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Practising: What's your method?

Bofonic

New Member
Messages
19
Hey all first of all thanks for the great discussions that've taken place since I've joined! Everyone here has been real cool!

In light of my other post I thought it was really interesting to see what people were practising and what they had struggles with. So in light of that it'd be cool to have a discussion on practising I think!

So here we go! This is how I tackle a lot of these these days!

1) Jazz: Play along? Transcriptions? Patterns? Licks?

2 ) Scales/Arpeggio/Finger Dexterity: Do you use a metronome? Start slow then fast?

3) Rhythm: Do you practise with the metronome? Do you tap your foot when you play?

4) Approaching Written Music: Do you take it slow first? When do you decide it's time to add in articulations? Do you use a metronome?

5) Tone (Long Tones? Overtones?)

6) What's something you wish you knew how to practise but can't seem to figure out yet?

7) What do you struggle the most with all of the above? How do you think your practise methods reflect that? Do you practise the same thing consistently every session?

8) What problems do you commonly run into when you practise?

9) Also I'd also be curious about what "level" you'd consider yourself? How long have you been playing for? It'd be interesting to gauge how we've all come along in how we practise!
 
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Bofonic

New Member
Messages
19
1) Jazz: Play along? Transcriptions? Patterns? Licks?

I do mostly transcribing these days. I use transcribe when I practise if there's a fast passage I can't figure out. I'll take the lines and licks I like from the solo and immediately start to work on it using the songs we're currently playing in the band! I also love picking up new sax and tonal ideas! I've learned how to growl/bend/doodle tongue and Texas trill along with other fun things from transcribing!

-If I'm working on a new tune I'll play bass lines on my Sax to pound it into my brain and then guide tones!

If I play along I try to use actual recordings to play along. Something about BIAB just seems a bit soulless to me!

2 ) Scales/Arpeggio/Finger Dexterity: Do you use a metronome? Start slow then fast?

I prefer starting slow for scale patterns keeping it at a manageable temp. I play it at that speed until I'm proficient then bump up the metronome 4 clicks..repeat until I reach the desired speed. I find it's really helpful for the muscle memory to start slow first!

3) Rhythm: Do you practise with the metronome? Do you tap your foot when you play?

I've done some fun rhythm exercises in the past with the metronome..turning the time around from 2-4 to 1-3 every 8 bars over Donna Lee. Practising with the metronome on 2-4 with the metronome set on 40 (It REALLY tells you where your time is).

I usually tap my foot if I'm playing solo pieces when I practise just so that I know that I know where the time is:)

Approaching Written Music: Do you take it slow first? When do you decide it's time to add in articulations? Do you use a metronome?

I usually practise it slow and focus on rhythmic and note accuracy first. Then I add in articulations..then I'll gradually bump the speed up to the desired tempo:)

4) Tone (Long Tones? Overtones?)

Mostly imitating my favourite players through transcribing these days although I'll also add in overtone exercises into the mix:)

As for time management I prefer to break up my practising into 1 hour intervals (Or whenever I'm done with the set of exercises I want to get done) then take 15 -20 minute breaks to let my brain decompress then start it back up again. I usually keep my Sax out on the stand.

5) What's something you wish you knew how to practise but can't seem to figure out yet?

  • Some Saxophone effects I've heard on recordings that I have no idea how to approach!
6) What do you struggle the most with all of the above? How do you think your practise methods reflect that? Do you practise the same thing consistently every session?

Sometimes I struggle with consistency on scale patterns. If I do I slow it BACK down and work on it again before speeding up. Sometimes I find when I transcribe my mental patience just isn't there but I plough on anyways as best I can!

7) What problems do you commonly run into when you practise?

Just General Fatigue near the end!

I'd consider myself intermediate-advanced:) There's still a lot to work on! Just takes time! Been playing for 15 years!
 
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MandyH

Sax-Mad fiend!
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3,582
Locality
The Malverns, Worcs
In answer to 4, I usually start slower than the written tempo, but put all articulations (tonguing, slurring, staccato etc)and ornaments (grace notes, turns etc) in from the first play through.
If I am struggling with that, I will work on just one or two bars very slowly to get my fingers to remember where they should be going, before speeding it up again.
 
Messages
43
Locality
Abercarn, South Wales
Hi.
1) I don't normally have a CD player available where I practice (see 8 below), so sometimes I put on a pair of headphones, put the songs (2000+ of them) on my Blackberry on shuffle and play along to whatever song comes up next. It's a great way to learn to improvise and forces me to play in weird key signatures.
2) I always kick off with a scale. Then I do scales, kind of sliding back down a note e.g. C D E F, D E F G, E, F G A etc. Then a few chromatics and then it's arpeggios and arpeggio variations. Vary tonguing, slurring etc. There are always LOTS of scales / arpeggios when I practice...
4) I don't sight read very well (eyesight is going), so practicing is mainly (99%+) by ear.
5) I am currently concentrating on larynx exercises. I can't play altissimo (yet!), but am finding they improve my tone on the first two octaves. Long notes, also working on even tone with different volume levels. Currently trying an "outie" embouchure.
8) Problems: the wife. Can't play when she's in the house. Same goes for the neighbours. So I only practice when she-who-must-be-obeyed (and the neighbours) are out. There's a handy lay-by about 3 miles away that I use when the weather is good; just park my car and get out with my saxophone. Another problem is getting distracted by playing fun stuff instead of concentrating on the more boring stuff.
9) Level: been playing sax for 3 years 1 month (flute for 40 years, and bass guitar for 7 years, which helped!). Performing paying gigs with a couple of bands.
 

Andante cantabile

Senior Member
Messages
705
1. Not applicable.

2. Do not use metronome. Of necessity had to start slowly.

3. Do not use metronome. Years of choir singing have given me a reasonable sense of timing.

4. Depends on what it is. I try to do articulations from the start, but it takes time to get all of them. Do not use a metronome.

5. Lots of long tones.

6. I think I know how to practise what I like and can play. The challenge is to play everything properly, and that takes time. I have also learnt that things have to be within reach. If they are too hard I don't waste time on them. Eventually they will feel much easier.

7. Each of my sessions (usually two hours) consists of long tones, then technical work drawn from Foundation Studies or bits from the Universal Method, then a Mule-Berbiguier study (I go on to the next one when I can play the current one fluently), then Lacour, Ferling and Parisi depending on how I feel and how much time is left.

8. Speeding up on extended fast runs.

9. Level not tested, but I enjoy playing Ferlings for fun. Been learning for abit over six years.
 

Reed Warbler

Senior Member
Messages
617
Locality
Marciac, France
1. Am working through Greg Fishman's Hip Licks. The daunting aspect is that there's a second cd of the same licks at a faster tempo! Should keep me busy for a couple of years. I've played jazz for decades on other instruments but only for 18 months on sax. Finger co-ordination is my main concern, they are slower than my brain. Used to use playalongs but prefer to play with other people's recordings. This morning it was Extrapolations, Surman/ Maclaughlin. Not trying to play their lines, just getting in to their vibe.
2. Sometimes use a metronome on iPad but foot tapping does the job. Scales and arpeggios are useful. I try to practice the difficult bits most, things my fingers lag behind on. Scales ascending/ descending by semitones pinpoints the awkward bits. Would like to have equal fluency in all keys so I work at it.
Foot tapping certainly. Was told not to do it in the army years ago. Stupid; one should dance with the music if only with a big toe, link the cerebral with the physical.
3.See 2.
4.Used to play trombone in a big band. Sometimes a bit like trying to jump on to a moving train! When practicing alone I dissect the hard bits and work them up to tempo, usually with tapping foot. There's a story of a drummer whose time was so bad people ridiculed him so he went outside and threw himself behind a bus.
5. Slow ballads do this for me, more interesting than lone, long notes. One's sound is unique and fundamental.
6. Haven't made progress with altissimo but am not in a hurry, plenty of other stuff to work on first.
7. Concentration. Hard to keep hammering away at something that's not showing progress. I get distracted and do something easier (or switch to Cafe gazing). Allocating set time periods for various routines helps me though sometimes after what seems like an hour of effort the clock says it was only minutes.
8. My own inability! Recently used iMovie instead of just recording sound. Amazed at how much superfluous activity my fingers go through. I try to remember Morgan Fry's excellent advice to concentrate on keeping the pinkies close, it really helps.
9. I spent many years as a pro on bass guitar and trombone and have the ability to play and listen at the same time, something not easily taught. On sax I guess I'm intermediate. I play with others, sometimes for money, spontaneously supporting what they do in ways that fit, but wont feel I've made the grade until I can play with much more fluency than now.
 

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