Apr 15 2014

~ Lesson 82: Maj7 #5 Pentatonic

In lesson 82 we will look at an easy 5 note (pentatonic) scale that works well when improvising over a Major 7 #5 chord.  This chord can be challenging when you’re starting out and this group of 5 notes are fairly easy to hear and play.  We will look at this pentatonic scale, one intervalic melody derived from the scale, and improvising using the scale over a bass and drums play along.maj #5 only.mus

This pentatonic scale is made up of the fallowing notes over C Major7 #5 (1,2,3,#5,7,1) C, D, E, G#, B, C.

One interesting fact about this group of 5 notes is that all are common to 3 differnet scales that are often used when improvising over a Major 7 #5 chord.

C lydian augmented (3rd mode of A melodic minor) C, D, E, F#, G#, A, B, C

C harmonic major (major scale with a b13 or b6 degree) C, D, E , F, G, Ab, B , C

C Maj#5, 13 natural 11 (3rd mode of A harmonic minor) C, D, E, F, G#, A, B, C

The PDF below outlines the scale and the intervalic melody in every key.  The video will demonstrate its use and give you some space to improvise using it.

~ Enjoy!


Lesson 82: Maj7 #5 Pentatonic PDF


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Apr 15 2014

Ad Free! No more ads.


I’ve used google ads (adsense) on both my youtube channel and my blog for several years now and I’ve brought in some decent money doing it, but I’ve decided to go ad free.  Altough I understand that ads help a lot of bloggers maintain their sites, I’m hoping to get the support to continue the blog just from donations, CD’s, books, Skype lessons etc.



Mar 11 2014

~Lesson 81: Well You Needn’t

Here’s a one chorus solo I played over the chord changes to “Well You Needn’t” by Thelonious Monk for the “Jam Of The Week” facebook group, which I thought might make a nice etude.  monk-theloniousA video of the orginal solo and a PDF of the transcription are below. I also included a PDF with the chord changes I like to use for Well You Needn’t t which closely follow Monk’s orginal version.  You may notice the use of a Cycle Wheel melody (lesson 75) in Bar 8 of the solo, and triad pairs a tri-tone apart (lesson 59) in Bar 24 of the solo.

~ Enjoy!

Well You Needn’t PDF solo Bb

Well You Needn’t PDF solo C

Well You Needn’t PDF solo Eb

Well You Needn’t PDF Chords


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

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

~Buy The Bass and Drums Play Along CD~



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

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

~Buy The Bass and Drums Play Along CD~

Jan 8 2014

Lesson 80 -Triplets in 4′s

Improvising using odd rhythmic groupings or accent patterns while not getting turned around (loosing the harmonic rhythm) has always been something I enjoy working on and I’ve found that many of my students share this experience.  This is a simple hand drumming exercise that has helped me to begin to hear and incorporate triplets grouped in 4′s into my improvising and composing without getting lost in the form when I hear it “organically” or deliberatley try to apply it.  By tapping on a table, drum or your legs you can effectavly work out a lot of rhythmic ideas and concepts which, by simply learning to hear and feel them first,  become much easier to apply on your instrument.triplet

In this lesson we start by becoming confortable tapping triplets (grouped in a normal 3) with our hands just accenting the 1st triplet of each beat while counting outloud in 4/4.  After this becomes easier, we shift the accent pattern to the 2nd triplet of each beat (still grouped in a normal 3), and lastly we accent the 3rd triplet of each beat.  Once this is faily easy to do while counting outloud, “1, 2, 3, 4″ we begin to accent every 4th triplet while counting outloud in 4/4.

Accenting every 4th triplet and counting outloud in 4/4 is much harder, especially for non-drummer, and it may take daily work for sometime do be able to do well, I’m certainly still working on it but it’s become easier as time goes on.  The counting out loud part is the hardest part of the equation, but the most valuable in that it will give you the mental clarity needed to keep the form (harmonic rhthym) while you improvise with the groupings.   A similar yet vastly more complex piano exercise (Polymetric Ostinatos) can be found on Leonard Thompsons website.

Below is a PDF and video so you can look at the exercise and see it practiced.

~ Enjoy!

Lesson 80: 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~

Mar 7 2012

Book – Lessons 1 to 22

I’ve put together mattotto.org blog lessons 1 through 22 in a 60 page, 8.5 by 11, spiral bound book for easy reference. 

I did omit the Long Tone and Drone exercises since they don’t include written material, but I’ve expanded the Rhythm Changes etude to include all 12 keys and added a major scale study as well.

Here’ a link to purchace the book:

Book: Lessons 1 to 22

Here’s a link to the PDF only: for $4.99

Book: PDF

This book includes my blog posts on studies in…


  1. Spread Triads
  2. Fourths
  3. Rhythm Changes
  4. 13th Chord Arpeggios
  5. Major 7 #5 Chords over Dominant 7ths
  6. ii-V-I using triads
  7. Voicing Based Melody
  8. Whole Tone Melody
  9. Spread Triads Embellished
  10. Lydian Melody in 5ths.
  11. Diminished Melody
  12. Intervalic Melody
  13. Major 7 with #9 and #11
  14. ii-V-i using Chromatic Scales


…and more. Each study is written in all 12 keys.


Mar 6 2012

Skype Lessons

Having taught hundreds of Skype lessons over the last four years, I’ve come to believe that Skype is a great way to both teach and learn from the comfort of your own home. I still charge only 50$ for one a one hour lesson, 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.
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


“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 stubborness. 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.

Apr 13 2014

Protected: 5.a. Autumn Leaves

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Mar 22 2014

Protected: 4.a. ii-7 – V7 – Imaj7

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