A New Semester

For the first day of the new semester, I made sure to set myself up on the right track. I slept almost 8 hours, had a healthy breakfast (leafy greens and almond butter), and started practicing by 8AM.


Staying true to the commitment I made near the end of last year, I began with a 3 minute meditation to settle and focus my mind.


The short version:


30 Minutes Flute

30 Minutes large interval tuning

45 minutes triad pairing/diminished scales

30 minutes Beatrice


I love starting with flute because it is so light and I feel virtually no pressure to be "good" since it's still new to me. I did long tones from the middle of my range down to the lowest note. Today I ignored tuning for the most part and focused mainly on air efficiency and tone. I also used a metronome, which I don't normally do for long tones, in order to have clearer ending points. I had developed a bad habit of letting my support drop as I ran out of breath, and today was day 1 in addressing that.


At the bottom of the register, I began doing overtones to help control pitch and register. In theory, I should be able to jump octaves purely by making the shape of my lips a tighter circle, increasing the air speed. So I was careful not to simply push harder. I kept my volume both quiet and steady. This is a technique I have seen great gains in lately.




The first thing I did on sax was a new form of long tones. Using just my mouthpiece, I played the highest note I could and slowly bent the pitch down to the bottom note. Repeated this after adding on the neck. I immediately noticed an effect on my tone and was more sensitive to how I used my lips.


After flute, I decided to do my Bach tuning exercise. It's a great exercise that doubles in a way as long tones and large interval tuning. This is a diatonic pattern. If started on scale degree 1, it would be 1-5-9(2)-6. Then 2-6-10(3)-7. And so on. I used the app Tonal Energy to check my tuning. At first I checked every note with my eyes, but later I set a drone on the tonic pitch and tuned purely by listening against the drone. I think it's good to be sure of how my horn tunes, but I also need to be able to do it by ear.

Later I delved into triad pairing on diminished scales. Essentially, in a half-whole diminished scale, it is possible to stack triads that are either a minor third apart, or a tritone apart, and have no overlapping notes. The triads can be major, minor, or mixed. For instance, C major triad and Eb major triad have no overlapping notes. The same is true for Eb major and F#major, or C major and F# major, or F# major and A major...the list goes on.



Aside from major triads, it's possible to pair for example C major and Eb minor triads with no overlapping notes. There are many possibilities of this nature.


Setting a metronome, I chose two triads and played them in a certain pattern in all inversions up and down my horn. With C major and F# major, I did the following:


My lowest note is A#, so I started with an inversion of F# by playing A#-C#-F#. Then, moving to the chord tone of C that is closest to that low A#, I played C-E-G. Then the lowest note of F# triad after that low C was C#, so I played C#-F#-A#.


I played this pattern with the metronome in a variety of pairings, all derived from C half-whole diminished.


After triad pairings, I moved to the hexatonic scale. I learned about this scale in my lesson yesterday. Basically it too is derived from the half-whole diminished by pairing the two triads a  without overlapping notes, in this case C major and Eb minor. The resulting scale is C-Eb-E-Gb-G-Bb.

I used an unusual rhythmic and melodic pattern to practice this. In a grouping of 5 starting on a given note, I went down in thirds twice, then up a note, then repeated the pattern a scale degree higher.


For example, starting on Bb-F#-G-Eb-E

Then: C: C-G-B-F#-G. . And so on.


It was my first attempt and quite challenging, yet it's an awesome sound that I'm excited to keep exploring.


I finished my diminished work by playing the scales at a high tempo to work out my articulation.


Hours later, I learned the melody of Beatrice (already learned the harmony about a week ago). It only took a few minutes to have it memorized completely. So I spent a while alternately playing the melody and improvising. As usualy, I set up certain phrasing rules, then played free. Today I focused on starting on off-beats, playing in triplets, and playing in quintuplets.


Overall, my practice time was a bit low. My lips were pretty much shot midway through (using new, harder reeds) and I didn't want to push it.


Looking forward to the rest of the week, another special Friday post, and a new round of interviews.


Happy practicing!

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