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  1. #1

    Default Finger dexterity exercises.

    I was just wondering if anyone could recommend me some finger exercises to improve my dexterity. If possible I would also like some exercises that I could do while I'm not playing the sax but maybe while reading a book or watching T.V.

  2. #2
    Distinguished SOTW Member/Logician Grumps's Avatar
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    I often wonder how typing might play into this. I mean, how many of us are decent typists? I no longer need to hire one, that's for sure, thanks to years wasted on the internet... or not so wasted.

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    My own, possibly wrong, but strongly held nonetheless, opinion on all such exercises.....don't waste your time.

    There are so many pedagogical exercises these days. They're great for padding out courses and selling books, but IMO they distract from the greater goal.

    It's like the old "finger pointing at the moon" metaphor. You get so caught up on all the minutae, that you forget where you actually want to go.

    Unless you have an infinite number of hours to practice each day, your time is better spent in other areas. I reckon every beginner and intermediate level player, reaches the point where they realise that playing jazz takes a fair level of technique and familiarity with the horn. I'm still getting to grips with the Bebop stuff.

    It's easy, to say to yourself "I need to improve my technique and speed, to play Jazz."

    From that realization, you can either go out and purchase a whole bunch of technique books and spend years getting your technique up to snuff and then hope that that technique translates into being able to play Jazz.

    Or you can just shed Bebop Heads and solos in all 12 keys and you'll find that this brings your technique along. Not only that, but you're actually playing jazz and learning vocabulary and repertoire at the same time.

    Don't waste your time on all the ancilliary stuff, unless you have a very specific problem that needs addressing. Just remember the 80-20 rule.

    Roughly....

    80% of everything you practice will contribute to 20% of your playing ability.

    The other 20% of your practice will account for 80% of your playing ability.

    I, and just about every player I've ever spoken to, have wasted so much time on all the stuff that doesn't really get you where you want to go, until you finally have some old guy pull you aside and say "forget all that nonsense....learn tunes in all keys, transcribe the players you like, play as often as you can, and the rest of it will take care of itself."

    All the ancilliary pedagogical stuff is useful if you're trying to sell a 4 year college program, but for most of us, there are more immediate and basic concerns.

    Put another way...."when you're up to your sphincter in alligators, you don't worry about the mosquitoes."

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    The soft and despicable other side of this rather nasty coin is where everything unintelligible is automatically invested with significance by culture vultures. That was exemplified by a Ravi Shankar concert in London at which, after listening to some applause, Shankar said ‘If you liked our tuning up, I hope you will now like our playing’.

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    Please don't blast me about this... When I think of dexterity for playing sax, I basically attribute this to muscle/finger memory. I don't think that typing (or at least my modified touch typing) is similar enough to the muscle memory required to play saxophone. In my thinking I also believe that the muscle memory required for clarinet, while similar, is also very different (rolling vs. LH/RH, etc).

    I find myself playing licks and scales doing some "air fingering" while at meetings, watching TV, or anything that doesn't require me to hold something! I know there are others that do this... maybe air saxophone will pick up soon!

    On a totally unrelated topic, to help me with internalizing time/subdividing, I like to try and subdivide on all my limbs (be forewarned, you shouldn't try this as a business meeting) if I have a sec and nothing to do (waiting for a bus). Tap quarters on one foot, eighth on the other, tap 16th on one lap, and I usually try triplets on the other lap. I guess if you really want to get into it, you can sing a melody to something to see what falls where within a beat pattern.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shmazzy
    I was just wondering if anyone could recommend me some finger exercises to improve my dexterity. If possible I would also like some exercises that I could do while I'm not playing the sax but maybe while reading a book or watching T.V.
    I'm not sure if this is what you are looking for, but I have found it very helpfuly to practice fingering the instrumentwithout playing it. Practice slow, even, economical finger motions. But don't do it while reading or watching TV, devote your full attention to it. Basically you are focusing your attention on a very specific problem, finger motion, and eliminate any distractions. Of course, it's just a start - eventually you have to learn to coordinate with tone production, articulation, etc.

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    The Universal Method for Saxophone book has a lot of fundamental exercises on dexterity.
    It's only cool until Kenny G does it.

  7. #7

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    My way to increase "dexterity" is to practice only what I can't play or have trouble with. As you are reading/learning to play a piece of music or learning a tune, what's the point of playing the piece from the beginning every time, wasting valuable time on the easy parts.
    Play through it slowly, find the difficult bars, mark them with a pencilled bracket and play them funereally-slow over and over until they are letter-perfect. I mean really perfect! Feel each finger-combination lifting and falling. Turn those weak portions into the strongest parts of the piece. You can guess what happens. The entire page then becomes a breeze, you've solved your "dexterity" problem, and your fingering precision will have improved immensely. I spend most of my practice time on this - doing all the stuff I hate to do, but boy does it pay off!
    Incidentally, after I've learned it slow I DO NOT try to play it up to speed at the same practice session. Let it soak into your neurons over night and do that the next day or next week after running through it slowly once or twice. And only speed it up to where you can still play it perfectly. Don't ruin it by re-learning your flubs. (Not everything can be learned in one day, after all.)
    How do you think Charlie Parker did it? Exactly this way - until he drove his neighbors almost mad. Emily Remler said the same thing on guitar. She'd take a solo on a piece, and when she was trying to play a figure that she heard in her head but couldn't finger it, she'd woodshed it exactly as I described.
    ATJ

  8. #8

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    I don't know what level you are at, but the Rubank Advanced book for sax has a nice collection of two measure dexterity exercises... I think its around page 60 or so.
    Horns are like wine: forget about brand names and price and just find one that you like.

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    My fingers used to fairly weak especially in the pinky's. I had a great deal of difficulty manuvering around the pinky keys of any horn. I accidently corrected the problem by taking up the electric bass. Moving my fingers along a fret board as well as plucking with my fingers greatly improved my finger strength. Subsequently, this also helped me in my ear training.

    Building speed is another topic all together. I've found that the best method, other than practicing scales/modes/arpeggios, is to play through a difficult phrase slowly and gradually increase your speed. Focus on playing ACCURATLY before you play fast. I will usually start a phrase at 60bpm and increase in increments of 20bpm until I get up to speed. Focus on ACCURACY and TECHNIQUE before speed. Though this is a different topic, it is also important to focus on your tone and phrasing. This act is time consuming and very frustrating at first, but that is the point. After several months you will find that your site reading and technique have greatly improved and speed is a subsequent result of good technique.

    Grumps, I think that typing with a keyboard is like playing a different instrument in itself. There are similiarities between playing the saxophone and typing. I find that I type on a word for word basis as opposed to trying to type by letter by letter. Meaning that I just start thinking of the word I'm trying to type instead of thinking H O W E A C H W O R D I S S P E L L E D. Basically, I've built up my vocabulary on the keyboard and my fingers know what to do. Playing music is similiar to typing in that you have to learn scales (letters) in order to form phrases (words) that leads to songs/melodies (sentences). The ability to type does not necessarily mean that you are going to be a good saxophonist as there are other elements involved with playing. I was a much better typist long before I considered myself to be a "decent" saxphonist.

    Like my playing my typing is not perfect and it may never be perfect. Admitting that you are not perfect is the first step in improvement and striving for perfection should be the force that drives us. There is a local pianist who is a far superior musician to me who gave me the best advice I have ever heard. He said, "Once you feel that you're the perfect player just quit. When you have become "perfect" then there is nothing more for you to achieve". It should be noted that this pianist routinely plays with many of the best musicians you can find anywhere yet he still feels that he isn't doing anything special.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dog Pants
    Or you can just shed Bebop Heads and solos in all 12 keys and you'll find that this brings your technique along. Not only that, but you're actually playing jazz and learning vocabulary and repertoire at the same time.
    And you are more likely to stick with it, because this kind of practice is much more fun than blowing exercises and drumming your fingers on your belly button.

    (Unless, of course, you have someone else's belly button under your fingers...)

    My piano teacher once told me, "The best solution to a technical problem is the musical solution."

  11. #11

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    Most of these exercises are scale or pattern exercises that are not very musical. Just pick some ii-V licks out of a solo, and learn them in all 12 keys. Keep working until you can play them accurately at half note = 140 - 160

    Your dexterity problems will be gone in no time. This way, you're getting all the exercise you need, and depending on the licks you work on, it could be some exercise that's just around the pinkies in some keys. AND it's all very musical and it can be applied to your playing

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    Distinguished SOTW Member/Logician Grumps's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SuperAction80
    Grumps, I think that typing with a keyboard is like playing a different instrument in itself.
    Well, there goes my illusion of practicing through surfing...

  13. #13

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    i had bad finger dexterity.... but as soon as i started doing the daily grind and practices scales, modes, arpeggios etc. I've found my fingers are much more economical... regardless of what im playing

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    Distinguished SOTW Member Razzy's Avatar
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    Where typing fails as an analogy is that the releases aren't important and the keys don't work in conjunction with one another. On an instrument, key release times are at least half the battle.

    Hate to beat a dead horse but I'll put it how my teacher put it to me: speed comes with time. Time in your development as a player, time as in the specific amount of time you spend working up the tempo of one lick, time in the sense that your own internal clock develops, etc. Just work out what you want to work out, with a metronome, steadily increasing the speed only when it is comfortable. Fast is not equivalent to difficult. It should feel incredibly easy or else you have no business playing that fast. If it's not easy, slow down and play the same thing (or same approach/concept, in the case of improvising) until it feels easy at the faster tempo. Good luck!!
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  15. #15

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    Want to REALLY learn scales? Get an EWI and practice them for all eight octaves. This is how I learned to play the EWI almost 20 years ago. The touch-sensitive keys allow for NO forgiveness of errors. Painful, time consumming, but oh so worth it. :-)
    Horns are like wine: forget about brand names and price and just find one that you like.

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    Electronic Wind Instrument. I wouldn't think this would help very much. You just play the same octave over and over, it's not saxophone- like. At least the Yamaha WX5 has keys, but still the same problem. To get back to the original question, THERE'S NO EASY WAY, ya gotta do the work!

  18. #18

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    do these EWI perhaps represent a future comparable to the change of acoustic guitar to electric guitar....?

    lol imagine tapping a pedal an changing from a cannonball tone to a coltrane tone! and then adding wah + distortion?

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    Quote Originally Posted by bigbari62
    do these EWI perhaps represent a future comparable to the change of acoustic guitar to electric guitar....?
    Probably not. Modern Midi and Wind Controllers can not produce a true saxophone sound, and they probably never will. The accoustic properties of the saxophone simply can not be reproduced by a computer. This is similiar to how electric keyboards still can not produce a true "Grand Piano" sound. EWI's are simply a different instrument and you can do some cool things with them. Watch the "Marcus Miller in Concert" DVD and you'll see what I mean. Kenny Garret is in the group as well, so that should be some insentive to get it.

    You will still hear non saxophonists claiming that the wind controllers sound like real saxophones. For those of us who know better, this simply isn't true. I'd like to see a wind controller play the overtone series. I don't think that any of us are going to get replaced by EWI players anytime soon.

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    Forum Contributor 2012 Chris J's Avatar
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    But back to the first post in the thread - putting the sound limitations of a WX5 aside - does anyone use it to help practice dexterity (particularly when the rest of the house is trying to sleep)

    It may not sound like a sax, or really feel like a sax, but is it close enough to practice on?
    Chris

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