Practising – One

A few months ago, my girlfriend, Val (follow her here), and I decided to buy a house. This has given me more time to practise than I have ever had (since college). Living in the apartment was not condusive to practising, because I have always had neighbours who have complained (not that it ever stopped me from practising, but I did put less hours in). Now that I can practise when I please I am finding more and more holes in my playing – particularly in my technique.

I have always focused on my sound. Long tones, soft and loud, bent and straight, with or without vibrato – I have always been obsessed with sound and tone. Check out Andrew White’s Four Hour Warm-Up. Don Englert turned me on to that one. Technique, however, has always gone to the wayside. I have always gotten by, but just, and now the more I want to execute, the more frustrated I have become.

So, the remedy….I have started adapting Czerny’s School Of Velocity from piano to saxophone. These set of exercises are brilliant, and suit the saxophone quite well. I’m finding that they force me to use the palm keys and the altissimo register. This mobility is the challenge I’ve been looking for!

When I practise, there are several elements of my playing that I’m working on.

Tone and air support – these exercises are written for the piano. There are not many places for the saxophonist to breathe. I have been omitting a note here and there to make sure that I can keep full support and a good sound.

Articulation – I play everything with the “jazz” articulation (ta-tee-ah-tee-ah). To make sure it swings. Practical application is a concept that I cherish.

Time – Metronome starts at 40bpm on beats two and four. No questions, until it’s perfect.

Keys – each study gets transposed through every key. I do this at sight. I feel this is an important skill because A) it forces me to think about what’s coming next, B) the study becomes internalized much quicker, because I can’t read it, and C) sight transposing is a necessary skill – have you ever worked with a singer? (Sorry – had to do it.)

These (in my mind) are the keys to making any exercise or set of exercises practical. I’m finding that I’m getting around the horn much more comfortably, and hopefully, the technique will start to show in a few weeks. I learn slowly – it usually takes a few weeks, or sometimes even a month before my practising exposes itself at a gig.

You can find the Czerny book here, and from my research, it IS public domain, so feel free to download it.


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