2.14 The Ten Steps Guide

This comes from a post in the newsgroup. Shooshie's methods are a little unorthodox but have gained popularity. This is included for information only! Again, if you're just starting out remember that practise is your best way to progress. Don't over-do it, though (you'll get stale!). There's no need to practise for more than seven hours per week, though you may like to.

"Here are ten steps to success on the saxophone. I could make twenty or thirty, but I think ten will do for now. These are the ten steps which I say are essential for good progress. Sacrifice any of these and you have damaged your hopes of achieving your potential, no matter how much time you have to practice.

1) do five minutes per day, playing long tone scales on the mouthpiece alone, with crescendos and decrescendos (to ppp) without varying the pitch

2) follow that with five minutes of overtone practice, playing the harmonic series while fingering low Bb,

3) correlate the airstream positions (and feel) between the mouthpiece studies and the harmonic studies. You can use phonetic symbols to help you do that. Each pitch on the mouthpiece and in the overtone series will have three components in your airstream:

A) a part somewhere around the letter "r" or "l", (tip of tongue)

B) a part around the vowels "ah" through "ee" or "i" as in "it", (middle of tongue)

C) a part somewhere in the neighborhood of "g" or "k". (back of tongue) You can help yourself to remember these components of a given sound by thinking of a phonetic word, like "gharl" and trying to produce it as you blow. The vowel sound will change as you change pitches.

4) correlate the same airstream from your harmonics to your actual notes on the instrument. Notice how much easier it makes altissimo when it becomes an airstream continuum following the high palm key notes.

5) spend lots of time learning to color your sounds consistently from low Bb to the highest notes.

6) as you practice everything, always check your pitch against a fixed pitch - i.e., set your tuner to play the tonic of your scale, and match each pitch to the most perfect interval possible. Even dissonant notes (half steps, sevenths, etc.) have a "consonant" placement, so find it and never vary from the pitch. Learn the difference between harmonic pitch and melodic pitch.

7) play technical exercises slowly enough that you can do them accurately without tensing your arms, hands, and airstream. Also practice them against the fixed pitch to help learn the right airstream/ear coordination.

8) be patient. Slow practice over long periods of time becomes solid technique doable at any speed.

9) Let musical taste be your guide. If you don't have a preference about how something should sound, GET ONE!

10) Use a tape recorder to monitor your progress. Listen, criticize, correct, and repeat.

Don't ever assume that there is something you cannot do. Just break it down into steps that enable you to achieve it. Give yourself the time to get there."

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