Time and Tone

Days in a row of good sleep has made a profound effect on my ability to focus, and subsequently my ability to retain what I have been practicing.

 

The short version:

15 Minutes flute

45 Minutes long tones

60 Minutes scale work/triad pairing

 

Sticking to my committment from last semester, I have continued to start each practice session with a 3 minute meditation. It feels weird and I get a bit self-conscious, but I turn off the lights in the practice room, turn on a timer, and sit upright with my eyes closed. I usually notice that my thoughts are more chaotic than I realized, and this helps me get calm and focused.

Starting with flute long tones, I'm paying extremely close attention to find this slight "edge", as my teacher refers to it, to my sound. It requires forming a very tight circular shape in my lips that is hard to achieve but getting easier every day. On the flute, more air is wasted by a bad embouchure, and it's possible to hold notes longer with a good embouchure, so I have been monitoring how long I hold out a note as a way of evaluating my progress. After playing long tones to the bottom of my horn, I practiced the overtone series and can pretty consistently get the second level now.

After long tones, I played a short variation on the Jim Gailloreto method for ascending major scales, and descended the scales in thirds.

Moving on to sax, I've continued warming up using just the mouthpiece, trying to bend the horrible squeaky pitch down as low as possible, then back up. This has made a noticeable change in my ability to tune individual notes using just my facial muscles.

 

Before actually playing long tones, I've made a point of listening to a little bit of Dexter Gordon and/or Michael Brecker to get their sound in my mind. Branford Marsalis once quoted his own teacher as saying the sound in your mind is what really guides the sound on your horn. So I've been taking a little lick or line of Gordon and Brecker and playing it trying to sound just the way they do. Then I take that sound I get and play my long tones.

 

Later, I got down to some really fundamental work. The past week I had to spend a lot of practice time shedding parts for gigs, so I was excited to do some work that really pushed me.

One of my renewed plans is to increase my internal ability to keep time. At a great masterclass last Friday, guitarist Gilad Hexelman talked about halving or quartering the speed of the metronome, forcing yourself to keep your own time for larger intervals. Another great point he made was to not move at all, not foot tapping, etc. Movement helps our minds keep time, and we really want to be able to keep time from a place of stillness without relying on a foot or movement. So today I played diminished scales with the metronome around 40BPM as still as possible.

 

It was way harder than I thought, and I noticed a lot of small time tendencies, usually rushing.

 

 

Like flute, I played in step-wise motion going up and in thirds going down.

 

Then I went to work on triad pairing; pairing major and minor triads a minor 3rd apart (C major and Eb minor, for instance), major triads a tritone apart (C major and F# major), and major triads and minor triads a tritone apart (B major and F minor).

In a sextuplet pattern I played these triads in all inversions, as shown below.

And finally, I finished by playing major scales in quintuplets in an interesting pattern my teacher showed me last week. Essentially, the pattern descends while going up the scale, and ascends when going down.

 

For instance, in F major, I would play F-D-E-C-D, then G-E-F-D-E, then A-F-G-E-F.

On the way down, that would look like this: C-E-D-F-E, B-D-C-E-D, A-C-B-D-C and so on.

Certainly a mentally taxing day, but totally worthwhile.

 

Happy practicing!

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