Are you looking to improve your saxophone practice?
It’s not good enough to just practice for a longer period. You need to practice better. More efficiently. And included in our ‘Beginner’s Guide To Learning The Saxophone’, we will teach you all of the techniques you need to practice the saxophone much better.
Really Important Saxophone Practice Suggestions
Practice. If you do it regularly enough, you’ll be great. Everybody knows this. Exactly why is practice so difficult?
Motivation is a vital thing. Without motivation, you will not trust yourself to go back to the instrument day after day. How do you get motivated?
By winning. Yes, that’s what I said. Winning. You are in constant competition with yourself, and whenever things go nicely, you feel like you’re winning. When you’re in this particular frame of mind, it’s effortless to practice. It’s the circle of life – winning a lot more gives you additional motivation, therefore you practice more. Practising, even more, means you win more, therefore it will give you even more motivation. And this goes on and on exponentially.
Therefore if it’s so easy, how come practice still so hard?
And the answer? Because it’s not that straightforward! Just practising isn’t adequate. You might practice for fifteen hours each day and not improve.
Therefore if it’s not the quantity of practise that puts you in the circle of life, what does?
Quality. Quality. Quality.
Practising for 15 minutes a day, concentrated, useful top-quality practice is significantly more effective than 2 hours of vague, ‘auto-pilot’ practice.
So you just need good quality practice for you to jump aboard the circle of life train?
Not a chance! Nothing is ever that easy. Blend quantity and quality, and you’ll finally turn into a first-class passenger.
Stay with me to see how to get your first-class ticket, and how to stay on the train so long as you want…
Structure Your Saxophone Practice
Just how long do I need to be practising every day?
15 to 20 mins is a superb starting place, and in all likelihood no longer than 45 minutes at a time. After this length of time, we humans usually zone out – and then the practising ends up being much less useful. As a rule of thumb, any time you sense your awareness waning, stop. Become pleased that you just showed up to your practice session, and don’t get worried how long you practice for.
How often should you practice the saxophone?
This is a simple answer – practice every day. That way, you’ll transform your saxophone practise into a habit. A compressed, targeted everyday practice is much more helpful than twice each week for one hour at the same time. And remember, if you’re pondering “but how will I find the time to do 20 mins each day? !? ” – just grab some of your time and effort from social media over to the saxophone. We do, after all, spend on average 142 minutes on social media every day!
What days should you be practicing?
It makes no difference whenever you practice, simply just as long as you do practice. Try out creating a predetermined schedule for yourself vs. being ad-hok. Find which solutions are best, and follow it.
Saxophone Practice Top Tips
1. Prevent Probable Interruptions
It is ‘you’ time. Similar to when you visit the movie theatre, be sure you turn off all of those nagging gizmos that could ping, ding and disturb you. Focus is the name of the game.
2. Get Really Comfy
With time, you’ll be spending an immense length of time with the instrument, hence it’s really crucial that you get as comfortable as possible. Ensure that you have some water, a pen and a piece of paper to make notes.
3. Setting Goals
What would you like to accomplish? Make an effort to set an ambition which you can realize in the practice session. Working with goals, you’ll develop quicker and a lot more proficiently.
Develop a strategy, and adhere to it. Monday, Wednesday and Friday can be mastering 8 new bars/measures; with Tuesday and Thursday piecing together the things you know. Arrange for yourself a reward, and when you accomplish your chosen targets, open that incentive by using a corkscrew!
4. Say Hi To Undesirable Habits
Nobody is perfect initially. Consciously understand that until you’ve repeated a section a couple of times, you’ll make mistakes. Always be as methodical as possible solving these mistakes, because if you don’t, you’ll discover undesirable habits begin to sneak in.
Any time you discover a very little bad habit beginning to develop, say hi to it. Then destroy it instantly.
The only way this works though is when you’re consistent. Don’t ever permit bad habits to creep in. You’ll regret it!
5. Don't Drive Blind
Perhaps you have driven to a location, and when you arrived, you had basically no recollection or recall with regards to the trip. You drove completely on ‘brain auto-pilot’. The same thing can take place when practising the saxophone.
When you play the exact same thing, over and over, you will not grow. You will become bored. Your commitment will disappear. But do you know the solution? Alternating your practice methods!
There are so many possibilities. Close your eyes to perform. Consider performing the piece backwards. Try standing up or sitting down. Play whilst using earphones. Have fun with everything softly, or perhaps loudly. The list goes on and on. Creation is the name of the game, and whatever you decide and do, don’t lose interest!
6. You Happen To Be Greatest Mentor
Many of us understand best whenever we have someone over our shoulders, providing us with their feedback. Sadly, unless you own Amazon, you’re extremely unlikely to be able to manage to pay for a personal saxophone instructor 365 days each year. But Mr Bezos is able to keep his squillions because we do not need them. We have our unique teacher inside us.
To begin with, learn to hear. Lots of people fail to remember to actively listen, but it’s the simplest way to boost your playing.
Secondly, many of us are living in an age where one can make a reasonable recording of your playing with just your smartphone. So get it done. Watch it back and self-critique. Carry on doing this until you improve.
And whether or not the world’s wealthiest folks wanted to retain the services of my own personal coach, they couldn’t afford it!
7. The Curse Of The Starting point
You read a book, you locate page one. It’s totally normal. You play a sheet of music, you begin at the start. Yet again, completely normal. But for the purpose of practising, it’s not a great idea. You’ll wind up being phenomenally great at the initial few notes, and pretty dreadful at the rest. So change it up. Start off at the end, or even halfway through. Then the next day, opt for another random place to start your practice. But whatever you decide to do, don’t always start at the beginning!
8. Enjoying The Easy Parts
We are all fascinated with the path of least resistance. In music, it means enjoying the straightforward pieces. After we find an effortless bit that sounds excellent, many of us tend to play it over and over again. The trouble with this is the fact that we don’t improve. It’s actually a dreadful practice technique. So bypass the easy pieces, and concentrate on the portions that you’ll really need to work hard at.
Think logically now; which elements do you need to learn first? Yes, that’s correct. The complicated areas. The easy bits will sort themselves out.
So don’t disregard this. Go learn that hard element and warm it up…
9. Don't Perfect The Piece
Sight-reading is an excellent exercise to round off your practice with. There’s no pressure to perfect the piece, and it can be a lot of fun too! This also helps you test your saxophone playing skills out on a completely different piece – or even a different style.
Your metronome is there not as your foe, but as your buddy. So remember to use it!
For segments which can be really fast and difficult, the metronome can be a wonderful resource. Set it up at a nice and simple tempo, that you can have fun with the section perfectly. Then each day, notch up the speed by a little. Ultimately, you’ll end up being at performance speed, and it also should really feel as comfortable as when you started out at a slower pace.
And right here is a bonus word of advice – always make an effort to overshoot by ten percent. In order to be at 150BPM, make sure you can play it at 165BPM – that way 150BPM will appear easily achievable!
11. It Is Essential...
Remember in number 3 I talked about a nice bottle of red? I figured this is vital enough to mention it twice!
Saxophone Practice Bonus Tips
1. Be Consistent
Every time you choose to do new things, your brain learns something about it and produces a neuron. This neuron is like a branch of a tree, and the more occasions you repeat the neuron action, you enhance it. In other words, the branch of the tree gets much stronger and more robust. This only transpires though if you do exactly the same thing, again and again.
However, whenever you alter a little something, a completely new branch is created. In the event you play the very same passage of music 4 times, and each time you use a different fingering or are not completely consistent, you’re generating four tree branches.
So what’s the issue with that? A branch works similar to a route that your brain strolls down. It has to choose one of the options you’ve created. The problem is that as opposed to one powerful choice, you have many weak possibilities. This just confuses your wobbly gel of a brain and slows the processing time right down. The outcome is usually a mistake.
So be consistently correct from the very first time of performing something. Understand things at a tempo you can actually work well. And focus on your neurons!
Start to introduce a tuning machine into your playing early on. This will help to train your ears so that you are aware of the pitch – this is essential if you want to play with others or backing tracks.
As you play a note into the tuning machine or app, it will show you whether this note is too high in pitch (‘sharp’) or too low (‘flat’). If you are the former, then gently pull your mouthpiece off the cork a little further, and if the latter, gently push the mouthpiece further on.
Try again with the tuner and see how much that has improved the pitch; keep repeating the process until your pitch is more consistent. Note that saxophones are somewhat idiosyncratic in their natural pitch centre and beginner instrument models even more so, so not every note on the instrument will line up perfectly. But, you will be able to get some average consistency across the range of notes you are playing within, and the effort to find this sweet spot will be worth it!
3. Recommended Reading
Here are some great books that really helped me when I was starting out and I regularly recommend them to students to this day.
Music Practice: The Musician’s Guide to Practicing and Mastering your Instrument like a professional
I also highly recommend you include How to Read Music in 30 Days in your must-read list. If haven’t already read our guide on How To Read Sheet Music, then do check that out as well.
Saxophone Practice - Summary
If you’ve learnt one thing from all the above, it has to be the following:
Don’t leave practice to chance. Structure it. Be conscious and never go on ‘auto-pilot’. Shorter is absolutely sweeter. Print off the list and read it at the start of every week. And above all, get that corkscrew ready…
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