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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am a long-time hack player, at least partially because I never seem to have consistent regular practice time available. I am still coming back from a ~7 year hiatus where I didn’t play at all, but even before that my playing time tended to be daily playing for around half the year and sporadic playing the other half. All that is to lay out why I am still at essentially a beginner level after playing/being a member here for over 15 years.

My current issue is that it looks like this winter will consist of one session a week of around an hour. I know it isn’t enough practice time to progress on anything, but I am trying to figure out the best use of that time to minimize the losses. I primarily want to keep the once a week sessions going for my mental health as I find practice functions as a form of meditation for me when I am crazy busy in the rest of my life. Currently my plan is to pick a couple of tunes to focus on and work on them every week. I figure that way I won’t waste time figuring out new tunes or fumbling around aimlessly. I will also do some minimal long tones and work on the scales/theory (my weakest areas) around those tunes the rest of the week (away from the horn). I am thinking I will throw in some blues tunes every now and then to keep it from being too monotonous.

Any other thoughts as to how I should approach this situation?
 

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Yanigasawa S-6 soprano, Yamaha YAS-62 Alto; Selmer Mk VI Tenor; Martin Committee III Baritone
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By “couple of tunes” do you mean jazz standards, pop songs, or classical rep?
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
By “couple of tunes” do you mean jazz standards, pop songs, or classical rep?
Sorry, I should have specified, I meant a couple of jazz standards. One of them I have played before (Yesterdays) and want to go back to to get more depth, the other is new to me (Jordu) but it has some aspects to it that I would like to learn. My main interest in playing the sax is jazz, so that is my focus.
 

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Alto YAS-32f and Tenor Selmer Axos
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Currently my plan is to pick a couple of tunes to focus on and work on them every week
I'd stick to that plan. If I hadn't enough time to practice theory, I would spend some time having fun with the horn by working on selected tunes, thus, sustaining a minimum incentive to continue grabbing the horn. And later on, work over technic/theory if remaining time allows it or when experiencing difficulties for a specific tune.. but I would keep in mind that we play sax for fun and not specifically for arpeggiates, imho..
 

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Bari, Tenor, Alto
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I hear ya. Been at this off and on since 2020. I'm 52 now and running a department, which take sup a lot of my time. By the end of the day, I'm often exhausted! Not to mention needing to do life things like maintain a house. Luckily, my Sweet Pea does half the home stuff, leaving me some time to practice. I have a music room, at home, but I'd need a bespoke soundproof booth or a room-in-a-room kind of isolation to be able to really honk away on my bari. It's a big thing to ask a person to try to watch TV or do much of anything whilst I'm making all that noise for 2 hours a night. I am very fortunate to work at a college where the music room/stage is right around the corner from my office, affording me the opportunity to practice as I wish in the evenings when no one else is around. I also have a weekly lesson with a great teacher at the Music & Arts store nearby. Thus, I've made some decent progress--though nowhere near much more than a rank amateur.
That being said, I've become much more familiar with my horn, with proper embouchure, tone, tonguing, voicing, and fluency. My goal of late is to focus really hard on learning all 12 major scales so well that my fingers just go to the right notes automatically. After that, I'll learn the Natural, Harmonic, and Melodic Minor scales. I think having these "under the fingers" will serve me well as a more solid foundation, allowing me to focus on how to use these scales to transcribe my favorite songs more easily, and eventually, leading to actual improvisation that is not just randomly feeling things out. For me, it's scales, scales, and more scales!! Should've done this long ago!
Musical instrument Guitar Black-and-white Style String instrument
 

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Bari, Tenor, Alto
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I hear ya. Been at this off and on since 2020. I'm 52 now and running a department, which takes up a lot of my time. By the end of the day, I'm often exhausted!--Not to mention needing to do life things like maintain a house. Luckily, my Sweet Pea does half the home stuff, leaving me some time to practice. I have a music room, at home, but I'd need a bespoke soundproof booth or a room-in-a-room kind of isolation to be able to really honk away on my bari. It's a big thing to ask a person to try to watch TV or do much of anything whilst I'm making all that noise for 2 hours a night. I am very fortunate to work at a college where the music room/stage is right around the corner from my office, affording me the opportunity to practice as I wish in the evenings when no one else is around. I also have a weekly lesson with a great teacher at the Music & Arts store nearby. Thus, I've made some decent progress--though nowhere near much more than a rank amateur.
That being said, I've become much more familiar with my horn, with proper embouchure, tone, tonguing, voicing, and fluency. My goal of late is to focus really hard on learning all 12 major scales so well that my fingers just go to the right notes automatically. After that, I'll learn the Natural, Harmonic, and Melodic Minor scales. I think having these "under the fingers" will serve me well as a more solid foundation, allowing me to focus on how to use these scales to transcribe my favorite songs more easily, and eventually, leading to actual improvisation that is not just randomly feeling things out. For me, it's scales, scales, and more scales!! Should've done this long ago! View attachment 144919
Edited. Damn my blurry eyes!
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I hear ya. Been at this off and on since 2020. I'm 52 now and running a department, which take sup a lot of my time. By the end of the day, I'm often exhausted! Not to mention needing to do life things like maintain a house. Luckily, my Sweet Pea does half the home stuff, leaving me some time to practice. I have a music room, at home, but I'd need a bespoke soundproof booth or a room-in-a-room kind of isolation to be able to really honk away on my bari. It's a big thing to ask a person to try to watch TV or do much of anything whilst I'm making all that noise for 2 hours a night. I am very fortunate to work at a college where the music room/stage is right around the corner from my office, affording me the opportunity to practice as I wish in the evenings when no one else is around. I also have a weekly lesson with a great teacher at the Music & Arts store nearby. Thus, I've made some decent progress--though nowhere near much more than a rank amateur.
That being said, I've become much more familiar with my horn, with proper embouchure, tone, tonguing, voicing, and fluency. My goal of late is to focus really hard on learning all 12 major scales so well that my fingers just go to the right notes automatically. After that, I'll learn the Natural, Harmonic, and Melodic Minor scales. I think having these "under the fingers" will serve me well as a more solid foundation, allowing me to focus on how to use these scales to transcribe my favorite songs more easily, and eventually, leading to actual improvisation that is not just randomly feeling things out. For me, it's scales, scales, and more scales!! Should've done this long ago! View attachment 144919
Sounds like you are at where I was before my longer hiatus (baby coming into the house along with major work changes). Seems like you have a great situation with the available work-related practice space (love the big screen projector for your music). I have a space available to me most days at the local university that is a short distance from my office and I use that during my slow time at work, but I find going there costs too much time during my busy work-time and just isn't feasible and that is mainly why I am looking at much-reduced practice time now.

Keep honkin!
 

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SBS311 Bari, ProOne Soprano
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That being said, I've become much more familiar with my horn, with proper embouchure, tone, tonguing, voicing, and fluency. My goal of late is to focus really hard on learning all 12 major scales so well that my fingers just go to the right notes automatically. After that, I'll learn the Natural, Harmonic, and Melodic Minor scales. I think having these "under the fingers" will serve me well as a more solid foundation, allowing me to focus on how to use these scales to transcribe my favorite songs more easily, and eventually, leading to actual improvisation that is not just randomly feeling things out. For me, it's scales, scales, and more scales!! Should've done this long ago!
Every time I check on your YT channel, you seem to be making some great progress. I can tell those scales definitely work and I agree that they're just some of the best exercises to do and you can knock em out in just a few mins if you need to. Goodluck to the OP on his journey and yours, Maikeli.
 

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I am a long-time hack player, at least partially because I never seem to have consistent regular practice time available. I am still coming back from a ~7 year hiatus where I didn’t play at all, but even before that my playing time tended to be daily playing for around half the year and sporadic playing the other half. All that is to lay out why I am still at essentially a beginner level after playing/being a member here for over 15 years.

My current issue is that it looks like this winter will consist of one session a week of around an hour. I know it isn’t enough practice time to progress on anything, but I am trying to figure out the best use of that time to minimize the losses. I primarily want to keep the once a week sessions going for my mental health as I find practice functions as a form of meditation for me when I am crazy busy in the rest of my life. Currently my plan is to pick a couple of tunes to focus on and work on them every week. I figure that way I won’t waste time figuring out new tunes or fumbling around aimlessly. I will also do some minimal long tones and work on the scales/theory (my weakest areas) around those tunes the rest of the week (away from the horn). I am thinking I will throw in some blues tunes every now and then to keep it from being too monotonous.

Any other thoughts as to how I should approach this situation?
For me, the quickest way to really learn tunes in order to be able to improvise over them is:
  • Learn the melody (vary the rhythms and phrasing to make it yours)
  • Play just the chord roots all the way thru
  • Play the chord arpeggios all the way thru
  • Play different inversions with voice leading from chord to the next
  • Play diatonic and chromatic approach notes to each chord tone (enclosures) with voice leading
  • Listen to the greats play the tune and transcribe solo ideas from them, and learn your favorite licks/phrases in all keys

By the time you're done, you'll know the tune and can play a basic, melodic solo over it. But it could take a few months of weekly practice or a few days of focused daily practice. This approach gradually increases complexity, so it's easier to progress. The more tunes you use this approach with, the more chords and scales you'll learn, and each new tune will be easier.

If you don't actually know your scales, then add that between steps 2 and 3 using the chord scale, i.e., G7 would be a G major scale with a flat 7 (mixolydian mode), and Dm would be a D scale with a flat 3 and flat 7 (dorian mode).

If you don't have an app for playing along, I highly recommend iReal Pro.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
For me, the quickest way to really learn tunes in order to be able to improvise over them is:
  • Learn the melody (vary the rhythms and phrasing to make it yours)
  • Play just the chord roots all the way thru
  • Play the chord arpeggios all the way thru
  • Play different inversions with voice leading from chord to the next
  • Play diatonic and chromatic approach notes to each chord tone (enclosures) with voice leading
  • Listen to the greats play the tune and transcribe solo ideas from them, and learn your favorite licks/phrases in all keys
Thanks Lydian, I have been aware of some variation of this approach and usually get as far the third step, then say f***k it and just noodle over it the best I can. I understand the concept of voice leading , approach notes and enclosures, but every time I try to implement those concepts I go off the rails. Maybe these concepts are areas I can focus on with just a couple of tunes as I had planned, so I can try to solidify my understanding? Thanks again!
 

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Alto YAS-32f and Tenor Selmer Axos
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My goal of late is to focus really hard on learning all 12 major scales so well that my fingers just go to the right notes automatically.
This is precisely the goal I'm focusing on, since I've reboot my skills on a tenor (former alto player, here). Like just said
jazzbluescat, long notes help breath control and warm up the instrument at the beginning of a session on top of that..
 

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Whatever motivates you, whether because it’s fun (e.g. jamming on tunes) or because you perceive the need for an aspect and enjoy the process (e.g. scales and arpeggios). Whatever aspects you choose, will be the aspects you will strengthen and improve.

This is true for everybody. There’s way more to work on than most of us have time for. So you make your own choices (you know yourself pretty well), and those are the things you will strengthen.

Of course, there will be lots of specific suggestions in this thread for you to consider, that others have found valuable.
 

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Yesterdays is deceptively challenging, easy melody but those changes are harder than they look. If you are trying to apply ideas using guide tones, enclosures, etc, something with more time on each chord and clearer resting points would make that a lot easier.

I would suggest All of Me, A Train, or There Will Never Be Another You.
 

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Something weird is going on with my posts doubling up. I deleted a duplicate, but it also wiped out the original?

Anyway, long story short, I wanted to say aim for the 3rd or the 7th of the next chord so that your previous note is a half step away from above or below. You can get a lot of mileage out of this.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 · (Edited)
Thanks all for the great and thoughtful advice, this gives me some food for thought as I move into the winter of my discontent (ie: lack of practice time)

One more thing I should add that is part of my routine, in case others in a similar situation look to this thread for tips, I always include some overtone exercises in my warmup. I find that helps to keep my tone from deteriorating as much and helps to keep some measure of control over the horn.
 
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