Sax on the Web Forum banner

1 - 19 of 19 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
565 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
When I practice, I'm not satisfied with what I practice. I've got a huge number of sheet music to play through and I have. I know that there's always something to work on, but lately practicing has been a huge drag for me.

I've done endless series of scales, arpeggios, ear transcriptions of solos, playalongs tracks, free improv, overtones, harmonics and multiphonics.It's like I'm stuck doing the same thing over and over and over again.

What's worse is I feel like I'm not making the progress I feel I should be making. I'm also bored with my own sound, it's the same generic alto tone, neither edgy nor mellow. It's sort of a "gray" sound, to put it in "colors". Maybe I should pick up my flute more for legit playing.

Any help?
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member/Forum Contributor 2011
Joined
·
781 Posts
If you practice the same things the same way every time you practice, you'll get stuck on plateaus. It sounds like you have been covering a lot of fundamentals.

My suggestion is that in addition to some of the fundamentals you are practicing, work at expanding your repertoire of memorized standards. Learn the melody and chord changes to these tunes, one at a time, through all 12 keys. It will likely take several weeks to learn the first tune, but the more you do it, the better you get at it. Keep a list of tunes you learn, that way when you are feeling stuck, you can look at your list and measure your progress in terms of the number of tunes you have learned in a given period of time. You can also practice harmonic and rhythmic concepts as you do this, noting your progress in those areas as well. Depending on how advanced your skills are, you can begin with something as simple as a blues like "Sonnymoon For Two."

Randy
www.randyhunterjazz.com
Online Jazz Lessons and Books
New Lesson:
Making Sense of Jazz Improvisation
Lesson Series:
Introduction to the Blues
The Arpeggio Circle
Through the Keys
and more...
Lessons page: www.beginningsax.com/Jazz Improv Lessons.htm
Rhythm Changes Demo: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SrT0Xw_y9d0
Rhythm Changes Lesson:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tMOW7QAfpwo
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
75 Posts
It's like I'm stuck doing the same thing over and over and over again.
That's probably because you are :) and it's no wonder then if you're getting bored. So, the solution is to either find new things to do and/or new ways to do the things you're already doing.

I'm also bored with my own sound, it's the same generic alto tone, neither edgy nor mellow.
This would then be something to work on. One exercise I get my students to do is to play a single note, but in as many different ways as they can. This gets them thinking about (and listening to) their tone, quality of sound, different effects they can put on a note (e.g. growling, scoops and bends, vibrato), etc.

You can also spend some time listening to people whose sound you like and figure out how to do it yourself. Some of it is in their setup, but not all of it. But I think the goal is flexibility, the ability to play edgy or mellow or whatever as the situation requires.

It's easy to get stuck in a rut doing the stuff covered in books but they tend not to cover things like this because it's really hard to do in print. But it's really important - ultimately what we want to do is play music, something worth listening to, and all the scales, theory and other stuff we practice is just a means to that end.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
297 Posts
+1 to everything Randy said. He's a really skilled teacher and I've learned a lot just reading some of his work and watching some of his videos.

And on a more psychological note (more my area), maybe try to relax and see the progress you have made. I'm always my own worse critic and can drive myself into the ground with all the things I DON'T know or CAN'T yet do. And (again, this is just me) I compare myself to the greats and have crazy expectations about where I should be by now. It always helps me to remember I love the horn and the music. When it doesn't reach deep inside me and give me some genuine satisfaction and joy then I usually know I've lost the thread of why I'm practicing in the first place. It may sound silly, but I remind myself to have fun and not take myself so seriously. Sometimes I take a break and see how many really weird noises I can make on my horn. I also ask a good friend and music teacher for ideas (just as you have here) and he always gives me a new twist in my practice technique as well as plenty of encouragement. Playing with friends just for fun also always helps me get back on track and lifts my spirits. Hope this helps. I try never to pretend to know what anyone else needs. I only know what has been helpful for me. Best of luck! Keep at it and be kind to yourself.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
75 Posts
I compare myself to the greats and have crazy expectations about where I should be by now.
Yah, I used to be a bit like that, but I've chilled out a bit in my old age :) I don't think it ever goes away, though. There are stories of Trane ducking out the back during breaks between sets to practice :)

Everyone learns at their own pace and it'll come when it comes. I got stuck in a plateau for 10 years but when I broke through that, my rate of improvement went ballistic.
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member
Joined
·
15,788 Posts
Find a group to play with. Or start a group. You could be part of a small group.....quartet (either jazz or legit), quintet. Or if there is a local big band, try to become involved with them. Likely, you will have to be a subsititute initially and work your way into a seat in a big band. The experience of playing with others is a definite plus for your development and satisfaction as a player. Good luck and keep good thoughts about your playing.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
35 Posts
I got stuck in a plateau for 10 years but when I broke through that, my rate of improvement went ballistic.
Yup I 'know what you mean.........and I reckon on the wrong side of 10years too...got be on the verge of climbing again!

Good post this.... gives me hope too![rolleyes]

Cheers
Jimu
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
75 Posts
Yup I 'know what you mean.........and I reckon on the wrong side of 10years too...got be on the verge of climbing again!
The key that unlocked everything for me was understanding ii-V-I's, not just on a theoretical level, but in my bones. From there, I got a deeper understanding of harmony, something that's hard for us monophonic instrumentalists to get, and a real feeling for what music is, beyond just a series of notes. That, and ear-training.

No-one ever tells you this! :banghead:
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
565 Posts
Discussion Starter #12
Turns out I can play pretty well in a group, just not alone in the basement.

Time to get myself a group. :)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
75 Posts
Turns out I can play pretty well in a group, just not alone in the basement
This is actually a sign you need to spend more time in the woodshed (or basement).

When you play in a group, you can hide behind the other guys to a certain degree e.g. if you're not 100% solid on playing the changes, they'll be doing it for you, or if you make a misteak in your solo you can pause for a bit to figure out where to go next and the band will fill the space. But when you're on your own, you're completely exposed and any deficiency is brutally apparent.

I used to busk a lot and it's absolutely terrifying - it's probably the harshest environment to play music in (you're on your own, crappy acoustics, no-one cares) but it definitely shows you where you need to improve :)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
565 Posts
Discussion Starter #14
When I'm in a group, I can hear the sounds I don't hear when I'm alone, practicing. I make my own playalongs, so maybe I should overdub my own playing on keyboards and guitar so I can practice "with" myself.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
75 Posts
When I'm in a group, I can hear the sounds I don't hear when I'm alone
Yah, this is exactly the point I'm making. When you play alone, you have to be able to make the sound of the changes as you play, you have to be able to hear the song in your head so that you can play something strong melodically over the top of it. Otherwise you're just using the band behind you as a crutch.

It's really hard to do but the best players can play a song, on their own, and have the listener be able to tell what the song is and where they're up to. When I see intermediate players not be able to play something as simple as a 12-bar blues on their own without getting lost, or being unable to make the sound of the changes, it's a sure-fire sign that they're not quite there yet.

Several people suggested in response to your OP that you join a group and I heartily agree with that; I was just making an observation on your later comment about not playing as well when you're on your own :)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
249 Posts
Yah, this is exactly the point I'm making. When you play alone, you have to be able to make the sound of the changes as you play, you have to be able to hear the song in your head so that you can play something strong melodically over the top of it. Otherwise you're just using the band behind you as a crutch.

It's really hard to do but the best players can play a song, on their own, and have the listener be able to tell what the song is and where they're up to. When I see intermediate players not be able to play something as simple as a 12-bar blues on their own without getting lost, or being unable to make the sound of the changes, it's a sure-fire sign that they're not quite there yet.

Several people suggested in response to your OP that you join a group and I heartily agree with that; I was just making an observation on your later comment about not playing as well when you're on your own :)
What is a "busk"?
 
1 - 19 of 19 Posts
Top