I Hate To Post Such A Depressing Thread, But.....

High Mojave Desert in Southern California
.....I'm losing interest in practicing my new Tenor Sax.

I have one half-hour lesson a week, every Friday afternoon, from a private teacher.

For the first few weeks, I would practice the exercises every day, for 20-30 minutes, sometimes twice a day for 10 minutes each.

Since then, the regularity of my practice sessions began to fall off, until this week, I've gone 3 days without touching the horn at all.

My problem is that there's nobody at the Studio or at home to practice with me. My lessons are just me and the Professor.

I know I could regenerate my interest if I could join a whole roomful of beginners and just be a part of a larger teaching experience, but the only large organzations up here are the Concert Band and the Symphonic Band, which I can't even come close to sitting in with, because they're experienced and perform at regular concerts.

I have this beautiful new Tenor Saxophone that I love to look at, but have very little interest in picking it up any more. I guess you could say that I would like to have success handed to me on a platinum platter without making much of an effort to achieve it!

HAL (Don't sympathize with me...it's my own damn failing!)
Well, I just can't relate to this at all! No really I can't, damn it my nose is so long it's pushing the computer away and I'll soon won't be able to type, or play my saxophone.

I won't sympathise, but perhaps you'll indulge me?

Do you like the sound and feel of your tenor? It is always possible that the instrument isn't for you! But assuming it is, there is probably something lacking which is sapping the motivation out of your practice sessions.

What is the material your Professor is having you work on?

Best wishes,


My tenor has a great sound, and it's comfortable to play as well.

The only thing that bothers me is sometimes when I'm playing notes with the octave key depressed and I'm suddenly called upon to go to a note in the low register, it still sounds as though the octave key were still depressed...I'm an octave too high!

This could be a contributing factor...not having a perfect sound ALL the time, after the teacher complimented me on my good tone.

My lessons are all from the Essential Elements Book 1 with play-along CD, which she teaches from.

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Hi Hal,

Assuming the octave thing is only occasional then it's unlikely to be a problem with your sax, and you will quickly find yourself subtly adapt the air stream and it won't be an issue any more... if it's any consolation it's the first step to overtones.

Great to hear your tenor is comfortable to play and has a great sound. So it's not the horn, it's something else...

I can identify with your situation (although I'd hesitate to say I sympathise with you) because I'm going through a bit of a lull myself. I'm attempting to kick start myself again by trying to learn the ballad of the month.

Do you like playing the tunes in the book you are currently working from? I have a great resistance to practice when I'm working through a book with my teacher that I find either uninspiring or too hard.

Best wishes,

Hi Hal,

I've just back tracked and found your introduction post, I guess I should do my homework before wading in with both feet! Your musical experience far out reaches mine. I wonder if it isn't a slightly frustrating time you are having, by the sounds of things you can hold your own on a number of instruments, playing by ear and intuition. I can imagine how learning to read music and play a new instrument might on the one hand feel exciting & refreshing, and on the other slow and more constrained.

I don't think I have anything of value to offer, but I do hope you find whatever it is you need to find to maintain your enthusiasm for the instrument.

Best wishes,

Pick a tune you really like, by a player you really aspire to be. Play the tune every day till you master it. Have a harder one ready for the time you get it.

Build a repetoire of stuff you can knock out. No dots. It's surprising how you can embelish a simple tune over the years.

Some days the sax won't play and you have to stay with it till it comes right.

10 mins isn't really long enough to warm up the horn and wake up the reed. imho

It took me a couple of hours today to get to the same place I was yesterday in 20 mins on the tenor.

The alto as usual played straight out of the case, first note.

If your pleasure comes from looking at it and owning it then fair enough. For me it's the challenge, the sound, the musicality, the search inside and out, the journey, the joy of a good session, the sheer fun of blowing the thing.

Practice is like exercise. Good for you but dull.

Some days I don't practice at all, I just blow the thing for the fun of it.

Put some fun into your daily routine.
As an alternative to playing some different tunes, in case that doesn't inspire you at the moment, ...

The only thing that bothers me is sometimes when I'm playing notes with the octave key depressed and I'm suddenly called upon to go to a note in the low register, it still sounds as though the octave key were still depressed...I'm an octave too high!
So you've identified something you need to work on. That's very useful knowledge. How about spending half an hour doing just that? Forget about tunes, scales, etc for a day, and just concentrate on one thing: making those octave drops work. Keep at it until it gets better. Then give yourslef a pat on the back, even if you've just gone from getting 50% right to 60%. You've made progress and the sound production skill you develop will make everything else you play sound better. If you're stiil not satisfied do some again tomorrow. The journey of a thousand miles, and all that...

This could be a contributing factor...not having a perfect sound ALL the time, after the teacher compliment me on my good tone.

Ah, the P word. As Winston Churchill (not really a hero of mine, but never mind politics) said: “The maxim 'Nothing but perfection' may be spelled "Paralysis”.

You do know you'll never have a perfect sound, right? Or perfect intonation, timing, phrasing, improvisation, anything. I saw a video based around a Sonny Rollins gig recently. The guys been gigging 50 years or more, plays better than any of us can hope to and he spent most of the afternoon before the gig practising on his own. He clearly just wanted to be as good as he could on the night. Forget "perfect" and concentrate on "better than yesterday". I'm sure you know all this, but I think we all need reminding from time to time.

And most of all, don't beat yourself up over an occasional lapse in motivation. It happens.
**** Hal - blow yer horn man, I nearly killed myself gardening today, get up and blow man! Are you a man or a desert rat? Up and at 'em! Blow 'em away with a twelve bar blues! We are the Champions! Good Sax is where it's at Hal - get it while you can! gruss - spike


Gentlemen...all your replies have served to give me more incentive to push on, but the REALLY big kick in the pants came when I showed up for today's lesson:

The Professor said: "Harold, I've got something special for you!" And she handed me four pieces of music scored for Tenor Sax, that I am to learn for a Christmas Concert, in which I'll be a PLAYING MUSICIAN!

The musicians will be those she selected from the ones she teaches on different days at different times in her Studio (about ten students on various instruments), and she apparently feels that I'll be able to handle the four pieces she handed out!

Now I'm really enthused, and I'll be hittin' those pieces every day!

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I've just been reading through these posts and was thinking 'goals' - or rather none, just a vague desire. Sounds like your teacher realised the same thing..... Go for it!
Motivation was all that was required apparently. Nothing like a looming gig to focus the mind.
Read the following twice. It is taken from David Hite's introduction to his edition of the Baermann Foundation Studies:

Think about this: 90% to 95% of your playing time in early developmental stages is spent practicing - practicing by yourself. Therefore, those who progress most rapidly are those who become most proficient in well organized self-guidance. The most valuable teacher you have is yourself. You can gather helpful information from a variety of sources: private teachers, school class teachers, band and orchestra directors, classmates, contest adjudicators, and listening to great music via recording, radio, television and, best of all, live performances. Develop the ability to hear the notes you see and see the notes you hear. As you learn more about your instrument and music, your listening will become more acute, and your ability to practice and guide yourself will improve. Remember, your teachers can guide you, inspire you, encourage you and find opportunities for you, but in the end, you will be what you make of yourself.
Hi Hal and Wolf, I started on tenor 4- 5 weeks ago and gradually getting used to the fact that the tenor, and this is my opinion, is harder to handle from a breath control point of view. My alto tone is fairly consistent but the has good days and really bad days. But I think this is the workman blaming his tools and it`s me having the good day bad day syndrome. Regds N.
Hi hal,glad you have got some insperation back to play again :) just a thought but if you find yourself being less than inspired in the future why not learn something new that your teacher hasnt set you? ive learnt the pentotonic scale and how to do basic improvisation with it,the xmass song nowel,and also ive been trying to improvise mixing the pentotonic scale with the c major scale and all this ive done off my own back on top of what my teacher has set me to do.

If i only had what my teacher set out for me to do i would of got VERY bored,what im trying to say is just because you have a teacher dosnt mean you cant experiment/learn a few things by yourself and when you do nail anything you have self taught it feels AMAZING and keeps you going,my motto is try to learn something new everyday as well as practicing your scales/songs etc BITE OFF MORE THAN YOU CAN CHEW AND CHEW LIKE BUGGERY

Thats what keeps me going :)

Well done Hal. I'm glad you got your mojo working! My advice would be to find a jam session. Ok so you may have to travel a bit, so what! The music that you find there will make it all sooooooo worth while!
Chin up mate!
Hi Hal...apparently you are already back on track and I haven't read all messages but maybe someone has already pointed out that sometimes we spend too much time in exercising rather than playing tunes - so the message is clear: play tunes that you like...do you love music? that's all you need really (enjoy music) :thumb:
Glad to hear you are back at it again. I can't say I can see eye to eye with what you were feeling, but I am not a professional musician with years of experience in other instruments. I am sure that has something to do with it. I was about to suggest hunting for online groups that use, web cams and microphones to play or practice. Not as good as in person, but for some of us it might be a good idea. But you have found your drive again. Keep it up and play well.

I have been doing things that are not in my Professor's lesson plan, such as learning Chromatic scales in different keys.

Knowing how to finger the C#, Eb, F#, Ab, and Bb (the black keys on the Piano) lets me do chromatic scales in all 12 major keys, although I've only practiced the C major, D major, F major and G major scales so far.

This helps me when I'm fooling around playing by ear. (Which I find more rewarding than sight reading).

I've been playing by ear for 50 years or so...it's just that I'm a new, 76-year-old novice at this note-reading stuff!

Having a performance goal is now going to throw a different light on the scene!


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