How to Play Tenor Madness

Tenor Madness is a tune written by the great Sonny Rollins premiered on his 1956 album by the same name released by Prestige records and featuring John Coltrane also on tenor sax.

This website his several resources for you on how to play this tune.

First and foremost, I encourage you to learn the melody from the recording. You can use a real book, but sometimes the chords are wrong, so I advise to use the recording first.

Once you’ve learned the melody and play along, I would advise you to start learning the chords.

After learning the chords, I would advise to learn the two note voicings for piano proficiency and for use as guidetones. I would also recommend practicing a bass line, which you can play while others are soloing if you are in an educational setting.

Once you have internalized the chords and you can play the bass line, practice the two note voicings on the piano with the recording. Listen to the pianists comping for ideas about rhythm.

Hope this is helpful!

Tenor Madness Chords

Below you will find a chord chart for Tenor Madness written by Sonny Rollins.

Scroll down until you see your part. You can print the page you need, or use the Download button below to download the PDF to your computer.

Below is the original recording of this blues by Sonny Rollins.

Tenor Madness 2 Note Voicings and Bass Line

Below you will find sheet music for Tenor Madness 2 note voicings for piano and a sample bass line with notes written in for convenience. When constructing a bass line, I incorporated a I – vi – ii – V7 turnaround during the last two measures, but that would be dependent on what others were playing on the bandstand. I also incorporated a ii – V7 turnaround in measure 8 per the recording (although this is not on any of the real books.) A lot of real books will put in a ii – V7 in measure 9 and another in measure 10 – I put those chords in the chart as optional, but kept the bass line vanilla for educational purposes because they did not play it that way on the original recording. This doesn’t mean it’s wrong to incorporate extra ii V7s, and this is where the rhythm section will need to listen to each other very closely to determine what to do on the spot. The recording that matches this bass line is below the PDF.

The 2 note voicings are based off the 3rds and 7ths of each chord, and can be used as the “guidetones.” You want to aim toward the guide tones while improvising to hit those 3rds and 7ths to help outline the chord.

Hope this is helpful!

You may opt to download the PDF by clicking the download button below the chart.