Creative Practice

I woke up at 6:30. At 9:15 I realized I left my saxophone at home. It's about a 2 hour round trip. Devastating in terms of practice time. released an entire book on mental practice, some of which I have read, so I know that even though being at an instrument is usually best, the day wasn't lost.


I had 45 minutes. So I did the most intense workout I could think of. My new pentatonic scales in my 8th note triplet polyrhythm. In all twelve major and minor keys, with my breath + tongue accent.


That took about 20 minutes, and then I moved on to Getz and Corcovado.


Yesterday I noted that the endings of my phrases were, to put it bluntly, bad. My teacher (Jim Gailloreto) believes that language is a powerful tool, so perhaps I should say "ending phrases is a skill I have not invested much time in yet". Today I was able to access a room with a loud speaker at school so I plugged in a backing track and recorded myself on my phone.


Immediately I noticed a huge improvement. I wouldn't say I am even adequate yet, but considering how I sounded the day before, I made a lot of progress just by paying attention to this aspect of my playing.


The trick I used was to consciously decide "no matter what, I'm going to end the phrase here" and that gave my brain/fingers/ear a lot of direction. And I tended to remember what I played more the moment before, so it was easier to use sequences and call/response ideas. I actually sounded like I knew what I was doing sometimes.


So I practiced as long as I could, about an hour in total (I decided to be late for my next appointment and squeeze in more time than I really had).


But I knew I needed to do something else for myself to improve today. Probably the best thing I know of to improve ear/brain/ is transcribing. So on the bus/train to pick up my saxophone, I transcribed Getz on Corcovado. Yes I had stolen licks from him by ear, but by forcing myself to write out his entire solo (not just the few licks that caught my attention), I noticed he chose some incredibly good yet simple ideas that I would never have chosen. For instance, I generally avoid using 4ths, especially for longer durations, but he held a D on an A-7 chord for 3 beats.




I also understood in greater detail how he used rhythm and melody to support each other. Many musicians are familiar with jazz improvisers "taking it out" or creating tension in their solos, but I always assumed it had more to do with harmonic data than rhythmic. I guess the thing I'm learning more every day is that rhythm is king.

My interview with an incredible cellist from Indiana University is going extremely well, and some great site design changes are in the works!


Happy practicing!


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