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Beginner Counting and Tempo Problems

GsySaxMan

Member
Messages
91
Hi All,

Just over two months into my journey with my alto yas-275 and still having fun, apart from a numbing of the lower lip when I practice for too long!

I can make a reasonable sound now, well most of the time!

Still playing notes from the C Major scale, and using John O'Neill's The Jazz Method for Saxophone Volume 1; currently working on page 22 and trying to use a metronome for the beat.

The main problem I am experiencing now is combining all the note production, fingering, articulation, breathing and counting in the pieces I am learning and still stay in time with the CD.

I expect it's a silly question but Is it usual at this stage, for a novice musician like myself, to have difficulty in counting out the beat whilst playing.

If I try to count and play I lose the fingering, especially on faster pieces where the beat is at 152; I do play them slower when learning the fingering.

Any tips on how I can get the counting going, and still maintain all the other aspects of playing?

I am having lessons, but thought that I might look to you guys for any tips that you could pass on.

Thanks and happy blowing!
 

BigMartin

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,904
Hi All,

Just over two months into my journey with my alto yas-275 and still having fun, apart from a numbing of the lower lip when I practice for too long!
Well, if it's just numb rather than painful it sounds like you're not biting, which is a good thing.

I can make a reasonable sound now, well most of the time!

Still playing notes from the C Major scale, and using John O'Neill's The Jazz Method for Saxophone Volume 1; currently working on page 22 and trying to use a metronome for the beat.

The main problem I am experiencing now is combining all the note production, fingering, articulation, breathing and counting in the pieces I am learning and still stay in time with the CD.
All too familiar!
I expect it's a silly question but Is it usual at this stage, for a novice musician like myself, to have difficulty in counting out the beat whilst playing.
Definitely! If it's your first instrument you're learning lots of things at once, and you can't give them all your full concentration. You need to be patient. As each thing (eg finding the fingerings for the various notes) becomes easier, it leaves you more time to think about the other aspects (eg counting beats)

If I try to count and play I lose the fingering, especially on faster pieces where the beat is at 152; I do play them slower when learning the fingering.

Any tips on how I can get the counting going, and still maintain all the other aspects of playing?
Sound like you're doing the right things, but don't be tempted to increase the speed until the passage you're wiorking on is easy, not just possible at the current speed (ie you should be getting it right almost every time, not just occasionally). I once heard Tim Henman say about tennis: "practice may not make perfect, but it does make permanent". Seemed to apply very well to music. If you practice stuff too fast, you can end up training yourself to repeat the same mistakes.

I am having lessons, but thought that I might look to you guys for any tips that you could pass on.

Thanks and happy blowing!
Just keep plugging away, it wiill come. And, as ever, don't forget to enjoy it.

Cheers

Martin
 
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kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
Messages
21,947
What I've found helps is to set the metronome to a slowish speed, get the piece right at that speed, then slowly work up to a speed slightly higher than the CD using the metronome. It's also an interesting exercise to make the piece sound good (not dragged) at the low speed. There's more time for expression and I think it helps later as you speed up.
 

Young Col

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,419
Just to add to what the others have said, there's a lot of brainpower taken up in learning an instrument and trying to put it all together at too fast a speed for your brain to handle is when it falls apart. I don't know the O'Neill book but 152 sounds terribly fast for a beginner to play anything at. The excellent advice that my teacher keeps reminding me of - and I'm doing Grade 5 and 6 stuff at the moment - is
1. only practice the bits you can't play - it's not an efficient use of time to keep playing over the bits that you can play OK!
2. Learn the bits that you can't play in small chunks, even just two notes at a time and then gradually link them to build up to whole phrases, but do them very slowly at first, so you can get the fingering patterns and rhythms set in memory.

Also, get fingering patterns learnt for scales by fingering and saying the notes up and down the scale, not blowing them yet, so you are not thinking about supporting the air column and embouchure until you can handle those as well. (This is also good for insomniacs and more useful than counting sheep, unless you're a farmer of course...)

Finally I find a metronome good for developing scale speed, but not for playing pieces to. Again it's something else to have to concentrate on as well as playing. Better (I think) to develop your internal counting, even though this takes time, but once again, start very slowly.
YC
 

Rikki

Member
Messages
205
Some good advice guys! Give it time, plenty of practice and you will begin to feel more comfortable feeling the beat of the music. You'll find though that it is very hard to actually count the beats in your head when you are playing increasingly syncopated music, then it is a case simply following the notes and using your 'sense' of Rhythm and footy tapping to keep in time. When you are comfortable with some scales and chords, try doing some noodling whilst tapping out a constant Rhythm with your feet and count in your head. This you way you do not need to worry about the notes (just let your fingers go wherever!). You will find you will develop an inbedded sense of Rhythm withg practice.

You are obviously progressing quite rapidly though so dont be hard on yourself! Relax, practice and enjoy!
 

VirusKiller

Member
Messages
449
Also, get fingering patterns learnt for scales by fingering and saying the notes up and down the scale, not blowing them yet, so you are not thinking about supporting the air column and embouchure until you can handle those as well.
Great advice. I managed to learn the chromatic scale from mid-C down to low B♭ (downwards) whilst sitting on the sofa and repeatedly fingering the keys for half an hour... Relatively unobtrusive practice too!
 

Young Col

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,419
Further to the points about playing things slowly to get your muscle memory fixed, there is an excellent free programme, just released by ABRSM. It's called Speedshifter and it lets you change the tempo of a CD backing track without changing the pitch. Once downloaded it's incredibly easy to use. Just run the track and change the speed on a dial marked in BPM to a speed where you can learn it comfortably. Also has the Italian tempos marked - eg andante, allegro...
http://www.abrsm.org/?page=newsArticles/item.html&id=689

I take no credit for finding this, although I look at the ABRSM site often; my teacher mentioned it this morning and gave me a demo. Well worth trying.
YC
 

thehunt

Member
Messages
785
Just to add, all of us here are at different levels so can concur with all that has been said, what is important if you are playing from written music is accuracy and if you set the tempo too high and get the fingerings wrong you are defeating the object. ( once you start to improvise that all becomes irrelvant as you are determining what is being played, what speed, what style etc )
I taught martial arts for many years and we also advocated that to get a movement right it must first be broken down, slowed down and then slowly sped up to full fighting speed, as technique is paramount, i use this also in my learning of the sax. Above all though, enjoy what you can do and try not to stress out too much if it does not come at first.
Good luck, Phil
 

GsySaxMan

Member
Messages
91
Thanks YC and Phil.

I will check out the app you suggest YC and take things more calmly Phil.

I always have been an impatient student, when I was learning to fly I wanted to land the thing on my first trial lesson!

Cheers everyone.
 

Young Col

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,419
Yes, but there's no lower limit on how slowly you play things, and I really do mean very slowly if it helps, whereas if you drop below stall speed on finals, you're going to stuff it! But you must have done OK. As you know, pilots say that any landing you walk away from is a good one!
YC
 

GsySaxMan

Member
Messages
91
Yes, but there's no lower limit on how slowly you play things, and I really do mean very slowly if it helps, whereas if you drop below stall speed on finals, you're going to stuff it! But you must have done OK. As you know, pilots say that any landing you walk away from is a good one!
YC
I could tell you the story about the long downwind leg and finals into a setting sun at Biggin Hill when I was a low hours pilot, makes me squirm in my seat just thinking about it; now that was a slow approach, but I wont use that imagery when I am playing my horn!

Cheers YC
 

Young Col

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,419
Moving off topic, but it happens here...!
I'm right under the westward approach to Biggin from Ockham/Epsom, about 7m out. Fortunately the sun's behind planes in the afternoon so no chance of them dropping out due to sun in the eyes problems! Also about the same distance from Redhill but it's well to the South so we're not affected by approach or circuit.
Cheers
 

half diminished

Senior Member
Messages
1,302
Some good advice already. The key to playing 'to time' is gaining an inner sense of pulse/timing and I'm afraid to say that takes a pretty long time for most people, as I know from my own experience. I'm also afraid to say there's not substitute for practicing with the dreaded metronome! Also playing along with tunes, transcribing tunes you listen too, listening to tunes whilst following the 'dots' - all help.
 

saxyman

Member
Messages
267
I too had difficulty at the beginning, but as you progress it will all come together, think about when you first get into a car and begin to drive, you think how can I get my head around using the right foot, using the left to operate the clutch, what to do with your hands etc etc etc. yet now its second nature, it happens automatically, the same with playing.
 

kostas

New Member
Messages
27
Show me one sax player who wouldn't like to play at the very first second like a pro!!!:w00t:
But I have to agree with all of the previous posts, it takes time and patience!!!
Never stop to enjoy what you do and you will someday play like a pro!!!;}
Chin up my Friend!!!
 

Clivey

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,027
My little tuppence is to try and play basic scales in a sexy way:shocked:. I know this sounds weird but if you alternate and syncopate your basic scales then it will eventually give you access to more interesting and hopefully more accurate phrasing:mrcool
 

GsySaxMan

Member
Messages
91
My little tuppence is to try and play basic scales in a sexy way:shocked:. I know this sounds weird but if you alternate and syncopate your basic scales then it will eventually give you access to more interesting and hopefully more accurate phrasing:mrcool
Thanks Clivey, but I am only on the C Major and D Major scales; it would be great to play them in a sexy way, any suggestion as to how?

I am not even sure I understand how to syncopate them, and the word arpeggio is still foreign to me; but I intend to keep blowing!

Cheers,
 

Sunray

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,708
Sexy Scales ...

Thanks Clivey, but I am only on the C Major and D Major scales; it would be great to play them in a sexy way, any suggestion as to how?

I am not even sure I understand how to syncopate them, and the word arpeggio is still foreign to me; but I intend to keep blowing!

Cheers,
Hey Hey GsySaxMan ...

How about frilly panties, suspender and stockings ... :)))

Don't worry mate - you're ahead of some of us n00b's
 

Clivey

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,027
Thanks Clivey, but I am only on the C Major and D Major scales; it would be great to play them in a sexy way, any suggestion as to how?

I am not even sure I understand how to syncopate them, and the word arpeggio is still foreign to me; but I intend to keep blowing!

Cheers,

I could have substituted the term Sexy for Jazzy, but there is a problem with that as the term "jazz" often leaves some sax players cold and is not manditory to every player IMHO.

You might try to play the scale ascending and descending or vice versa but vary note lengths and time signature. So instead of always counting the usual 4 beats you could try counting " 123 ,123, 123" or or even "123456" these basic timings are easy with basic scales and will lead to you handling more interesting phrazes.
It sounds a little corny to begin with, but it also helps you apply musicality to the basic mechanics of scales;}

P.S I`m no educator so I apologise if I have muddied the waters. You will find better advice on our Host`s very own pages
 
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