A Personal Technique Curriculum

Every musician wakes up in the morning and says, “I can’t wait to play my scales!”… If only it were that easy. Scales and their associated exercises often fill musicians with dread, yet they are essential to mastering the saxophone. One can always push for further development and refinement in technical mastery. A few musicians find this hopeless and depressing, but I look at technical development as an exciting challenge. The musician must find the drive from within to practice technical exercises and this is most easily accomplished by designing your own personal technical curriculum.

I’ve done this several times. The first time was in the fall of 2011. Keeping it as simple as possible, I kept a log and established goals for the semester. At that time, I was beginning to increase the tempo for my scales in perfect fourths and learn my scales in perfect fifths. Going beyond scales, I decided to learn an etude every two weeks at an octave above the written key. At the very least, I recommend writing a log of your technique practice because you can never get through all of it everyday.

In the past few weeks, I have put together my practice curriculum for technique for the upcoming summer. Instead of choosing to learn all my scales in one specific interval at the same time, I’m taking eight keys each week and tackling the rest of the intervals up to the octave. To do this, I have combined exercises from Les Gammes, by Jean Marie Londeix, and Daily Advanced Studies, by Jack Snavely. There are many similar books available and the Londeix and the Snavely are two of the most common. This combination offers enough variety and challenge to make my practicing exciting and stimulating.

I encourage everyone to structure their practice of technique to make it more stimulating and beneficial. Every saxophonist should own Les Gammes, but there are many other books of technical studies for consideration. Last of all, do not forget that playing scales is not a warm-up. Technical development is central to our mastery of saxophone. When you pick up the horn, you are either practicing or performing.