#47 Learn To Play Little Donkey (Brazilian-Stylee) On Sax

beginner christmas Dec 08, 2019

In this free video lesson, for absolute beginners on ANY saxophone, you'll learn how to play the classic Christmas song, Little Donkey, but I've put together a Jobim-Getz style Brazilian Bossa Nova backing track for you play along to, with full fingerings, note names and music for Eb and Bb saxes.
You can find my Complete Beginner's Series here for all beginner lessons, plus the full Christmas Sax Playlist here.
There's also a free PDF with the sheet music written out for alto AND tenor sax.
Here are the Q&A topics covered in this lesson, with video time stamps (min:sec). Clicking on the time stamp will take you straight to that portion of the video on youtube (in a separate tab). Full Time stamps for the video and a complete transcript are at the bottom of the blog.
Is it easy to play Little Donkey on sax? (0:13)
  • yes, it's pretty easy to play Little Donkey on sax. Not as easy as Jingle Bells, but still quite manageable for beginners on sax
  • if you're playing tenor and you're a beginner you can take the whole thing down the octave to make it a bit easier
  • the notes are nice and long and slow, but the bossa backing track makes it sound great!
Can I play Little Donkey on any sax?
What are the sax notes for Little Donkey?
There are only 4 phrases to learn (an * means second octave, so use the octave key)
  • phrase 1 for ALTO (0:31) B B D*__B C C E*__C B B D*__B A
  • phrase 2 for ALTO (1:11) B B D*__B C C E*__C D* D* F#*__D* G*
  • phrase 3 for ALTO (1:50) G*__F#* E* F#* D* B E*_F#* E* D* E*_F#* E* D*
  • phrase 4 for ALTO (2:48) G* G* F#*__D* F#* F#* E*__C E* E* D*__A* G*__
  • phrase 1 for TENOR (0:31) E* E* G*__E* F* F* A*__F* E* E* G*__E* D*
  • phrase 2 for TENOR (1:11) E* E* G*__E* F* F* A*__F* G* G* B*__G* C*
  • phrase 3 for TENOR (1:50) C*__B* A* B* G* E* A*_B* A* G* A*_B* A* G*
  • phrase 4 for TENOR (2:48) C* C* B*__G* B* B* A*__F* A* A* G*__D** C*__
What is the song structure of Little Donkey? The song form? The sections? (3:32)
  • Little Donkey has an A-A-B-A form with an extra coda section at the end
  • because the beat is quite fast each section has 16 bars
  • the "A" sections use phrase 1 (0:31) then phrase 2 (1:11)
  • the "B" section uses phrase 3 (1:50), repeated
  • the coda "C" section uses phrase 4 (2:48)
Is there a backing track for Little Donkey I can use? (6:33)
So I hope you enjoy learning and performing Little Donkey (re-imagined) and I'll see you next week for a great jazz waltz version of Silent Night. Jamie :-)
Video Time Stamps

0:00 - teaser performance

0:12 - brief intro

0:31 - phrase 1 (slow with fingerings)

0:54 - phrase 1 (faster with note names)

1:10 - phrase 2 (slow with fingerings)

1:32 - phrase 2 (faster with note names)

1:50 - phrase 3 (slow with fingerings)

2:18 - phrase 3 (faster with note names)

2:48 - phrase 4 (slow with fingerings)

3:12 - phrase 4 (faster with note names)

3:31 - song structure

4:25 - backing track with me playing

6:33 - now it's your turn


8:57 - sign off

9:16 - outro music and cards


Video Transcript
Welcome back everybody, season's greetings to you all. I'm going to teach you how to play Little Donkey but we are gonna do it in a funky bossa nova style.

There’s only actually four separate phrases to learn for this song because of the way the phrases repeat, so that's good news. So let's start off and we’re gonna learn phrase one, and we're gonna play it nice and slowly…

Now here's that first phrase played a bit faster…

Now here's the second phrase played slowly…

And now that second phrase played faster…

Now the third phrase we're gonna learn is the phrase that happens in the B section, in the bridge, and here it is played slowly…

Now here's that third phrase, played faster…

Now all we do to play the complete bridge is, we repeat that third phrase and that gives us all the A sections and the B section, so the last thing to learn is the final phrase at the end of the coda section, and here it is played slowly…

Now here's that final phrase, that final coda, played faster…

Great job! So now all we have to do is puzzle piece together all those different phrases and sections to make the whole song. So we're going to play phrase one, phrase two - that makes up the first A section, then we repeat that - phrase one, phrase two - that's the second A section. 

For the B section, for the bridge, we play phrase three then we repeat it, then for the final A section its phrase 1 and phrase 2 again. And then to finish it off we're going to play the fourth phrase, the coda section.

So that is the map of the whole song. Now when you put it together with a backing track it should sound like this. Due to logistical problems I recorded this on tenor, however, I've only got my alto with me at this moment, so here it is all put together with me playing it, then after this you're gonna get a chance to play it yourself with the backing track.

Now remember you've also got that introduction section where you don't play, okay? So listen out for that. Fantastic! Now it's over to you. So have some fun, play along with the backing track and remember you've gotta wait for the introduction before you come in. Here it is, enjoy yourself!

That's it for this festive Christmasy week learning how to play Little Donkey, beginner's version, with the awesome bossa nova backing track. As always if you enjoy the channel please do subscribe, click the bell to be notified when I upload new videos, go and checkout my Instagram feed and I'll see you next week for another festive classic. See you there!

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