Fred Lipsius

  • Career Highlights
    • Original saxophonist and arranger with Blood, Sweat, and Tears
    • Author of The Complete Book on Creative Improvisation, Blues and Rhythm Changes, Improvising Jazz Lines, Two-Five Jazz Lines, and Reading Key Jazz Rhythms
    • Produced, wrote the tunes and arrangements, and featured on alto saxophone on the CDs Dreaming of Your Love and Better Believe It
  • Awards
    • Recipient of Grammy Award for arrangement of "Spinning Wheel" with Blood, Sweat, and Tears
    • Recipient of nine gold records
  • Education
    • Alumnus, Berklee College of Music

In Their Own Words

"I teach private instruction for saxophone, focusing on getting a good sound, reading, and improvisation. Sometimes a lesson turns out to be more like a counseling session. Students are always going  through stress, family problems, anxiety, etc. So we just talk. . . . I try to be a good listener. One problem some individuals have is how to use their time wisely in order to accomplish their goals/dreams. A suggestion I've given is to write down on a piece of paper a plan for the week, month, or semester. I think this is very helpful for kids who are scattered or lack discipline. I tell them that I have to make choices every day, too. It's all about priorities in one's life and making good choices."

"Another class that I teach is Elements of Jazz Piano. It's for classical students who want to learn jazz. Most of them have had little or no experience playing this type of music. For the most part, it's a bit scary for them, because they're used to reading someone else's music, usually composed by the classical masters. In my class, students learn how to improvise and comp (play chordal/rhythmic accompaniment), preparing them for playing in ensembles. More than any class that I've taught, I see good, quick results; class members are able to improvise a little bit by the end of the semester. And they gain some confidence about their own creativity!"

"For the most part, I was a slow arranger. That is, until I began teaching at Berklee and wrote arrangements for the Ensemble Department as part of my service to the college. As I wrote more and more charts, I became faster at it and gained confidence. This happened because I didn't put pressure on myself, like I sometimes did when writing charts for Blood, Sweat & Tears. At that time, I was one of two arrangers for the group. I'd sit at the piano in my house in Mill Valley, California and start thinking, 'A million people are going to hear the next Lipsius arrangement.' That made me self-conscious. When you worry or think too much about the outcome, it blocks the creative flow within."

"I won a Grammy Award for 'Spinning Wheel.' It was the first pop arrangement I wrote on my own. I did it in one afternoon! It just happened. The arrangement was simple-not overdone with too many horn licks. Maybe that's why it was successful. It was something that people could easily relate to. Communicating is an important part of who I am."