Jason Gay


Last week I had the privilege to interview an extremely skilled and extremely friendly saxophonist named Jason Gay. He is a  39 year old professional musician who recently moved to Chicago. Jason holds degrees from Berklee and Virginia Commonwealth.
The highlights:

-Practices 2 hours per day

-Watches Netflix after practicing (this is important because it helps the brain slow down and absorb what it just learned)

-Heavy emphasis on time signatures

-Daily devotion to long tones

-Takes lots of direction from artists he admires


  1. Why practice? Aren’t you good enough already?


John Coltrane said that practicing (and life) is like cleaning the mirror so that you can better see who you really are. Practicing is a meditation. Also if you don't use it you lose it. I bore myself easily so I also practice to discover new colors and sounds.

  1. What do you do before physically playing, if anything, to prepare (for example, stretching)?


Bob Reynolds has a great YouTube video called "Warming up". I pretty much follow that model. Forearm stretches along with long tones and harmonics. I also try to clear my mind so I can focus on hearing.


  1. What do you do immediately after practicing?


After practicing I usually watch something on Netflix


  1. What time(s) of day do you normally practice?


I practice whenever I can. Be it morning or night. I usually try to get in 2hrs


  1. Do you have a practice routine? If so, please describe it in detail.


My practice routine consists of half hour of long tones. From ppp to fff then fff to ppp. Then I play scales using the full range of the horn. I may play a tune in all 12 keys then play a tune in 4/4, 2/4, 3/4, 6/8, 8/4. I have about 15 pages of licks that I play through in all 12 keys. Sometimes I read through some transcriptions.


  1. How did you establish your practice routine? Did a teacher, multiple teachers help you? Have you read scientific studies about how to practice effectively?


My practice routine is derived from many teachers who I had the good graces to study with physically or through YouTube. My practice routine is either slightly or dramatically altered every several months.


  1.  How has your practicing changed since attending college?


My practicing has definitely been a lot more focused since college. I'm doing a lot more practicing now as opposed to just jamming.


  1. Please state your name, age, instrument, years of study, year graduated.


I'm Jason Gay, 39yrs, and I play soprano and Tenor. I attended Berklee and Virginia Commonwealth. I graduated back in 05.


  1. Please state the high school you attended (and location).


Frederick Douglass High located in Upper Marlboro MD


  1. Who has helped you the most purely in terms of developing your practice philosophy/technique?


Mainly my saxophone instructor Skip Gailes. He was a great mentor


  1. What did you practice today?


Transcribing Chinese classical


  1.  How long do you practice per day?


2hrs whenever I can


  1. How do you achieve your specific sound on the sax?


Imitating musicians I admire is one way my sound is conceived


  1. What are the big ideas you use to guide your practice? Examples might be technique, repertoire, improving sense of rhythm, etc.


Mostly sound and technique these days. I also need to learn more tunes


  1. How do you stay motivated to practice?


I have to constantly work to keep myself motivated to practice. I feel like crap if I miss 2 or more days


  1. Do you enjoy practicing?


I do enjoy practicing unless I'm sucking.


  1. What is your process for learning a new tune?


I learn the melody first then the chords then I play it in various time signatures


  1. How do you practice improvisation? Do you just play freely, or do you have a more systematic approach?


I play licks in all 12 that I've gleaned from musicians I admire and I play tunes in various keys and time signatures. It's really like cleaning the mirror. You slowly get a clearer picture of what is going on.


  1. Which part of your practice do you think contributes the most to your overall playing?


All of my practice is important. I couldn't isolate it to one thing


  1. How do you master different styles such as swing, bebop, Brazilian, etc?


I wouldn't call myself a master but listening is the best thing you can do to learn styles. Figure out what makes each style unique


  1. Is there anything I haven’t asked you that you wish to share about your practice?


The instrument is an illusion. The music is coming from you as a person.


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