In the past I shared two tips to help you speed up your fingers. You can click here to see that post (they are my top 2 suggestions). A lot of students enjoyed that post, so here are 4 more tricks to help you play faster!
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Did you notice, even at a fast tempo, Bob Berg’s fingers remained close to the keys? A few times, he did lift his fingers, but overall he kept them close to the keys. How does he do that?
Today we’ll go over 4 tricks to help you keep your fingers close to the keys of the saxophone. If you can do this, your top speed will increase. Keeping your fingers close to the keys is one essential characteristic for playing quickly. Conversely, if you raise your fingers too high, your ability to play quickly is limited.
Some of these tricks may seem ridiculous, but each one has worked for someone in the past. Maybe just one of these tricks will work for you, or maybe all of them will. Just give each a try and see which tricks produce positive results.
Attach a piece of string (or dental floss) to the saxophone at the two points below. Each anchor point is outlined in a red box. There’s 1 anchor point in each image.
This will place the string over the left hand. The string will be low enough, so if your fingers lift off the keys too much, your fingers will hit the string. You want to avoid making contact with the string.
Simply attach tape to the index finger, middle finger, and ring finger on both hands. If you don’t have double sided tape, use a regular piece of tape. You can make a loop, with the sticky side on the outside.
Yes, your fingers will be attached to the saxophone. If you lift your fingers too high, the tape will remind you to keep your fingers closer.
Keep your left pinky on the G# key, and keep your right pinky on the Eb key. When you do this, the other fingers will stay much closer to the keys. You’ll find that the pinkies don’t like to stay in one place, but after some practice they’ll settle in.
Now, a quick story before Trick #4
My Meeting With Bob Berg
When I was working on my undergraduate degree, I met Bob Berg (see video above). I had the opportunity to visit with him for a few minutes and ask him some questions. I was extremely impressed with his ability to improvise quickly. Not only could he do this, but his solos were well thought out. I asked him the following (now paraphrased):
“Back when you were a student, and you were working on playing up-tempo, what approaches did you take to accomplish your goal?”
After a moment of thought, he replied that he did the following. He learned (or composed) a phrase, and learned it at a slow tempo. As he became comfortable with the phrase he would begin to speed it up over time. Eventually, he could play the phrase quickly.
Play at a tempo where you can get it right, and slowly speed up.
Whether you’re playing a scale, or a written out phrase, learn it at a slow tempo. Once you can do this slowly, start getting faster. Use a metronome to control how quickly you speed up the passage/scale. I suggest clicking up one notch at a time, with traditional tempo markings.
With tricks 1-3, you may end up using them for a couple of weeks, or a few months. Remember to be patient and consistent. Don’t try to solve the problem in one day. Spend 5 minutes a day with one of these tips (1-3), and then move on. Repeat the following day.
These tricks have proven results. They’ve worked in the past and they’ll work in the future. I’m excited to see how these tricks will help you improve. Please share your experiences in the comment section- we would love to hear your results.
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