Taking it Easy

A dear friend passed away Friday. Obviously the impact was much greater than just the effect on my practicing, but I really don’t feel up to going deeper nor is this the place.


I knew two things

  • I need to practice
  • I can’t push myself too hard because it just won’t work


You’ll notice today was relatively simplistic.


The short version:

30 Minutes Long Tones

30 Minutes lick


30 Minutes lick


60 minutes How High the Moon


No polyrhythms, no brand new tunes.


I started off with long tones. Every day I continue to notice improvement. When I began with long tones a couple weeks ago, it took me around 15-20 minutes. Now it takes 30 because I am checking more pitches against a tuner (with increasing accuracy), and my ability to hold notes longer is improving.


After that, I felt pretty beat. Emotional energy saps physical and mental energy. So I just played through the lick I invented last week. I already knew it in 4 keys and I played through those several times slowly, then several times at higher tempos with a deep focus on swing.


To maintain focus, I forced myself to ask very specific questions. “How is my tone? What techniques do I know to improve it? How is my swing feel? How do I want to articulate this phrase?” etc.


Then for the rest of that time, and the first 30 minutes of my later practice session I just learned the lick in the rest of the keys. I can play it in 8 keys now at about 160 BPM after approximately two days’ work on it.


For the last hour, I continued my study of How High the Moon. The real learning opportunity is in the specific changes. Down-stepping ii-V’s for instance. Deceptive progressions.


I played through all the chord tones in the bottom range of my horn, then the top range of my horn. Then starting on only thirds, and trying to voice-lead smoothly to land on each third.


After chord tones, I went through my 9-note exercise. That’s playing 9 8th notes in a row, and using the 9th note to land on a chord tone in the next measure. Rest 4 beats while the changes go by, then play another set of 9 notes.


When I finished all of that harmony training, I spent some time improvising. However, I hated the way I sounded on every AMaj7 chord, so eventually I stopped improvising and just worked out some licks on AMaj7.


Even out of time and thinking hard, it was a struggle to come up with things that interested me. Of course I had options like pentatonics and chromaticism, but for whatever reason I wasn’t feeling great about anything. That’s okay because I’ve begun the process. If anyone could come up with amazing things to play in 10 minutes then music school wouldn’t exist.


I took the ideas that didn’t hate and ran through the improvisation several more times before calling it quits.


Hopefully I’ll have more energy tomorrow.


Happy practicing!





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