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Practice session...

Mike

Senior Member
Messages
559
Hi all,
Listen, I decided to give practice a serious look into. I've never really practiced
in the traditional sense. Meaning the actual workout of material to enhance my knowledge of improvisation. I always just picked up my horn and played any ole thing. It created stagnation which is why I always stopped playing for long periods of time.


Well, it's been exactly one month since I decided to be focused in practicing and I'd like to also ask for critique/opinion on what you the listener would do, or how they could make this better if it was in their own hands. I always thought I was a decent player and now I realize that I'm in need of repair and this is what Im doing as I start my second month of everyday practice. Not only is my sax playing in need of repair but I also realize that my ego, is as well, in need of repair because I thought my playing was good. I realize now, that my playing wasn't so good. Practicing everyday is something I'm actually enjoying. I've made it fun to do and it's been an inspirational experience and a humbling experience, which has been the best lesson for me.


I'm very curious in what the listener has to say which would provide another dimension of insight.
I never bothered to know how others really thought and I realize this is a one dimensional way to look at improvisation. It's never too late to learn. I'm in repair mode so you can't hurt my feelings. I left a portion of my ego with my old way of playing.
I want to really learn how to play in a way that satisifies not only myself, but in some small way, the listener as well. The only way for me to accomplish that is to practice everyday consistently. The idea of practice allowed me to both analyze my playing, as well as myself as a musician, in a more beneficial perspective.


Wade, I hope this isn't too traumatic for you! lol.....You always spoke to me in these terms and I was too pigheaded to heed your advice.


This is a practice track I recorded yesterday to gauge my progress.
Any idea's would be seriously considered.....Thank you!

Practice session (music written by Chris Knowles)
http://www.soundclick.com/bands/page_music.cfm?bandID=1289603
 
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Profusia

Senior Member
Messages
984
Location
Worcestershire
More questions than feedback, sorry...

For how long each session do you do this type of practice?
Is the practice completely improvised afresh each time, or pretty much similar each time (i.e. somewhat remembered), or read from sheets of exercises, or...?
Are you practicing melodic improvisation, or focussing more on technique?
Are you asking if other members think this is a good way to practice, or what they felt about the quality of your playing during the clip?
Did you fade out the tenor track because there's a realy duff note coming up you didn't want us to hear? (That's just a cheeky one - please don't answer. When I can play like that maybe I'll have the right to ask!)
Rather than the practice sessions improving, have you seen evidence of your performing improving since you started this way of practicing?

Some pretty dumb questions I know but I've still got L plates and am keen to understand anything which could be of use.

As for feedback - I'm not really qualified to give any. Clearly you play at a very advanced level to which I can only aspire.
 
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Clivey

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,183
Location
Edinburgh/Hot Rock off African Coast
Mike . Its great to hear that you are trying to take it to the next level. I think you are correct to say that we sometimes over-judge our abilities . I once dissected just the left hand of this in a sequencer and believe me it was probably the most humbling experience of my musical life.

The Notes even look beautiful on the page and can definitely bring me to a tearful state. Was he an Alien?LOL

You have often posted that you are not that interested in playing standard heads of well known songs and whilst I respect this view, I would also suggest that you attempt to incorporate some bars of the better known heads in your practice Particularly the more intricate bebop and Modal stuff (we all know and love LOL). Perhaps even work on a medly of 5 or 6.

I know that they are all cliches now but they do offer up a technical challenge ( some Fans may even suggest they are still at the cutting edge) and people still like to hear them.
 
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Mike

Senior Member
Messages
559
Okay, I'll try and field all your inquiries.
For how long each session do you do this type of practice?
I've been doing a minimum of 1 hour to at least 2 hours a day.


Is the practice completely improvised afresh each time, or pretty much similar each time (i.e. somewhat remembered), or read from sheets of exercises, or...?
Yes, more or less. Although the phrases I spew out I have personally worked out. I didn't transcribe anything. But in all honesty, no one totally plays anything completely different with the same tune.
Listen to Bird, for instance on the same tune. Improvisation isn't just based on complete change of a tune but how each one is altered or interpreted according to the musician. I can't forget what I've worked on in other words, because the sequences and patterns become a part of my personality. Unless an improv is totally memorized it's almost impossible to play it the same way, which is the beauty of improvisation.


Are you practicing melodic improvisation, or focussing more on technique?
Both! You cannot separate the two. They go hand in hand. Technique is a misunderstood word. if you play on note and hold it, that's a form of technique you're trying to accomplish.


Are you asking if other members think this is a good way to practice, or what they felt about the quality of your playing during the clip?
No, I think my practice regime is a good one. Actually anything involving practice is essentially good.
I was asking hypothetically, if they had played this tune the way I played it and they listened back to it, what would they feel is adequate or inadequate?


Did you fade out the tenor track because there's a realy duff note coming up you didn't want us to hear? (That's just a cheeky one - please don't answer. When I can play like that maybe I'll have the right to ask!)
Ha! no, not at all. I just thought I would clean the ending up. That's the composer in me. You more or less heard everything. Your questions are perfectly fine, so don't worry about it. Hey, in my practice sessions I screw up a lot which is why I'm experimenting and this practice was an accumulation of a months practice.


Rather than the practice sessions improving, have you seen evidence of your performing improving since you started this way of practicing?
Yes, without question. I'm pleased with the results because I just started. Pleased, but not satisfied. Way too early for that. I more or less stripped myself clean and I'm trying to build myself back up a different way. Naturally, I can't help but retain some of the music I've already learned through the course of time. My main issue is rhythm and I practice everyday using a metronome. I then go back and forth with Chris's tunes to see how various things work according to rhythm as well as harmonically.
But rhythm has and will always be my main issue. If I'm having a problem with something i go back to the metronome and work it out. It's a really nice process.




Some pretty dumb questions I know but I've still got L plates and am keen to understand anything which could be of use.
Well, I've once heard that questions imply ignorance, because well, we don't know the answer. But I don't adhere to that at all. Questions are vital in understanding anything, naturally. If we don't ask, we don't learn.


As for feedback - I'm not really qualified to give any. Clearly you play at a very advanced level to which I can only aspire.
You have ears, right? You're qualified! I'm not interested in the level of the musician. You have opinions in what you like and what you don't like. That's good enough for me. There are pros you like and I assume there are some pros you may not like. The reason for my thread is that you never where something someone says automatically clicks!


Thank you for your inquiries, Profusia!
 

Mike

Senior Member
Messages
559
Mike . Its great to hear that you are trying to take it to the next level. I think you are correct to say that we sometimes over-judge our abilities . I once dissected just the left hand of this in a sequencer and believe me it was probably the most humbling experience of my musical life.

The Notes even look beautiful on the page and can definitely bring me to a tearful state. Was he an Alien?LOL

You have often posted that you are not that interested in playing standard heads of well known songs and whilst I respect this view, I would also suggest that you attempt to incorporate some bars of the better known heads in your practice Particularly the more intricate bebop and Modal stuff (we all know and love LOL). Perhaps even work on a medly of 5 or 6.

I know that they are all cliches now but they do offer up a technical challenge ( some Fans may even suggest they are still at the cutting edge) and people still like to hear them.

Now that's technique! lol....
Yes, I've definitely over judged myself. It's good to get humbled. It wakes us up! I've spent a good amount of time listening to Sonny Stitt, etc. etc. etc. but I don't play like him or the countless others. At least I don't think so. I'm in constant bombardment of being humbled and this is exactly how I have to feel. I'm supposed to be pinned against the wall and slapped around....lol. But when I hear these guys I automatically want to play. They inspire me for obvious reasons.


Thanks Clivey, I do appreciate what you're saying. Right now I just want to learn my instrument from an improvisational platform. Heads are easy, to be honest. At one time I could play any Charlie Parker head and had them all memorized. Today, because I've gotten away from that I can only remember a few and I'd play those few sloppily. If anything, down the road I'll stick with what Chris writes because they've never been done before and in my opinion they're just as good, if not better. It's all jazz music and one is not better than the other. When I'm ready to record seriously I want to work with Chris again because he understands more or less what I like to play against (chord-wise). I love standards to listen to, but I'm not really interested in playing them. I usually skip past the heads anyway because I'm anxious to hear their soul! I'd be perfectly content in hearing jazz played with no heads. I don't feel a need for them. They can be lovely melodies and all as well as to show how the melody falls on the chords. But man, it's like okay enough of that....lol.
Chris's music inspires me and I want to be at my best playing it. The work we've done before is okay, but I never felt anything from it, meaning from my playing, not what Chris wrote.


I personally find improv the greater challenge than learning how to play heads. But that's just me. I will not dispute the importance in someone else wanting to learn to play various heads. My main concern was opinion based on improv and not specifically if I should play well known themes. But all opinions are welcome and are sincerely appreciated.


Thank you Clivey, you've always been a wonderful supporter and I've always appreciated that!
 

aldevis

Surrealist Contributor.
Cafe Moderator
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Location
London
I will give a fragmented answer, after a short listen to the recording.

I quite disagree that improvisation and technique go together. I really like your improvisational approach, but your technique might be polished.
The risk is to spoil your ideas with the things you are practicing.
In may opinion, technique is there to allow you to express your ideas, and needs to be improved when it does not do this.
My humble advice is to do the most mechanical studies you know (I usually have 4 digital patterns for key), explore methodically the direction you are musical pursuing (i.e. pentatonics), do exercises you like, but be honest with yourself: no vibrato means no vibrato and play that note in tune all the times.

Then forget everything and be creative.

Bad news: the more you practice, the more you will be aware of the infinite amount of stuff you still have to do. It will never end. Luckily.
 

Mike

Senior Member
Messages
559
I will give a fragmented answer, after a short listen to the recording.

I quite disagree that improvisation and technique go together. I really like your improvisational approach, but your technique might be polished.
The risk is to spoil your ideas with the things you are practicing.
In may opinion, technique is there to allow you to express your ideas, and needs to be improved when it does not do this.
My humble advice is to do the most mechanical studies you know (I usually have 4 digital patterns for key), explore methodically the direction you are musical pursuing (i.e. pentatonics), do exercises you like, but be honest with yourself: no vibrato means no vibrato and play that note in tune all the times.

Then forget everything and be creative.

Bad news: the more you practice, the more you will be aware of the infinite amount of stuff you still have to do. It will never end. Luckily.

Well, we have different understandings of what technique refers to. The definition isn't important.
I respect yours.


Polished? I don't understand. Spoil my ideas? Please forgive me, I'm merely trying to understand
your wording.
Yes, I've been doing things like that and not everything I played came out in the recording. Which is why we practice so we have a good reservoir of data and we can choose as the music is playing along. But eventually those things you've pointed will be coming through. Playing to a metronome at around 120-130 mechancial exercises may not seem like a good time. I thought this way once. I find it quite interesting in the process and how it unfolds.
I never write anything down. I'm able to maintain it all in my head. I see them as visual patterns and through this approach I can easily visualize them. I could be in my car or outside doing my jogging and I can visualize various patterns and how they can interconnect. Then I go home and work them out. At times I literally run to the tempos of the tunes I'm listening to on my Ipod. I do stay away from tunes like Bird's 'Bebop' Unless I'm in sprinting mode! lol....


You mentioned vibrato. Am I using too much? This is what I'm asking. Anything goes concerning my playing. Any issue that someone may have is open for discernment. I'm in repair mode. It's all in pieces spilled out on the floor and now I'm trying to organize them with agility and cohesion. This proces is a wonderful hobby in itself. I never looked at it like that before.


Yes, I've learned that with each practice session brings more and more things to work on. Absolutley, this process will never stop because it's impossible to stop unless we will it to. Right now I'm open to the barrage and I'm trying to handle it. I could pick up my horn on a new day and the first that I play is something I never played before, even before I start my procedure, and I work on that in relation to how it may fit with other stuff. The unconscious mind is more informative than our conscious mind. After a practice is done for the day, who knows what's taking place and what will be the next day or any day down the road? Practice is the key to the door. Without practice we can't open the door. After that it's up to us how far we want to venture once we open the door.


Thanks very much Aldevis!
 

Wade Cornell

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,368
Location
New Zealand and Australia
Mike I hate to see you in a state where you feel torn down, but it sounds like you are rebuilding. A lot of your playing is tentative in this track but the spark of what I've always admired about your playing is still there. That bebop influenced outside/atonal thing is definitely recognizable as only you.

Are you looking for a different sound? Is it just (temporary) loss of Mojo? You seem to be playing in the same style, but just without confidence. You would be the best judge of what needs sharpening up when playing within your own style. Another approach might be to try playing well outside your comfort zone as there may be more to learn there and it could be like a musical vacation (Hawaiian music! Ha!). Fortunately (or unfortunately) the guitarist I play with has a wide range of styles he plays including classical, ragtime, ballads, African, Latin, European Folk, Mexican (his all-time love), and various things that I guess are jazz. I sometimes put on the radio to random stations and see if I can play along with whatever is on (that I've usually never heard) and see if I can "fit". I guess I still play and sound like me, but it broadens my base of rhythm, harmony, melody, and style/flavour. Most importantly the exercise only works if you are not locked into a single stylistic familiar response. I don't know if that would help, but it certainly would force you to think outside of the same familiar patterns.

I really see it as either your digging deeper into where you're at and what you do, or stepping outside and absorbing a lot of other stuff that could be incorporated and inspire.

Ironically it appears that you're not satisfying yourself with your playing, and I frankly think that is probably more important (right now) than pleasing anyone else.
 

aldevis

Surrealist Contributor.
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Well, we have different understandings of what technique refers to. The definition isn't important.
I respect yours.

Polished? I don't understand. Spoil my ideas? Please forgive me, I'm merely trying to understand
your wording.
[...]

You mentioned vibrato. Am I using too much?
I try to explain myself...
"Technique" is that thing that allows you to play the notes you want when you want with the sound you want.
To achieve this, usually they tell you "play Bird's transcriptions". This is a good advice, but you might end up playing like Bird, without realizing it. Hence my term "spoiling your ideas".
Vibrato.... I think you always lip up the same note to mask some tuning issues, Stan Getz did the same (on other notes) and it can become a trademark, I better choose the way of playing each note. We all have similar things, when we recognize them, we better get rid of them.

Basic technique exercises (my favourite is a rasher one, 100something studies) have the advantage of putting your fingers in place, without affecting your musicality.

I spent my life practicing to be able do deliver a certain standard when booked to do whatever. I often think that my creativity suffered a bit.

Hence my advice.
 

Mike

Senior Member
Messages
559
I try to explain myself...
"Technique" is that thing that allows you to play the notes you want when you want with the sound you want.
To achieve this, usually they tell you "play Bird's transcriptions". This is a good advice, but you might end up playing like Bird, without realizing it. Hence my term "spoiling your ideas".
Vibrato.... I think you always lip up the same note to mask some tuning issues, Stan Getz did the same (on other notes) and it can become a trademark, I better choose the way of playing each note. We all have similar things, when we recognize them, we better get rid of them.

Basic technique exercises (my favourite is a rasher one, 100something studies) have the advantage of putting your fingers in place, without affecting your musicality.

I spent my life practicing to be able do deliver a certain standard when booked to do whatever. I often think that my creativity suffered a bit.

Hence my advice.


Yes, you're right about technique, but why wouldn't improv. and technique go hand in hand?
Not exclusively of course. Technique is also playing/reading written music. Technique is holding one note for long periods of time. Everything that is done on the saxophone from mundane to the sublime is technique. Only levels differentiate the technique.
Well, that's how I understand it to be.


Well, I don't personally care for transcribing solo's, although it is a wonderful thing to do.
If my creativity is being compromised in the process then I'd scrap the whole project. So I agree with you that although learning solo's is a good thing for some, I don't see that as beneficial for someone like myself. Understand the language then you could provide your own take on it. Understanding the language requires listening. Then you apply it by what you've heard.
I more or less create these passages myself, although I do understand the jazz vernacular and so
I adhere to the jazz style. I like creating my practice according to how I think and how I hear.
I'm using a metronome, as I mentioned, but I use it in variational ways. Double timing, upbeats, etc.
Initially I play something new accenting each beat to get it under my fingers.


This was my purpose of the thread. You mentioned lipping up the same note to mask tuning issues.
I've never noticed this and if you didn't point it out I still wouldn't have. One question though?
Which note? Ya see, I'm still in the dark. Have I created a trademark? lol....good or bad?
 

aldevis

Surrealist Contributor.
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Yes, you're right about technique, but why wouldn't improv. and technique go hand in hand?

[...]
Which note? Ya see, I'm still in the dark. Have I created a trademark? lol....good or bad?

impro and technique definitely go hand in hand, but doing your boring fundamentals every day help to fix things like lipping always the same note.
A couple of weeks ago, I found out I could not play my usual exercises at 88bpm. Faster and slower was fine, but 88 just didn't belong to me. One week of basic stuff at 88bpm, and my fingers now can do it.

Practicing "pure" technique helps doing this. For everything else, you are doing the right thing writing your own exercises.
 

Jamesmac

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,872
Your routine ( practicing scales arpeggios etc) versus keeping/building your technique from your musical playing. I think both are possible, and in varying degrees of either method, but depending on the individual. Most follow the routine in Classical playing, but probably less in jazz.so I think you are both correct.
There's a story that a visiter to Jasha Heiftz house remarked on the terrible noise he heard coming from an nearby room. his son told the visiter that it was Heifitz practicing. The guy showed his disbelief as Heiftz was a top class performer. The son replied that his father only practices what he can't play.
 

aldevis

Surrealist Contributor.
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There's a story that a visiter to Jasha Heiftz house remarked on the terrible noise he heard coming from an nearby room. his son told the visiter that it was Heifitz practicing. The guy showed his disbelief as Heiftz was a top class performer. The son replied that his father only practices what he can't play.

Gary Smulyan said that James Moody used to practice slow scales most of the time.
Chet baker was caught once doing the Colin's, a trumpet book very far from Chet's style.
 

ArtyLady

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1,028
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Essex
My two penneth (sorry if it's not hugely intellectual!) you have a fabulous tone and technique in my opinion and you sound very in control of what you play. I thought your "outside" improvisation was very well suited to the modern jazz style backing.

You say

"the actual workout of material to enhance my knowledge of improvisation. I always just picked up my horn and played any ole thing. It created stagnation which is why I always stopped playing for long periods of time."

..........are you saying everything you play is purely from within with no knowledge of theory?
 

Mike

Senior Member
Messages
559
My two penneth (sorry if it's not hugely intellectual!) you have a fabulous tone and technique in my opinion and you sound very in control of what you play. I thought your "outside" improvisation was very well suited to the modern jazz style backing.

You say

"the actual workout of material to enhance my knowledge of improvisation. I always just picked up my horn and played any ole thing. It created stagnation which is why I always stopped playing for long periods of time."

..........are you saying everything you play is purely from within with no knowledge of theory?

Thank you Art Lady! I appreciate that.


..are you saying everything you play is purely from within with no knowledge of theory?
Just about. I was never one to crack open a book and study theory. I'm the same way with manuals of any kind. I like to try and figure things out for myself. I know very basic theory but I never purposely tried to apply any of it. I just try to play in a way that makes sense to me.
 

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