Practice Strategies and Warmup Routines to Ensure a Great Performance


Before traveling to perform at a concert venue, there are steps that all saxophonists should take to adequately prepare themselves for a performance. These steps include practice strategies to prepare music for the concert and also warmup routines to be followed at the time of the concert. Being properly prepared and warmed up will greatly increase the quality of a performance and also allow saxophonists to thoroughly enjoy their time on stage.

Practice Strategies

The first step in preparing for a performance is to know how to practice. Knowing how to practice is a crucial part of becoming an accomplished musician and the manner in which saxophonists practice will greatly affect their rate of progress. Many times, saxophonists practice incorrectly, working on lengthy sections of music while playing these sections too quickly with many mistakes. Practicing this way does not allow saxophonists to develop the consistency needed for a performance. Eventually, performers may play a piece with no mistakes, leading them to believe that they have mastered the music. What they fail to realize is the music was practiced many more times incorrectly than correctly so during a performance, it is likely that mistakes will occur. This incorrect method of practicing will have a negative effect on a saxophonist’s rate of progress and confidence.

To practice correctly, saxophonists should divide a musical piece in to small, manageable sections, which are played slowly and perfectly every time with a metronome. As the performer masters the material, the tempo is slowly increased over a period of time until performance tempo is reached, always continuing to play with no mistakes. After a saxophonist can correctly play each section of the piece separately, these sections can be linked together, allowing the entire piece to be performed with no mistakes. Perfect practice makes a perfect performance.

After each musical piece can be correctly performed separately using the above method, it is time to practice the entire program, just as it would be played on the concert. Unfortunately, many saxophonists skip this step, waiting to perform the entire program only at the concert. Skipping this step may cause saxophonists to experience problems during the performance since endurance and mental concentration were not tested until the concert date. Saxophonists may also find that they did not know the music as well as they thought since it is much more difficult to play pieces perfectly back to back.

To correctly practice, the saxophonist should play the entire program, in concert order, without stopping to realistically simulate the performance as close as possible. After playing the entire program, the performer should then practice the pieces that need more work separately. This process should be completed at least once each day for a week or two prior to the performance. By doing this, the saxophonist should feel very prepared and comfortable during the performance.

Warmup Routines

There are several routines that saxophonists can employ immediately prior to the performance to make sure things go smoothly. The first is to arrive early at the venue to inspect the stage and room conditions. The saxophonist should warm up by playing portions of their concert music while testing their reeds to see which one works best at the venue and also to make sure their instrument is working properly. Saxophonists should have at least eight reeds that are broken in and numbered showing their ranking from best to worst. Sometimes when warming up, saxophonists will discover that their number one reed does not play as well as some other lower ranked reeds due to room conditions.

Next, saxophonists should tune and perform a brief section of the program with their accompanist to become familiar with the acoustics of the room. After this, it is time to take a break and get dressed for the performance. It is suggested that the saxophonist not eat a large meal before a performance because this may affect breathing and other performance abilities. However, if nervousness or performance anxiety is a problem, eating a banana around thirty minutes prior to performing may help calm the performer down since bananas are a natural beta blocker, reducing the amount adrenaline absorbed by certain parts of the body. By following these practice and warmup suggestions, saxophonists should be properly prepared for the concert so when it is time to perform, they can warmup briefly backstage and then walk confidently on to the stage ready to make music.

To dive deeper into the topic of strategic approaches to performance, check out Dr. Heavner’s book, Saxophone Secrets: 60 Performance Strategies for the Advanced Saxophonist.