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Jazz Sax Lessons: How to Practice

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Okay, so
this lesson is called How to Practice.
It's like trying to teach five years
worth of information in as many minutes.
[LAUGH] So, what I want to talk
to you about in terms of how
to practice really, specifically,
is how to put a practice routine together.
This whole school is really
about how to practice and
all kinds of different information.
Scales and arpeggios and
tonguing and, and you name it,
all kinds of different things, but,
how to actually go about putting that
routine together,
is a technique in itself.
And, and one worth learning certainly,
and one with talking about.
So, this is all about how to put your
macro lesson or practice ideas together.
So, first thing is that you wanna
be consistent when you practice.
What I mean is that,
you wanna keep playing.
To backpedal for a second, you also want
to be thinking about when you practice,
practicing two different ways.
Meaning that there's two
different things to work on.
There's music, what songs you play, the
songs you play in your bands perhaps or
whatever, and
then there's practicing for technique.
And so I'm all about practicing for
a technique.
So often, if I talk to a friend,
or a former player, or
a friend of mine who plays.
Or a student, and I say,
hey did you practice a lot today?
Invariably, they'll say,
yeah I practiced for two hours a day.
And I said what did you work on?
And they'll say, well I played and I had
my orchestra rehearsal for 45 minutes.
Then we had jazz band rehearsal for
45 minutes.
Then we had marching band rehearsal for
45 minutes.
You know, so I practiced all that time.
That's playing, and so,
practicing is different.
Practicing is how you
become a better player.
Yeah, it's a good idea.
I mean,
to play is better then not playing.
But understand the difference.
Understand that it is really vital to make
sure that you've put together a good,
cohesive practice routine when you play.
So that's what we're gonna talk about.
Generally when you practice,
I want you to sort of imagine.
Equate it to like an athlete
running on the track.
If you go out and exercise,
you're running on the track for an hour.
You're gonna gain a lot more benefit
from running on that track for
that full hour, than you would if
you were to run for five minutes and
then you have to send that all
important text to your girlfriend.
And then you run five minutes later,
for a few minutes and
then you realize I've got to stop at the
7-Eleven to get a slurpee or, whatever.
You know, taking a bunch of breaks.
Certainly, you want to take
breaks when you have to.
When you start getting tired.
You're kind of working backwards if
you're really fighting a lot of fatigue,
but take breaks only when
you absolutely have to.
Because just like an athlete,
you're going to gain a lot more
benefit, physically, from that consistent
practice routine than you would if you
just did it in little pieces at a time.
So, what you wanna do is
create a routine in advance.
Know what you're gonna be
working on in advance.
And when you work on those things,
make sure that you do it
As consistently as you can.
So what to put together?
Again, throughout my school you're gonna
see all kinds of different specific
ideas on what to practice and
one of those specific ideas is long tones.
And so, I'll give you a little window
to what's coming up with that.
When you play your long tones,
for instance,
you're going to be starting on one
note as the name would suggest.
And head down the horn, what I like to do
is to start in the middle of the horn,
say, a B, right?
Right there.
And play that note for, well,
in my long tone lesson,
we're gonna talk about playing it for
eight beats.
But, to be perfectly honest, the import
thing is to play that note nice and
consistently and to play it from beginning
to end as smooth and exact as possible.
Exact meaning, your tone just being
really as even as you can make it and
then going down chromatically.
How this fits into my consistency
idea is to make sure that
you play them with as
few breaks as possible.
So, tell you what, grab your horn,
and if you're playing alto,
play start on B, if you're tenor
soprano play, start on your E.
Okay, just play along with me,
and we'll play eight counts, but
I'll just count them freely, and
we'll go down chromatically.
So, for me, I'm gonna play B, and
the B flat, and then A, and then G sharp.
We'll just do four notes for now, okay.
And then for you B flat folks,
it's gonna be E, E flat, D, and D flat.
So here we go, one, two, three.
So if you're doing the entire exercise,
you would want to do those
as long as you could.
I would do it for a lot longer.
But anyway, then you start, like I said,
from the middle of the horn,
and you keep going down chromatically
until you get to the very,
very bottom of the horn, low B flat.
And then turn around and start on
the same note you started with, and
now ascend all the way up
to the top of the horn.
If you do that exercise again, I can't
think of any one exercise more important
than that, it really,
it refines your tone.
If there's any issues in
terms of your warbling.
Where it sounds like perhaps you've
had too many cups of coffee that day.
Or your air is just not consistent.
Or your chops, your embouchure is
just not nice and steady and even.
Well number one,
it does straighten those issues out, but
it brings them to a foreground,
brings them to your attention obviously.
And it is the hardest thing to play
one note consistently and evenly.
Quick little story, I have
a brother-in-law who won a beer drinking
contest and he didn't win the contest for
how many beers he could drink.
He won it, because he and a bunch of other
drunk guys were standing at a bar and
they took this very heavy stein of beer
and held it straight up like that.
And the guy who remained standing,
the guy who could hold that heavy
stein of beer the longest won.
He actually won.
So I'm sure he got his beers.
But the point is that, it's much more
difficult to hold your muscles in
one position than it is to engage them.
Or musically speaking,
playing different notes, doing different
things because you're, I don't know,
you're oxygenating your muscles and
your blood is flowing and things.
But to hold it in one position or hold one
note is really the hardest thing to do.
And so, that's why it's important
not only to do these, but to do them
as extended as you can and
as consistently as you can.
Making sure you're really doing it
until you feel the burn, you know.
No pain, no gain.
Take breaks when you need to but
jump right back in as soon as you can.
And doing that math, if you can hang
in there for ten, 12, you know,
15 minutes of long tones,
that a ton, that's a lot.
But, boy you're gonna get
a lot of benefit from that.
So that's how you want to start
every routine I would say.
The next thing that you're gonna see a lot
of in this school are scales,
you're gonna be heavily Scaled and
arpeggioed up by the time you've
taken full advantage of the school.
So, and believe me by the time you've
gotten to all the rest of the scales,
there'll be plenty more.
This is a very interactive,
living, breathing school and
we're gonna be adding things constantly.
So my goal is for
you never to get to the finish line.
So never worry that you're
gonna run out of material here.
[LAUGH] Trust me on that.
So different scales.
I like to think about
scales because that's true.
Scales are the language of music.
And so when we talk about playing
something in the key of D,
you're referring to the D scale, whether
it's a major scale, minor scale, a D mode,
or whatever.
But So, but if you don't know the scale
you don't know what the reference is and
you don't know even where to begin.
As you get more, more experienced in your
playing you're going to find that somebody
might refer to a song
you're going to play.
Let's play a blues in B flat,
well where does,
you don't even know what that means if
you don't know what the B flat scale is.
So be aware of that.
So in our consistent practice routine,
we wanna start with long tones,
and then scales, and
then thirdly we wanna work on exercises.
And Once again, please believe
me that there will be a long,
there are already a whole lot of
exercises to choose from in my school.
But it's ever growing.
So you're never going to run out
of things to work on there either.
It's interesting.
One thing I always like to say that,
besides long tones and scales,
what we work on is less important than
Then how we work on them with repeating.
What we work on to practice is less
important than what we work on.
What we work on or
rather what we work on it.
How we work on it is more important
than what you actually do.
There's a million things
that you can practice.
I'm showing you all kinds of
different things here in the school.
But how you do them, doing them
consistently and then doing them.
In the right way is important and
one of those right way things
is to practice with a metronome.
And as you can see right over here
I have my handy dandy metronome.
I never leave home without it because
my metronome happens to be in my phone.
And like, I'm sure, just about all of you,
your metronome, or rather your phone,
is rarely out of your pocket.
So this one is just called tempo, and
if it wasn't free it was close to it.
It was very very inexpensive.
And So, when you're practicing,
with your metronome.
The only thing, whether you, you download
an app like I did or get a, you know,
a metronome, on it's own.
Is to make sure it's loud enough.
Make sure you can really
hear that metronome.
So often people buy those credit
card looking sized metronomes, and
they're really cool.
Because you can put them in your wallet.
And you can carry it around
without noticing, but
when it comes time to practicing, you
can't hear it over the volume of the sax.
And kinda defeats the purpose.
Also, having to practice with
Like ear buds in your ears
isn't a great idea to hear the metronome
isn't a great idea really either,
because you wanna be able to hear
yourself clearly and completely.
And if you got ear buds in your ears,
you're not.
So, I'm gonna fire up this metronome.
I've got it set at 130, as you can see.
And Before I start it up, check this out.
I'm going to play my G Major scale.
You'll find the G Major scale
written on the Major scale course.
So, you can check out that PDF,
you can download it if you need to.
But the point for this lesson
is to understand the difference
between practicing without a metronome
as opposed to practicing with.
When you play it freely,
You can, you know, you're,
it's great to practice a scale but
you're missing out on so
much technique benefit if you
play it without the metronome.
When you play something with a metronome,
it's forcing you to have to play it,
have to Align yourself with
an external time source.
And not only does it improve
your technique a thousand, well,
that's an exaggeration, technique greatly,
by having to play with a metronome,
having to justify to
an external time source.
But it's also helping you develop
the sense of splitting your attention
between what you're doing and
what somebody else is doing.
So, when you play in a band and
you're playing with a drummer,
it's the same exact thing.
You have to,
you're creating your rhythm, but
you have to be playing in time with that
drummer or the other people in the band.
And so, by practicing with the metronome,
another benefit is to help you
Develop that split attention.
So if I turn my metronome on and
play this scale the idea is to play
exactly in time with the metronome.
>> [MUSIC]
>> So easier said than done.
That's actually pretty fast.
I would recommend slowing it down.
As a matter of fact, let's do that.
So right here if you can see this,
I'm going to slow it down by
hitting this little number.
I slowed it way down to 100.
The slower you play something,
the more difficult it is.
Because there's more space between
each beat and it's more difficult,
more difficult it is to stay
right in time I should say.
So here we are going to play the same
scale at one hundred on the metronome.
One hundred beats per minute.
If you got that music,
and you can hear
this well enough.
Let's do that together, okay?
I'm playing a constant B flat scale.
A G scale for us E flat players,
and C scale for tenor and soprano.
Try that one more time.
One, two, go.
So, it's one very very small example of
how to use a metronome,
there's a million different
things we can do, that we will be doing,
but I wanted to just
really drive that home,
how important that metronome is.
The other important
thing is a tuner.
I can't imagine anything more
important than playing in tune.
Every instrument no matter what you're
playing, is always gonna have its issues.
No instrument is perfect
in terms of intonation.
I've had, this is my Selmer Mark VI,
that I've had for a long time.
I've had it for 40 years,
I brought it brand new.
There, I said it.
And so I'm really used to all the notes on
the horn, but still little issues come up.
And every horn no matter how
wonderful the instrument is,
if certain little things
are gonna be a little out of tune.
On most saxophones for
instance D and E Flat and
E generally can be a little high,
sometimes D can be a little low.
And then down low you've got all kinds
of different issues that happen.
So, playing your long tones is great,
playing your long tones with
a tuner is even better.
So I have here,
on my iPhone, my tuning app.
It's an app by Peterson
called the Strobo tune.
It was relatively inexpensive actually.
Quite cheap actually, I forgot exactly
what I payed for it, I think 10 bucks.
Anyway, as you can see while I'm
talking it's picking up all the,
I speak in a lot of different notes there.
But you can see the motion,
this is the macro side and
this is the micro side over here.
And the idea, when you play a note,
is to have everything stand still.
It'll indicate whether you're flat or
sharp, by these little arrows over here.
So I'm gonna play my tuning note,
my F sharp.
So you can tell that I
was pretty close but
the real micro side of
the strobe was going up.
So that means I was
a little tiny bit high.
A little tiny bit sharp.
So I am going to push,
pull out the mouth piece a little bit and
see if I can do it any better.
Okay that was pretty good.
It's really sensitive.
I prefer this nice sensitive
tuner over the typical
dial ones or
just the two light style ones.
Because you can really, it tracks your
tuning quite a bit better, not only can
you get to tell you if you're flat or
sharp but this tells you how much and
how the motion of that pitch is going for
So, yeah,
again as you play your long tones,
just you're doing yourself
just like when you play your
exercises and scales with that metronome.
Being able to play your long tones for
the tuner is really gonna do
you that much more benefit.
So, there's an overall view
of how to practice and
how to put your practice routine together.
And that's again a broad topic, so
please post your questions, if you have
any, on the blog here at my school.
And if you have any questions that
you feel like you wanna record and
video, please do send those, too.
All righty.
Happy practicing.