14 April–27 April (Sunday–Saturday, 2 weeks running)

This entry is part 9 of 11 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. 

This update is a little behind: I’ve been mired in preparing and grading exams and gotten less practice done than I’d like, so there’s been little to report. (I even considered doing three weeks in this summary, though I decided against it.)

I’m still working on “Four”—trying to get used to playing at at higher tempos—but I’m now also working on “But Not For Me,” a tune that goes back to the first jazz album I listened to, the Miles Davis double album Tallest Trees. I also selected “All the Things You Are” by chance, because the tune came into my head. So I guess I’m working on two new tunes while trying to get “But Not For Me” up to a slightly higher tempo, albeit not the blistering speeds some play it at.   

Below, you can see a log of my practice sessions for the last few weeks.

Preamble

Things are still touch and go this week, because I’m trying to herd cats get my students ready for midterms, but overall I should be able to practice pretty regularly.  


Sunday

I did two hours and a bit, split evenly between tenor and bari sax. Tenor I mostly worked tunes, but did long tones as well. On bari I did long tones and locrian modes, but no patterns. 

  • Long Tones: Jumps and falls from middle G, progressing chromatically, p<f>p.     
  • Scales/Modes:  Locrian mode in 7ths, round the circle of fifths. 
  • Patterns: n/a
  • Tunes:
    • “Skylark” (without leadsheet)
    • “Four” (without leadsheet)
    • “Up Jumped Spring” (without leadsheet)
    • “Doxy” (without leadsheet, tenor only)

Notes:

  • Embouchure Bomb. I could feel the days I missed last week, but as usual I powered through.  
  • Locrian Locked-In. Somehow I was better able to lock in on the locrian sound and not feel like it wanted to resolve to the Ionian (i.e. major)  scale a half-step away. It was cool. 
  • Tunes Update.  “Four” is still a challenge, especially at a higher tempo! But Skylark is… I’ve got it now, I think. I will need to review it regularly, but I’m ready to set it aside and focus on a new tune for the week. 

Monday

I did an hours and forty minutes on alto. 

  • Long Tones: Jumps and falls from middle G, progressing chromatically, p<f>p.     
  • Scales/Modes:  Locrian mode in 2nds, round the circle of fifths. 
  • Patterns: I finally got around to patterns! This one’s a very simple one I came up with while working on tunes—barely a pattern, really—but I liked enough to want to get facility at side-slipping it:
  • Tunes:
    • “Skylark” (without leadsheet)
    • “Four” (without leadsheet)
    • “Doxy” (without leadsheet)
    • “All the Things You Are” (with leadsheet)
    • “But Not For Me” (without leadsheet)

Notes:

  • Slippery Moves. I want to get back to transcribing, as I’m starting to wonder how my own use of chromaticism lines up with established approaches by the players I like. I’m usually able to hit my target note and it feels pretty good, but I should record myself so that I can hear what it really sounds like when I’m. not in the moment. I’m trying do enclosures and also include just a few chromatic passing tones to facilitate hitting my target notes, but a little more systematic approach might be good. I will have to check out some of the Youtube channels that explore Barry Harris’ teaching, I think, since he has a lot to say about that when it comes to the language of bebop. 
  • Ear Work. “But Not For Me” actually was pretty good, despite my having no lead sheet. I played with playalong tracks and it sounded pretty convincing. I suspect the changes are familiar to me from another tune, but I can’t quite put my finger on which. Watch 

Tuesday

I did an hour and twenty minutes on tenor sax. 

  • Long Tones: Naughty me, I was short on time so I skipped them. The one thing I shouldn’t skip, I know.  
  • Scales/Modes:  Locrian mode in 2nds, round the circle of fifths. 
  • Patterns: Same as yesterday. 
  • Tunes:
        • “Skylark” (without leadsheet)
        • “Four” (without leadsheet)
        • “All the Things You Are” (with leadsheet)
        • “But Not For Me” (without leadsheet)

Notes:

  • Fluidity. I was shocked at how much easier it was to play on “But Not For Me” (with no lead sheet, and never having seen one) than to play “All the Things You Are.” (The transition from the bridge tripped me up, but then it was my first time playing it on a Bb instrument.)

Wednesday

I did an hour and twenty minutes on soprano sax. 

  • Long Tones: Jumps and falls from middle G. 
  • Scales/Modes:  Locrian mode in 2nds, round the circle of fifths. 
  • Patterns: Same as the last few days, but I did it round the circle of fifths, chromatically, and along whole tone scales. 
  • Tunes:
    • “Skylark” (without leadsheet)
    • “Four” (without leadsheet)
    • “All the Things You Are” (with leadsheet)
    • “But Not For Me” (without leadsheet)

Notes:

  • Reed Need. All my reeds were either too soft or too hard, though I ended up on the “too hard” one long enough to kind of break it in. This alarmed me because the reeds that were “too soft” were fine last week. Also, I gave myself a blood blister on my lip from playing the too-hard one, at least I think that’s the cause. 

Thursday—Wednesday

I missed a week. First I was getting Midterm Exam stuff ready, then doing necessary course prep, and then grading midterm exams. 


Thursday

I did a little more than an hour on tenor sax.

  • Long Tones: Chromatic progressing rises and falls from middle G. 
  • Scales/Modes: n/a  
  • Patterns: A locrian permutation of bars 2-3 of “Four”. Well, I think of it as Locrian. 
  • Tunes:
    • “All the Things You Are” (with leadsheet)
    • “Four” (with leadsheet)

Notes:

  • Bouche. Well, embouchure, I mean. Somehow it held up okay despite a week’s missed practice.
  • Tempo Practice. Playing “Four” over and over, I am only getting better at playing it at the slower tempo I was practicing it. I guess I need to practice it faster, even though it’s somewhat painful. 
  • All the Chords You Are. The progression for “All the Things You Are” is unusually hard for me to memorize: maybe not a good tune to have chosen, but I’m stuck with it now so I’m going to power through. Maybe some transcribing and an analysis will help.  

Friday

Nothing. Sigh. 


Saturday

I did an hour on alto and most of an hour on baritone. What luxury!  

  • Long Tones: rises and falls from middle G (bari); long tones around the circle of fifths (alto) 
  • Scales/Modes:  Locrian mode in 2nds, round the circle of fifths; whole tone scales. (All on bari, as I am trying to get used to the bari keywork.) 
  • Patterns: The same locrian permutation of this major pattern:
  • Tunes:
    • “But Not For Me” (no leadsheet)
    • “All the Things You Are” (leadsheet)
    • “Four” (leadsheet)
    • “Skylark” (with and without leadsheet)

Notes:

  • Chops Busted. Seriously, not practicing enough is something I still feel. I can push myself and keep going, but my embouchure suffers when I’ve been out of the practice room too many days of the week.  

Summary & Progress

Overall I’m happy with: 

  • Not much. I missed more days than I’d like, but I knew it was coming, because that’s how exam periods always are. 
  • Tunes: I’m back to not perfectly remembering “Skylark,” though I can kind of hack my way through it if necessary without a leadsheet. Still in the process of internalizing “All the Things You Are”; I’ve pretty much “got” But Not For Me, though I suspect if I check the leadsheet I’ll be surprised about a few things. 

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

  • Maintaining the tunes I’ve already learned in working memory. 
  • Developing my tonal concept on baritone. I’m getting relatively happier with my sound on alto (though I suspect I’d be happier still with a Theo Wanne Durga, I’m doing just find with my New York Barone alto piece), but on bari I’m still sounding a little stodgy and a little tubby and, well, it’s just not the sound I want. 
  • Reed Strength. My alto reeds are 2½ strength Van Doren Green Javas, and… they’re blowing out faster than I’d like. Yet I find 3-strength are just too hard to comfortably play straight out of the box. What am I to do, then? I imagine long term I can work up to the 3s, but till then I guess I’ll work the 3s over with a scraping edge and sandpaper to make them work for me a little more easily.   
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