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So I started playing sax when I was 60; it was my first wind instrument. Improvement was slow, maybe because I was only practicing and hour a day. Then I retired two years ago, and I am now up to two hours a day. I've had a recent up tick in my tone. I don't know if it's the fact that the long tones are paying off, that more practice helps or that my recent work on overtones is the answer. It's kind of funny because the first thing I thought was, "hey, my reeds are getting better!" Not true of course, I was was getting better.

This is the third time I've attempted to work on overtones. I was very frustrated the first two times because I wasn't getting anywhere with them. The guy on the "better sax" video said that it doesn't matter if you are failing with overtones, your tone will improve anyway. So after two months of blowing awful sounds not only did my tone improve, but I started succeeding in getting the partials to sound; 11 partials on low Bb for instance (I consider the fundamental as the first partial). I can get that dominant 7th chord just about any time and the higher ones sometimes. The #4 I've only gotten twice. The thing I don't know is if this really what is pushing my tone to greater heights. What do you think? What's your experience?
 

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I would say it certainly is a big cause for it. Overtone control is all about embouchure and learning to have your mouth do what you want to hear in your head.
11 partials is quite good, you should be proud of that! How are your bugle calls coming? :p
 

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Overtones absolutely help; however, keeping everything in perspective is important. Unless your performing a piece involving overtones 10-15 minutes a day should be enough. There are a ton of other elements to work on.
 

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I think any time spent behind the instrument makes you better...I recommend you work mostly on what you want to accomplish. If it's improv - pull up some backing tracks and have at it. If it's reading - read....etc. Overtones, scales, long tones, and all other exercises are great but they only go so far. Spend the bulk of your time on your specific goal.

I've reached the age where I practice almost exclusively for the next show. I also spend some time on altissimo - not because I use it a lot, but I use it enough - and it's not something you take chances with on the bandstand. I also do a good bit of just jamming along to random tracks, but with my blues gig, I get tossed a bunch of 24-48 bar solo's every gig, so I figure that's legit practice.

Of course if you're just playing for fun - I'd say go where your heart leads you. You'll get better any route you choose - until you don't. I have the (controversial) opinion that all of us reach a point where no amount of additional practice will change much of anything...
 

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The late bloomer thing is a total mystery to me. The difficulty involved in starting from scratch at an age where many have already stopped playing seems daunting. Its all I can do to maintain what little I could do in the past although I am also experiencing something I had not thought applied to music, and that is the accumulated knowledge and experience over 60 or so years turning into 'wisdom'. This unfortunately comes at a time of decreased physical ability and probably lower mental acuity, but at least it allows me to play better. For example, I have never owned any device for tuning. Over the years since all bands started using standard tuning with the advent of electronic keyboards and guitar tuners, I had gotten into the habit of just putting the mouthpiece on at the same place and playing. Getting a tuner app for my phone a few months ago opened up a new world for me and I found I was tuning sharp. Correcting my tuning gave me confidence which in turn allowed more aggressive playing. I've had a lot of 'epiphanies' like that recently.
So there's no doubt that you can 'get better' even as a late bloomer or a very veteran player as long as you have adequate mental and physical abilities to support playing. Working on the embouchure and ear training are the fastest and most reliable ways to improve. The use of a tuner in this endeavor is required.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
1saxman, I do use a tuner for all these exercises. I also do various matching exercises with overtones. I only do 10 minutes of overtone exercises a day; that's all I can stand.
 

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I believe that being on the horn for 2 hours a day causes improvement. Even better that you have a regimen and are not randomly playing stuff. Will focus on overtones give you better improvement than spending that (extra) time either on a methods book or sitting in a band with a conductor.....I don’t know. Probably no one knows. One thing is for certain though.....your tone will get better. As long as you are practicing and doing what you enjoy, you will get better.
 

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I think any time spent behind the instrument makes you better...I recommend you work mostly on what you want to accomplish. If it's improv - pull up some backing tracks and have at it. If it's reading - read....etc. Overtones, scales, long tones, and all other exercises are great but they only go so far. Spend the bulk of your time on your specific goal.

Of course if you're just playing for fun - I'd say go where your heart leads you. You'll get better any route you choose - until you don't. I have the (controversial) opinion that all of us reach a point where no amount of additional practice will change much of anything...
Amen. Make your practice meaningful to you. My substitute for "long tones" is playing a ballad rubato (Wayne Shorter's "Infant Eyes" remains a favorite of many years) - hang on the occasional note as it strikes you, shape the tone to your desire, then seek the next note that takes your interest. Sometimes substitute an overtone for the note. Consider playing the whole tune without touching the octave key, etc. Always sound your best.

Enjoy the path.
 

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Amen. Make your practice meaningful to you. My substitute for "long tones" is playing a ballad rubato (Wayne Shorter's "Infant Eyes" remains a favorite of many years) - hang on the occasional note as it strikes you, shape the tone to your desire, then seek the next note that takes your interest. Sometimes substitute an overtone for the note. Consider playing the whole tune without touching the octave key, etc. Always sound your best.

Enjoy the path.
This REALLY makes sense. Who said “life is to short (shorter...) for long tones” ?
 

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I don't know if it's the fact that the long tones are paying off, that more practice helps or that my recent work on overtones is the answer.
Long notes are definitely a great thing.

There are so many ways to do them.

I sometimes even play them backwards.
 

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Even if the only overtone you can do is to finger a low Bb and get the one in the staff that is beneficial and will help your regular tone. I use online metronome and time my long tone sessions or I'll just do a minute and think thats enough. I try to get 5 minutes on overtones with whatever I can do. Somedays I get up to the 6th and 7th upper notes. So on Bb I'll get to alt Ab and Bb but that took a long time. also I echo the idea of rather than play just long notes with a tuner (not a bad idea) match the tone on a slow song with your favorite guy. ive been doing equinox for a few weeks and slowly get closer to Kenny Garrets version of it. No good teacher will frustrate you and tell you that you are hours away from the tone you want. But frankly most work takes much longer than people understand. I used to remember the story of John coltrane holding an F for a long long time, (hour) until he got the tone he wanted. I used to think that was stupid but now at my stage of development I can see where that would be useful. Ive done the 5 minutes on B on flute for a few monthes and its really opened up my tone. So do what you can and enjoy this magical thing called a saxophone. It wasn't invented to beat yourself up with. It was made to create beautiful music K
 

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Always sound your best.

Enjoy the path.
You said a lot there, Dr. G. How many times have I found myself practicing scales and patterns while playing the right notes but with a weak, squawky tone. You have to listen to your sound/tone and make even a C scale sound pretty or else you would be better off wasting time posting on SOTW.:bluewink:
 

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That addresses "What provides motivation?", but what drives actual improvement is an awareness of sound, and developing an ability to control it. If you don't nurture both, it is difficult to move forward on your path.
 

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I practice almost exclusively for the next show. I also spend some time on altissimo . . . . I also do a good bit of just jamming along to random tracks, . . . Of course if you're just playing for fun - I'd say go where your heart leads you.
Thank-you Fader, that's a genuine relief to hear. What you describe is my practice routine exactly--along with occasional sight reading, and some long tones and overtones--probably not enough. I've always felt that my routine, while enjoyable, wasn't sufficiently serious--and it doubtless isn't for serious playing. But I'm playing for fun, and enjoying it--and slowly improving nonetheless.
 

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So I started playing sax when I was 60; it was my first wind instrument. Improvement was slow, maybe because I was only practicing and hour a day. Then I retired two years ago, and I am now up to two hours a day. I've had a recent up tick in my tone. I don't know if it's the fact that the long tones are paying off, that more practice helps or that my recent work on overtones is the answer. It's kind of funny because the first thing I thought was, "hey, my reeds are getting better!" Not true of course, I was was getting better.

This is the third time I've attempted to work on overtones. I was very frustrated the first two times because I wasn't getting anywhere with them. The guy on the "better sax" video said that it doesn't matter if you are failing with overtones, your tone will improve anyway. So after two months of blowing awful sounds not only did my tone improve, but I started succeeding in getting the partials to sound; 11 partials on low Bb for instance (I consider the fundamental as the first partial). I can get that dominant 7th chord just about any time and the higher ones sometimes. The #4 I've only gotten twice. The thing I don't know is if this really what is pushing my tone to greater heights. What do you think? What's your experience?
I am so over long tones/overtones. They are great for tone building but sooooooo BORING. Nowadays with irealpro I integrate my tone building into my regular practice routine by simply slowing down the licks/exercises I'm studying to glacier speed (starting from fast and gradually going slower is easier.) It's a lot more interesting than messing with tonal exercises. And overtone studies are not for everyone. I never felt like they did much for me beyond developing embouchure control, and other things can do that just as well. I'd rather practice things I'm going to use a lot in my playing, and overtones are something I never really use.

Here's an idea. Forget about tone studies for a while. Focus on transcribing. Just put on some music you like and learn to play some licks you hear. Maybe write them down and then learn to play them in other keys, eventually all 12. And work on your scales/patterns every day, flog that metronome! That kind of stuff helps your tone too, but is much more likely to keep you engaged. I even watch tv while doing my metronome workouts, since it's just programming and I need something else to focus on so I don't get uncomfortably bored with it. Audiobooks are good too.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Hey SaxBum , I'm the OP and I hear you. I hate playing over tones , practicing scales and long tones, but I figure practicing should only be about 50% fun and 50% work. So I grit my teeth everyday and and have at it.
 

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That addresses "What provides motivation?", but what drives actual improvement is an awareness of sound, and developing an ability to control it. If you don't nurture both, it is difficult to move forward on your path.
Without competition, even if that competition is with your own prior level of play, you have no measure to improve upon. Cause and motivation are intertwined accordingly.
 

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excellent point and I think you'll also agree the more you get into doing something it becomes second nature and it takes the overt/stressful feeling of competition down several notches. Hard work manifests itself I would think.

Without competition, even if that competition is with your own prior level of play, you have no measure to improve upon. Cause and motivation are intertwined accordingly.
 
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