3 Tips for Playing Smooth Melodic Lines

Last week we covered 2 issues that many beginning students deal with:

  1. Not snapping the fingers when changing notes
  2. Air accenting the beginning of each note (or pulsing the air)

The latter (2.) results in rough lines. Keep in mind that snapping the fingers does not create a rough sounding line- pulsing the air does. To brush up on this information, you can find last week’s post here. Now, let’s move on to 3 exercises/tips that are designed to fix these issues.

Realistic Expectations

First, it’s important to understand that fixing these issues can come quickly (some students can fix the problem simply by understanding that there’s an issue), and other students may take a month or two in order to resolve the problem. If you’ve ingrained bad habits into your playing, be patient with yourself. Also, be consistent with these exercises, and soon you’ll be able to play smooth melodic lines without a problem.

The Mind Set

As you begin playing the following exercises, keep in mind what you’re trying to accomplish. If you don’t focus on the problem (and just go through the exercises) your progress will be slower. Just remember that you’re trying to snap the fingers and not accent the beginning of each note.

Exercise (Tip) #1

Choose a major scale that’s easy for you to play:

  1. Play all notes at a mf level (or louder)
  2. Hold out the first note as long as necessary
  3. Pay attention to the consistency of the air as you sustain the note
  4. Switch to the next note (make sure to snap your finger/s)
  5. Keep your air consistent (observe how it feels coming out of your body into the saxophone)
  6. Hold the next note as long as necessary before moving on
  7. Continue steps 1-6 through the remainder of the scale

Sounds a little bit like meditation, doesn’t it? If we are listening to our tone, and we are aware of how the air feels, our chances for success increases.

Exercise (Tip) #2

Take the same major scale and do the following:

  1. Play the major scale in time
  2. Crescendo as you go up the scale
  3. Diminuendo as you go down the scale
  4. Don’t forget to snap the fingers

This is a simple concept, but it’s powerful. It helps keep your air consistent as you play. If you crescendo as you ascend the scale, you are less likely to pulse. Why? Because you’re focusing on a consistent and growing air stream. The same works for descending and applying a diminuendo. The point is this: the air is always moving in a consistent stream (even if the stream is gradually growing or backing off).

Exercise (Tip) #3

Once you become comfortable with exercises 1 & 2, take what you’ve learned and apply it to a simple melodic line. You may need to add your own crescendo and diminuendo in order to keep the air consistent. As simple melodic lines become easier to keep smooth, then apply this approach to slightly more complex melodic lines.

The key to Exercise #3 is this: take what you’ve learned from the first 2 exercises and begin to apply them to music.

Did It Work?

We would love to hear about your progress. Feel free to share you success and challenges in the comment section. Also, what works for you when trying to smooth out your lines? Next week we have one more tip to share. It’s all part of the big picture for creating smooth melodic lines. Have a great week of playing!

Comments 2

    1. Post

      Hi Ephraim,

      We do not currently have a lesson program that focuses on improvisation. We hope to have a jazz lesson series in the future, but it’s just a possibility at this point. The most we can do right now, is write a blog post on improv. Keep an eye open for that.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *