saxophone playing mermaid statue

Photo by Afromelkhorn

When I say religion I don’t mean the obsessive devotional part, which incidentally is up to you, but I’m talking about the other part. The part that is the main reason I am actually not religious. I’m of course talking about the belief part that goes hand in hand with the faith part. The thing is when you start to learn the saxophone and it sounds like you are doing something you really should’t to next door’s cat, the only thing that makes you think, not today, nor tomorrow, but someday before I am dead I’m going to sound like like bloody Parker himself is pure faith. So you get yourself a practice which you repeat religiously and if there’s a god somewhere you know you’ll get there.

There’s a whole bunch of things to consider in your practice depending on the time you have and where you are at with your sax. These can include working on tone, ear training, scales, arpeggios, improvisation and so on. As I mentioned in my last post, my main concern right now, the things that really drive me mad are not being agile enough (embouchure and fingers) to play all the notes on my alto with any consistency and the sound. On top of this I want to tackle all the major scales and 7th arpeggios so I can start to improvise as soon as possible. So I figured a couple of months on scales and arpeggios should sort out all my immediate worries.

I’m managing about 4 hours of practice a week at the moment. Which based on Malcolm Gladwell 10,000 hours to virtuoso will take me quite a long time. The way I’ve designed my practice session, if I only do a short session then I only get to do the boring bits. If I want to have fun then I need to extend my practice session. I tried doing it the other way round so you don’t have to.

10 mins long notes

5 mins alternate fingering

15 mins Major scales

10 mins major 7th arpeggios

Remaining time on Jazz standards of my choosing.

As I mentioned in my last post, I do most of my practice now using the exercises from the book Creative Saxophone Workbook. But there are many other books and free resources online you can find.

For the long notes I’m pretty much playing the chromatic scale from the bottom to the top, holding each note for about 2 bars at a slow tempo. Then I switch to classical arpeggios (first, third and fifth) across two octaves. I have been told by my teacher to stay away from vibrato and other sound effects as it confuses your sound as a beginner. The hardest part is to get a clean long note sound without doing anything to the pitch. So practice that.

For the alternative fingering practice I’m working on the 3 alternatives for the B and C for now.

For the major scales and arpeggios, I’m sticking to just 4 keys, starting with C,F,B flat and E flat. This order is taken from the Circle of fifth which makes it much easier to remember and progress. It will all make more sense when I write that post. The plan is, when I feel comfortable with the first key C in a week or two, I will drop it from my routine and include the next in the Circle of Fifths which is A flat. Then in another week or two I will drop the F and include the D flat. I will continue till I’ve learn all 12.

I only play tunes when I have the time. So at a minimum I get the important practice done, and If I have more time I get to have some fun with some standards. Which help me with reading music, rhythm and the structure of these timeless classics. So far I can play or rather I’m familiar with The girl from Ipanema, Favourite things, Autumn Leaves, and Easy living.

So that’s me. I would ask you to tell me about your practice sessions, but by the time this blog get’s a readership I’ll be bloody brilliant. So don’t bother. Just kidding! I’d love to hear what you have to say at all times

Keep the faith!


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Learning the sax is kind of similar to taking on a religion

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January 16th, 2013