What my students are working on.......

Some of the things I've been having my more advanced students do lately are:
  • Keeping a detailed tune list of all the tunes they know, all the tunes the sort of know and all of the tunes they need to learn. This master list should be in a digital format so it can be constantly updated and organized. This master list will become the index for the student's personal gig book. Students should have enough copies of this book to give a rhythm section at a gig, rehearsal or jam session. If you don't want to bring your whole book to a gig/jam then you can at least bring this master list to show the other players. This ensures that you will be able to find acceptable and interesting tunes with any combination of players. No more,"Duh, what do YOU want to play?" I would stay away from plastic sheet protectors because they're usually more trouble than they're worth, plus they're expensive.
  • Put together a three ring binder of solo transcriptions. These could be your own, things you've downloaded off the Internet and printed or solos that you've copied out of books. Just use the blog search engine in the upper left hand corner of this page and search for 'transcriptions', you'll find hundreds. Don't practice the same few players all the time. Go for a wide range of cats, especially look at transcriptions of musicians on instruments other than your own. You'd be surprised how many solo transcription books your public library may have. Pack your binder with solos! Keep adding to your collection! Play through them all!
  • Take a lead sheet for a tune and for each chord change write several pentatonic scales that would work over that chord. A great book to help you figure these out is Pentatonic Scales For Jazz Improvisation by Raymon Ricker. Also take a look at my post called Pentatonic Lines- Navigating outside harmony. Try soloing over the tunes using only these pentatonic scales. Don't forget to do plenty of chromatic side-slipping.
  • Practice playing some slow ballads and really concentrate on the ends of all the notes. Try to get the vibrato to speed up slightly as you cut off each note. Shape the cut offs, be conscious of the exact shape that you're trying to create on the ends on notes.
  • I have just gotten my students back into an old stand by called the Universal Method for Saxophone by Paul Deville. It was written almost a century ago and it still kicks ass. If you want to fix any problem you are having with technique then the Universal Method has what you need. The exercises on difficult fingerings and exercises on mechanism can make drastic improvements in a student technique in a short amount of time because they isolate every single problematic fingering combination on the horn. The etudes will whip any sloppy tongue into shape by hammering it with different articulations.
  • Sing, sing, sing! If you can't sing it then you won't be able to play it in tune. Try singing phrase first, listening for perfect intonation, then play the same phrases. Once you know what a note sounds like intimately, meaning you recognize that note like the face of a friend in a crowd, then your oral tract will be able to position itself automatically as soon as you imagine that note in your mind's ear. You don't need to be born with perfect pitch to recognizes pitches in this way! You can introduce yourself to just a few notes at first and become very close friends with them. When you know everything about them (how they feel when you sing them, how they feel when you play them, how the different octaves sound and feel) then they can introduce you to the other notes. This is a learned form of perfect pitch that starts with one or a few notes, I call it relatively perfect pitch.


Anonymous said...

I went to the Casa
of Valdez
went to find out
just what it
is he says
then when I arrived
he was breakin' it down
like some kind of hip cat jazz dude from way down town
he said, "play it like this" then he played it like that
all the heavies in the room said, "damn, what WAS that?"
so next time you're hangin' out
under your fuzzy red fez
drop on over for a listen
to the Casa

David Carlos Valdez said...

Wow, thanks, no ones ever written a rap for me before......

Anonymous said...

yeah, well that's how we rock it up.

Unknown said...

David -

You've offered up so much great practice advice here on your blog. Do you have any tips for practicing away from the horn? I've heard of people closing their eyes and fingering an imaginary horn, and I've tried that but it really hasn't seemed to be very effective for me. Any other ideas?