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How do you practice?

half diminished

Senior Member
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1,361
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Buckinghamshire
I'm interested to find out how everyone practices.

At my teacher's recommendation I try to practice 40 to 60 minutes at least 4 or 5 times a week (I'd love to place every day but I don't always have the time!). Two out of three weekends I usually get at least 2/3 hours practice on one of the two days which can be one, two or three sessions depending on what else I am doing.

This is a typical 60 minutes practice session for me:


  • 5 mins warmup noodling
  • 10 minutes on a Blues scale - improvisiation
  • 5 minutes playing all the scales either chromatically or around the 'cycle', arpeggios, chords to the 5th, 7th or 9th
  • 10 minutes working on sustained tones, terrace dynamnics, uniformity of tone character. I normally work on just one at a time.
  • 20 mins on a tune I am working on (Doxy at present) playing melody and chord progression - really listening to the backing track whilst playing
  • 10 minutes on site reading/playing anything I want to. Usually just the melody.

Sometimes, if I'm working on something really hard, after warming up and a few scales exercises, I'll spend maybe half the session on just that. For example on a tune I am learning or on sustained tones, terrace dynamnics, uniformity of tone character.

If I have more time I will fire up Transcribe and have a go at transcribing something by ear. Usually small phrases of one or two bars. I'm not that good at it but I do try! Why is it the 'masters' don't sound the same when they play F# as when I do!!

I'll also sometimes pick a new tune to start learning.

Finally, I'll pick a tune I know and play it (or attempt to) in different keys without any music - Happy Birthday, Over the rainbow, Danny Boy, My Bonnie etc. I am improving but it'd not always that easy. I start in an 'easy' key and then try others.

What do you do?
 

Lloyd

Member
Messages
208
Location
Hertfordshire
I'm interested to find out how everyone practices.

What do you do?
I try to practice every day a minimum of 45 minutes. Not always possible, of course but I managed a 2 hour session today because I am learning a couple of new tunes.

I always start by practicing all the major scales, and sometimes include the major flats. I then will work on my latest tunes and occasionally visit some old ones to see if I am improving generally. Sometimes I just b****r around with my pitiful attempts at improvisation. Other than that I try to just enjoy myself.
 

losaavedra

Member
Messages
392
Location
Rojales, Spain
I try to do between 45 mins and an hour each day. As an 'ear player' (albeit sometimes trying to do stuff to the dots ... rather painfully!) I either use backing tracks or more often now Band In A Box. There I pick a song and try to follow the progressions, watching the chord names at the same time. The melody I play usually bears no resemblance at all to the named song but, as time passes, I find I'm hitting more sensible notes (that fit the changes) than 'bum' ones. My other practice method, if you could call it that, is to wander around the house just busking anything that occurs to me. That's the fun bit, for me anyway!
 
OP
half diminished

half diminished

Senior Member
Messages
1,361
Location
Buckinghamshire
Just finished 45 mins of practice, mostly on scale patterns, tunes in all keys and sustained tones, terrace dynamnics, uniformity of tone character. No Doxy tonight! Good old Top Tones!
 

visionari1

Senior Member
Messages
1,606
Location
Out in the Countryside of Nelson NZ
Good posts above.


Ahem how do I practise, well various ways, currently it's scales (starting to really like em) then some free doodling on tunes I know. a bit of study with ear training exercises, downloaded from the internet and do some of the trainers on www.musictheory.net.
My big lesson lately is to practise scales in the form of flexible scales, I learnt about these for a series of PDF's (5 of em so this series is years of study, for me) by Bob Taylor called "Art of Improvisation"
Basically a flexible scale is doddling around, arpeggios or half steps which ever way you want, just keep on the scale, make it rythmical and fun, start anywhere and finish anywhere. This has been inspirational for me, as I'd gotten stuck with the sound of scales as the sound from the root note, or the sound of the arppegio, ei 1,3,5,7,9, up and down.
Another thing, this Art of Improv, book has introduced me to is "Virtual Practice" This is where you play without the instrument fingering say a pencil or similar and think the note (in your mind saying Bb or whatever) You can also hum while virtual practising and can practise anywhere, without your instrument. This gets over the repetitive strain injury problems with hours and hour so of focused practise.
My best practise sessions are when I focus on really hard material, and restrict the time to 20 minute on and 20 min off. It's amazing how the rest really does work wonders, especially if you do this for several days.

One workshop I went to held by a very good Sax player, said only practise what and how you want to play, even scales should be fun and made to sound musical.

Must rush off and have a practise, after all this talking about it!!!!!

Cheers & Ciao

Jimu
 

jadoube

Member
Messages
150
Location
Fleet, Hampshire
Mmmm, this thread has made me realise my practicing is down to barely 2 or 3 times a week. :blush:

There is training band on 2 days , 1 day is my lesson, and 1 day is ballroom dance class so er indoors will put up with me playing sax.

Not enough practice to properly support anything really. Wish I could retire and get the time do things properly. :w00t:
 

filipe

New Member
Messages
10
"5 minutes playing all the scales either chromatically or around the 'cycle', arpeggios, chords to the 5th, 7th or 9th"

Wow nosaxyet, you must take like 10secs for each scale heh

I, as a beginner, usually do my 60min sessions like this:

- 10mins long notes:
Trying to listen the notes to produce a steady tone (with special attention to open notes because I'm still almost a halftone flat when I get to open C), sustaining in piano, mezzo and forte. I usually just cover half of the range (from low C to like high F or G)

- 30/40 mins scales:
Sometimes I use the rest of my session in this, because I also include other aspects that I need to improve here.
ATM, I'm only using C and G keys, and in these keys I do the following (most of the time with metronome running):
- Going up and down the Maj scale, taking special attention to octave changes 'cause they never sound solid when I increase the tempo (ocasionaly I do some Chromatism)
- Doing Pete's "Saxophone warmup exercise (intermediate)" of going up 4 notes in arpeggio and down 4 notes in the scale (sometimes I also do the opposite, going down in arpeggio and up in scale)
- Going up and down the Minor Harmonic (I love the mH) then freely moving around it without the metronome. (Note: I notice that it's sorta what visionari1 calls a flexible scale. Good to know it's not just goofing around, 'cause this part gives me great pleasure playing).
- Doing the same above for the blues scale and sometimes the major or another minor

- If I sporadically have some time/lips left, I'll try to pick up a simple tune from the real book like Mr PC, My favorite things, autumn leaves, to do some reading and then try to slowly improv while looking at the chord progression.
 
OP
half diminished

half diminished

Senior Member
Messages
1,361
Location
Buckinghamshire
"5 minutes playing all the scales either chromatically or around the 'cycle', arpeggios, chords to the 5th, 7th or 9th"

Wow nosaxyet, you must take like 10secs for each scale heh
Well I'm still a beginner as well and the scales I just run through either chromatically from Bb with I through to VII with some jazz swing articulation or I, III, V, VII and back down the scale (or via versa). Or in the cycle of fifths. I'll do this once which doesn't take long. Any mistake though and I'll work on that scale for a bit and the run through them again. I try to do this evenly with a metronome. Doesn't take long really.
 

thehunt

Member
Messages
797
Location
Studham Bedfordshire
I try to play every day at least one hour, sometimes more. Scales arpeggios, dorians etc for about 20 minutes but now i am in a band i have been concentrating on the new tunes i have to learn.
I also work on my long tones quite a lot, my teacher has said i definitely have a better tone when i play. In addition i work through tunes in my classic blues book, prepare my grade three stuff which i will concentrate more on when i get nearer to the exam in June. If time is short i will just blow any note and try different pitches.
 

richardr

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,743
I'll resurrect this old thread rather than starting a new one, partly because it includes some good ideas and partly because I don't recognise any of the contributors except Old Git - times change!

This morning my efforts have been devoted to learning "Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans", a tune that I knew vaguely already. The band with which I sit-in plays it in either Bb or C (depending on how the mood takes them) and I have a set of dots in D for my tenor. I thought it would be an easy task to learn it but I'm having a struggle to retain it in my memory. I'll start on learning it in C by "ear" when I have fixed the tune firmly in my memory but that's not yet - I'm posting this as a break from my practice.
 

BigMartin

Well-Known Member
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3,762
Location
Manchester, UK
There's a fair bit of chromaticism in that one, as far as I remember. Makes it harder to remember than when a tune just fits into the familar major scale framework.
 

mpj.brennan

Persistent Pensioner
Subscriber
Messages
145
Location
Rowlands Gill, UK
I try to do 60 minutes each day

1. Warm up with a couple of tunes I know off by heart (I only know five!)
2. Major scales, triads and 7th chords - I'm comfortable with all except F# and Ab. Possibly a few minor scales too.
3. Work on whatever our sax group is doing at the time being. At the moment we're on St James Infirmary Blues - the arrangement by Philippe Marillia.
4. Play the other 3 tunes I know by heart to avoid forgetting them.
5. Work on adding a sixth tune to my memory repertoire!
 

Jonesy

Old Fart At Play
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734
Location
Birmingham, UK
On a work day - 5-10 minutes in the morning before leaving for work, 20-30 minutes in the evening if I'm not too tired.
2 hours band practise on Friday night, and a few blows each day (15-30 minutes each) over the weekend.
(Gig once a month, 2 sets of around 40 minutes.)
 

jbtsax

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Subscriber
Messages
6,883
Location
Beautiful Springville, Utah USA
What an excellent idea for a thread. My teacher (tutor) and I have worked out this general schedule for an hour and a half session five days a week.

10 min..........warm up.............Overtone matching
20 min..........scales............... Mon C/F# Tue C#/G Wed D/Ab Thur Eb/A Fri E/Bb Sat F/B
10 min..........sight reading......Be Bop Duets Bugs Bower, Jazz Conception for Saxophone Duets Lenny Niehaus
10 min..........jazz etude..........Selected from Parker Omnibook
30 min..........transcribing........Phil Woods Easy Living (this week)
10 min..........play tunes..........review tunes with Biab.

I will use this routine unless I have an upcoming gig, and then I spend the time necessary to prepare for that
 

richardr

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,743
There's a fair bit of chromaticism in that one, as far as I remember.
I wouldn't know about that. My problem is that although I can remember the basic tune easily, I struggle with the slight variations in each verse. I suspect that no-one in the band with which I sit in knows those variations exactly and that they each play something that sounds right. Probably I could manage but I like the exact variations which is why I'm trying to remember them, wasting practice time that could be better spent otherwise. My only excuse is that I'm enjoying it, which is the whole point of playing sax so far as I'm concerned.
 

richardr

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,743
My plastic reed has been an important advance in my practicing. It's not the perfect reed. A wooden one at its best is easier to play and produces a better tone, but my plastic reed has the huge advantage of being consistent, so that I can pick up my sax at any time and blow it for a few minutes or hours and it performs the same throughout. The downside is that I'm reliant on one reed that is bound to wear out or get damaged sooner or later. I can't simply buy an identical one because I had to file my present one simply to make it soft enough to play. I had beginner's luck in get ting a decent result and I doubt whether I could replicate it.
 
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