Taking a Tip from Sports

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There are a lot of things to work on when learning the saxophone, and it's a lot of fun, especially since there’s a lot of growth at the beginning. But how can you get the most out of every practice session? How can you get better, faster? In this post, we’ll discuss how organizing your practice session will accelerate your ability to improve and keep you engaged for longer periods of time.

Keeping Time

Whether in school or employment, it’s surprising to see how many people are not effective at time management. Yes, time management will be a benefit in your practice sessions, but that’s not the only benefit. If you organize your time correctly, your learning will increase significantly, helping you become a better saxophone player, sooner. Here’s an analogy to help with this point.

Batting Practice

How often do professional baseball players take batting practice? I’m not quite sure myself, but I know they do this before a majority of their games. So that means they take around 162 batting sessions a year. How many pitches do they get? I’m not sure about that either, but I know they get more than one pitch. Let’s say they get twenty pitches to hit. That would be 3,240 attempts a year, and that’s just before a game. If I asked one of the players to take 3,240 pitches in one day, they would probably think I’m crazy. The point is that they spend some time every day working on different aspects of their playing. You’ll notice they also take a number of fly balls and grounders in each practice sessions as well.

Taking a Tip from Sports

Organizing our time like sports teams, translates perfectly into our practice sessions. Just like the baseball team spending time hitting and fielding, we will spend time focusing on different aspects of our playing. This makes sense on the surface, but I have seen far too many beginners try to solve, or master, one aspect of their playing in one practice session. This may sound ridiculous, but how many of us have sat in a practice session with the goal of playing something perfectly before allowing ourselves to move on? I'm guilty of doing this in the past. But once I took the sports approach, my playing changed, and I not only became better but I had more fun.


Just like a coach organizes practices, we will do the same with our practice sessions. To continue with the analogy, the coach does not have the players scrimmage for the entire practice, but they break things down and have the players work on different aspects of their playing. For youth, coaches will set up drills, and repeat the drill multiple times. This pattern continues, with multiple drills, throughout the practice. The goal is not to perfect a skill in one day, but repeat the exercise a pre-determined amount of times, and then do the same at the next practice.

Two Benefits

Here are two of the benefits that are a result of this method of practice. First, when we break up our practice sessions, into small parts, we are likely to stay excited and motivated. Spending too much time on one skill can wear us out. Second, following a well organized practice schedule helps develop muscle memory, which is essential for success.

An Example

To see a visual example of what I’m describing, I have provided a generic practice schedule below.

  1. Tone exercise- 5 minutes
  2. Scales- Play each 5 times
  3. Read music- 10 minutes
  4. Learn by ear- 5 minutes

The 5 minute time allotment will pass quickly, which makes it difficult to get bored. Yes, 5 minutes can be enough time to get the job done. Remember, we’re not trying to solve all the issues in one day, but we’re working on consistency and developing muscle memory over time.

Beaking it Down

Next week I’ll begin mapping out a practice session and sharing the different “drills” we'll be using. We’ll detail each drill so you know exactly what to do.

Do you have a practice routine that works for you? If you do, please feel free to share in the comment section below. It would be great to hear what has worked for you. Thanks!

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Comments 2

  1. Good Day,

    I started playing saxophone last Feb and until not still, I feel that the progress of my skills is a bit low.

    Any advice especially on how to read notes.

    Thank you,

    Mr. Jean Paul

    1. Post

      Thanks for your question. The free lessons will start you off with reading, but you can also check out this post. If you have any specific issues that you’re dealing with, just let us know and we’ll be happy to help!

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