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Have you ever cancelled a practice session because you didn’t want to disturb someone? This could include neighbors or family members. Or, maybe you’re on the road and you wish you could practice in your hotel room. What if you could practice so quietly that no one would ever be disturbed? This is not entirely possible, but there are some things we can do when quiet practicing is required. After reading this post you’ll know how to practice quietly (or silently) anytime you need to.
I think many beginning saxophone players (including my 12 year old self) have wondered if there’s such a thing as a saxophone mute. Mutes work for trumpets, so they must have them for saxophones, right? Unfortunately, the type of mute that works on a trumpet does not work on the saxophone. It would be nice, but we require a different solution.
There are a few companies out there that have heard the “muting” cry of the aspiring saxophonist and they are working to come up with a legitimate product. This post is not about these products, but I want to make you aware that they are available. If you have any experience with these products, feel free to share in the comment section.
Play Quietly (Tip #1)
One of the strengths of the saxophone is its ability to play quietly. If there are times when a quiet practice session is required, no problem. The saxophone is designed to play quietly- no mutes required. You can use a soft dynamic level for the duration of your session. However, this is not a good method to employ 100% of the time. As a musician we need to be comfortable playing all dynamic levels.
Announce Practice Times (Tip #2)
This approach doesn’t make the saxophone any quieter, but it may provide an opportunity for more “full volume” practice sessions.
If you set a schedule for your practice sessions and let people know, then there’s no need to be bashful about the saxophone’s volume. This not only works when living with family members, but prepares the neighbors as well.
Many times if we tell the people around us that we’re learning an instrument, they will support us (even neighbors you don’t know may support you. Who knows, maybe you’ll have a neighbor that is a musician; maybe they play trumpet, but they have a mute). With announcing practice times, people are less likely to be annoyed, and may even be supportive!
Still Not Comfortable?
If the options above don’t work for you, or you’re simply not comfortable with the idea that people can hear you, you’re not alone. Of course you do need to have “full volume” practice sessions to improve as you should. But for those days when someone comes home early (which may tempt you to forfeit your practice session for the day) I have an option that can be a huge benefit to your playing. And you won’t disturb anyone!
A Great Option (Tip #3)
This method of practicing does not require any tone to come out of the saxophone. Obviously we will not be practicing articulation, embouchure, warm air, or anything that is related to tone. We will focus on technique (fingers). You will not be putting air into the saxophone at all. In fact, you won’t even use a reed, mouthpiece, or neck. You’ll just use the main body of the saxophone.
We will focus on notes, scales, and difficult passages in your music.
For this example let’s practice a difficult passage in your music. Here’s what you’ll do:
- Choose 1-2 measures of difficult music
- Set your metronome to a very slow tempo
- Finger the passage to the click of the metronome
- Lock in the clicking of the keys with the metronome
Through this process you’ll be training your fingers to play evenly and with good timing. Focusing on technique is something we need to do anyway. So, on the days where you need a quiet practice session, break out the metronome, choose your music or scale, and line up the clicks of the keys with the metronome. Your technique will improve faster, and your ability to play difficult passages quickly (and with accuracy), will increase.
Have you ever tried this method of practicing? What do you do when you need a quiet practice session? Please feel free to share in the comment section. Have fun playing!
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