At 8:30 I started long tones on sax. I noticed that I have a tendency to overblow slightly, which can distort my sound and cause other issues. So I focused on reigning it in, precisely tuning, and consciously evaluating things like “Can I make my sound slightly brighter? Slightly darker? More harsh? More smooth?”
The inner part of my lip was very sensitive, likely from the new reeds. I took this morning as an opportunity to build some physical resilience by blowing through it, but taking a couple extra short breaks.
After I finished covering the whole range of the horn, I moved to flute and went through my long tones and overtones. I watched my tuning carefully with a tuner, and paid attention to micro-adjustments I could make to play more in tune. Every day, I also focus hard on tightening my embouchure, and it pays off in the form of air efficiency. I can hold notes longer and my tone is more “pure” or “focused” as my teacher says.
Next, I re-visited Junior Cook’s solo on Nica’s Dream. I thought it would be a good idea to re-familiarize myself with Junior Cook’s solo. The refresher certainly helped, and I paid particular attention to how I kept up at the blazing fast tempo.
When I felt ready to handle the speed and changes, I improvised and tried to play specific licks that highlighted chord tones. Things that I knew I could play in advance. It went better than yesterday for sure.
Then, I wrote out a solo to the “B” section, but didn’t have much time to play through it. I came back to it after class and played it multiple times, making little tweaks. Now on my third day of writing, I find it to be a great method to explore what “works”. For instance, I find that ideas which highlight the 5th or 7th of a chord often sound odd compared to highlighting the root or 3rd. Same goes for connecting chords; I find it sounds better to flow into the 3rd or root of the next chord rather than 5th or 7th. I knew this was true intellectually, but really paying attention to the difference was surprising to my ear.
Improvising on the “B” section was a challenge at the fast tempo at first. I tried to play a lot of stuff I knew would sound good, but couldn’t quite keep up long phrases without losing speed. So I gradually opted for more concise ideas, and it ended up making for a better solo overall. There is a lot of room I find for variation when I condense my phrases; I can parody what I just played (invert it, similar idea with varied rhythm, move it to a new chord tone, augment or diminish it, etc.).
To wrap up, I played scales on the flute. I used the Jim Gailloreto method (explained in earlier posts, essentially a way to play all the modes of every scale). I played through major scales in the circle of fifths. I started with C ascending two octaves, then F descending two octaves, Bb ascending two octaves, etc.
It is difficult for me to keep up my best sound on flute when covering the whole range of the instrument. I set the metronome at 27 beats per minute, but really felt the quarter note at 108 BPM. Using a metronome at ¼ the pace is a great trick to keep me on time. Handling the actual notes, time, and sound was almost a cognitive overload on this fairly new instrument, but it felt great to do a proper scale workout on flute for the first time in a while.
Very happy to be writing about practice again, and I feel inspired at the response I’ve received already upon returning. Next week will hopefully feature another great interview.