Speed, Tone, Time, Fingers, Articulation, and Consistency

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Afew weeks ago we discussed how a musician approaches a practice session, and how it’s similar to how an athlete approaches practicing their sport. Some of the common themes include drills, isolating issues, and repetition. Then, we went on to drills that the musician, or aspiring musician, can do every day to build confidence, ability, and consistency. Basically, we built out a practice session that you can do every day. Here’s what we covered:

  1. Improving Tone
  2. Scales
  3. Reading Music
  4. Learning by Ear

These are the basic categories to cover in each practice session. Click on the links above to review and get the specifics for each section. Some may seem easy, and others more challenging, but either way, consistency will help you succeed on the saxophone. In fact, you may be surprised how good you can become.

What’s Next?

Once you are well on your way with the items above, you can always add more to your practice sessions. Here are additional drills needed to play better, and have more fun:

  1. Articulate/Tongue Faster
  2. Play Scales Faster
  3. Improve Your Tone through Listening
  4. Additional Tips for Improving Tone
  5. Alternate fingerings
  6. Arpeggios
  7. Time
  8. Jazz, Pop, and Rock & Roll

Each one of these items could easily take a blog post to discuss. For today, we’ll provide a little information concerning each one. If you want to hear more about any of these subjects, please let us know in the comment section below. Let’s get started with a few tips from each item.

Articulate/Tongue Faster

Just like other muscles in your body, if you work out the tongue, it will become faster and stronger. If you ever feel like your articulation is too slow, just understand that since your tongue is a muscle, it can get faster with the right exercise.

One easy exercise is playing a major scale at a slow tempo. Once you do this, click up one marking on the metronome and play the scale again. Repeat until you reach your limit, and then stop. In your next practice session, start at the same slow tempo and work your way up. After a week, you’ll notice that you have increased in speed. This is just one of many approaches for speeding up articulation. We've got more, too!

Play Scales Faster

This process is done exactly as the one above, except don’t articulate each note. Additionally, do this through each scale that you know. Whether speeding up your scales, or your tongue, make sure you’re using the metronome. This will make sure your fingers stay even, allowing you to play faster than if you had not used a metronome. The secret is in the evenness of the fingers. We can share more on this topic, so you’ll have multiple approaches to fast fingers.

Improve Your Tone through Listening

Did you know that listening to professional recordings can improve your tone, style, and time? We listen to music all the time, so why not take advantage of the benefits of listening, and apply it to your playing? This will eventually help you sound like the people you listen to.

Additional Tips for Improving Tone

To be honest, writing a short paragraph would not do this topic justice. Just know there are things you can do with your tongue, air, and mouthpiece pressure that can improve your tone. Just like anything else, all it takes is repetition and your tone will improve.

Alternate Fingerings

Have you ever wondered how some people play through passages so cleanly? For example, playing E, F, F#, to G can be awkward at a fast tempo. Pros make it easier on themselves by using alternate fingerings. Once you have these down, the saxophone becomes less awkward and easier to play.


In an earlier post, we discussed how becoming familiar with scales can make music easier to play. Why? Because music is made of scales. The more you practice scales, the less likely you’ll have difficulty with music. Another pattern that is common in music is the arpeggio. Once you're comfortable with the arpeggio, music will be easier to play, guaranteed. On a side note, some people think that arpeggios are easier than scales. If you’re interested in learning this pattern, let us know.


Even when students become more advanced with their tone, fingers, and articulation, sometimes their ability to keep time is ignored. This is unfortunate, because time is something that is essential to have. If you have all other aspects of playing going well, but you can’t keep time, then the music won’t make sense to the listener. Just like anything else, there are exercises you can do every day that will get your time where it should be.

Jazz, Pop and Rock & Roll

Are you interested in playing any of these styles? Learn what it takes to get each style down. However, the first step is becoming comfortable to the drills above, but no matter where you are on your saxophone journey, you can always mess around with these styles. Do the drills that you have to do, and then spend time exploring your interests on the saxophone. We can also share tips that will help you learn your style of choice.

Your Choice

If you have a preference for any of the items above, please let us know in the comment section and we’ll make sure to cover it. If there’s something else you would like to cover, that’s not on the list, you can request that, too! We’re happy to cover anything you’re interested in. We look forward to hearing from you!

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