Saxual Development: Growing as a Player

In the earlier stages of my development as a sax player, I used a voluminous amount of written material for my practice sessions. Scales, patterns, chord studies, solo transcriptions, high note exercises–they all came out of the books. I had a gazillion books, a regular saxophone library.

Today, while I still have a few books that I pull out from time to time, most of my library is now boxed away. The books have served their purpose, namely, to get the material off the page and into my head and my muscle memory. Those faculties are now developed to a point where I prefer to devise my own excercises and patterns, which I hash out in all twelve keys without the aid of paper. After all, that’s the goal, right? To internalize musical building blocks and ideas so well that they pour forth spontaneously and effortlessly. Developing the mind-body connection in a way that produces skilled musical craftsmanship and great music takes time and hard work. But the results…ah! Creativity. Freedom of expression. Growing ability to execute ideas fluidly and convincingly. Those are the payoff.

My practice sessions today are now mostly conducted using my head and my horn. The written–i.e. visual–resources have been a boon, though, and I still resort to them freely when I need to. There’s always something new to learn and someone I can learn it from. In particular, the Internet has opened up a world of information and study tools, and today”s saxophonist has access to everything from web-based lessons, to forums on various makes of horns and mouthpieces, to jazz theory, to vintage saxophones, and much, much more.

If you’re a sax player and are not aware of Sax on the Web, you owe it to yourself to check it out. It’s a virtual clearing house of sax-related information, with lessons and input from top pros as well as forums for student and working-class sax players. Also, take a look at the website of sax clinician and educator Tim Price. Besides free online exercises that will help you build your jazz technique, Tim also offers reasonably priced distance-learning lessons.

The information and educational tools available to musicians these days are incredible. In the end, though, they can’t take the place of the ability to think and the willingness to work hard. There’s no getting around the woodshed. Practice with focus–and play with heart.

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  1. […] Repetition is not some strange concept. It’s the norm. It’s what you do if you want to become proficient on your axe. […]

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