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I sometimes even play them backwards.
By inhaling?

Seriously though, I have found that as a latebloomer with lots of other interests, I simply won't get around to all of the practice regimens that are recommended. Long tones, overtones, and altissimo are of interest, but I have more basic needs. Altissimo is simpy annoying if the player doesn't have a grasp of chord tones (IMHO). And as a latebloomer, by the time I figure out what a C-7 is, the measure has passed. I suppose I could play the overtone series on C, but that doesn't get me much.

My playing is largely selfish (sorry, potential audience). It's not a career. It's not long-term (I'll be fantastic in 30 years. My coffin will jump and jive). So my choice of what to do for realistic improvement is limited.

Mark
 

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For me, the moments of greatest improvement has happened during private instruction, playing in a new band, playing with better musicians than myself, learning a new tune, failure, and obsessively listening to a master artist.
 

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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.
Well, I 50% agree and 50% disagree. Having taught a lot of people to play, I think the fun part must come first, and the work part needs to be folded in gradually. Otherwise people will quit, and that applies to pro players too. I don't know any players that don't get bored practicing dry material like scales and long tones, and then blow it off at the first distraction. It's hard to stay engaged and motivated with the boring stuff, that's why it needs to be "fun." For example, I'm in the process of 12-keying a pattern, and I start getting bored out of my mind. So, I put on a tune and start playing the pattern over the tune for a while, have some fun with it. Or I do something else much more fun like working up a head and harmony for a new tune, maybe a countermelody based on the pattern I'm working on. Then I get back to work when I've had enough fun. It's better just to be dinking around on the horn than not playing at all. The trick is to do whatever it takes to keep picking up your horn. Some people like to go to jams and impress their friends with something new they're working on, and that keeps them practicing. Some people like to busk and make a few bucks for beer or whatever. Some people like to record and put it online, build a scoial media following. But NO ONE likes to sit there and learn scales/patterns/etc just because youre "supposed to.". You have to have something keeping you in the game first and foremost, and add in only as much boring workout stuff as you can stand.
 

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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.
Well said. I like it. Make some fun out of it.
 

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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 is good solid advice.
 

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I got a tutor.

I got into a band.

Those things were big moves that paid off for improvement.
 

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Goals and focus.

As mentioned earlier, competition whether against yourself or others is a form of test. It allows for the opportunity to prove and allow the work you’ve done to take shape but without setting the goals and pursuing focus there isn’t anything “achievable”. Sure you can “get better” through practice but you will also get better at mistakes so, it is important to work with focus towards a goal. More is definitely “better” as long as you are practicing something worthwhile. Just don’t let it add mistakes as well. If anything the focus should also be preceded by defining the process for the goals whether that be just I want to work on patterns in groupings of notes in all shapes up and down each scale regardless of key or focusing on tone with long tones.

Personally, I’m not all that into long tones. I think they have a great spot to work on breath support and tone. Overtones definitely help with the tone but also learning to use and train your ear helps as well. How much do you listen and to whom? Your ear should also influence your sound greatly, or at least your perception of it. Freeing up your embouchure and learning to control fast and slow air also helps (so, ugh, I guess there is an example of longtime usefulness), but you can practice this while playing if you can focus on it while playing other things.

It’s sort of a mise en place approach I guess.
 

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Freeing up your embouchure and learning to control fast and slow air also helps
The best way to do this is to focus on it. Hence long notes are useful.

Do footballers get better by just having a kickaround? Do athletes get faster by just running? Or do they get better by working with a coach who concentrates on specific techniques?
 

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Well, I 50% agree and 50% disagree. Having taught a lot of people to play, I think the fun part must come first, and the work part needs to be folded in gradually. Otherwise people will quit, and that applies to pro players too.
THIS ^^^^^ is an ART form.....a teacher who can recognize THIS and come up with lesson plans (or practice routines if athletic, etc) which maintain a balance between enjoyment and work/development. being both a musician and having coached youth sports for a couple of decades, you lean too hard towards work ethic or acquiesce too much towards "aww lighten up, let 'em just have fun" ethic, and development will suffer one way or the other.

This is where I find, often, those who go the "self-taught materials" route are shortchanging themselves. Yes, I understand the reason for the industry, and I understand that some folks simply do NOT have access to sax teachers, period. But, there is a flip side to the self-taught world.

The best way to do this is to focus on it. Hence long notes are useful.

Do footballers get better by just having a kickaround? Do athletes get faster by just running? Or do they get better by working with a coach who concentrates on specific techniques?
This touches upon muscle memory, too.

It matters little if a player (or athlete) understands "OK, in this situation this is what I am supposed to do - got it ! Next ?"...if they have not practiced it and developed what my Italian co-coach used to claim was the "synaptic connection" (dunno whether this was accurate in the medical sense, but it sounded damn convincing) between your mind's intent and your body's ability to execute that intent.
 

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I REALLY want to play "better" so it's interesting reading different peoples' thoughts on this- I think it's different things at different stages and for different people, but it's always PLAY PLAY PLAY no matter who you are- spending a lot of time on the horn. Also, listening to recordings of myself (just did a thing for TOTM- very enlightening...) and hang with awesome players if possible (I live in rural Maine so not easy for me!) and critically listen to awesome players.
 

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I got a tutor.

I got into a band.

Those things were big moves that paid off for improvement.
Yup.

And then, probably (?)....over time you started, or kept on, playing with good players...and maybe at times played with players who were better than you.

That'd be the third "what contexts can I place myself in to improve and develop ?" answer, IMHO.

I REALLY want to play "better" so it's interesting reading different peoples' thoughts on this- I think it's different things at different stages and for different people....
A HUGE point. Your development goals, and what you feel is important in your playing.... will change over the years....that's part of the fun, methinks.
 

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The best way to do this is to focus on it. Hence long notes are useful.

Do footballers get better by just having a kickaround? Do athletes get faster by just running? Or do they get better by working with a coach who concentrates on specific techniques?
I agree completely, I just find some people can learn to focus using different ways. Example is exactly what Jay said. There has to be an enjoyment in the what you are doing. It’s why I don’t enjoy longtones but I love the sound of certain tones in certain music and will obsessively play the note over long periods of time, listening to the qualities I can manipulate with my embouchure, tongue position, and air and whatnot. When I do the pure exercises though, I can get bored and lose focus.
 

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1. You want to play a song. 2. You know what that song should sound like when it's being played well. 3. You play it every day, till what you're playing sounds closer to how you think it should sound, than it did the day before. 4. Repeat endlessly.
 

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my biggest jumps in improvement always come with 1. a teacher pointing an area I thought I had nailed but not really . Slow focused practice on specific goals .
 

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Its easy to repeat a lower level of playing ad infinitum. Repeated practice at a lower level wont jump me up. I know , I tryed k
 

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I am 64 started two years ago bought a tenor yamaha and Rubank books one and two I am almost thru 2 I used other books to learn to read music. I can now play a piece from the page. But I bought a lesson from a teacher first thing he did was take the book and tell me to play. A couple scales was all I could come up with and that was harder than I though it would be. I guess all I have been doing is learning to follow the book not play music.
 

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I've been a professional musician for almost 50 years (guitar) Played a little sax in the '70's. Picked it back up 3 years ago. I know about practice having done it for 50 years. Growing up my dad had thousands of jazz albums and I grew up hearing all the greats. In high school when my friends were listening to Foghat, I was listening to Count Basie! I was innately good at the guitar (I was obsessed and practiced a lot) and also loved rock and roll and can modestly say I was the best out of the legions of players at school and the south side of Chicago. Played with some legendary Chicago blues guys at a young age..... There really are no short cuts. Technique, theory, mundane repetition, all necessary! Lots of it! Having said that and having taught many beginners (again guitar), I must agree with the fun part. If the student is not playing something that moves them early on, they will often give up. When I started the guitar my teacher started me on Alfredo's guitar method books. After 2 months of playing such huge hits as "Camptown Races" and "Twinkle,Twinkle little star, my teacher could sense my interest waning. It was then he started teaching me Jimi Hendrix (and he could really do it) He was an extremely good guitar player who could play fluidly in any style. When I picked up the sax again I had no major aspiration (other than trying to sound like Dex or Webster :) ) I have enjoyed it immensely. I am kinda OCD so I can practice and or repeat something ad nauseum until I get it right. Knowing quite a bit of theory, I write my own lessons and in 3 years have continually worked on various things. Physical things like embouchure, theory stuff, lydian dominant for a couple of examples. I have 3 bulging notebooks of stuff I've worked on. Playing a chordal instrument helps immensely. I have always been obsessed with harmony which really helps with spelling chords on the spot in any key.... OK, my run on thoughts are over....Thanks for reading :)
 

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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.
Playing any instrument requires breathing and over these years of trying to play, I haven't given up. Now a bit older, Ive developed breathing difficulties, COPD. I have been told playing is breathing and breathing is playing. Since Ive almost died 2 years ago, quit smoking and my condition has improved (a bit). Ive wondered will saxophone breathing techniques provide good breathing treatments!? Any MDs in the house?
 

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Not a doctor here. But I can tell you that sax playing is like pressure breathing, aka PEEP. This technique keeps the alveoli more open during exhalation than normal breathing and also forces more oxygen into the blood stream. You also have to take deeper breaths for long passages, increasing lung capacity. Seems like these would all be positive things for those with diminished lung function so long as you don't over do it and cause further injury. That's where you'd need a doctor to tell you what's safe to do.
 

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Sax playing is great exercise for your lungs (and will help keep your COPD from progressing as quickly - at least as much as anything else will)

*I too am not a doctor, but do have COPD and have both researched and discussed this with my doctor
 
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