Back to basics

I started again with long tones on flute, experimenting a lot with tiny adjustments to the way I held it and the angle I held it in order to discover my truly optimal sound. It changes slightly depending on the quality of my embouchure, and it paid off today when Marshall Vente complimented my flute playing in big band rehearsal.

The short version:

30 Minutes flute

30 Minuets long tones

1 Hour improvisation

(2.5 hours of rehearsal, had to save chops)

After a couple minutes of playing, I found a great Hubert Laws recording (I think it was called “Let’s Make Love” or something to that effect”) and imitated his playing for a little while to get his sound in my mind.


I again did the overtone series, and now I have enough control that I can play the root, 1st overtone, 2nd overtone, and come back to the root with enough air to hold out the note foe a couple seconds. Typically, when I return to the root I had so little air that it sounded unsupported and flat, but today I was able to address that.


On sax, I started by listening to Michael Brecker’s “Softly as in a Morning Sunrise”, copying his tone on the head and first couple licks of his solo. And then I began my typical method of long tones, moving by half steps. Using a tuner tends to split my focus and has a tiny negative effect on my tone in exchange for slightly better tuning. Yesterday I opted to not use a tuner in favor of improving purely tone, but today I used TonalEnergy Tuner and experimented with changing dynamics and timbers without altering the tuning.


I used to push myself on long tones to do an octave or more without a break, but stealing a book out of weight training (more weight, less reps) I decided to take more frequent breaks and do smaller, higher-quality chunks. About half an octave at a time in half steps, rest, resume.


Moving on to improvisation, I worked on Beatrice and Green Dolphin St. Michael Brecker and Chris Potter have both given lectures stating that their improvisation is really rhythmically drive, they are simply gods at hitting the right notes along with the rhythm. So I went through the changes playing relatively simple yet hip rhythmic figures and voice-leading them through the form. It is really easy to think about repeating/altering/permutating smaller rhythms in interesting patterns than it is to think about constructing entire phrases. Immediately I noticed a dramatic difference in my soloing.


And continuing in the vein of yesterday, I used a metronome at half-tempo to increase the amount of responsibility on myself for keeping time.


Happy practicing!

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