And now…drum roll please…some tips from my GREATEST STUDENTS! I’m talking la crème de la crème, a small pool of high achievers who consistently amazed me with their exceptional abilities. Their skills were so good, so consistently solid, I was left slightly in awe.
Now, none of these students were practice maniacs. Far from it. They were all well-rounded and enthusiastic about life. They wanted to be good at playing the saxophone, but lots of other things as well.
Sound like you?
You’re in luck!
Don’t say no and pass the buck—
Extra curricular activities are underrated.
Try something new and get calibrated!
Yes, dear reader, I began to realize the importance of side-skills.
Right here, right now (after reading this scintillating blog post, of course) there are a whole bunch of things you could do to enhance your saxophone skills without bringing the mouthpiece to your lips. This is an appealing concept for all of us who are aware of our weaknesses. Finally—a new way to address persistent problems! This also works if you are bored, have hit a plateau, or want to improve your versatility as a performer.
So without further ado, I offer the following solutions:
Tips From My Best Students As Observed By Their Fascinated Teacher
Area of Weakness:……………………The Fix:
Intonation → Singing
In the shower. At choir. By yourself and with others. When times are good. When times are bad. Chantez! Playing the saxophone in-tune is not a given. But how, exactly, are you supposed to know when you blow a note if it’s in-tune of not?
Singing is a great way to develop your ears. You may not have perfect or absolute pitch, but you can train to acquire excellent relative pitch. This is the ability to hear if a note is flat or sharp in relation to other sounds. A major bonus is that singing also enhances breathing and phrasing.
Recommendation: Sign up for choir and try this in the shower or stairwell:
Che bella cosa na jurnata ‘e sole,
n’aria serena doppo na tempesta!
Pe’llaria fresca pare già nafeste…
Che bella cosa na jurnata ‘e sole.
Ma n’atu sole cchiù bello, oi ne’,
‘o sole mio sta nfronte a te!
‘o sole, ‘o sole mio
sta nfronte a te, sta nefronte a te!
Rhythm → Dancing
Dancers are like drum machines—they keep going like the Energizer Bunny. Once they lock into the pulse, every move, however large or subtle, is expressed within the beat. They feel it. They absorb it. Every move is a rhythm.
For most of human history, music and dance were completely intertwined. Don’t miss out on this vital connection! Dansez!
Recommendation: Classes, of course, but don’t be too-cool: Attend the school dance and actually try dancing. Or, if you’re a bit shy, all of Ubisoft’s Just Dance games are ridiculously fun. Channelling Montréal circa 1999, my personal favourite is Rasputin by Boney M. (By the way, Just Dance videos are great for instructors who have lost circulation during the last lesson and who need to rev up before the next student arrives!)
Endurance → Cardiovascular Exercise
Excited Teacher: “This topic is so near and dear to my heart…get it? Heart…cardio…”
Student Smiles Politely.
Teacher Continues: “I devoted an entire chapter to it in my book, Saxophone Technique.”
Teacher Places Both Hands Over Heart: “Cardiovascular exercise will jump-start your ability to blow and keep blowing like nothing else…NOT EVEN PRACTISING!”
Student’s Eyes Bulge Out: “What? C’mon!”
Wide-Eyed Teacher Exclaims: “Yes! If you have no or little physical activity in your life, the best thing you could do to become a better sax player is move.”
Teacher Takes a Deep Breath: “You know Beyoncé?”
Puzzled Student: “Yeah?”
Nodding Teacher: “Pretty good performer, eh?”
Grinning Student: “Yeah!”
Teacher Whispers: “She used to run around a track while singing her songs. To train. So she could sing and dance on stage comfortably. No lip-syncing for that lady.”
Student Starts Moving Toward the Door.
Quizzical Teacher: “Um, where are you going? We’ve still got thirty minutes left.”
Matter-of-Fact Student: “Don’t you want me to try jogging around the block while I play the second movement of the Creston? That one takes a lot of air. You can watch from the window.”
Teacher visualizes Student jogging while playing the Creston.
Teacher’s First Thought: Wow, it would be so neat to hear live classical music being performed on the street.
Teacher’s Second Thought: Wipe-out. Bruised knee. Sprained wrist. Chipped tooth. Busted instrument.
Teacher’s Third Thought: Pain. Agony. Missed lessons. Lawsuit. Even worse—getting the saxophone fixed properly and in a short time frame.
Teacher Smiles: “Why not try jogging on-the-spot? But lose the bounce. Presto—you’re marching! We don’t want to risk all that expensive dental work.”
Recommendation: Join a marching band. Or, with your sax tucked safely in its case, try running, jogging, walking, swimming, cycling, skating—it’s all good. Bougez-vous! And then get ready for OUTRAGEOUSLY GOOD results!