One way of becoming a great saxophonist is to avoid playing the saxophone. Put the instrument back in the case and do something else. Challenge yourself by choosing an activity that makes you grimace and grin at the same time.
Incredulous Student: “Seriously?! Become a better player by not practising? Now that is the kind of advice I have been waiting to hear! Time to hit the beach. Laters.”
Concerned Teacher: “Waitasecond! You missed the last part.”
Absent-Minded Student: “Wha?”
Precise Teacher: “The part about an activity that makes you grimace and grin. The activity can be enjoyable but it also has to be CHALLENGING.”
Case in point:
Last summer I made my own garden mulch. I chipped a tree trunk down with a mini-axe. Instead of choosing THE EASY WAY (buying bags of mulch at the garden centre), I actively chose THE HARD WAY.
I knew there would be benefits. This project improved my cardiovascular and muscle strength as well as my hand-eye coordination. Most importantly, it re-awakened a sense of willingness. I kept at this rather tiring and boring activity until it became refreshing. Finally, truly enjoying the moment, the process became more important than the product.
Stretching up to greet the sunshine, satisfaction was mine.
C’est l’art de vivre. Push past the evolutionary urge to follow the path of least resistance. Explore this philosophical stance and try something new. The improvement in your mindset and the confidence you gain is transferable. Apply it, and your artistic life will be richer.
Unimpressed Student: “You think I should clean toilets with a toothbrush until I feel like practising? Write out my essays in cursive script? Hide my cell phone for a week and try talking to everyone I meet? Ugh. The agony.”
Bemused Teacher: “Sounds good to me!”
Frustrated Student: “This is so abstract. I do not see how this translates to the practice room.”
Supportive Teacher: “OK—just for you—some practical suggestions that are saxophone-specific. You may choose to broaden your approach in the future.”
Instead of C major, practise E-flat minor.
Reveal the secrets of a piece by studying the score instead of listening to a recording.
Practise intonation exercises on a vintage saxophone.
Study three pieces by your least favourite composer.
Reeds: If you use a three, try practising with a three-and-a-half. Then try a four.
Learn the piano accompaniment of your latest recital piece.
If you only play alto, try another voice.
Prepare a piece independently and surprise your teacher with the results.
If everyone is playing the Creston Sonata, try the Concerto.