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A t first, this topic may not seem flashy or super exciting, but the benefits to warming up (the correct way) are so significant, you’ll always want to warm up, every time you play. Here are some parts of your playing that will benefit:
- Feeling one with the saxophone
Running & Stretching
I am not an expert runner, (you can probably tell by my use of the word “runner”. I’m sure there’s a professional word for this, but I am not aware of that term. For example, someone could say “saxophone player” while others may say “saxophonist” [pronounced sax-off-uh-nist]) so I'm probably not up to date on stretching theories and warm-ups, but I do know they are essential for health and endurance. Just like runners have their warm-ups to perform at peak levels, saxophonists do too.
We don't have one exercise that warms up all parts of saxophone playing at once, but isolation is required (similar to stretching). We don’t stretch our entire body with one stretching technique, but isolate muscle groups. We will do the same here.
Did you know you can warm up your oral cavity? I know this sounds strange, but when you do this properly, the tone becomes richer and note response becomes easier. What's happening through the warm-up? We are simply warming up our tongue. The exercise you’ll want to employ is done by playing a low note for a really long time. When this is done, the tongue is warmed up, and the tone becomes better. Give it a try!
Like the exercise above, the tongue needs to be warmed up for articulation. Since the tongue is a muscle, it makes sense that a warm up (to assist with speed) can accelerate learning. With this exercise, you’ll articulate every note of a major scale, while playing with the metronome. Then, you’ll click up one click on the metronome and do it again; do this until you reach your max each day. After one week, you’ll notice a difference in how fast you can play.
As you play your scales and arpeggios, you’ll begin to get a certain feel on the saxophone. Your fingers will not only improve with speed, but they’ll snap into place, clearly. When we begin playing the saxophone (as a beginner) our timing with our fingers can be off, causing us to play short little notes right before the real note is played. For example, when you go to play a middle D, all the fingers have to go down at the same time, or you’ll play another note right before the intended D. Sometimes people jokingly refer to these notes as grace notes. The best way to warm up the fingers, and improve timing, is to play scales slowly and speed them up, like the articulation exercise mentioned above.
I know I’ve been vague with the warm-up exercises, but I wanted to give an overview of some warm-ups. Because each one of these items are a post in themselves, I just wanted to give a very quick explanation of a possible warm up that could be employed. However, now that the background has been given, I will provide an outline for a warm-up session in next week’s post. Additionally, I’ll get into more detail concerning each exercise.
What Do You Do?
What do you do to warm-up on the saxophone? In fact, if you play other instruments, we would love to hear what works for warm-up on those instruments. Because in truth, we’re not warming up the instrument as much as we’re warming up our muscles, fingers, tongue, throat, lungs, diaphragm, etc. We all have these body parts and that’s a big part of what we’re warming up. We look forward to hearing from you!
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