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My lightbulb week

Little My

Practice makes better.
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Wiltshire, UK.
As @kernewegor said, I've had a bit of a penny dropping week. There has been progress over the last few years but I was lacking consistent and focused practice. About six months ago I decided that if I was going to play my sax I might as well do it well. It's all starting to change.

So this week:
  • I finally "got" half diminished chords and why they can be so different to what I was expecting. This knowledge is making it through to my fingers in time to make a good stab at choosing notes whilst I'm still on the same chord. I thought I knew about them before but I could never translate the knowledge into choosing and playing the notes I wanted fast enough. Now I'm far more confident with them.
  • My ears are getting better and I can pick out changes more reliably. Not every time - I still get lost in the Dolphin Dance changes, but I'm doing much better on ballads and some of the modal tunes.
  • Voice leading - this just makes sense! We'd been looking at Guide Tones in lessons, but again the penny just dropped this week.
  • II V Is - somehow these seem a lot more accessible too, both in major and minor. The Aebersold book on them now looks accessible rather than intimidating.
  • Practice - only little changes, but on school days I practise straight after doing the school run and the most pressing housework/errand, rather than trying to do All The Other Things first. Then the sax goes on its stand and I do a bit more at some point in the afternoon. I have a much clearer idea on practice structure too. I do long tones, overtones, scale work and a playalong piece or two in the morning, then in the afternoon I take a riff around the circle then have a look at a transcription. School holidays will inevitably end up with a bit less practice but I'm still aiming for daily. After all, I can't expect my daughter to practise her piano and martial arts if she doesn't see me practising my sax.
  • Finally, my metal mouthpiece has been benched for the last few months whilst I concentrated on using the Sapphire so I wasn't chopping and changing. I took it out and tried it with an Alexander NY this week (I love the NY on the Sapphire) and it is so much better than I remember. I think I've got the chops for it now, and it's definitely happier with the NY reed than with the Superials. So I'm going to stick with that one for six months or so and enjoy exploring a slightly different sound.

It's so encouraging to have such a positive week. I've had great support and assistance, both from my teacher and from everyone here, including and especially all the helpful comments on my scales and tone threads. Thank you.
 

Jeanette

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Really pleased to hear that. Keep us updated as to how it is going. It is encouraging for the rest of us.

Jx
 

alto andy

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Wow great news I am trying to work out how to play changes etc seem to be stuck playing blues scales over every bar pls share in detail any tips I would love to read it :)
 

Little My

Practice makes better.
Messages
401
Locality
Wiltshire, UK.
Thank you for your comments!

Andy, the things that have worked for me are:
Learning my scales/arpeggios (still on going, I seem to have a memory like a sieve but I am getting there gradually). Just playing chord tones gives me an idea of the shape of the tune and builds confidence for putting something together.
Lots of practice with aebersold playalongs such as Vol 54 Maiden Voyage or any of the scale ones as you have a big canvas to play over with lots of time on each chord. Taming the Sax Vol 3 has pages and pages of scale-based work, and Dan Haerle has a pretty good scale book too.
Starting jam sessions, as these really make me want to do better on my improvising and I can tell from month to month which parts of my playing are improving and which need more attention
Listening to recordings & ideally looking at transcriptions so I can see how other people did it
Having a teacher who's never given up on me and who's never complained about explaining things over and over until I got them.

You can do a lot with a blues scale, though! For me, it's definitely a long haul. When I realised that I was never going to get a quick fix was when I started seeing progress. There are still plenty of times when I struggle to find a riff or a melody in my head, never mind attempting to get it through my fingers and out of the sax. But the other times make up for that. Good luck!
 

kernewegor

Bon vivant, raconteur and twit
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A useful and informative thread, Little My!

The 'memory like a sieve' and 'struggling to find a riff or melody in your head' must ring a bell with so many people... learning new heads, too, can produce self doubt of the "Am I ever going to get this tune thoroughly memorised?" sort. Been there, done it.... some stuff can take ages to sink in...

The 'what worked for you' and the resources you used are very usefully specific and would be worthwhile for any student to print out and keep in an 'ideas' file for those "What should I be doing next?" times... which I suspect everyone has.

It's great to share experiences like this - "When I realised that I was never going to get a quick fix was when I started seeing progress."

That insight ought to be written in large letters on every student's wall...
 

Little My

Practice makes better.
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401
Locality
Wiltshire, UK.
Thank you :) It's always reassuring that others have the same learning challenges. I could do with writing it on my wall today - not one of my better days. But it's a rainy half-term and there will be better ones. But at least I practised and I didn't get lost in a new playalong even if the impro was a bit ropey.
 

kernewegor

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I've decided that I never get lost... but sometimes I do find myself unexpectedly playing outside... :rofl:
 

alto andy

Member
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I have taken lots of your advice from this thread and have had a really good positive week this week even my wife liked what I was playing tonight . I have been doing long tones full range of the horn plus major scales blues scales in context and being really tight with rythem on all the jazz workshop tunes :)
 

kernewegor

Bon vivant, raconteur and twit
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Re practicing - playing a couple of times a day is good if you can arrange it (I see you do, Little My).

Even just a warm up for ten minutes - getting you lip, fingers and brain up to speed - gives a longer session later in the day a good start. It seems to effect everything - tone, technical facility, imagination - it all seems to work out better. It is even better if you can find the time for half an hour or so early(ish!) in the day... if I can, another hour in the afternoon and maybe a couple of hours or more in the evening (or the small hours!) can be really productive.

Part of it is getting the mind in the right sort of space - Zen and the Art of Saxophone Performance :rolleyes: - but my strong impression is that the lip muscles benefit, and the muscle memory of the fingers get a boost, too.

I'm rarely creative in the morning (though extra coffee will do it) but I regard a morning warm-up as merely a workout, as others might do some physical jerks. (Who was it who said "If I get an urge to do some physical exercise I lie down until the feeling passes?")

Works with brass, too, of course. My ex-wife always does at least a warm-up during the day if she has an evening concert, or band contest or whatever.
 

Little My

Practice makes better.
Messages
401
Locality
Wiltshire, UK.
I have taken lots of your advice from this thread and have had a really good positive week this week even my wife liked what I was playing tonight . I have been doing long tones full range of the horn plus major scales blues scales in context and being really tight with rythem on all the jazz workshop tunes :)

This has made me smile, especially as it's coming after a unexpected 24hr stay on the local children's ward. Today's been the first day in 3 weeks that I haven't practised and most days have been twice. Having just settled the child to sleep I can't risk waking her up so back to the new normal tomorrow. This is an achievement for me. Yesterday my neighbour told me how much my playing was improving :)
 

Jeanette

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This has made me smile, especially as it's coming after a unexpected 24hr stay on the local children's ward. Today's been the first day in 3 weeks that I haven't practised and most days have been twice. Having just settled the child to sleep I can't risk waking her up so back to the new normal tomorrow. This is an achievement for me. Yesterday my neighbour told me how much my playing was improving :)


Hope the youngster is ok, great news re your neighbours comments

Jx
 

Little My

Practice makes better.
Messages
401
Locality
Wiltshire, UK.
I think/hope she is fine, thank you for asking. She went in because of an unexplained stiff and painful neck and some disturbances to her vision. The hospital ruled out meningitis and reduced the pain massively. I need to watch her carefully for a couple of days but hopefully she'll be fine now. I think we could have stayed another night but I wanted to get her home.
 

Jeanette

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I think/hope she is fine, thank you for asking. She went in because of an unexplained stiff and painful neck and some disturbances to her vision. The hospital ruled out meningitis and reduced the pain massively. I need to watch her carefully for a couple of days but hopefully she'll be fine now. I think we could have stayed another night but I wanted to get her home.


Such a worry, hopefully you all got some sleep.

Jx
 

kernewegor

Bon vivant, raconteur and twit
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I think/hope she is fine, thank you for asking. She went in because of an unexplained stiff and painful neck and some disturbances to her vision. The hospital ruled out meningitis and reduced the pain massively. I need to watch her carefully for a couple of days but hopefully she'll be fine now. I think we could have stayed another night but I wanted to get her home.
We have been through meningitis scares several times with our nine year old son, so I know where you are at. You did absolutely the right thing to get her to hospital. My thoughts are with you all. Please keep us posted.
 

Little My

Practice makes better.
Messages
401
Locality
Wiltshire, UK.
Thank you, it's so nice to be coming out the other side. Other than not being able to get t-shirts on/off or to lie on her back, she is fine and wants to go back to school tomorrow. She still dances happily with arms flying everywhere and does her martial arts hand drill with no sign of discomfort so hopefully full mobility will return soon.

Lesson today, and my teacher noticed my sound improving :) Good day.
 
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