Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Huge Practice day

Today I started off with the usual 1 hour of long tones. I have been playing a Selmer Mark VI which unfortunately needs a good service which it is getting on Monday. So until then I'm going to be using my old faithful Yamaha AS-100. Which is interesting because on the Selmer I was having a little trouble with the 1st Altissimo G, but could comfortably reach high D, and had been working on going further and I had been hitting G and G# on occasion. However with the Yamaha I struggle to hit G, G#, A, A#, but I can then play from B up a whole octave, leaving less than an octave on most piano's. The finger all needed to be changed and its quite funny how changing the saxophone has flipped my altissimo range upside down.

I have been asked by my teacher to try practicing incorporating more breaks. I was practicing for an hour to 3 hours straight without a break. However its been brought to my attention that my brain is probably fried after half an hour let alone 3 hours. So I have been taking a 5-10 minute break every half hour, which I think has helped. Probably a little too early to tell though.

My second and third hour of practice (including 3 5 minute breaks) I played scales again. I have again neglected pentatonics, blues, diminished, whole tone, Augmented and so on, so tomorrow I am going to work on all of these scales. Today I practiced the Major Modes, Harmonic Minor Modes and Melodic Minor Modes; over the entire range (excluding altissimo as I can't hit from F#-A#), then in 3rds, then alternating the 3rds, then in scale tone 7ths, then Joseph Viola's Pentads and Hexads exersises, all of this was practiced at 100bpm, and was very accurate, I was actually proud of the effort (Does not mean that I'm awesome at these exercises, I just happened to not make many mistakes today).

I then spent an hour on some licks and Bebop ii-7 V7, Imaj7 licks in 12 keys, paying close attention to the keys that are utilised in the bridge of Have You Met Miss Jones. I tried to memorise and bring the speed of these licks up.

I then spent 2 hours playing some solos that I had written out on both Confirmation and Have You Met Miss Jones. I then spent about 40 minutes improvising with the Aebersold play alongs. I recorded this part again, but have not yet listened to it. I felt harmonically secure again, how ever on Confirmation I felt that I was getting really repetitive, on Confirmation I felt I was flowing a lot more through the bridge. I had in mind to use a lot more leaps and rhythmical variations.

I finished todays practice by transcribing some songs for my recital that is on the 13th of November, and will be spending the rest of the evening typing parts up for my band in Sibelius.

Thanks for reading, Happy Practice

1st Blog

Yesterday I started by warming up for an hour with a long tone exercise given to me by my teacher John Mackey. The exercise involves playing a pedal note either a low Bb or the highest note, then jumping to the highest or lowest note depending on what your pedal point was, then working down chromatically to your pedal point. The point of the exercise is to learn how to play big intervals correctly, cover the entire range of your horn, to get your ears to start hearing bigger intervals, as well as the normal things that come with long tone practice, that is to improve intonation, tone and embouchure etc. While I practice long tones I constantly consider what Sigurd Rascher discusses in the start of his book "Top Tones For the Saxophone" That is that you will keep a nice even tone, control ever aspect of the air flow, uniformity of tone over the entire range (especially between registers and the break between the two octave keys). The third thing I incorporate into this part of my practice regime is to play with a tuner and a piano. The tuner stays on to tell me if the piano is in pitch, while I play chords on the piano that include the note I'm playing I then use my ears to hear whether the note I'm playing is in tune with the piano chord. I find at least that while tuners give you a good sense of what is happening, a lot of younger musicians keep their eyes on the tuner and have no concept of what a note that is going in and out of tune sounds like. When they play with a band there is no magical line and green light telling them that they are in tune. Thats why I think comparing your intonation to a piano is more important, its better training for the job.

My second practice session involved the major, harmonic minor and melodic minor modes. I have noticed recently that when I use notes that are played by my pinky's and the left hand palm keys that the notes are kind of sloppy! So Yesterday I practiced by playing all of the above scales over the entire range of the saxophone as per the Joseph Viola "Techniques of the Saxophone: Scale Studies" at 80 bpm. After an hour and a half of doing so I had brought my speed up to 132 bpm, and again I say absolutely accurately. If I made a mistake on any scale at any speed, I had to do it again 5 times.

I spent about 40 minutes working on a transcription of Cannonball Adderley from the album "Quintet in San Fransisco" called "Hi-Fly" by Bobby Timmons if I remember correctly. I have previously learned the transcription, but this semester I am learning it in 6 keys and then the other 6 over summer. So yesterday I spent 40 minutes working over some of the double time lines in the keys of C, D and F, however F goes mighty high! This is still very much a work in progress. The original key and the key of C are fine to play with the recording (obviously I don't play the key of C with the recording but I can play it quick enough).

My final section of practice for yesterday was about 2 hours worth of Have You Met Miss Jones stuff. I first worked on some ii-7 V7, Imaj7 licks and then on my transcription of Kenny Garrett's solo over the tune off the album "Introducing Kenny Garrett" in the original key and the key of Bb. I then spent an hour playing with the Aebersold play'A'long of Have You Met Miss Jones. I recorded the whole Aebersold session and after listening back to it last night I can say that my harmonic security over the song particularly the bridge has come a long way since I first started playing the song. However as my teacher discussed in my last lesson some times the chords don't connect when I play, meaning the notes I play over the chord may be strong harmonically, or are interesting tensions, but are not really well connected to the bars surrounding them. But there was still some good stuff in there, and I did notice some Garrett esk melody quoting in some parts of the 10 or so plays through the play a long.

So Today I intend to keep going, but I would like to incorporate more enclosures and approach techniques, chromatics and the like into my playing!

Cheers, Have a good one