Wednesday, September 30, 2009

1st Blog

Yesterday I started by warming up for an hour with a long tone exercise given to me by my teacher John Mackey. The exercise involves playing a pedal note either a low Bb or the highest note, then jumping to the highest or lowest note depending on what your pedal point was, then working down chromatically to your pedal point. The point of the exercise is to learn how to play big intervals correctly, cover the entire range of your horn, to get your ears to start hearing bigger intervals, as well as the normal things that come with long tone practice, that is to improve intonation, tone and embouchure etc. While I practice long tones I constantly consider what Sigurd Rascher discusses in the start of his book "Top Tones For the Saxophone" That is that you will keep a nice even tone, control ever aspect of the air flow, uniformity of tone over the entire range (especially between registers and the break between the two octave keys). The third thing I incorporate into this part of my practice regime is to play with a tuner and a piano. The tuner stays on to tell me if the piano is in pitch, while I play chords on the piano that include the note I'm playing I then use my ears to hear whether the note I'm playing is in tune with the piano chord. I find at least that while tuners give you a good sense of what is happening, a lot of younger musicians keep their eyes on the tuner and have no concept of what a note that is going in and out of tune sounds like. When they play with a band there is no magical line and green light telling them that they are in tune. Thats why I think comparing your intonation to a piano is more important, its better training for the job.

My second practice session involved the major, harmonic minor and melodic minor modes. I have noticed recently that when I use notes that are played by my pinky's and the left hand palm keys that the notes are kind of sloppy! So Yesterday I practiced by playing all of the above scales over the entire range of the saxophone as per the Joseph Viola "Techniques of the Saxophone: Scale Studies" at 80 bpm. After an hour and a half of doing so I had brought my speed up to 132 bpm, and again I say absolutely accurately. If I made a mistake on any scale at any speed, I had to do it again 5 times.

I spent about 40 minutes working on a transcription of Cannonball Adderley from the album "Quintet in San Fransisco" called "Hi-Fly" by Bobby Timmons if I remember correctly. I have previously learned the transcription, but this semester I am learning it in 6 keys and then the other 6 over summer. So yesterday I spent 40 minutes working over some of the double time lines in the keys of C, D and F, however F goes mighty high! This is still very much a work in progress. The original key and the key of C are fine to play with the recording (obviously I don't play the key of C with the recording but I can play it quick enough).

My final section of practice for yesterday was about 2 hours worth of Have You Met Miss Jones stuff. I first worked on some ii-7 V7, Imaj7 licks and then on my transcription of Kenny Garrett's solo over the tune off the album "Introducing Kenny Garrett" in the original key and the key of Bb. I then spent an hour playing with the Aebersold play'A'long of Have You Met Miss Jones. I recorded the whole Aebersold session and after listening back to it last night I can say that my harmonic security over the song particularly the bridge has come a long way since I first started playing the song. However as my teacher discussed in my last lesson some times the chords don't connect when I play, meaning the notes I play over the chord may be strong harmonically, or are interesting tensions, but are not really well connected to the bars surrounding them. But there was still some good stuff in there, and I did notice some Garrett esk melody quoting in some parts of the 10 or so plays through the play a long.

So Today I intend to keep going, but I would like to incorporate more enclosures and approach techniques, chromatics and the like into my playing!

Cheers, Have a good one

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