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Weekly Progress Diary

TenorVibes

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Hello and welcome to my weekly progress diary.

I have been practising seriously for 4 months now (2 to 3 hours daily, the neighbours love me ). The first four weeks or so were a bit disorganised. This time was mainly spent on getting my bearings on what to focus on technique wise. What to disregard and what to prioritise. Overtone exercises were started about two months ago. Overtones are miracle workers. My tone has improved massively and indirectly affect other exercises for the better (pitch bending, long notes, higher and lower registers, etc.).

This Weekly Progress Diary is split into 3 parts:-

- This Intro.

- The practice schedule. This will be subject to changes as I progress.

- Progress updates. Will try to provide updates at least once weekly.

Thank you for taking the time to read.
 

TenorVibes

Member
Messages
75
Locality
England, UK.

THE PRACTICE SCHEDULE ( will regularly review and update as progress is made )​


Tune saxophone to A# / Bb using electronic tuner. Use to do with tuning fork 440Hz concert A. Nightmare trying to hold it and tune sax at same time.

1 Breathing Exercises

1a. Diaphragm Strengthening.

i) Exhale out, until diaphragm fully contracted and lungs empty.​
ii) Hold breadth and diaphragm in position for 10 seconds count.​
iii) Inhale in steps of 10 second counts until diaphragm fully relaxed and lungs full.​
iv) Repeat i) to iii) as many times as required.​

1b. Circular Breathing.

i) Equip myself with a glass of water and straw.​
ii) Before beginning to blow with straw, form a reservoir of air in mouth (partially puffed up cheeks).​
iii) Begin to blow through straw. When low on breadth, attempt to simultaneously empty air out of mouth whilst breathing in via nose to replenish air reserve in mouth. Avoid using air in lungs when replenishing mouth air reservoir.​
iv) Try to keep bubbling in the glass of water constant without disruptions to air flow (abrupt, intermittent bubbling).​
v) When above is fully grasped, will try on saxophone (no luck yet).​



Selected notes to practice that reflect the entire range of the saxophone.

When doing long notes, tonguing, pitch bending, legato and vibrato decided to practice on notes: low Bb, G, F (ok)* and high D.
The regular saxophone notes from low Bb key to high F keys are 31 semitones apart. The semitone intervals for aforementioned notes are:

Low Bb is 0 semitones from low Bb​
G is 9 semitones from low Bb​
F (ok)* is 19 semitones from low Bb​
High D is 28 semitones from low Bb​
* (ok) = Octave Key.​

So the above notes are about equally spaced out across the Saxophone range of 31 semitones (Bb to High F). This way I get to practice the low, mid and high ranges during practice and will be able to assess myself based on each of these ranges not just the easy to play G note in mid range of sax.



2. Long notes and Overtones

2a Long notes.

From about 2 months ago no longer practice long notes as separate exercises on notes low Bb, G, F (ok) and high D. Combined long note practice with overtone exercises.

2b Overtones .

Have been working on overtones for two months. Practice on:

i) Low Bb as fundamental.​
low Bb ---> mid Bb ---> F ---> Struggling on Bb (ok) = 4th harmonic, that's 2 Octave interval.​
ii) Low B as fundamental.​
low B ---> mid B ---> F# -> Struggling on B (ok) = 4th harmonic, that's 2 Octave interval.​
iii) Low C as fundamental.​
low C ---> mid C ---> G ---> Struggling on C (ok) = 4th harmonic, that's 2 Octave interval.​
iv) Low C# as fundamental.​
low C# ---> mid C# ---> G# ---> Struggling on C# (ok) = 4th harmonic, that's 2 Octave interval.​
v) D as fundamental.​
D ---> D (ok) ---> A ---> Struggling on High D = 4th harmonic, that's 2 Octave interval.​
vi) Practice playing around with just 3rd harmonics. Make up simple tunes (F, F#, G, G# and A )​



3. Pitch bending, vibrato and legato.

3a. Pitch bending and vibrato.

Practice both as combined exercises on notes low Bb, G, F (ok) and high D. On 4/4 time at 60 bpm. Based on four levels:-

i) Level 1 = Over counts (minim / half notes): 1...(2) 3...(4)​
ii) Level 2 = Over counts (crochet / quarter notes) : 1 2 3 4​
iii) Level 3 = Over counts (quavers / 8th notes): 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +​
iv) Level 4 = Over counts (semiquavers / 16th notes): 1 e + a 2 e + a 3 e + a 4 e + a​

3b. Legato (with Vibrato)

At the end of level 4 above do legato and vibrato exercises for low Bb, G, F (ok) and high D. On 4/4 time at 60 bpm.
Half of the time spent on legato and the other half on vibrato.

| 1 2 3 4 | 5 6 7 8 | 1 2 3 4 | 5 6 7 8 |...
| Legato | Vibrato | Legato | Vibrato |...

Progressively extend as necessary or try to get as far as possible :-

| 1 2 3 4 | 5 6 7 8 | 9 10 11 12 | 13 14 15 16 | 1 2 3 4 | 5 6 7 8 | 9 10 11 12 | 13 14 15 16 ||
| <------------------- Legato --------------> | <------------------ Vibrato --------------> ||

This challenge is yet to be met.



4. Tonguing articulation with staccato.

Practice exercises on notes low Bb, G, F (ok) and high D. On 4/4 time at 60 bpm. Based on 7 levels.

a) Tonguing 1 staccato attacks on every 1 and 3 beats and resting (R) on 2 and 4 so, | 1 R 3 R | 1 R 3 R | ...​
b) Tonguing 2 staccato attacks on every 1 and 3 beats and resting (R) on 2 and 4 so, | 11 R 33 R | 11 R 33 R | ...​
c) Tonguing 3 staccato attacks on every 1 and 3 beats and resting (R) on 2 and 4 so, | 111 R 333 R | 111 R 333 R | ...​
and so on, until:-​
g) Tonguing 7 staccato attacks on every 1 and 3 beats and resting (R) on 2 and 4 so, | 1111111 R 3333333 R | 1111111 R 3333333 R | ...​

Use word syllables for staccato articulation ( 1=duh , 2 = ber-ry, 3= straw-ber-ry, etc...) to imprint rhythmic pattern on mind.



5. SCALES

From this week onwards (Monday 25 Oct 2021) will select one root note for all scales exercises and practice for entire week before shifting to next one.

Scale root rota = C, G, D, A, E, B, F#, C#, F, Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, and Cb ( order following Circle of 5ths for #'s and Circle of 4ths for b's )

a) MODES. All 7 modes ( Major Scale with Scale Modes - 7 in total ) :-

i) 1st Mode ( Major Scale = Ionian. e.g. C Major scale = C D E F G A B C)​
ii) 2nd Mode ( Dorian e.g. on C Major scale = 'D' Dorian D E F G A B C D)​
iii) 3rd Mode ( Phrygian e.g. on C Major scale = 'E' Phrygian E F G A B C D E)​
iv) 4th Mode ( Lydian e.g. on C Major scale = 'F' Lydian F G A B C D E F)​
v) 5th Mode ( Mixolydian e.g. on C Major scale = 'G' Mixolydian G A B C D E F G)​
vi) 6th Mode ( Aeolian = same as natural minor e.g. on C Major scale = A natural minor scale = 'A' Aeolian A B C D E F G A)​
vii) 7th Mode (Locrian e.g. on C Major scale = 'B' Locrian B C D E F G A B)​

b) Pentatonic Scales.

i) Pentatonic Major (Formula 1 2 3 5 6 e.g. on C Pentatonic Major scale = C D E G A)​
ii) Pentatonic Minor (Formula 1 b3 4 5 b7 e.g. on C Pentatonic Minor scale = C Eb F G Bb)​

c) Blues Scale (Formula 1 b3 4 #4 5 b7 e.g. on C Blues scale = C Eb F F# G Bb) NOTE: Blues scale = Pentatonic minor scale with an added #4 (or b5 )

Currently on F# ( started Monday 25 Oct 2021) so doing:-

F# Major scale (with all modes), F# Pentatonic Major & F# Pentatonic Minor scales and F# Blues scale.



6. Free style

Just let my hair down and practice stuff for fun or select a score to play around with. Use this opportunity to practice slides, scoops, dynamics, growling, various other effects, etc.



7. Music Theory and Experimentation.

Refresh on musical theory and study new topics for inspiration. Try to reverse engineer when coming across good and bad phrases during Free Style practice. Try to determine, from a musical theory perspective, why certain things worked and others haven't. Pay especial attention to stuff that shouldn't work according to musical theory but DOES!



8. FUTURE

When audio recorder arrives learn from hearing myself and try to adjust tone quality. Focus more on ear training and listen to more tunes across a wide range of genres.

To keep adapting exercises and introduce more improv stuff, chord runs, speed runs. Get into the habit of playing with backing tracks more often.

To add more scales:

a) Gypsy major ( formula 1 b2 3 4 5 b6 7)​
b) Gypsy minor ( formula 1 2 b3 #4 5 b6 7)​
c) Dorian Bebop ( formula 1 2 b3 3 4 5 6 b7)​
d) Mixolydian Bebop ( formula 1 2 3 4 5 6 b7 7)​
e) Half-whole diminished ( formula 1 b2 #2 3 b5 5 6 b7)​
f) Whole-half diminished ( formula 1 2 b3 4 b5 #5 6 7)​
g) Diminished whole tone ( formula 1 b2 #2 3 b5 #5 b7)​



9. FINALLY

Occasionally, give that inner Sheldon a brain-slap when it starts to get too geeky over stuff. Avoid nerd-festing too much. Don't forget to have FUN!
 
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BUMNOTE

Senior Member
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Admire your determination to have a set practice routine,but seems very involved to me...enjoy:clapping:....i just do what i feel like,hence getting no where fast;).
 

brianr

Senior Member
Messages
1,274
Wow !! Very thorough.
well done.

A couple of things that may be useful.

you don’t talk about using a metronome. If you don’t already, I would strongly suggest you do.

Section 5….In your scale rota, you talk about doing Db, Gb and Cb.
you’ve already done them in C#, F# and B!!!!!
I would suggest when you get to C#, go to Ab.Then Eb, Bb and finally F
The key cycle is then complete.

given all the scale types that you gave , it suggests you intend to be an improviser.
in which case it will be really useful to not just be good at running scales up and down.
get used to breaking the scale up, somehow.
The standard way to do so ( in classical and jazz pedagogy) is to
Practice the intervals within a scale.
for example, a scale in 3rds would be 1 to 3, 2 to 4, 3 to 5 etc

or you could do the triads within a scale. 1,3,5/ 2,4,6/ 3,5,7 etc

I would suggest not getting too bogged down with all those fancy sounding scales.
There is loads of stuff to get together just in major scales, before you are ready for that !!!

you don’t mention ear training.
again, as a budding improviser, this is going to be crucial.
the tried and tested way is TRANSCRIBING?
ie listening to a recording and transferring it to your sax.
doesn’t have to be complex. Manageable is the answer.
try to do a little of this every day. It is so important.

good luck. I look forward to reading of your progress.
 

ESJohn

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Extreme dedication! Congratulations!
What is your major goal or destination? Are you looking to play professionally or teach? Jeanette is also very correct in the suggestion of finding a group. You'd be amazed at how much more fun it can be to be with others travelling the same road.
I enjoy the Klose exercises as part of my warm-up. The first several alone are very challenging.
Circular breathing is something way beyond me.
 

jbtsax

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That is an impressive practice regimen, but I didn't see "playing music" anywhere on the list. ;)
 

TenorVibes

Member
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Locality
England, UK.
Very important. Also start looking for a group to play with, it will add to fun and keep you motivated.
Yes, Jeanette, will have to look for groups at some point.

BUMNOTE

Admire your determination to have a set practice routine,but seems very involved to me...enjoy:clapping:....i just do what i feel like,hence getting no where fast;).
The best part of a more rigorous practice routine is that you also start to appreciate the value of becoming more bodily aware / body conscious. The moment to moment undulations of your diaphragm in sync with all your various articulations, effects and what not. The position of your lips relative to your lower teeth. The shifting pattern of your tongue with regards to airflow. The momentary dynamic adjustments of your jaw position. The discovery of areas of your mouth cavity and various regions of your throat that you lacked the awareness of previously. The varying amount of mouth uptake of reed and more. A large portion of this has come from doing overtones as you experiment with various embouchure possibilities to get to those harmonics. You are forced to become aware of your body. Overtones are pure magic!

Take the leap, BUMNOTE. If you remain resolute, you won't regret it.

Hey brian
you don’t talk about using a metronome
Kind of thought mentioning the 60 bmp would confirm metronome use.

Keep the metronome on 60 bpm constantly on throughout the whole practice schedule. To get that tick-tock, back and forth, to engrave itself deeply on the mind so that you subconsciously become aware of timing / counting naturally. Don't like the electronic ones. Have pendulum wind up one. Its switched off for the free style sessions.

On scale rota front.

It would have been easy to get to C#, go to Ab.Then Eb, Bb and finally F. Your suggestion can save a lot of time that could have be spent else where in practice.

However, I would then miss out on discovering all the personalities of these various scales. Never used to give much credit to practising the scale modes. Now realise that these are like the different personal traits of a scale. Each has a definite audible character. A# Phrygian will only ever appear in the 3rd mode of F# major. D# Locrian will only ever appear in the seventh mode of E major and so on for all other modes in the various scales.

As auditory awareness is becoming more attuned to subtleties of these aspects of scales. I'm becoming aware of their significance and utility in future compositions and improvisations. Once you've learnt these main scales it makes it easier to just apply a generic chord formula or other scale formulae to them (e.g. full diminished 7th = 1 b3 b5 bb7, Dorian Bebop scale = 1 2 b3 3 4 5 6 b7 ) rather having to remember each and every scale / chord off heart just learn these. Imagine when your improvising, from muscle memory you'll easily recall the appropriate key presses and the chord notes from formula. Instantly available at will.

Don't forget the dexterity side of it. You will have encountered almost all of the key press permutations - more muscle memory power.
Practice the intervals within a scale.
I know, I know but you know how it is. Have several books on it that are just getting covered over with dust. Want to explore how I can do this in a more engaging and fulfilling way. Have Hal Leonards books on various practice exercises so will probably take those up and eventually put those dusty forgotten ones to some good use too.
"you don’t mention ear training.
again, as a budding improviser, this is going to be crucial.
the tried and tested way is TRANSCRIBING?
ie listening to a recording and transferring it to your sax.
doesn’t have to be complex. Manageable is the answer.
try to do a little of this every day. It is so important."
It's something I'm trying to incorporate into my daily practice. Improvisation is going to be really important for the future. Will be exploring all the possibilities on how to go about on this. I've never really had a good ear. Kind of relied too much on musical scores to the extent that reading music has become a psychological crutch. Need to undo all this. Assumed I was some what tone deaf but this has changed with rigorous practice activity. There's tonnes of stuff out there. Will have to see what fits for me. There's also the issue of trying to cram too much into those 2 - 3 hours practice sessions. Have used online ear training exercises. Not a fan of them. Prefer the transcribing way all though haven't implemented any of it yet. No doubt ear training and transcribing is HUGELY relevant for improvisation. This is a BIG deal will have to work on it. Transcribing does take a lot of skill though for someone who reading music has become a psychological crutch, an entrapment of sorts.

Brian really appreciate the time you've taken to give some very constructive feedback. Will probably end up reviewing stuff because of it. Thanks!

Hey John
Extreme dedication! Congratulations!
What is your major goal or destination? Are you looking to play professionally or teach? Jeanette is also very correct in the suggestion of finding a group. You'd be amazed at how much more fun it can be to be with others travelling the same road.
I enjoy the Klose exercises as part of my warm-up. The first several alone are very challenging.
Circular breathing is something way beyond me.
Yes, definitely. Will need to find a group but it will have to be face to face don't like all this zoom online digital business. Community band perhaps. Covid isn't making things easy :(

Goal wise not sure. Current focus is on becoming proficient in playing so that I am in a real place of confidence to make decisions.

Something I've been curious about is music as a therapy (Autism, Depression, Dementia, Stress relief, Coma patients, Trauma, Bereavement, Anger management, etc...). Need to investigate whether it is a viable option. A realistic one in terms of livelihood. How much overlap is there with clinical practises? All the legislative stuff (Health Care accountability and pre-requisites ). Music therapy would be a very noble and honourable use of ones musical abilities. Need to explore more for suitability.

Klose exercises - will need to take a look.

Thanks John.

Music Therapy and Mental Health | Lucia Clohessy | TEDxWCMephamHigh - YouTube
View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-io-uld2JFU


Hi jbtsax

That is an impressive practice regimen, but I didn't see "playing music" anywhere on the list.
Previously played music without any focus on training. Whether I did any justice to them is another matter all together, hahaha.

Try stuff like:
  • Take Five ( Paul Desmond)
  • Pink Panther (Henry Mancini )
  • Beatles (when I'm sixty-four, Hey Jude, Get back, Yesterday, etc).
  • Summertime (George Gershwin )
  • Sugar (Stanley Turrentine)
  • Fly me to the moon ( Bart Howard)
  • Love is here to stay (Ira & George Gershwin)
  • Tuxedo Junction (Erkskine Hawkins, William Johnson & Julian Dash)
  • Ain't Misbehavin ( Andy Razaf, Thomas Waller & Harry Brooks )
  • I can see clearly now (Johnny Nash)
  • A Whiter Shade of Pale ( Keith Reed & Gary Brooker)
  • Georgia On My Mind ( Stuart Garrel & Hoagy Carmichael )
  • Killing Me Softy With His Song ( Norman Gimbel & Charles Fox )
  • Many others.

Practice is really helping out with the playing now (still along ways but a good start).


Folks, thank you for the positive feedback. Need to rush off and start practice (running late).
 
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mpj.brennan

Persistent Pensioner
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197
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Rowlands Gill, UK
Section 1a i should read;

i) Exhale out, until diaphragm fully relaxed and lungs empty.

(The diaphragm contracts during inhalation, not exhalation)
 

TenorVibes

Member
Messages
75
Locality
England, UK.
Section 1a i should read;

i) Exhale out, until diaphragm fully relaxed and lungs empty.

(The diaphragm contracts during inhalation, not exhalation)

Yeah. unfortunately can't edit those thread anymore. Should have been:-

1a. Diaphragm Strengthening.

i) Take a deep inhale, until lungs are full and diaphragm fully contracted.
ii) Hold breadth and diaphragm position in place for 10 seconds count.
iii) Exhale out in small steps over 10 seconds, until lungs empty and diaphragm fully relaxed.
iv) Back to normal breathing. Rest and then repeat steps i) to iii) as needed.

See animated gif below:-

DIAPHRAGM_Strengthening.gif

[EDIT] Animated gif's don't seem to work either :(
 

lydian

Member
Messages
68
Locality
USA
How does this improve your playing when there is no back pressure for strengthening your abdominals? I think if you skip this exercise and just put the horn in your mouth, you'll make more progress on breath control.
 

TenorVibes

Member
Messages
75
Locality
England, UK.
How does this improve your playing when there is no back pressure for strengthening your abdominals? I think if you skip this exercise and just put the horn in your mouth, you'll make more progress on breath control.
A strong diaphragm is really helpful in so many ways. Its helped with me with tongue articulation, long notes, getting more breath and more. Look here:

Diaphragm & Breathing Exercises

I think its about time I got that Pete Thomas book Taming The Saxophone.
 

mpj.brennan

Persistent Pensioner
Messages
197
Locality
Rowlands Gill, UK
Given that the average person breathes 12-20 times per minute over the course of their life, I fail to see any need for an exercise to "strengthen" the diaphragm. Take Lydian's advice.
 

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