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....if I have only half an hour to practice, what's the most productive use I can make of this time? What proportion of long tones/scales/pieces? And is half an hour a day reasonable to make progress? (Apart from anything else, I'm worried the neighbours will get angry if I practice for much longer!!)
 

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I am absolutely certain you will progress very well if you routinely practice 30 mins a day!

I practice 1hr a day most days and I divide my time as:

10-15 mins long tones
10 mins scales and arpeggios
15 mins sight reading
15-20 mins learning tunes, improvising or transcribing

I need the sight reading, you may not need that! I deliberately keep my volume down on the long notes and scales precisely in order to be less noisy for the neighbours - especially as that's the least musical part.

Good luck!
 

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If you're serious about getting better on your instrument, the heck with the neighbors! (Unless they call the cops...) But seriously, on some days - for me, at least - thirty minutes is hardly enough time to fully warm up, let alone divide it among different areas of practice. Realistically, it depends. For general development and improvement on the saxophone, long tones and scales are certainly more important. I'd say do some long tones, if for nothing more than to at least get your lip and reed working, and then run your scales and arpeggios. On the other hand, if you have a deadline (e.g., rehearsal, concert, etc.) rapidly approaching and you have music to learn, then it might be a better idea to just hit a few long tones, and then really aggressively start to look at the music.

In a perfect world, we would all have time to blow at least thirty minutes of long tones, and then run scales and arpeggios for about 2 hours, before even beginning to look at tunes/repertoire and/or improvisation, DAILY. Since this is not the case with the vast majority of us, we have to make do with what we do have, while still realizing the supreme importance of the fundamentals.
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EDIT: I did not include sight-reading in the line up, as I am a firm believer that it is just plain reading that makes for better sight-reading, not just always reading things that you've never seen before.
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In all honesty, I almost never feel that 30-minute practice sessions are truly productive. I usually find myself just spot-checking things during that time, rather than making any real progess. I'd say shoot for at least an hour.
 

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renaissance_man said:
I did not include sight-reading in the line up, as I am a firm believer that it is just plain reading that makes for better sight-reading, not just always reading things that you've never seen before.
I don't know, I'm a pretty decent sight-reader, and I would attribute that to my first clarinet teacher starting every lesson with a couple of sight-read duets. Sight-reading is not an unrelated skill to regular reading, though. Being a good sight reader is just being a very good reader.
 

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dirty, your last sentence lines up pretty well with what I was getting at. Those who are really great sight-readers are able to instantly recognize rhythms and patterns and automatically know what they sound and feel like. This combined with knowing the saxophone and being able to play the notes makes for excellent sight-reading. The point I was trying to make was that just doing more reading increases that which you are able to automatically recognize, whereas sight-reading just practices this skill. The practice is important, but unnecessary if you don't have the skill to begin with. The bottom line: you have to read before you can sight-read.
 

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bailey said:
....if I have only half an hour to practice, what's the most productive use I can make of this time? What proportion of long tones/scales/pieces? And is half an hour a day reasonable to make progress? (Apart from anything else, I'm worried the neighbours will get angry if I practice for much longer!!)
How long have you been playing?

Are you studying sax privately?

Do you play in an ensemble?
 
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