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Everyone knows that the key to getting better at saxophone is practice. But not everyone knows exactly what or how they should be practicing.
In this article, I want to show you the 30-minute daily saxophone practice routine that actually gives you results so you can be sure that you’ll see progress over time.
If you follow the I’m about to show you every day, you will be able to see some significant improvements in your saxophone playing within just a few weeks of consistent practice.
Let’s dive right in.
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The Ultimate Half-hour Daily Saxophone Practice Routine
Just like any other activity, having a plan for your practice before you start helps you get much better results.
Start by break your daily practice routine into three parts:
25-30% of Total Practice Session
In the warm-up you, need to focus on the fundamentals, the things that are important no matter what kind of music you’re playing.
The main culprits here are:
- Start with breathing exercises then mouthpiece pitch exercises. For saxophones, we are a little bit limited on the range pitches that we can do on mouthpieces, as opposed to say, trumpets.
- Tone: These are basically sound exercises, especially long tones. But really what we are looking at here is variations of long tones, harmonics, things such as overtones, intervals exercises and so on.
- Technique and Articulation: These are basically scales and arpeggio exercises. Other technical work will involve the licks that you want to learn. Articulation comes with fingering exercises.
40-50% of Total Practice Session
This next section is where you work on new material that you cannot yet play well.
This new material could be:
- An etude that you are working on.
- The melody to a new song or your own composition.
- How to improvisation over a set of chord changes. Improv is typically based on the stuff that you learned in technical practice.
It could be anything but it needs to be challenging. It needs to be something that you are unfamiliar with or you’ve just started working on.
The Fun Stuff
25-30% of Total Practice Session
The third section is where you play for fun and just for the enjoyment of playing the saxophone.
The idea is here is to explore the elements of the new material you worked on in the previous section while keeping in mind the fundamentals you focused on in the warm-up.
Some of the fun stuff you want to do here could be:
- Music: Playing any music, an easy start is usually pop tunes.
- A good idea in this section is to record yourself so you can see some progress over time.
The reason we limit ourselves to just 30 percent of having fun is that we want the majority of our practice time to go towards improvement.
Then the fun part feels like a reward. Remember to have fun, this is why you’re taking up an instrument.
Top 5 Must-know Tips for Organizing Your Daily Saxophone Practice Routine
Now, we’ve already seen that you absolutely must organize your daily practice routine.
If you follow the tips I’m about to show you, you’ll see a huge difference in what you get accomplished with the same amount of practice time.
Tip #1 — Start Your Practice with Breathing Exercises
You should always approach your practicing with breathing exercises.
You have to breathe, and air is free. Use it.
And then you can follow this up with mouthpiece exercises before jumping into tone exercises.
I tend to look at the breathing and mouthpiece exercises as part of tone practice. But I think there is a nuance there that you should be aware of.
Tip #2 — What Are Your Long Term Goals?
A routine is just a plan you have to stick to.
And the best way to formulate a plan, and to stay motivated to stick to that plan, is to have a clear idea of what your long term goals are with your playing.
What do you want to learn how to play?
This could be something specific like learning to play the melody to Ain’t No Sunshine by Bill Withers or, I don’t know, Take Five, or something general like learning how to improvise over 12-bar blues.
Choose a specific goal when you are formulating your daily saxophone practice routine, and then break that up into mini-goals that you can knock out in a couple of practice session, and then bring this mini-goals into your routine.
I like to break up a large goal into about six small goals that I can go through once per day.
Tip #3 — Always Practice Consistency
There’s no other way to put it, the most important thing you can do to get better at playing the saxophone is to play every day.
That’s why it’s called a daily routine.
This is so important that I put it in as the first dumbest mistake most beginners make when learning the saxophone. You might want to have a read of that article to see the other nine catastrophic mistakes, especially if you’re just getting started.
The gist of this idea is that you don’t pick up your saxophone when you feel like it, you make a daily schedule and stick to it. No excuses.
If you learn something today and then disappear for so long that when you come back you’ve already forgotten it, what progress will you really be making?
I get it. A lot of people break their routine because they are not seeing the results they were hoping for.
I can tell you with confidence that practicing the saxophone every day even for a week is enough for you to start seeing some noticeable improvements, which goes a long way in motivating you to continue.
All you have to do is turn that week into a month and that month into a year, and then you’re really onto something.
Tip #4 — Follow the Rule of 10’s (When Pressed for Time)
As you can see the routine I gave you earlier, saxophone practice routines break down into three main parts (the things you need to work on):
- Technique and Articulation
Sometimes, even for professionals, once you reach a certain level, you are gigging or recording all the time, or doing speaking engagements and it gets quite hard to find the time to practice so you end up practicing less than people who are doing this as a hobby or for fun.
Sometimes you have no time to practice at all.
The biggest tip I can give you for such situations, that sort of simplifies the 30-minute daily routine I showed you earlier is:
The rule of 10’s is a fairly simple concept—organize your saxophone practice routine into three quick 10-minute sessions.
Set a timer for 10 minutes and practice tone exercises, then set it for another 10 minutes and do your technical stuff, and then finally set it for 10 minutes and just play music.
After this, you can put the horn aside and do something else for a little while and then come back when you free your schedule up a bit.
You get your half our daily session divided into three 10 minute sections. That’s as simple and balanced as you can get with your saxophone practice.
Tip #5 — Plan Your Practicing for Just the Week (When Working Around an Unpredictable Schedule)
Ideally, when you practice your saxophone, you want to practice at the same time every day.
The reason for this is so that you develop it into a daily habit, but sometimes that is not possible because you are working with a changing or an unpredictable schedule.
This might be because of whatever reason, you are traveling, for instance.
This tip is really simple—try to get a week ahead in your planning, even when your schedule is predictable. Then hold yourself to it.
Planning on the moment, just when our schedule frees up is completely unreliable. You need some sort of plan in place and the best way to approach that is to chop up your plans and try to fit them into your schedule this way.