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Jazz Sax Lessons: Putting Your Practice Routine Together

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Now, it's time to put
a practice routine together.
Or at least work on some ideas
of how to go about doing that.
Because there are as
many ways of practicing,
as there are things to practice.
So, think about this.
That when we play and
when we're practicing,
there is music and there is technique.
There's practicing for learning songs and
the music that we play in bands and
what songs we wanna play, and
just blowing, having fun, whatever.
And then,
there is the technical side of all that.
And so, you wanna touch on both,
My feeling, me personally, is that most
of my practicing is on the technique side.
I've always thought that when I practice,
the idea is to become technically
proficient enough, so
that you can play all the music
that you wanna play more easily.
So the easier it is to play, the easier it
is to play different songs or whatever.
Same thing with playing different styles,
by the way.
People often ask me, cause you know,
some of my records are more funky,
some are straight ahead, some of them,
a lot of the work,
as I'm a studio musician in Los Angeles.
And a lot of what I do is to show
up in the studio one morning and
we're told what instruments we need, but
we certainly are not told what
style the music is going to be.
Whether I have a solo, or
whether it's just a section part.
We really never know until you get there,
almost never.
And so,
sometimes people will ask me, well,
how do you practice this style or how do
you make the switch from one to the next?
And I use the analogy of like sitting
around the dining room table at night with
your family.
And one person might be
talking about sports, and
somebody else is talking about apples, and
somebody else is talking about surfing.
And you've got this all subjects.
It's not like you've gotta learn this
entirely new language in order to converse
with these people about
these different subjects.
It's just about you know,
switching gears, but
you still have the command
of your language.
You still have the command of
your mouth and all these things.
And so, it's the same thing with playing.
The more, well yeah.
I keep saying control, but it's true.
The more control you have
over your instrument,
the easier it is to make those
changes from one style to the next and
it becomes just a matter of familiarizing
yourself with those styles and
emulating those, but if you haven't got
the tools to play in the first place,
if you haven't got enough control of
your horn, then making those switches,
it's gonna be much harder.
It's gonna be much harder to play
without making any switches.
It's gonna be harder to play period.
So, let's build a routine.
So, I want to talk about what I do and
what I think would be beneficial for you.
You always want to start with something
to warm up, obviously, and low and
behold in my lessons here,
you can see Eric's top secret warm
ups which are not top secret at all.
[LAUGH] But in there,
there are three things that
you're gonna really I
think get a lot out of.
The first are long tones, and you can't
get, can't play enough long tones.
It centers you, one thing I may not have
talked about in the long tone practice so
far is just, yes I did but
it's worth repeating,
just make sure whenever you play
the note it's like, super still.
No, actually there is one thing I
want to make sure you're aware of.
That when you play your long
tones that you're making sure,
you're playing with a tuner.
Okay, you're gonna see in the lessons
here where I devote an entire lesson to
how to use the tuner.
How to play with the tuner,
so refer to that.
But just so you know here, know that
when you're playing long tones, as I've
been talking about in all these lessons,
start your routine with long tones.
Set your metronome at something nice and
slow, maybe sixty BPM or whatever.
You don't need a metronome to play a long
tone, but I like it because it keeps you
on task and the point of a long
tone is to, you know, continue
the exercise, keep playing it because
it works your muscles better that way.
But as you're playing it,
it'd be good to have two things with you,
two pieces of technology,
one metronome and one tuner.
Because every note on your horn is
gonna be a little bit different.
Flat or sharp.
And as we play our notes,
sometimes people tend to,
more often, people tend to rise in
their pitch at the end of a long tone.
The reason is actually obvious.
When you're playing a note,
you're working on your air,
you're pushing your air forward and
it's also about your embouchure.
So the two points of pressure
are your air and your embouchure.
And so as you get to the end of a long
note, what's happening, you're running out
of air, so the pressure from down here,
the two counteract by the way.
So this one is pushing, your embouchure
is pushing the reed closer, and
the air is helping keep that reed
vibrating and more open, really.
If you just put the mouthpiece in
your mouth and start playing, or
rather pretend to play, don't actually
play, then the reed's gonna clamp down.
If you just blow into the mouthpiece
without putting your mouth on it,
there's nothing closing it down.
So those two, your air and
embouchure worked together,
to keep the sound stable and
the pitch stable.
So, at the end of a long tone, when you
start running out of air, this goes away,
this does not.
And what happens we close down our reed,
our mouth piece, and the pitch rises.
So, a great way to tell if
that's really happening,
is to be looking at that tuner, so.
Be aware of that.
So your first part of your
routine should be long tones.
Start on the middle of the horn, just
like in that exercise on the warm ups and
go down chromatically to
the bottom of the horn, and
then start again on
the middle of the horn.
And go up.
And each long tone you want to have
last for about eight counts or so.
Good long time, but
not out of range of your air.
But certainly enough to workout.
The second thing I do in my practice
routine is the same thing in
my top secret warmup lesson,
which is the chromatic scale.
You can start from the very
bottom like we did.
And if it's unfamiliar to you,
go to that lesson and play along with me.
That was the whole point.
In that lesson, I played really slow and
really in control,
and there's obviously, a sheet that
you can read and follow along.
But the point is, I started from the very,
very bottom of the horn,
and went to the very top of the horn,
and then it came back down again.
It's great.
Follow along with that, and
you'll get the idea.
If you haven't got time for that,
you can start at any place.
But the great idea in putting your
practice routine together is know what
you're gonna do before you start,
know everything you're gonna
be working on at that point.
And it doesn't take a rocket scientist to
know how long basically, things will take.
Each scale is gonna take x amount of time.
So you'll know if you've got 15
minutes to do a little practice or
five hours or whatever.
So if you wanna start halfway,
that chromatic exercise.
Again, you got PDF's for it, but
it's that chromatic scale where you
play the chromatic scale ascending,
but the exercises that every other
note returns back to the tonic.
Like that but in time and
with the metronome.
So establish where you're going
to start the exercise, and
where you're going to finish and
how far you can go.
I have to realize too that I've been doing
that exercise for years and years, and
if it's new to you, as it is with
a lot of my private students,
it's not just something
you can rattle off.
So maybe just three or
four scales is gonna take you some time.
That's cool, again as you put your routine
together, think about the consistency.
Taking breaks only when you need to.
Okay, so right out of your long tones,
take a breath,
get some water, and
then jump right into this.
One thing that I didn't cover
though in that warmup lesson
is to try to commit these to
memory as soon as you can.
It's a chromatic scale.
You're just playing every note on
the horn, and the exercise, again,
is returning back to the tonic note,
the first note.
But by not having to read it all the time,
by committing it to memory
internalizes it more, and
at that point, you get a bit
more value out of the exercise.
Same thing with scales, if you're gonna
now incorporate some scale exercises this.
My curriculum is chock-full of scale
exercises, so you can pick and
choose different things.
So when you put your routine together, go
ahead and pick this from that lesson and
perhaps that from that, and you have all
of these PDF's that you can choose from.
One macro-comment that I wanna make
is that when you're putting your
routine together, don't lock into
the same exact things every time,
try to make it different.
Be really great, what I used to
do too is if you're going to
practice every day of the week,
seven days,
create seven different lists of
what you are going to work on.
They may all be, long tones,
hey, you wanna work on long
tones the same exact way.
That's a warmup, but if you're learning,
the next thing you're gonna do
is a chromatic exercise, and
you're kind of just getting into
it maybe go from F, this F.
Up to,
whatever, C.
Again with the metronome, okay?
And then or extend it all the way to F.
I'm gonna fire up my metronome here.
I'm going to practice what I preach,
so all the way up to F perhaps.
Or if you just wanna
work on the ones descending.
So you can start on high C.
And do each one twice and
head down to an octave below that.
Whichever ones you want to be working on,
but make sure whatever you do when you're
working on them,
make sure you consolidate that.
Same thing with your scales, and
then same thing with the exercises too.
So long tones,
I recommend the chromatic exercise.
I recommend it for a lot of reasons.
It covers every note, and as you go
through the exercise, the interval
from one note to the next becomes
wider and wider and wider and wider.
So it becomes more and more of a challenge
to hit each of the notes towards the end
of an exercise, and it becomes also harder
and harder to keep each note in tune.
So make sure you hit the center of
each pitch, like with that exercise,
as you get farther and farther into it,
your embouchure is gonna kind
of tend to want to aim for
the lower note off the top note.
Especially later,
a lot of the part of the exercise where
the intervals are quite wide, so.
That starts to occur.
So you don't wanna be falling off
the ladder there on those guys.
Make sure that whenever you're playing,
especially at wider interval,
don't let anything move or
change embouchure-wise, or tongue-wise or
anything while you're playing a note.
Only the good rule of thumb is that don't
move anything until your fingers move.
When your fingers move obviously,
they're moving to the next note.
This is all a very quick motion but still.
So obviously, when you're going from
this note say to that note, or this note
to that note, it's like ready, set, go,
and your fingers move, and that's when
you're for sure done with that first note,
perhaps the top note of that exercise.
And so, a good rule is don't
let anything move in your air,
in your embouchure structure or
in your tongue until your fingers do.
can see it
And again, that's a good rule,
cuz that way you're not accidentally
losing your pitch,
because you're heading for the next note.
And again, you
won't hear those issues if you don't make
those movements until your fingers do.
Everything will move at the same time,
nice and uniform.
Another thing I wanna talk to you about,
too, is just written exercises as
opposed to non-written exercises.
It's great to just come up with some ideas
of your own that are you know or whatever.
One idea for you would be permutations or
motifs of a particular scale,
you can take and
these are best not to practice written.
It's best to play these off
the top of your head so
that you can make sure you're
checking yourself for your scales.
Memorizing your scales Is important.
Obviously it's very important because
the chords that we're gonna use for
improvising are based on scales.
Major scales, minor scales,
dominant scales, dorian scales,
all kinds of scales.
And if you have to constantly refer
to some sort of written scale
It's gonna be a little difficult when it
comes time to reading a chord change.
So, memorizing scales is important and
this is a great
way actually to enhance or get to the next
level of memorization for a scale.
Scales aren't just about playing
them up and down, by the way.
So you can take a little motif.
My little motif would be say root,
third, fourth and fifth
based on the major scale.
So for me on my alto here this is my G
major scale, and then play each one.
Three times, four times rather.
And play it chromatically like this.
So go up in half steps.
And so
Changing up the articulation,
like we have on so many other exercises.
And as you always, always should.
But, you know doing this gets you,
again, it's another thing you can
do away from reading reading so
many different things and
out of books and all sorts of things.
It's great, don't get me wrong,
I've written several.
I'm all about books, but
it's great also to have things
where you're having to concentrate
that much harder in your mind.
So, in your practice routine,
you'll wanna be thinking about always
incorporating your long tones first and
foremost, that chromatic exercise or
some, you know,
you got the whole thing written out.
It's all written down again in the warm
up, Eric's top secret warm up lesson.
So, you can find those exercises,
the PDFs for them, there.
And then, if the whole thing is too much
then decide which part of those that
you're gonna do and then take it,
create a scale exercise based on
the scales that I've given you throughout
the course of this curriculum and
the various exercises in the advanced
section, there are these exercises
called finger-twisters,
and they are exactly that.
They're finger-twisters.
So there's five lessons
dedicated to those, so
I'll let you refer to those so
I can save the explanation for that.
And then lastly, you know, coming up
with some sort of like a motif exercise
that I just did where, you're doing it
based on a scale, not written down.
And, you know, so
doing all those things with the metronome,
in the case of the long tones with the,
with the tuner as well.
And, you know, varying things up,
but sticking with it.
That is the technical side
of our practice routine.
There's all kinds of musical sides
that I want you to get into, too.
But it's easier to play music
if your technique is together.
So always remember that,
always be a good advocate for
yourself with your practice routines.
There you go.
Happy practicing.