As a teacher I used to devise a different practice schedule for each student as different people have different requirements when practising the saxophone, so the following is quite general and may not suit everyone. However there is one key element to successful and efficient practising, that is concentration.To learn the saxophone it is important to be able to focus the mind – a short session in which you are focussing on, listening to and thinking about what your breath, tongue and fingers are doing is much better than one long session in which your mind is wandering – you will end up learning more in the shorter more focussed session..
How Long to Practise?
If you are at all serious about learning the saxophone, a minimum daily requirement would be 30 minutes practice, but ideally at least an hour. If you intend to become professional then at least 2-3 hours daily is appropriate. It should be possible to practice all day, but remember that once you are no longer concentrating, the practice session becomes much less worthwhile.
General Hints & Tips
- Don’t get obsessive about one thing, if something is very difficult it can be better to take a few days break then come back to it. I have often found that when you do, there is a mysterious improvement even though you have not practised that thing.
- If you find your mind is not able to concentrate on practicing, then find something else to do. This could be unrelated like doing some sport, reading or just living. If you want to find something saxophone related then try learning some music theory or transcribing a solo
- Thirty minutes daily practice is better than 7 hours a week all in one day
- If you feel inhibited due to neighbours complaining try to find somewhere else where you feel totally at ease and able to play as loud as you like
- If you have trouble with concentration, try some simple courses in yoga or meditation
- If you are unable to practise the saxophone, e.g. when travelling, you can still practise breathing exercises (and tongue articulation – try repeating
t-t-t-t-tas evenly as possible, gradually work up the tempo).
- Frequent short sessions in which your mind is concentrating is better than one longer session in which you cannot concentrate. If you are able and happy to spend many hours per day practising, take frequent breaks to help keep your mind fresh.
How to Spell Practice
Here in England the verb has an
s in it, as in practising the saxophone. In the US this would be spelt “practicing.”
Organising Your Practising (Practicing) Time
Divide your practice session into three main areas. Alternate between these so as to minimise boredom or lack of concentration:
- Tone – long notes, breathing exercises etc
- Technical facility – fingering exercises, scales, arpeggios
- Music – Playing (and learning) tunes and licks, having fun playing along with CDs etc.
My preference is to practise in this order. Tone exercises are the hardest to concentrate on for many people, it is easy to let your mind wander while playing long notes. You get the most benefit if you can really focus on the sound and
get inside it. I find this easier at the start of the practice session (ideally early in the day also) when your mind is freshest and able to concentrate.
In any session longer than one hour I recommend that you rotate the above three areas, so start on tone again after an hour.