Record your next practice session. Use whatever device you have. It’s meant for your ears only, it doesn’t need to sound like a professional recording. You can use a camera, your computer with Garageband, Cubase or other recording software, or even your phone to make the recording. Do a quick test run to check if the levels are set correctly. The saxophone can get quite loud so you may need to turn the recording level down a bit to prevent distortion.
This is a great tip for how to learn the saxophone by yourself.
Now push the “record” button and practice whatever it is you need to practice. It’s perfectly natural to be uncomforable at first with the idea that every note you play will be recorded. In fact being a bit nervous about recording yourself might even cause you to play more mistakes at first.
Let it happen and don’t worry about it, try again tomorrow. The trick is to get to the point where you forget all about the recording device even being there. Keep recording yourself until you reach that point. For some people this takes a few attempts, for others a few days or even longer. Take the time you need and then start listening to your recordings. Listening to yourself might take some effort too. Be prepared to hear a couple of things you don’t like. That is exactly the goal of this whole endeavour. Write down three things you don’t like about your playing. This could result in a shortlist like this: (this is of course an example, your list might be very different)
1) My higher register sounds whimpy and a bit out of tune.
2) I play way too many notes in my improvised solo’s.
3) I sort of fake and fumble my way through certain parts of the song.
Now you have three very specific things to work on for your next three practice sessions. You need to invent your own exercisis to address these problems. Let’s stick with the example shortlist.
For the first session you’re goint to practice the higher register for 20 minutes. You could for instance:
-Practice triads and 7th chords leading up to the higher notes very slowly and make sure to stay in tune. (use a tuner if you need to)
-Play some long tones in the higher register.
-Play different dynamics in the higher register.
-Play the notes you have a bit of trouble with in the lower register first before playing them up high.
Your next session addresses problem #2;
To counter the “too many notes thing” you could:
– Limit yourself to one, two or three notes per bar or per two bars.
– Play for two bars and then rest for two bars. Force yourself to leave space.
– Limit yourself to a very close range of the sax , for instance don’t go outside the range of low G – middle D)
– Play a rythmic pattern through the tune using only one or two notes on every pattern.
And on the third day you zoom in on that specific spot you have trouble with in that song. Let’s say for example you catch yourself playing more or less the same stuff over the last four bars of the bridge of “All The Things You Are”.
Sit down and compose 3 original lines over these changes and learn them by heart. Practice them with a play-a-long track or band.
This way you make sure you work on the things you need to work on and that is exactly what will make you a better saxophone player. And since it’a such a specific thing you are working on you can achieve your goal in 15 to 20 minutes of focused practising.
One more thing: If you hear something on those recordings you really DO like, that could be a great thing to work on. Did you play a cool, groovy, lick at some point? Work it out in different keys, change it a bit even more to your liking. Fool around with it until it becomes part of your vocabulary.
Don’t forget to have fun!
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How to learn the saxophone by yourself