I can’t stress enough how important it is to practice the right things if you really want to improve your sax playing. In this article I’m going to share with you some common Beginner and Intermediate mistakes that happen when coming to practicing the Sax and give you a routine to implement that is going to turbo charge your sax skills.
Muscle Memory Dictation
The majority of Beginner and Intermediate players get stuck in a rut as they end up allowing their fingers to dictate what they practice. I bet you have a favourite little run or scale that you always play to warm up or just get some notes out of the instrument. The gliss in Baker’s Street? D major scale? D min pentatonic?
Being decent at the one of, or all of the above is a good thing but if these three things take up the majority of your practice time you are missing out on a lot of development in other areas of your playing. Eventually we get to the stage where we don’t think about particular movements as we have performed them so often. This is great for speed building but can lead to bad habits such as inaccurate finger placement, flying fingers or choppy/inconsistent movement. All of which are bad habits that can be easily avoided by slow practice that is gradually increased over time.
A 25 minute+ bulletproof Saxophone Practice Routine for Beginners
Get your stopwatch ready and try this 25 minute saxophone routine, you’ll be astounded by the results.
Tone and Articulation - 5 mins
1 minute: On the mouthpiece alone play a nice strong note and using a tuner, try to sustain a consistent tone (No bumps, fades or stops in the sound) aim for something close to an A on Alto or G on Tenor Sax.
2 Minutes: Set a metronome at 60 bpm, sax assembled play a G. Alternate between a sustained 4 beat note and single crochets (quarter notes) in 2 bar loops focussing on accurate tonguing with constant air flow.
2 Mins: Vibrato this link will help if you haven’t explored vibrato yet. (https://saxcasts.com/lessons/introducing-vibrato)
Scales and Arpeggios - 5-10 mins
Play any scales (and the related arpeggio) that you know (Typically G major, F major and D minor + D minor pentatonic if you’re just starting out) you can add other scales to this as you learn more. The trick with scales, especially if you know lots of them, is to spread different ones over different days rather than trying to play them all in one session.
Sight-reading - 5 mins
Pick out an easy study, look over it for a couple of minutes playing some of the trickier parts and adding as much detail as you can. Then play it through from start to finish.
Transcription - 5 mins+
Try to work out a tune you really like by ear. This is a very difficult skill to start. When you first start consider getting 2-5 notes of the tune a success here. You will improve at this over time.
Anything you like - 5 mins+
Choose something fun, a jazz backing track, playalong book, favourite study. Anything at all that you like that reminds you of exactly why you’re learning this amazing instrument.
This is a great routine as a default. I mentioned in a previous article about wasting too much time thinking about what to practice rather than just practicing. So have a go at this routine, it really will start your saxophone journey off on the right foot. Later on we will add sections for a bit of Theory, Listening, Improvisation but for now it’s worth focusing on the fundamentals until you have a decent grounding on the saxophone.
To your Saxophone Success,