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Getting over a bad practice.

What

Member
Messages
314
I am sure this has happened to all of us. We pick up the sax go to play and get mangled trash instead of music, or that one note just will not play for all its worth. You check you ligature, make sure the reed is in place, check the position of the mpc on the cork. Everything is in place, but still no joy. :confused: You give it a little while, but still it sounds like you are strangling a cat. So you put down the sax and decide to let it rest for now.

So how do you all get over a bum practice session?
 

BigMartin

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,904
So how do you all get over a bum practice session?
By not worrying too much about it. Some days your brain works better than others. There's nothing you can do about that. In the early stages, it's harder to deal with because you're going pretty much flat out just to get a note out of the thing. I know you're further on than that, but you get my point. As you get more experienced, you have more technique to fall back on that just works automatically, so you can get something done even on a bad day. But some days will always be better than others.
 

Greg Strange

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,077
So how do you all get over a bum practice session?
Have a beer or a wine (whine?) and convince yourself there's gonna be a better practice session tomorrow...

and if that doesn't work have two beers or two wines...

on the third attempt you should be playing like Dave Sanborn or Mike Brecker...

on a serious note (C#) everybody has a bad practice session at some stage - I remember an article written by Eric Marienthal in Saxophone Journal a number of years ago where he said he sometimes he feels like throwing the sax out the window...:shocked:

the trick is don't get to hung up about it...

Keep honkin'

Cheers,

Greg S.
 

Taz

Busking Oracle
Messages
3,661
The other trick of course, is to be standing outside Eric Marienthals' window at just the right time!

Seriously, great advice so far, my personal take on it is to avoid whats going wrong if you can and do something completely different. Come back to it another day.
 

What

Member
Messages
314
Thanks for the good advice. I never had quite such a bad practice as the other day. It started okay, then when I went to do my play along I kept missing the opening, and squeaking my low F# something I've never had trouble with before. Once I started I could not stop. So I just sat my sax down and picked it up another day. Figure we all have off days, but I figured it would be an interesting topic for here. Probably the best advice is to take a break though and let yourself relax. No sax throwing in the house after all :mrcool.
 

sushidushi

Mine's an espresso
Messages
651
I rarely have good days. In fact, thinking about it, I rarely practise in any true way. I just tend to pick the thing up and try to play whatever I feel like. I certainly wouldn't recommend that, but getting too hung up on a rigid practice regime when it's just not working for you probably isn't a good idea either. As others have said, don't worry too much about it, if it's not something specific that you simply can't get at all over an extended period, in which case you might need help from a good teacher.
 

baritonesax

Member
Messages
256
Good advice from all. I've always believed that just putting the thing down and fighting another day is the best policy.

An even lower circle of practice hell that I've experienced a few times is the feeling, conviction even, that my playing is getting worse. More fluffed high notes, even more incoherent soloing than previously - worse sight reading too.

Truth would seem to be that progress is not a straight line. Sometimes you plateau, sometimes you improve a bit and sometimes you find that you've made a big jump (up).
 

MellowD

Lost In Theory
Messages
544
I always equate it to when we are learning to drive a car. Some days it all goes smooth, and then you have a lesson or two where you crunch and graunch the gears so much and the bite point of the clutch really isn't happening on that hill start ..... then the next time, you come away feeling like you could have driven the coastline of England with perfection and have progessed so very much.

Eventually, it becomes second nature, until your reed splits or simply decides it doesn't like the atmospherics .........

Mel
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
Messages
21,947
It's all in the head. Go into the practice looking forward to it, and things work out. Go in tired, thinking "I must do this" and it goes pear shaped. When it's bad, walk away, you're just doing more harm. Better to put the sax away and do something else... My best practice comes after a bad day at work, when I just go home to escape from the nonsense... and blow loud and hard, then when I've relaxed enough on with the serious work. .
 

BigMartin

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,904
It's all in the head. Go into the practice looking forward to it, and things work out. Go in tired, thinking "I must do this" and it goes pear shaped.
I don't think it's as predictable as that. Sometimes I think "Oh, well I'd better do some blowing just to keep the chops in shape" and really get into it once I'm there. Other times I feel excited about it, but can't focus properly. Can also go the way you said.

When it's bad, walk away, you're just doing more harm.
Not necessarily (unless it's very bad). But do something like long notes or slow scales where you don't have to think of so many things at once.

Better to put the sax away and do something else... My best practice comes after a bad day at work, when I just go home to escape from the nonsense... and blow loud and hard, then when I've relaxed enough on with the serious work. .
 

sushidushi

Mine's an espresso
Messages
651
You're right that it's not straightforward, but I would certainly say that it isn't a good idea to make a strong association between playing the saxophone and being miserable and frustrated. At the same time, if real practice isn't going well and you cannot play through it, I would agree that you should try practising something else, or simply playing a few tunes. If that doesn't work, it would be time, for me, to put the thing down and drink coffee instead.
 

Littlewailer

Member
Messages
133
I'm with Greg Strange and Others on this one.

The best practice sessions for me are the ones where I don't get sidetracked. If I have a bad practice session I usually try and cool down. Do something special for myself which might be something as simple as getting myself a candy bar or a beer or even just put some time away to listen to music.

The bad comes with the good. Hey, At least you care enough to know that it was a bad session. What are you going to do in the future to improve it? At least it got you thinking instead of just going "Ok, that was fun" and going home without having learned anything.

Sometimes I get frustrated with my inability to sight read well. If only just because it takes forever to play new workouts correctly.

Breath, slow down. Ridiculously slow. Play it. Play it again. Breath. Play it slower. Breath.

Soon you'll be playing it like a champ.
 

Colin the Bear

Well-Known Member
Messages
13,063
Have a warm up piece and a piece you can play inside out and upside down. That would be misty and autmn leaves for me. Misty wakes up the reed and sax. Autumn leaves wakes up my chops and head.

Because they are so familiar to me, I can concentrate on sound and feel and I know any problems aren't me and so know to look elsewhere.

Practice can start when I'm happy that all is well. I suppose it's like doing a preflight check.

Best to pick something you like, really, really like.
 

dave mainland

Member
Messages
89
There are times when a stuck pad, or missing bit of cork, duff reed can turn a sax into something as user friendly as a cornered rat.
My first gig - I thought all the squeaks were down to nerves - it was a massive split in the reed. I keep reeds damp/wet now, the longer you play and practise the more confidently you can expect to get the sound you are wanting from the sax, and the surer you can be where any problems lie. My guess would be a leaky pad somewhere, like the idea of a familiar warm up piece to help get you a baseline to work from. Stick with it :)
 

What

Member
Messages
314
Have a warm up piece and a piece you can play inside out and upside down. That would be misty and autmn leaves for me. Misty wakes up the reed and sax. Autumn leaves wakes up my chops and head.

Because they are so familiar to me, I can concentrate on sound and feel and I know any problems aren't me and so know to look elsewhere.

Practice can start when I'm happy that all is well. I suppose it's like doing a preflight check.

Best to pick something you like, really, really like.
This is something I like to do as well. It just boost the spirit to play a piece you love and feel yourself playing it well. Best of all you get just a little bit better at them.
 

Colin the Bear

Well-Known Member
Messages
13,063
Another thing that's just occured to me that I do after setting and checking the reed and mouthpiece and before playing the sax is to twiddle a few keys that you know will be problematical. All the pads that are sprung shut, I open. G#, Eb, LowC#, FtoF# trill and high F# if you have one. Also I open all the palm keys and side keys and give high A to G a twiddle and watch the octave mechanism is switching. These pads sometimes seem to dry oddly after playing or maybe it's the cooldown that upsets them and they may not be sealing, so a quick twiddle resets things. You can hear and feel any stickiness as they open that might benefit from a clean at this point. Then it's play up in semitones from the middle to top and then down in semitones to the bottom. Not to worried at this stage if the very bottom or very top don't sound or sound awkward. It's just a wake up call.

Then we're off " Walk my way........"

It sounds a lot but this all takes a less time than it does to read this post.
 

MellowD

Lost In Theory
Messages
544
Something I find useful, if I just can't get going or into the groove on anything that needs specific attention, - I drop what I'm doing at that moment that isn't working for me today, and I go off to do something else, though that something else will be related to the subject I've gotten stuck with. So perhaps, a bad playing session, will be replaced with reading The Art of Saxophone a while, or placing that order for the new mouthpiece/reeds, doing a little transposition ready for something new to play ..........

That way you are still progressing, just in a different context on the same subject, and it will still all be useful to the whole process.

Mel
 

Targa

Among the pigeons
Subscriber
Messages
8,891
The advice given to play something you like and are familiar with usually works but if that doesn't go right either try the opposite.
Pick up something you can't play or haven't tried before.
When I'm trying something like that I'm not bothered about playing properly or sounding right, just concentrating on getting the fingering and finding the rythym. Then when it's starting to come together, think now I'll try a proper run through.
By then you might have forgotten you were having trouble playing.
If not you haven't wasted your time because you've made a start on a new piece.
 

TakeTwo

New Member
Messages
11
I have no sensible advice as I came looking for similar information! I had a TERRIBLE lesson on Friday (so much so I e-mailed my teacher to apologise) and came looking for saxophonists to commiserate with...so I joined here!

After being frustrated all day yesterday about it, I got my sax out this evening and played through some pieces I found hard just a couple of months ago - I could play them much better than before and voila - peace restored to my soul (ish - until the next time).
 

sushidushi

Mine's an espresso
Messages
651
It seems that different people do many different things, but I think the real message to take from this thread is that we all have bad days (some of us rather more than others) and that we mustn't get too glum about that. We are all human and will inevitably get a bit frustrated when things go badly, but we all just need to accept that some days will be better than others and it would be unproductive to smash our saxophones against a wall - though some might hear music in that ;)
 
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