I've been teaching people to play Sax for over 15 years now and I still answer questions from students personally on a daily basis. Private Lessons, Masterclass sessions, Emails or Phone calls I hear from people struggling with multiple aspects of sax playing all the time.

One of the most common problems is that students don't know how or what to practice in order to get the best results and enjoyment from the instrument. (So many issues in fact that in most stages of the Saxophone Fundamentals Course on SaxCasts you'll find a practice routine to follow like this.)

So without further ado here are five top ways to cut to the chase and get results from your horn.

1. Practice with a Plan.

Whenever you pick up your sax to play have a plan in mind. This doesn’t mean that you have to ditch impulse entirely but if you are going to freely improvise the world’s best contemporary jazz lick at least plan that as part of your session.

The goal here is to know what you’re going to achieve through each session and this will keep you motivated and moving forward.

2. Get your plan from a Professional Instructor.

A personal and professional plan will ensure you are getting results and enjoying the journey of learning. Obviously I’m biased toward SaxCasts here, I’ve spent years producing a world class course for you to follow but be sure to get a practice plan from someone who is qualified and cares about your progress. This could be a Skype Lesson, A local tutor or as a member of SaxCasts you can get your own personal practice plan from me directly by getting in touch!

3. Play Every Day.

'Excellence is not a singular act; it's a habit. You are what you repeatedly do.' - Aristotle

This tip is absolutely essential. Building a habit is one of the single most aspects of learning an instrument. Far too often we make unrealistic criteria a factor in whether we should practice or not. Don’t wait for the perfect conditions. Even if you can play just 10 minutes and do some long notes and a few scales you’ve added to the habit that will turn you into a great sax player.

4. Set both long term and short term Goals.

So many times students complain to me that they have hit a plateau or they feel like they aren’t improving. I always asked them what are your goals? Very rarely do I get an answer other than “Actually, I don’t know!”. Short term goals could be to work out a handful of notes from a tune you love, work on a challenging rhythm, try to get to the end of that awkward song. If you’ve practiced and worked on your plan you have made progress by stepping towards your short term goal. A long term goal could be to join a band, attend a local jam night or perform for friends and family.

Whatever goals you set, you will achieve much more working towards them.

5. Work on becoming a “rounded musician” and play what you love

The best sax players have a very diverse skill set. They understand music when listening or reading. They can improvise, keep in rhythm, are very technical and can play with tremendous musicality. Your practice sessions should work on each of these areas in some way. Practicing long notes for an entire session may make you sound better but it won’t make you a better musician, playing and creating music will.

Be sure during your next practice session you are working on many aspects of your musicianship by playing the songs you love, working on technique and creating your own music.

To your saxophone success,

Dan