How Do I Stay Motivated In-between Performances?

Thursday, 16 April 2020



Erin Royer - Yamaha Artist

During my down time in-between performances, I get really excited about pushing my saxophone technique and maintaining my stamina and ability. It’s my time to reflect on where I am at and what I want to achieve.

For me, the key to staying motivated is setting goals that are achievable! I have larger goals but I set myself smaller goals on the way to reaching my larger goal.

Here is an example of a larger goal that I will break down into smaller goals. I’ll then show you some of the exercises I would use in my practice to achieve these goals.

“I want to have a consistent sound across all registers of my saxophone including the altissimo register”

This is a large goal and one that can’t happen overnight! Trying to achieve this in one practice session will be overwhelming and demotivating.

Here are some smaller goals that emerge from my larger goal:

1. Make sure the intonation of my notes are stable

  • Long tones exercises with a drone or visual tuner if you aren’t confident with a drone
    • Are my notes stable? Is there a pitch fluctuation?
  • Breathing exercises
    • am I breathing deep enough to support my notes?
    • am I using my abs to support my breath
  • Is my embouchure stable and strong/well supported
    • can I vibrato on my long note without the pitch fluctuating?

2. Can I play my scales into altissimo? What exercises do I need to do?

  • Be able to play all major scales into altissimo playing quavers at crotchet = 60
  • Be able to play all minor scales into altissimo playing quavers at crotchet = 60
  • Increase the metronome speed for my major and minor scales
  • Can I tongue my palm keys notes without an undertone?
    • try to pulse on the palm key notes going up in semitones using only diaphragm
    • is the note stable?
  • What other exercises can I do to make my major scales interesting and challenging?
    • Jazz Lincoln Centre Diatonic 7th exercise
    • Jamey Aebersold Technical workout (from jazz handbook - one of my favourites)
    • Scales in fourths/fifths
    • Improvising in my major and minor scales with a metronome

So here we can see that from one larger goal I have identified two smaller goals, and these will give me weeks and months of work. I can then break these down further as I delve into them more. As the goals get smaller I can allocate exercises to help me progress towards my larger goal. Sometimes I already know what exercise I should do but other times I research and ask lots of questions to help me attack my goals from different angles.

Here are some resources and helpful apps I use in practice to help me achieve my goals:

I am loving the Jazz Lincoln Centre resource videos (found on YouTube), and these are giving me plenty of new practice ideas to keep things fresh like the Diatonic 7th exercise below:

I find the following ipad apps life savers and essential for my progress.

Tonal Energy: the best app I have found to help me analyse my sound - great for long tones, it includes a sound wave feature to show your pitch and even a drone to match your sound. It also has a metronome feature that is quite good!

ForScore: This is where I keep all my music.

Amazing Slow Downer: I use this for slowing down music - great for transcribing.

iReal: Used for my jazz playing - it creates backing tracks and also helps you with chord tone reading for improvisation practice (also great as a teaching tool for your students)

Metronomics: For a more advanced metronome for crazy subdivisions!

Read Rhythm: Great to keep your rhythm in check and push your rhythmic sight reading.

Long tone exercise using Tonal Energy in more detail:

You can practice playing long tones using Tonal Energy to aim for a consistent sound. Using the analyser on Tonal Energy I aim to keep my intonation as close to the line as possible and really focusing on my breath, embouchure and abdominal muscles to keep the note steady. Check out the below photos:

Long tone exercise using Tonal Energy in more detail:

This is me playing an F# correctly

This is me playing an F# incorrectly

Try and see if you can keep a consistent sound!

Happy practicing!