Practice Log: 24–30 March (Sunday–Saturday)

This entry is part 9 of 9 in the series 2024 Practice Log

This is my regularly updated practice log, mostly for accountability with my saxophone practice. Below you can see my practice for the week. If you’d like to check it out, here’s my goal list of tunes for the year. 

I’m still working on “Four” and “Skylark” for this week. I know the form of “Four” but actually navigating it in real time—especially at the popular tempo—is tough!  

Below, you can see a log of my practice sessions for the week.


I did my best this week, despite work still being ridiculously busy. (Less busy than the week before, with one class canceled, but still.) 

I’m condensing how I record what I did, just summarizing everything done instead of specifying what I did on what instrument. Hopefully that’ll make it easier to keep up this log, because doing so hasn’t been easy so far.  


I did two hours, all on alto sax

  • Long Tones: Jumps and falls from middle G, progressing chromatically, p<f>p.     
  • Scales/Modes:  Mixolydian mode in 6ths, round the circle of fifths. 
  • Patterns: bars 2-3 of “Four,” around the circle of fifths
  • Tunes:
    • “Four” (without leadsheet)
    • “Skylark” (with leadsheet)
    • “Up Jumped Spring” (without leadsheet)
    • “Fly Me to the Moon” (without leadsheet)

Problem areas:

  • Highest Pitches Tuning. The low end is still tough. I suspect a possible leak, but I’m not sure. Taking more mouthpiece kind of helps, so maybe not? 
  • “Four” Speed: I suck at playing fast. Partly it’s not relaxing enough, but partly I just don’t have the chops. I can do “Four” at a moderate tempo, but at a faster one I fall behind on the changes. I’d like to check out one solo on the progression I found by Sonny Rollins played a bit slower and completely solo, that might help. 


I did about 100 minutes: one hour on soprano and forty minutes on bari sax.  

  • Long Tones: Jumps and falls from middle G, progressing chromatically, p<f>ppp.   
  • Scales and Modes: Major in 7ths, around the circle of fifths. Slooooooooowly.
  • Patterns: Still on bars 2-3 of “Four,” this time chromatically and along whole tone scales. 
  • Tunes:
    • “Up Jumped Spring” (no leadsheet)
    • “Four”
    • “Skylark” (with and without leadsheet)


  • Bari-Tone: I rather like the tone I get on bari sax now. I’m working on endurance and long tones with it now, but that’s a slow climb up a big hill for now. 
  • Melodicism: One big stumbling block for me is that while I can usually churn out jazzlike lines over chord progressions, they don’t always come out melodic. I’m thinking of how Sonny Rollins plays and wishing I could have more of that in my sound, so I guess I know what I need to listen to and study more in order to develop that. 
  • Speed: I’ve never crested this peak, so I am reading how others manage it. Hopefully I’ll find some good ideas, exercises, and advice for it soon. 


I brought my tenor to the practice room and did two hours.  

  • Long Tones: Jumps and falls from middle G, progressing chromatically, p<f>ppp.
  • Scales and Modes: Major scales in 7ths. (Still somewhat painful, but coming along.)
  • Patterns: Measures 2-3 of “Four” progressing chromatically. 
  • Tunes:
    • “Up Jumped Spring” (no leadsheet)
    • “Four” (with leadsheet)
    • “Skylark” (with and without leadsheet)


  • B: I had a bit of a breakthrough. I was thinking about Melissa Aldana’s playing, and a comment I heard her make on the Keep Taking Ground podcast:

    where she comments that when she decided to play differently at a jam session: she decided to force the band to listen to her by playing very soft and not a lot of notes. This is something that I think Aldana has actually run with: not that she always plays soft and very few notes, but of all the players I’ve been digging into lately, she’s the one who’s certainly explored the range of effects available with a softer tone as the baseline, and with an approach to improvising simpler and more sinuous melodic lines, instead of heavily arpeggiating the harmonic structure of the tune every step of the way. These are both fascinating to me, and I decided to try work on that approach a bit… and the result was instantly noticeable.  


I almost didn’t make it to the practice room: my class let out later than usual and I was beat. However, I pushed myself and made it for 90 minutes on alto. 

  • Long Tones: Jumps and falls from middle G, progressing chromatically, p<f>ppp. My focus with long tones on also is opening my throat, taking more mouthpiece, and trying to get a richer tone. I notice it is slowly paying off. 
  • Scales and Modes: Major scales in 7th. In most keys I’m getting better at this. I should work the hard keys more. 
  • Patterns: Same 2 measures of “Four” but now in a descending chromatic progression. 
  • Tunes:
    • “Up Jumped Spring” (no leadsheet)
    • “Four” (with and without lead sheet, with and without play-along) 
    • “Skylark” (with and without leadsheet)


  • Relaxed Freedom: Kept on with trying to adopt a “freer” approach more akin to what I hear in Melissa Aldana’s playing. I’m It’s helping me to remember to relax, to focus on melodicism in my improvisation, and to get me away from getting too comfortable repeating snippets as a coping mechanism for fast play. I find that it also doesn’t prevent me playing faster—it just gives me a different place to land at as my baseline when I am not spinning out a faster line. Also, I spent some time listening to Aldana and… she plays fast too, it’s just that it’s something she launches into and lands out of. There’s more to her style than that, and home base for her is something more linearly melodic, which appeals to me. Or that’s what my ears are telling me so far, mostly from live performances of hers on Youtube. I feel like finally I’m actually learning the thing that my teachers of ages past thought they were teaching me when they would say, “Relax!” I would always dutifully relax my shoulders or whatever, but I never really got the hang of relaxing while playing, relaxing mentally. There was always a kind of frantic desperation that would creep into my emotional state, and then would sublimate into my physical state too. I wish I’d gotten clearer instruction about that, instead of just being exhorted to “relax.” That makes me wonder whether the meditations in Kenny Werner’s Effortless Mastery might not be useful to me. I’ve checked out the book before, but never heard the meditations.   


Thursdays are an off day: no time to get to the practice room. However, in the evening after my son went to bed I did a little reading from _________. 


I did an hour on the soprano sax. 

  • Long Tones: Jumps and falls from middle G, progressing chromatically, p<f>ppp.
  • Scales and Modes: Mixolydian mode, in 2nds, focusing on tone and pitch stability. 
  • Tunes:
    • “Four” (no leadsheet, a long workout)
    • “Skylark” (with leadsheet but only for the bridge, a few times through)


  • Low Energy: I was pretty exhausted , so I skipped patterns and stuck with mostly working on the two tunes I’m focused on right now. It worked well enough, but I was really just putting my time in because it’s been a really long, long week. 


I couldn’t make it to the practice room again. Busy day with other side work. 

Summary & Progress

Overall I’m happy with:

  • The “quiet and not many notes” approach that I’m taking. 
  • My soprano tone, especially considering the horn needs a tune-up. 

Things I’m struggling with and need to do/work on:

  • I mean, look aboe. A lot of things. But one day at a time. Right now, I’m hoping to focus on stability on the soprano, tone/sound concept on the bari and alto, and speed on the tenor. Underpinning all of these goals is one thing: fundamentally relaxing when I play.  
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