I’m guessing that each and every one of you reading this practice scales on a regular basis. It’s one of the first things that we learn and something that is reinforced throughout our lives in school or when taking lessons.
Scales are amazing. I’m a huge fan and I believe they are a necessity for every musician that plays any instrument. But have you ever explored the possibilities outside of scales? Intervals in particular are a great way to break some of our bad habits that come from over-practicing scales and then getting stuck in a certain way of playing things.
The melodic and harmonic possibilities that come from practicing intervals are extremely important. I’m willing to bet that you have practiced some thirds, as this is almost as common as scales. But have you really practiced them? Have you practiced them full range of the horn and major as well as minor in all 12 keys? Skimming the surface of a concept is one thing, but getting down to the nitty-gritty and internalizing something is a completely different and may be holding you back. It’s easy to scratch the surface of something, but only a small percentage of players ever get deep enough to take that concept to the next level.
Let’s start with 3rds since we’re on that subject. The saxophone has a unique range and the most difficult parts of the saxophone to physically play are located at the extremes of the horn. The first thing you need to do with all of your technical exercises is to extend them to cover the full range of the instrument. This means going down into the pinky keys and up into the palm keys with everything you’re working on.
Let’s relate this to practicing major thirds. We want to practice these exercises in all 12 keys, utilizing the full range of the instrument. Now, when we practice our thirds in an easy key like G Major, it’s not so easy anymore. This benefits our playing much more than a single octave would. Never mind how difficult keys like F# Major and Db Major become! This is guaranteed to improve your facility!
Thirds are hard enough in this fashion, but if we were to widen the interval we’re practicing to fourths, we really are burning some brain cells. Take it from me; this is not going to be fun for the first couple of weeks. However, the payoff is a huge leap in your technique and feeling like you won’t see anything that you can’t pull off once these exercises are a part of you routine. You see, we don’t typically think about intervals like fourths as a possibility in our improvising or composition. We don’t practice them enough to be able to hear them or physically pull them off on a regular basis. As soon as it becomes a regular part of our practice routine, they are suddenly accessible to us in a way that we didn’t think possible.
The other advantage to this type of practicing is that we can increase the difficulty at any point by putting the same exercise in minor or some other kind of foreign tonality once we have the majors down. Think about playing harmonic minor, full range fourths, in every key. If your brain doesn’t leak out of your ears than I’ll see you on the other side as a much better player!
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This book is jam packed with these kinds of exercises and I promise, if used correctly, will improve your playing by leaps and bounds. Filled with over 60 pages of scales, arpeggios, intervals, combination exercises, and tone production, this book will keep you occupied for years and give you a solid, comprehensive method for warming up each and every day.
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