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Hi all,

I've played alto for about 10 years now, but until recently I was quite focused on grades which meant my practice routine was just playing the pieces I had to to pass exams. I have since passed grade eight and have kind of fallen back in love with the sax (playing in a few bands helped) but now don't know how to practice effectively having never had a good routine.

I'm looking to improve mostly my tone and improv - any help would be greatly appreciated!
 

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Welcome to Sax on the Web! There has been some discussion on this recently; a search of the site for "practice routine" listed a lot of recent threads. Tim Price has some practice tips as well on his site, I believe.
 

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The best method is to study with a teacher, he/she should be inspirational source not only instructional. Lesson once every couple of months is maybe more than enough for you to start with, that together with listening in an analytical way to records of musicians you like is all you need. Gear: Metronome and a piano, the teacher will set you up with needed scale books etc.
 

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For long tones you could practice some ballads, for instance, Summertime, Smile, Help me make it through the night, Godfather theme.
For more technical pieces, try Take Five, Pick up the Pieces, A Song for my Father, Harlem Nocturne and learn some of the solos from youtube.
Since your reading of charts is probably good, try playing by ear to develop your improvisation skills.
 

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Overtones are great. I'd recommend the Top Tones book by Rascher. Odds are you can find it as a PDF and go from there. Great book, highly recommend it.

There's a couple of long tone exercises I like to do. They both require a bit of patience, and both are played slowly.

First one:
Start on middle C. Play that for four beats, and then go down to B for four beats. Rest for four, and play middle C again, but this time after four beats, go down to Bb. This continues all the way down to low Bb. Once that is done, start on B and repeat the whole process until your starting note is low B. You can leave it there, or keep going like this: start on middle C, but this time it is a chromatic ascending exercise, with the same principle as the first.

Second one:
Start on low Bb. Play the Bb for four beats, and then go up to low B for four, and then back down to low Bb for four. Rest, and then go low Bb to C, to Bb. Similar thing as the first but just leave the starting note as low Bb. This is a great exercise for making sure you keep an open throat and don't pinch up top. Down low is a bit of a workout too, haha.

Both are good for intonation if you try and pre-hear the note before you play it.

Let us know how you go!

Sam
 
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