Advancing Through Adversity

Waking up truly has been the hardest part of my days lately. This whole week I almost stayed at home every day. Yet an hour or two later I would feel great.


Today was much the same. By 8:30 I was energized and practicing.



The short version

30 Minutes Long Tones

15 Minutes Flute


30 minutes Scales

5 Minutes flute


1 Hour Green Dolphin St

10 Minutes flute


My long tones were extra long today. I started doing a certain breathing exercise; essentially I stretch my arms vertically and then slowly touch my toes while inhaling. Then slowly rise and exhale.


And I still warm up with humming after my interview with Roy Cho.


I learned a method of playing long tones on the flute which is slightly different. Instead of note - down by half step - original note (which I do on sax), I just played a note, then descended smoothly by half-step, and slowly let the sound taper off without losing intonation and pitch.

Later, I had an hour planned but problems arose. The camera on my laptop stopped working, so I got very frustrated and waste a lot of time trying to fix it. After a while, I just closed the computer and took a deep breath.


I resumed my practice of melodic minor scales in diatonic triads. I could play them significantly faster today than last time. The more I play them, the more sense they make in my mind.

At first, I would think about the melodic minor scale and count scale degrees (i.e. in D, I would think the triad starting on E would go E, skip F, play G, skip A, play B). Now, I think about the triad quality (major, minor, augmented, diminished). For whatever reason, my brain works fastest when I use that method of conception.


I returned to the flute and played a few minutes more of long tones, focusing really hard on my embouchure. I would often pause from playing and just work on setting my mouth shape. The flute keys/notes are very similar to sax, so I am spending much more energy and time on my sound/tone rather than notes right now.


After another class, I came back to Green Dolphin Street. My teacher showed me a more advanced exercise for the changes. Instead of playing exclusively chord tones, he had me connect chord tones using the relevant scales. It’s a little more subjective and requires me to use my ear to make choices about how to connect the chord tones and which chord tones to connect. But it’s great for applying scales and hearing how they function, rather than just “this scale goes with this chord”.


Below is an audio example of the exercise over Green Dolphin Street. Like I said, my camera is currently broken.

I also am working on phrasing/phrase endings. After playing so many methodical exercises over tunes, I developed a bad habit of simply playing until I needed a breath. That’s not to say those exercises were bad; they were great, but now I need to focus my attention on phrasing since I have a good grasp of common changes/chord tones/scales.


That basically involved a lot of experimentation, primarily with rhythm and a little with dynamics/range.


Finishing off with flute, I did long tones again. Each time I came back to the flute today, I noticed improvement in my mouth muscles/shape and my tone. My tone was better and came to me faster. I also was able to hold notes longer (using air more efficiently). And my hands are cramping less from holding it the right way.


Check out my interview with jazz bassist John O’Keefe, lots of great stuff in there.

Happy practicing!

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