A long, exhausting day to be sure.
The short version;
30 Minutes pentatonics
30 Minutes finished pentatonics/ii-V's
30 Minutes Donna Lee/Improvisation
Scales are the best way to start for me. My teacher says I should feel free to try out practicing in different orders, but here's why I like scales first.
I hate sounding bad on anything "real" such as tunes, improv, or licks.
Warming up with scales helps me get my body and mind in shape so that I sound better for the other things.
Anyway, I began with pentatonics today. I used both versions of the "extra note" pentatonic in major. Now that I've gained good command over it (it feels easy for my mind and fingers), I concentrated as hard as possible on tone and technique. In terms of technique, my goal for a long time has been keeping my fingers closer to the keys and reducing overall body tension. Respectively, that will help me play faster/smoother, and improve my endurance (which is ever more necessary as I play with more groups).
With regards to tone, I am experimenting with making my sound more flexible. My goal is to sound like Dexter Gordon when I want, Stan Getz if I choose, and to take elements of my other influences as well. Describing exactly how I adapt is difficult; but essentially it comes down to listening + focus + minor changes in the face/throat muscles.
After major pentatonics, I played the minor pentatonics in the rhythm I demonstrated yesterday. The displaced accent in 8th note triplets.
Some minor pentatonics have extremely tricky fingerings on the sax, so today I focused on slowing down the hard parts and making them truly as smooth as the rest. I also exaggerated my articulation to highlight the particular rhythm I was using.
I devoted a fairly large chunk of time to ii-V's today from The Bebop Bible. That's because I love the growth I am hearing in my swing. I still have to record my improvisation to test how much I've really internalized it, but I did record myself playing licks so I know that when I concentrate on simpler stuff it definitely has made a difference. I also began to notice in big band rehearsal today a subtle lack of attention people are paying to their own time.
I played through a bunch of passages; first as slow as I could stand it with the best technique and swing I could produce. Gradually I increased the speed. Today I used a metronome to keep track of my tempos. Usually I went up 5 clicks. No more than 15.
I found that the slower I started, the bigger leaps I could make when I increased the tempo.
Eventually I settled on one lick I really enjoyed and learned it in several keys. I could see a few different applications for it as well (for instance, the first half of the ii portion could actually lead to the V without needing the second half, so if the ii-V occurs in a single measure instead of spread out over two measures it works there too). Possibly this is because of how deeply I am analyzing the licks, or it might be a special property of this lick.
Next, I went to Donna Lee. The melody this time. I wanted to test my improved swing feel on a real melody. I was happy for sure with the results.
I broke it down slowly, as usual. Although I didn't need quite as much time since I had played this melody several times in my life (poorly, but I knew it still).
Then I exercised my ear by playing my lower neighbor tone exercise which I described yesterday through the harmonic progression of the tune. Today I played half the notes though.
So instead of playing
over a BbMaj7 chord, I just did the first two series in 8th notes to simulate real time.
I went through this on roots and on thirds.
Then I improvised. The practice of swing, melody, and harmony definitely showed today.