Here’s a simple exercise to help you gain confidence moving around various subdivisions of the beat while also improving the accuracy of your articulation at the same time.
You’ll definitely need a metronome for this one, and it’s a good idea to record yourself doing this so you can hear how precisely you’re able to move from eight notes to triplets to sixteenths to quintuplets and back. Also, make sure to try it at different tempos.
You might be tempted to immediately start notching up the pace of that metronome, but doing this at slow tempos is really most challenging and is also the key to mastering faster tempos. Make sure that each grouping has a clear identity – this shouldn’t sound like a gradual accelerando, but rather a succession of clear rhythmic groupings.
Two things to keep in mind about your articulation:
- Make sure that the tip of the tongue is touching the tip of the reed. The embouchure should be very stable as you tongue – nothing shifts around, only the tongue moves within the mouth and nothing should change with the position on the mouthpiece. Make sure articulation is clean, controlled and consistent. Articulation is key to good sound and rhythm – don’t gloss over it!
- As with any exercise, take the initial concept and use your imagination to come up with your own variations on it. Try different notes, scales, mix up the order of rhythms, write out licks that use this idea…the possibilities are endless.
Feel free to share your ideas in the comment section below.