Author Archives: sjt

“Phase 0” – Getting the baseline

The first exercise in LFCC is, not surprisingly, all the major and minor scales in 12 keys. Goal tempo is 160, as is for the entire course.

Having done all this before, I’m pretty sure I can get through this quickly. But then… at what tempo? With good time? Are there are any minor flubs that should be cleaned up. Can’t improve unless you know where you’re starting from.

So, my first log 1/7. Major keys, eighth notes, q=160.

Indeed I could do them all. But not perfectly.

It became pretty clear that Eb and E need a little work. Not a lot, but it was necessary to dial back to q=144, after which it was straightforward to bring it up to 160.

More importantly, I observed the flubs were all on the pattern F#-G#-A-B, and F-G-Ab-Bb. Aha! Getting off G# is the problem here. They were minor blips, but they were there. How did I miss this all this time?

This is what Eddie Daniels calls “removing the garbage between notes”. Can’t find the quote anywhere, but it was a long interview on how he practiced religiously while working on his MM for clarinet. Oh, and was also playing tenor in the Mel Lewis jazz orchestra at the time.

I marked these two patterns in the margins. It’s worth revisiting later to see if it sticks.

The uptake here is that in about 30 minutes or so, it was obvious where one repeat offender was, in something as simple as major scale. That’s encouraging progress. So I moved onto minor… wait, melodic minor? Ugh. Next post.

I’m ashamed to admit…

This post must be about practicing. I could never really get the hang of practicing.

Sure, I did all my major and minor scales and thirds in college and memorized a few solo tunes for gigs, but I never got in the groove.

Enter a few weeks ago. I was trying to figure out what the fingerings were for contrabass clarinet altissimo register, of all things. I was “recruited” to play in a local clarinet choir, and somehow wound up on contra. The C key has no vent hole like a normal bass clarinet, so I’m not sure how to play above C.

While searching for answers, I stumbled on an advert for (the rather cumbersomely named) Lightning-Fast and Crystal-Clean Saxophone Playing. There was a pretty impressive video of Adam Larson, but what immediately struck me was how detailed the instructions were. This wasn’t the typical book of exercises with some fuzzy hand-waviness on how to break it down and approach the entire project. Instead, there’s a clear progression of exactly what to do and when, and no real decisions to get hung up on.

Specifically, the progress tracking chart immediately resonated with me — I could suddenly see myself working through these a little bit each day.

I figure this way: without any gigs, I won’t be reinforcing any bad technique, so this is an especially effective way to work on good technique. Not needing to pack up my horn, I can leave it out ready for practicing whenever I feel like. Seemed easy to get in 20 minutes whenever I have a break.

The shed. Yes, a closet.

That brings me to this post, I figured it would be fun to write a review of this, but had nowhere to write it. On top of that, I could log my progress, and maybe some help some people that were kind of stuck in a rut, like me.

I forked out the $75 and started immediately. That was three weeks ago, January 5th.

So, stay tuned! Though a few weeks late, I’ve kept lots of notes on how things are going.

<Music Goes Here>

Happy 2021!

Oh, right. Excuse me. This year certainly will be terrible for musicians.

You telling me people still blog? People read blogs? Hasn’t social media made long-form writing obsolete? For that matter, any writing longer than a sentence or two?

In the words of the great Phil Collins… I don’t care anymore.

Social media is bad for me, and it’s bad for you, too.

Anyway, I’m stuck at home just like all of you, figuring out what to do musically. Well, this is something… and I do have a few things I’ve been sitting on for years that might be worth sharing.

Why?

Right off the bat, I’m to going to plug my favorite music blog – Bret Pimental, woodwinds. His writing is consistently the most useful content on woodwinds (in fact, music performance) I’ve ever encountered. In a deceptively simple and short amount of text, he manages to pack in an enormous amount of wisdom. (Seriously, buy his book, even if you already know how to play. It’s a great gift.)

It’s also the only music blog I follow. I’m not even going to begin to pretend I can push out the excellent content that Bret consistently does. But I’m inspired to give it a go.