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Discussion Starter #1
One of the biggest obstacles I'm dealing with now that I've started picking up my horn again is one of time. I usually only have about an hour a day to practice, and I've got so much to work on. Right now I'm trying to nail down the Major, Natural and Harmonic Minor, and Blues scales in all twelve keys over the full range of the horn, and have begun working through Patterns for Jazz to get the chords under my fingers. I transcribed a couple solos, and have also started looking at a couple charts, however I haven't done a lot of these latter two because I'm focusing heavily on the former (especially because having the chords down is going to be important for improvisation later). However I'm doing good to get through the keys and the first couple exercises in Patterns before I run out of practice time. This means I'm ALSO not spending a lot of time on long tones to strengthen my embouchure and develop better breath support, or working on altissimo.

I'm a planner by nature, and having a set "On Monday I work on this, Tuesday is this, etc." routine is something that helps me focus (seriously; I know on Saturday what I'll be having for dinner the following Friday). Does anyone have any suggestions? I obviously can't fit everything in one day, so need some way to divide stuff up across the week.
 

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Of course, there's no one right answer. I'm in the same situation as you in that I have A LOT to work on and not as much time as I would like to get it done, so it seems the choice is either to spend a little time on a lot of different areas, or to focus on fewer areas and spend more time on them. I generally opt for the second choice, because, I feel that I experience more growth when I focus my efforts by sticking with a few things for a while. Once I'm happy with what I've accomplished in those areas, I move on to something else.

There are some foundational things I work on every day, such as overtones and vibrato. Most days I'll also work on some arpeggios or scalar exercises. (Patterns For Jazz is one of my favorite books, so most of this material comes from that source.) Once this is done, I focus on whatever I've prioritized for that particular month. How do I know what to prioritize? I record myself and whatever annoys me the most about my playing is what I work on! :mrgreen:
 

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I divide my practice into 1/ just getting better on the horn and 2/ memorizing changes and tunes. so for 1. I'll do a few long tones with a tuner and met and make sure the response /intonation thing is happening. then I go right to things I want to do really well which are diatonic arpeggios and V7 arpeggios. then I"m working on specific things I want to integrate into my playing such as V7 flat 5 lines and the altered scale. So thats just running the track for playing . the next thing is where and when to play so thats forms, I'll do blues in several keys with all the II Vs and sharp 4 dim and vi 7 chords or I'll do a tune I play often. I will use a form as a way to work on a technique so I might play a blues but my goal will be altered scale on all the V7s where that works. or I might play all of me but do sub V7s on all the V7s where I'm resolving to the 1 chords. So I'm trying at all times to 1, play better in all areas, and 2, expand my songs /tune ability so I can take thsse skills out into the world. K
 

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I guess you could say I don't do anything really out of a book on licks or patterns. I know many people who do but I try to make up my own patterns and "licks" which are mine. but I know lots of pattern players who sound good. Its all what you want end up with ?
 

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Discussion Starter #5
So what about this:

On Thursdays I take lessons, so I consider that the end of my practice week, with the new week beginning on Friday.

Friday - Long Tone focus, especially if I need to break in new reeds (which I'm doing a lot of, because I'm trying to find the right type/hardness right now)
Saturday - More long tones, maybe working on vibrato (I really need to shed vibrato in the upper register)
Sunday - Scales and arpeggios
The rest of the week then focusing on whatever I'm shedding for the week's lesson

Time permitting, once I finish my major focus for the day i work on something else.
 

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So what about this:

On Thursdays I take lessons, so I consider that the end of my practice week, with the new week beginning on Friday.

Friday - Long Tone focus, especially if I need to break in new reeds (which I'm doing a lot of, because I'm trying to find the right type/hardness right now)
Saturday - More long tones, maybe working on vibrato (I really need to shed vibrato in the upper register)
Sunday - Scales and arpeggios
The rest of the week then focusing on whatever I'm shedding for the week's lesson

Time permitting, once I finish my major focus for the day i work on something else.
I think it is a mistake to think of long tones as the only time you are working on tone and embouchure. Every time you play a note you should be working on tone. If you play an hour a day your tone should be improving and your embouchure strengthening. I must admit that I have never spent a ton of time practicing long tones. Maybe 10 minutes at a time at most but I have spent a ton of time playing my sax and trying to get the sound I want out of the horn every day of my life.

One thing I urge you to do is in this article here http://www.neffmusic.com/blog/2015/09/the-1-thing-you-need-to-do-to-become-a-great-improviser/ In general people who are great planners are usually not the best improvisers. I've taught hundreds of adults who are incredible planners. They have detailed plans, spread sheets, self discipline etc.......The thing they are the worst at is improvising because they hardly ever do it. Every thing is planned and scheduled. If your goal is to improvise then I would suggest at least a half hour of your hour practice is improvising. Most planners I talk to hate this. Wait what? I need structure, organization, a list of to dos. Yes, you can do all those things and make progress at the saxophone and you might become a great classical sax player or great sight reader but improvisation will always be something that is uncomfortable and foreign to you unless you start practicing it daily. That's my opinion.
 

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I think of my practice routine as a meal:
appitizer - long tones
salad - scales
veggies - etudes
Meat - whatever I'm practicing
dessert - improv or something fun and familair
 

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Discussion Starter #8
I think of my practice routine as a meal:
appitizer - long tones
salad - scales
veggies - etudes
Meat - whatever I'm practicing
dessert - improv or something fun and familair
I'd love to do that. The problem I noted in my OP is one of time. With only an hour to work (if I'm lucky, most days I'm doing good to get 30 minutes) I'm struggling to squeeze it all in.
 

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I think it is a mistake to think of long tones as the only time you are working on tone and embouchure. Every time you play a note you should be working on tone. If you play an hour a day your tone should be improving and your embouchure strengthening. I must admit that I have never spent a ton of time practicing long tones. Maybe 10 minutes at a time at most but I have spent a ton of time playing my sax and trying to get the sound I want out of the horn every day of my life.

One thing I urge you to do is in this article here http://www.neffmusic.com/blog/2015/09/the-1-thing-you-need-to-do-to-become-a-great-improviser/ In general people who are great planners are usually not the best improvisers. I've taught hundreds of adults who are incredible planners. They have detailed plans, spread sheets, self discipline etc.......The thing they are the worst at is improvising because they hardly ever do it. Every thing is planned and scheduled. If your goal is to improvise then I would suggest at least a half hour of your hour practice is improvising. Most planners I talk to hate this. Wait what? I need structure, organization, a list of to dos. Yes, you can do all those things and make progress at the saxophone and you might become a great classical sax player or great sight reader but improvisation will always be something that is uncomfortable and foreign to you unless you start practicing it daily. That's my opinion.
I don't know if this is the corollary, but every classical musician I've ever played with, does OK at best with improvising, some just surprisingly bad. Yes even those graduating from Conservatory. Read down the page like a banshee from any old chart...yep, but they do not do well with harmonic movement or expression.

Yes, integration!...is the key. You can and should integrate the quality of your tone, via good techniques, while playing other things, as well as some "weight lifting".

Another tangential example,...I used to do semi serious road riding in groups. Every spring a bunch of younger (usually) women would join the group, fresh off a winter of serious training via spinning classes in the gym. They were very fit! Oddly, however, they were usually not very able to "keep up" with anything but a moderate pace, and hills or maneuvering really lost them. Why? Well there are other bikes very close and all around, curves, cars at times, wind, and no one telling them what to do/when to shift. The bike is just sort of flopping around in reality!

So mentally as well as physically, it was a totally different world and strength alone didn't translate as well as you'd think!
 

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Neffs right. Plan to run through a tune and improvise at least 10minutes a day. You'll be amazed at how you get better when you force yourself to be creative. Its not magic its a switch your turn on and off. K
 

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For me I have daily "must do's" as part of my routine. They are always: overtones, longtones, scales, and arpeggios. Once I get through those, which might take me about 20 minutes, I move on to whatever I need to work on. Sometimes that's rehearsing music for a band I'm in. Others it's learning changes and improvising over a tune. Then I always wrap up with some sort of embouchure work to really help reinforce my tone. Working to maintain correct embouchure when your chops are weakened after a practice session will provide a huge benefit.

I have started to question how I practice my scales. I practice them the same way I'm sure most people practice them- I run through them in all 12 keys with nothing but a metronome. What I've started doing lately as part of my practice for improvising is I'll play a chorus or two of the tune I'm learning and play the scales for that chord over the backing track. I think that has been doing more than just running through the scale with a metronome to help hammer them in. Hearing them played in context with the chord, and trying to phrase them to sound musical helps me to build a deeper understanding of them than just running through them with a metronome. I do the same with chords.

Coincidentally, I started doing this recently after reading Steve Neff's blog post that he just posted above. Also, just as another plug for Neff's work, I just bought his Blues Scale book. It's awesome. Just using the first three licks as a springboard for improvising my own ideas has drastically improved how I sound when I improvise.
 

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Vary your warmups to hit specific scales (metronome!) and targeted practice on overtones and spend the rest of your time having (semi) structured fun. Pattern books are awesome (yeah), but learning melodies in 12 keys and improvising is actually fun and gets way deeper...need a new pattern? Learn the coolest lines in your favorite solos on the tunes you learn and move them through all the keys or make up your own as KR suggests.
 

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Double post, sorry: You’re paying for lessons...a solid private teacher understands your learning style and uses that understanding to feed you information in ways you can more easily ingest new ideas. A good instructor can help you dial in a workable routine much easier than people who only read your forum post.
 

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If all you have is an hour i'd suggest the following, condense everything into a tune. In other words approach the tune as your template to practice all your rudiments. Good luck.
 

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Don't forget to practice the chromatic scale from low Bb up to altissimo G.

I like to begin every practice with chromatic exercises with met set at 30bpm. Keeping the met at 30 work from half notes all the way up to 64th's. Start on the upbeat instead of the click. It's a surprisingly simple exercise that helps you with your time, tone, and technique all in one shot. Spend 5-10' a day doing this and you'll be amazed at how much it polishes technique.
 

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It is interesting....a lot of things that are done in music are ?muscle development.? Yet as musicians we tend to not take tips from our friends who do great lifting weights. I recommend muscle development exercises, such as ?embouchure development? 3 - 4 days per week. One day you stress out your embouchure....the next you let your muscles repair themselves and develop....then go back at it again.

Have you ever noticed that if you pound on the same exercises everyday, learning is slow, but if you take a day or two off, when you come back to it, you are much more skilled. That is a known benefit of skip days for body builders...not sure why us musicians think we have to do the same muscle/technique development exercises every day.

If I were you, I would build in skip days for you basic stuff...maybe embouchure development Mon/Wed/Friday/ and air support development (vibrato, jazz intonation) on Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday.

By skipping days on the muscle groups you focus on, you are likely going to improve faster....

And don?t forget to eat protein....seriously.
 

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It is interesting....a lot of things that are done in music are ?muscle development.? Yet as musicians we tend to not take tips from our friends who do great lifting weights. I recommend muscle development exercises, such as ?embouchure development? 3 - 4 days per week. One day you stress out your embouchure....the next you let your muscles repair themselves and develop....then go back at it again.

Have you ever noticed that if you pound on the same exercises everyday, learning is slow, but if you take a day or two off, when you come back to it, you are much more skilled. That is a known benefit of skip days for body builders...not sure why us musicians think we have to do the same muscle/technique development exercises every day.

If I were you, I would build in skip days for you basic stuff...maybe embouchure development Mon/Wed/Friday/ and air support development (vibrato, jazz intonation) on Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday.

By skipping days on the muscle groups you focus on, you are likely going to improve faster....

And don?t forget to eat protein....seriously.
FYI: The muscles that make up our embouchure do not need off days for recovery, and *** is jazz intonation?
 

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Double post, sorry: You?re paying for lessons...a solid private teacher understands your learning style and uses that understanding to feed you information in ways you can more easily ingest new ideas. A good instructor can help you dial in a workable routine much easier than people who only read your forum post.
You are getting wise in your old age😏

What he said....
 

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Counterpoint:

Stop planning every minute of your saxophone playing.
Plan away in general, BUT have a couple of days when you just play.

If you want to get better at playing, then just play.

I know guys that are scale monsters. Pattern after pattern.
And then you call a tune, and they are almost useless. They practice
something that - as it turns out - is not what they want to actually do.


So dedicate a day or two each week to just playing.

No metronome, no tracks, no recording. Nothing but you.
Just play some music. Start by maybe reading some sheet
music of a song that you like, as a way to ease into it.
Just play the one song. And listen.


dat
sax
man
 
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