. The modes and chords of the Harmonic and Melodic minor scales. Getting a stronger time feel by using the metronome on the offbeat’s and singing along with Bird solo’s. Transcribing what I sing in order to strengthen the connection from ear to instrument. With Matt’s help I finally feel that I am starting to ‘Play what I hear and sing thru the horn’ and I am very happy that I chose Matt for Skype lessons as he is a fantastic teacher, musician and a genuinely nice guy.”

~Robert Gillespi – tenor sax , Edinburgh, Scotland


I had the honor of taking lessons with Matt Otto for an extended period of time beginning in 2008. In addition to being one of my favorite musicians on the planet, Matt is among greatest teachers I have ever had. His approach to learning is focused on the student developing his/her own unique individual voice. He made me aware of how to be honest in my playing. Many of the exercises we did involved singing over a drone (Example: Charlie Parker head). Often I would sing over the drone and transcribe what I sang. This opened up my ear immensely and is one of the best ear training concepts I have learned. I began realizing that the instrument is just an extension of my voice and we worked towards bringing out what I really hearing. Matt knows the balance of being positive and encouraging, yet challenging and demanding. I always left our lessons motivated and excited. Matt is a treasure to the jazz community.

~ Dr. Brandon Bernstein – Guitar, Los Angeles, CA.


“Matt Otto has been an incredible mentor and teacher who’s passion for the music and articulate way of teaching has not only changed the way I play, but also the way I listen and experience music as well.”

~Blake Deibal – Tenor Sax, Kansas City, MO.


“I have studied with Matt Otto and utilized the resources of his music blog for several years. In my case, as with his other students, he carefully analyzed my level of playing and developed an action plan for improving both my technical skill and my understanding of jazz improvisation and underlying harmonic structure. In addition to his vast knowledge of music and technical expertise, Matt has a very generous spirit that inspires his students to put in the work necessary to reach their individual goals. For players of all levels who wish to improve their jazz improvisation skills, I highly recommend studying with Matt.”

~Frank Martinez – Tenor Saxophone, Pico Rivera, CA.


“Matt Otto played a huge role in helping me understand and feel comfortable with jazz harmony and improvisation. He broke things down in a way that made sense to me as a singer and a musician. I’m grateful to have had him as a teacher!”

~Sara Gazarek – Vocalist, Los Angeles, CA.


“I was drawn to Matt as a teacher because of my love for his music. I sought him out, hopeful that his teaching would match the depth of his music. I was not disappointed. My lessons with Matt have been musically transformational. In my experience, he is a rare breed. His ability to get right at the heart of a musician’s strengths and weaknesses is truly amazing. He was able to quickly match up my goals with a plan to overcome my weaknesses, in some cases using ‘outside the box’ methods to deal with my stubbornness. He is an incredibly patient and generous person which translates into how he deals with his students. You could not ask for a better mentor on your musical journey.”

~Jeff Stocks – Guitar, Kansas City, MO.


“Studying with Matt has been a truly eye opening experience for me. Within minutes of our first lesson, he recognized the holes in my playing and set out a concrete plan on addressing them; the time I have spent studying with him has been the most rewarding and fruitful of my learning career. The lessons posted on his blog have given me enough material for me to work on for years to come. I cannot recommend Matt’s teaching abilities enough! Not to mention, he’s a pretty cool guy.”

~Miles Freeman – Tenor Saxophone, Los Angeles, CA.

Feb 27 2016

~Lesson 100: Triads

A continual study of triads helps to build an ever strengthening grasp of the underlying structure of both melody and harmony.  Using this simple approach will help you explore all the types and inversions of triads as well as the 6 ways in which you order the notes.


There are 4 basic triad types.

  1. Major (1-3-5 or C-E-G)
  2. Minor (1-b3-5 or C-Eb-G)
  3. Diminished (1-b3-b5 or C-Eb-Gb)
  4. Augmented (1-3-#5 or C-E-G#)

Beyond that any group of 3 notes could arguably be called at “triad”. We’ll just be looking at the basic 4 types.

Next, there are 3 basic inversions.

  1. Root Position (The note C or the Root is in the lowest Voice 1-3-5 or C-E-G)
  2. 1st Inversion (The note E or the 3rd is in the lowest Voice 3-5-1 or E-G-C)
  3. 2nd Inversion (The note G or the 5th is in the lowest Voice 5-1-3 or G-C-E)

Last there are 6 orders of notes.  This is often the part that is overlooked in triad study. (6 note orders for each of the 3 inversions – a total of 18 melodic structures for each triad type).

  1. 1-3-5
  2. 1-5-3
  3. 3-1-5
  4. 3-5-1
  5. 5-1-3
  6. 5-3-1


Here is the PDF the clearly outlines the concept of Triad Type, Inversion Type and Order of Notes all in C:

Triad PDF

Use the mp3 below to sing along, play along or visualize along with. It is based on the Triad PDF above.



Remember to work on this concept in all 12 keys.  Coming up with a daily routine that includes some triad work will help you expand on your basic musical knowledge.

Alternatively, use drones to create different harmonic contexts for your triad practice. You can play over a root, 3rd or 5th from the triad or and other chromatic note to hear how the triad can be used over different bass notes creating different harmonic implications.

Use a piano to generate a pedal or drone or purchase the bass drones here.
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