The Magic of Practicing Slowly

Feeling good is imperative for me to have a successful practice session. Despite being super busy yesterday, I made sure to get 8 hours of sleep and eat decently and exercise. You might have noticed I published my post yesterday around 11:30, after which I promptly went to sleep. I had no real free time but that’s okay sometimes. I just rested when I was done with everything.

 

And therefore, I reaped the full benefits of slow practice. Yesterday I went through my pentatonics for the second time ever without using a metronome. I was taking it so slowly I didn’t even want to bother with one. Yet today I could breeze through all 12 keys in major and minor at about 150 bpm in 8th notes. WITH the standard tongue + breath accent I like to use.

 

 

 

 

For a while I have been imitating Dexter Gordon’s tone and style to the best of my ability; today I tried to lean closer to Stan Getz. I wouldn’t call it great but I did notice at least a slight difference. A slight difference every day for the next few weeks will amount to a large difference.

 

After pentatonics, I started doing melodic minor scales (using the Jim Gailloreto method) in 8th note triplets with quarter note=110bpm.

Melodic minor scales and diminished scales are both becoming boring to my brain because of how many times I have practiced them recently. So to keep myself engaged today, I would switch the metronome to 170 bpm and play a diminished scale in straight 8th notes, in thirds, after 3-4 melodic minor scales. That sounded like this:

That all took me about 45 minutes. Then it was time for a break.

Coming back with Getz and Corcovado, I first ran through the chord tones of the changes. After several choruses of improvisation, I noticed that I was running a bit dry on how to lead into, and flow out of all the E7 chords. So I listened to Getz to steal licks, but interestingly enough he barely played on most of the E7's. I took what little I could, and tried to use some dominant licks I had already mastered. I took off the backing track and just practiced licks over E7 for a few minutes.

 

While improvising, I experimented a lot with creating sequences (rhythmic and melodic). I also experimented with a slight swing feel vs straight 8ths. I don't know which I like more but I think it helps to be comfortable with both. Overall, I made sure to use both low and high ranges of my horn, use space, and ramp it up at times. I was even able to cleanly incorporate some streams of 8th note triplets like the ones I have been practicing on scales.

 

And after listening to so much Getz, I am getting better at using neighbor tone figures. Before, I used them mostly as a crutch when I ran out of ideas. He weaves them seamlessly into his melodies and to move smoothly between changes at times.

 

At my apartment, I can play Youtube out of my television, so I recorded myself improvising over the backing track. I need the television to be loud (unlike a standard laptop) or else my phone won't pick up the track, it will only pick up my sax. What I noticed in the recordings is that I have trouble ending phrases elegantly. I didn't have time to hit on that today, but I will definitely be thinking about ways to improve that aspect of my playing.

Definitely pleased with my progress today.

 

Several new significant improvements are coming to the site soon that I'm very excited about. Happy practicing!

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