Sam Newsome

Sam Newsome
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Friday, June 4, 2010

Sound, Sound, Sound!

One of the keys to becoming a good soprano player is to make the focus of your practice more centered around sound than line oriented ideas. When I was a tenor saxophonist--back in my youth--the bulk of my practice was comprised of practicing licks and patterns through all 12 keys. However, when I switched to the soprano, this approach of vocabulary-calistehnics did not work. I found myself having all of this cool stuff to play, but none of it was in tune. That's when it dawned on me that I was going to have to take a different approach.


Bob Stewart
When practicing the soprano you have to approach it like a brass instrument. I've noticed that brass players rarely pick up their instruments and just start running cool licks. Their practice routines are often very methodical. They often start with long tones, lips slurs, and overtones--first focusing on their sound, what I call the cake, and then adding the ideas, the icing.

As soprano players, we too have to also focus on our sound by playing long tone and overtone exercises. As a matter of fact, practicing overtones is our equivalent to lip slurs. In addition to being great for the embouchure and raising oral cavity awareness, it helps to ensure that our sounds are full, centered and most of all, in tune.



Here are three (3) helpful hints to always keep in mind when working on your sound:

1. Put in a good 30 to 40 minutes of daily long tones and overtones before moving on to the more notey part of your practice.

2. Periodically come back to the long tones and overtones throughout your practice,This will keep you centered. Sound centered, that is.

3. Always keep the book Top Tones for the Saxophone: The Fourth Octave by Sigurd Rascher, in close proximity. This book will give you helpful exercises that will help put together an organized sound-oriented practice routine.

As you become more comfortable with the instrument, and as your sound becomes more consistent, you'll find that you'll have to come back to the long tones and overtones less frequently.

But don't rush it.

I'd rather hear 10 notes played in tune, than a hundred played flat or sharp. And hey, it might be more musical, too.

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