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How to effectively practice??

Marcello

Senior Member
Messages
228
Hi Guys,

I am sure a post like this was raised before but here we go again...
(apologize for the looong post...)

I don't have much free time to practice, I can practice normally 1h per day.
I don't have any teacher at the moment and try to do it by myself.
I bought a few of the Jammey Aebersold's play-alongs and am doing my homework with the major scales and so on.
The point is, I am feeling like I am not being really effective with the improvisation... I feel stuck on the major scales... I didnt move yet because I am not happy with the result yet... probably I am doing it wrong and should move on...
I mean, there is just too much to look at, so i would like some advises / recommendations on how you guys practice the stuff...
Normally what I do is:
Long low notes
A warmup exercise I found on the site http://digitalpill.tv/Content/2012/06/sax-chromatic-warmup-anton-delecca/
And finally go to scales + playalongs.
The thing is I can't really try to memorize the licks and even if i do so I hardly can reproduce them in an improvisation...
I want to have the scales on the tip of my fingers first before focus on the licks (maybe I am wrong again...) I mean, I have only 1 hour a day and I feel not progressing if I stay on the licks...

This lack of "feel the progress" sometimes makes me kind of lazy to keep on pushing... but I do the best to avoid skip my practice time...

I know that all it takes is practice, practice, practice...
But maybe some of you can help me with tips to improve my practice sessions.... and keep my motivation up!

Thanks a lot...!
Marcello
 

MellowD

Lost In Theory
Messages
544
Hello Marcello

First of all, - if you can manage 1hr per day practice, I think you are in a big WIN situation from the outset, and many other players would be extremely grateful for the same chance.

I'm going to let others who are more experience give you the advice you are looking for, as their recommendations will be of higher value than anything I could say at this time. However, in the absence of anyone else having responded yet - I just wanted to say Congratulations! Having that one hour per day available will help your advancement progress so much more quickly than trying to cram it all into one or two sessions per week!!

Over to the rest to give you some sound advice, and I will also be watching closely for their recommendations!

Above all, enjoy the time with your sax Marcello.

Mel
 

Marcello

Senior Member
Messages
228
Hi Mel!
Thanks for the reply.
I am glad to see that you also play an Yani... I recently bought the T902 and am loving its sound... not to mention the "playability" that is much batter than my old YTS100...

Cheers and let wait for the experts to guide us...!!!
Marcello
 

MLoosemore

Deluded Senior Member...
Messages
759
I will also be watching for the expert advice.

Currently I put in almost an hour most days. Starting with long notes, scales and then most of the time knocking h*** out of several tunes, each of them fortunately improving each time. I work on the basis that if I know what the tune should sound like then it is worth trying to achieve it...

Not a very scientific approach but it is nice to hear 'real' music rather than just scales even with the bad notes and thankfully they are gradual diminishing...
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
Messages
21,947
If you're on your own, a method book is probably a good way forward. Like O'Neills Jazz Method.

The good method books take a structured, progressive approach, cover things comprehensively and have varied and interesting tunes in them, as well as feeding the theory we need and usually miss by playing tunes.

Specifics, like Pete's Taming the Saxophone 1 are a good accompaniment. And the books of exercises designed to build up dexterity - Like Sigurd Rascher's Exercises.

There are some good books on Blues - e.g. Geoff Harrington's - that'll get you moving down the blues line, if that's where you want to go.

But the biggest thing missing from a teacher, apart from motivation, is feedback/support. A good diea is to record yourself, put the recording away, then listen to it in a few months time and make a new recording. Even when you feel you're stagnating, you'll hear a lot of improvements.
 

Jazzaferri

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,667
One thing I advise students is to work on a small amount of material and master it before moving on. If you can relax and play it perfectly without effort then it is likely mastered. That usually means playing really slowly.

if you go back to something in a few weeks and you cant play it perfectly you havent quite mastered it.

It may seem slower at first but in a year your playing will have improved much more than the other way.
 
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Profusia

Senior Member
Messages
984
If you don't mind some ideas from someone who probably has much less experience than yourself...

Note: Some of the more experienced players may be able to embelish on these ideas and correct some of my terminology and/or incorrect assumptions. Also this may be too simplistic for the stage you are at in which case apologies.

On lesson 2 my teacher threw me into improvisation. Homework was to learn a Blues Scale (NOT a major scale), and to practice question and answering phrases in it.

So if you are working on a piece to improvise over, pick the Blues Scale that has the same root as the scale the piece is in (I'm assuming here that the piece appears to be in a major key).

I started with C blues scale: C Eb F F# G Eb C (just 6 notes or 7 including the octave)

Learn your chosen blues scale up and down 2 octaves or more. You'll find it sounds really kind of interesting and, well, bluesy, and is kind of nice to play and almost encourages you to play around with varying rhythms within the scale. You're suddenly kind of noodling or "improvising" in simplistic jazzy blues.

Next practice some question and answering phrases. Start with a questioning phrase. No more than a couple of bars long to begin and nice and simple. Start on the root note of your blues scale and end on any other note within the blue scale (but not the root). Put a bit of improvised rhythm in to make it interesting and melodic. Then answer with the answering phrase which starts on any note except the root, and ends on the root. Make the answer the same length as the question and make it some how sort of echo back the rhythm in some way to give a connection. Then keep going varying the notes and rhythm as you go but trying to keep some sort of connection with your theme.

It might take you 2 or 3 sessions to get the scale under your fingers, and then it could be several more sessions before the questioning and answering really kicks in and starts to feel natural. As you progress you will automatically relax the rules about starting and/or ending on or off root notes and length of phrase and certain licks will get embedded in your subconscious or muscle memory or whatever you like to call it.

Finally start using all of the above to improvise over your chosen backing track.

As a virtually complete beginner I found this incredibly liberating and the enthusiasm, confidence and encouragement it gave me was incalculable and I really can't thank my teacher enough as its opened up a world of possibilities, when I thought improvising wouldn't be on the syllabus for at least a couple of years!

From there you can learn other blues scales to open up improvising over backing tracks in other keys.

This is just the beginning of course. I'm now just starting to try to improvise over different chords changes using changing appropriate scales and arpeggios. Its hard and what's coming out of the end of my horn is hardly philharmonic! But then every step was hard to begin with and I've only been playing 10 weeks.

Just some ideas. Hope someone finds them useful.
 

jbtsax

Well-Known Member
Subscriber
Messages
8,009
I like to think of a practice session in the same way that I planned school band rehearsals---like a formal meal. First you have the "appetizer" then the "main course", and last the "dessert". The "appetizer" is your warm up which can include long tones, running familiar scales, chords, and patterns, tonguing speed exercises, etc. The "main course" can be the page in your lesson book, one or more pieces or etudes you are working on---anything that you are struggling to master. This goes with the adage that "you should practice what you can't play---not what you can". The "dessert" is the for fun part of the session. It can consist of playing songs you have learned, just "noodling along with some chord changes, sight reading new music a grade or two below your ability level, or playing with a favorite play-along recording.

If your practice time is 1 hour, you might allow 10 - 15 minutes for the "appetizer", 30 - 40 for the "main course", and 10 - 15 minutes for the "dessert". If your practice time is only 30 minutes, then cut those times in half, but I believe it is important to include all three in order to make progress and to stay motivated.
 

Colin the Bear

Well-Known Member
Messages
13,079
Slow progress? At least it's progress. Some days I pick up the sax and it's a mystery to me how I ever played it before. Pieces that were perfect the day before have gone from the memory bank and fingers feel like they've been swapped for banannas.

I think the first 20 years are the slowest. After that it's a slow slide into hoping the thing comes out right today.

But seriously...practice makes perfect. Keep blowing.:thumb:
 

MLoosemore

Deluded Senior Member...
Messages
759
...I think the first 20 years are the slowest. After that it's a slow slide into hoping the thing comes out right today...
Phew thank goodness it's only 20 years.... Must make arrangements for my first concert recital on my 86th birthday ;}
 

Wade Cornell

Well-Known Member
Subscriber
Messages
2,146
There are some good suggestions already, and surprisingly from beginners. Having a good teacher who can hear where you're at and suggest where you need work is most likely to work best. Books and canned methods try to lump everyone together and presume that they all have the same goal. Too often this is structured around learning mechanically with dots on the page meaning certain finger positions. It's left to the student to (somehow eventually) connect directly with the note/tone and a musical experience.

For most beginners the note that comes out when reading is a surprise (they don't hear the note first). This is not a good way to learn music in my opinion as it's more like learning touch typing and hoping that this will make you a great writer. The mechanical side is necessary and requires practice as does learning to read music, but there is also the need to develop your musical connection, which means that you need to connect to the instrument so that you can (eventually) play what you hear in your head.

Most advanced musicians can hear the music they play, even when just reading it. Some achieve this naturally (talent). Others achieve this only after a very long period of playing and pushing to achieve becoming one with your instrument. Some (many classical musicians) never achieve being able to play much by ear, but it’s not necessarily their goal anyway. Strictly reading and using theory as the basis for improvisation is like painting by the numbers. You can wind up with something that you may be proud to put on your wall, but not many would pay money to buy it.

All forms or art require grounding in basics, but need to equally stimulate the creative side and not be 100% prescribed. The unfortunate proof of this is found in the education system. How many great artists or musicians can anyone name who went through school to receive a PhD? There needs to be balance between having the facility to produce your “art” and having something within you that is personal and communicates to others, the art itself.

In music this comes down to your voice, which can be an instrument, a computer, or any other intermediary through which you communicate your musical thoughts. If those thoughts are not your own and either come from dots or prescribed formulations or are a cut and paste collection of riffs and arpeggios, then there is nothing coming from you. You are just a programmed manipulator. I know that this all sounds a bit rough, and quite frankly there may be large numbers of aspiring players who just want to play a tune the same as ...(name your favourite player), and that’s OK as long as you have no further (real) ambitions. The arts reward originals, not copyists.

OK, how do you get from here to there? First a dose of reality. While we hopefully all have the same opportunities we are not all the same. Talent helps, but perseverance can also count for a lot. Learning basics does not necessarily exclude developing making connections between you and your instrument so that it becomes your voice, but this is difficult to prescribe, so usually not found in lesson books. There are numerous ways to approach this, and that’s where a good teacher can be of enormous benefit. Profusia’s teacher sounds like they are using a good technique for making this connection. They have limited the scale so that there is focus and are encouraging some degree of experimentation. Hopefully Profusia will start to make a connection to that limited scale and HEAR the notes that are being chosen and be making conscious decisions.

The key is to actively engage your inner voice in playing. Even if you are reading notes, try to hear those notes first. Learn to read music so that you hear what those notes mean/represent instead of only reacting mechanically without knowledge of the sound that will come from your horn. A practice that works is to initially play either a tune or exercise, then try to sing the same thing following the dots. Internalize the process as sound rather than an eye to fingers mechanical exercise. Another exercise is to try and play a simple tune that you could easily sing or hear in your head (e.g. Mary had a little lamb). Give yourself a random start note and sing the tune from there. Now try to play it. This is harder than it seems, but if practiced using all 12 tones as random start notes, it will eventually sync your inner voice (ear) with your fingers.

The ultimate joy of playing (for me) is not about being able to copy anyone, but to play what I hear in my head without the need to filter this through seeing dots, having to analyse a theoretical fit on the fly, or resort to cut and paste of a bunch of riffs and arpeggios. Everyone can tell when the music comes from an individual as compared to a canned exposition. A great technical player can amaze and inspire those who are interested, but unless they have something else to offer can be like watching the world’s fastest typist. It’s not the speed of typing that’s important, but what the typed words say.

A last bit of advice is to listen to and enjoy a wide variety of music as this is your library and may ultimately become your vocabulary. If you only listen to your favourite sax player, who or what do you think you will sound like? Understanding and appreciation for all types of music is a common denominator for most professional musicians. Very few restrict themselves in their listening, although they may play in a restricted style. Between Classical and Ethnic music there is an enormous gap, but (IMHO) you will find the purest inspiration in those two extremes.
 

MLoosemore

Deluded Senior Member...
Messages
759
Brilliant reply Wade.

I find that following the score in order to play is so much easier if the tune can be visualised first.

I guess that having read music in order to be able to sing in a choir many years ago has helped with this. I couldn't put a name to notes on a stave but I can feel the flow of the music and with that starting point the achievement of playing the tune comes much quicker and easier.
 

Jazzaferri

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,667
As an add on to Wade's brilliant post, spend a few minutes each day playing around with a phrase you come up with.
 

muzza

Member
Messages
109
I follow a loose practise structure of tone, technique (scales etc), learning (for me work on jazz method) and improv. Thanks to Wades' post, I have some more things to work on.

However, one thing I have found helpful is a practise a week or every couple of weeks, you throw structure out the door and play whatever you like and do not feel guilty about it. Maybe just work on your [FONT=&amp]favourite [/FONT]tune, amazing how much better they sound when you are fresh. try stuff you have read about or just muck around with a blues scale, you do not feel you should interrupt a practise to try. i.e. After reading here about buzzing the month piece, I tried discovered how helpful it is. You do have failures, as I do tying altissimo...but fun and one day I'll get it.
 

MellowD

Lost In Theory
Messages
544
Hi Mel!
Thanks for the reply.
I am glad to see that you also play an Yani... I recently bought the T902 and am loving its sound... not to mention the "playability" that is much batter than my old YTS100...

Cheers and let wait for the experts to guide us...!!!
Marcello
Hi Marcello

Yes I do LOVE my Yani too. I was very fortunate that this was the first sax I ever played and it was loaned to me by a friend. Naturally I made her sell it to me eventually :D

Mel
 

Marcello

Senior Member
Messages
228
Hi guys,
thanks for all the replies!!

Will try to combine as much as I can your advices.
just want to mention that when I first started to study improvisation, my teacher at that time put me to start with minor pentatonic blues scales.
later on I changed the teacher and the focus also changed, now it was time to focus on major scales.
now by myself I bought the play alongs I mentioned before and it is a mix of the both.

I know everything is important but is a bit hard to decide where to put the focus on....

cheers
 

dolbob

Member
Messages
79
I think daily practise of 20 or 30 minutes is better than a 2 hour slog once o week.In Jamey Abersold's Jazz Aids Jerry Coker suggests 75 minutes a day;
5 mins Slow tune
15 mins scales
10 scales and patterns
5 mins improvisation
15 transcibed solo
10 mins special disciplines
15 mins learn a tune
What some of that means I have no idea, but a daily routine of scales arpeggios long notes and playing transcribed solos with 15 minutes of playing a familiar tune in all keys by ear will do wonders for would be jazzers, it's easier to find time if you are retired or not having to work of course !
 

Eastman52st

New Member
Messages
19
Far as scales go I work on Jackie Mclean's book. Jackie was a master at scales and his book helps me with major, minors, diminished, chords on all levels, and simply accidentals like crazy. This book has also helped me develop better and faster in the lower register forcing me too play it. This book has every scale you can imagine and at the end has two of his masterpiece songs.

Still working on this book and it will be awhile before I master it!! Marcello this book is a huge help for me.
 

BigMartin

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,904
Hi guys,
thanks for all the replies!!

Will try to combine as much as I can your advices.
just want to mention that when I first started to study improvisation, my teacher at that time put me to start with minor pentatonic blues scales.
later on I changed the teacher and the focus also changed, now it was time to focus on major scales.
now by myself I bought the play alongs I mentioned before and it is a mix of the both.

I know everything is important but is a bit hard to decide where to put the focus on....

cheers
Eventually you will need both (and more). So I don't think it matters too much what you work on first. But it helps a lot if you have a clear idea at the start of your practice session of what your goal is. Eg "play a c major scale in quavers at 80 bpm", or "make the top D sound better than it does currently". Keep working on it for however long it takes until its easy (not just 50/50 possible) and then move on (different scale, faster tempo, whatever). The trick is to keep your goals both satisfying and achievable.
 

arock

Member
Messages
110
I now have about 30 hours of experience on a Sax. I am the least likely to add any great new info to "how to practice". I have no books, music nor instructors other than the advice I get here. I have a fingering chart. I have played a Clarinet (hobby level) for 30 years.
All my tunes are played by ear, so I learn a song in my head. I sing, whistle, hum, what ever I can do to get is firmly in my head. Christmas songs are great because you really know them. I write down the starting note and the song name and just let it go. My favorite songs, will have two starting notes that forces me to learn more keys and fingerings. My lip won't take an hour yet, but I can play about 40 minutes a couple times a day. I have a few Blues songs, that were my favorites on a Clarinet, that are coming along very well and are fun to play. This is keeping my interest high.
I get discouraged when I bite of too much at a time.
It is good to share with others in the same position as I am. The main players on this Forum keep me going too. They are great.
Thanks to all.

La Monte Superior Alto made in Holland by Schenkelar.
 
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