7 Steps to Faster Articulation

The last few posts have provided basic exercises to get started with articulation. The first was articulating in time with the metronome, and the second was following this pattern with the addition of “tah” and “dah”. The latter allowed a change of style in the articulation. In this post we’re going to work on speed.

The Workout Analogy

Yes, I'm using another analogy about working out at the gym, and then connecting it directly with playing the saxophone.

Let’s say you’re going to work out your legs at the gym. What's your approach? Do you complete one set of reps and then stop? Do you do the same exercise over and over, and just add reps?

Of course not! Various muscles in your legs benefit from an array of exercises. Variety improves the growth and speed of the muscles. This is also true with articulation. Because the tongue is a muscle, different exercises produce different results. Let's learn some exercises that will make our articulation faster!

A Previous Exercise

We’ll start with the same pattern that we began a few posts ago. You’ll set your metronome to 60, play middle B, and articulate the B with every click of the metronome. Do this until you're warmed up and feel comfortable. By the way, this exercise may seem simple, but it’s an important step for articulating correctly.

The Benefits of Simple

Think of it this way: if you take away all other items (tone, fingers, speed, etc.) it becomes easy to focus on articulation itself. In other words, if we only need to focus on one item (because the exercise is simple), our chances for improving a skill increases. I agree, it can be a little dull at times, but once you see the results, the benefits become the motivation, rather than simply having fun. Once your proficiency increases, the level of enjoyment escalates.

Let’s Get Faster

When you’ve become comfortable with the exercise described above, then add this speed increasing exercise:

  1. Set your metronome to 60
  2. Play the G major scale (G A B C D E F# G), up and down, articulating every note
  3. Set your metronome to 63
  4. Play the G major scale, up and down, articulating every note
  5. Continue the clicking up pattern
  6. Stop when you can no longer keep up with the metronome
  7. Next Day: start at 60 on the metronome and repeat pattern above

An Explanation

You’ll notice the last step shows us starting the exercise at 60, the next day. This might be a surprise, as you were able to articulate faster the day before. That is true, but if we begin to practice at our top speed, we’re probably going to practice errors.

When you practice slowly, it allows you to practice without errors, solidifying correct habits in your playing. Additionally, when you practice slowly (so slowly that you’ve eliminated error) you’re actually increasing your top speed, even when you’re playing slowly. I know that sounds strange, but it's true.

Try It Out

Try this exercise every practice session for a week. As you do, you’ll notice a difference in speed and articulation quality. Let us know how it goes! Please share your experience in the comment section below.

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