Thursday, June 05, 2014

Away from the sax - Visualization

Back in 2007 I had written this post:

Some time ago I started to notice a discrepancy between my ability to formulate harmonic ideas on the piano and that of the saxophone. I began to realise that one of the difficulties on sax was that unlike the piano or guitar, it is not a very visual instrument. By this a mean that due to the nature of keys or fret board, these instruments are very "colour coded" which aid in visualizing harmonies. 

Discussing this with a friend of mine recently, he suggested trying to get the same principle from the sax by working without the instrument. He suggested working several times a day on visualizing with the mind only, the things being worked on in practice. So far I have tried it only with scales and patterns, but already I've noticed a big difference. If I practice a particular scale or pattern in my head several minutes before practice, I'm clearly able to work on it with a better feel and understanding, and achieve results much faster. Just as the fingers and lungs need warming up as does the brain. My next step will be to work this idea on particular tunes, as I feel my improvising on the sax would benefit from this "visual" aspect as well as the aural and mental side.

Today I discovered this excellent article on Jazz Advice that takes this principle further. According to Forrest, who also quotes from Jerry Bergonzi, a small amount of work in this area can be equivalent to hours of physical practice especially if it's done in a concentrated way, and at the right time. Have a read of this article. It really breaks down the concept I had written about, and suggests methods to go about working on it.

A few months later I also wrote this:

Due to a cyclone in our area that put off the power for a week I was forced to find alternate ways of practicing in the evening as playing in the dark was getting quiet difficult. Since I couldn't afford time off, as some gigs were approaching I decided to spend some time reviewing pieces and applying some of the visualization techniques I had mentioned before. Although I was not able to do for long periods of time because my concentration wouldn't allow it, I was really very happy with the results. Using a metronome to avoid 'cheating' I went through scale choices in my head in various combinations and speeds. Once I got back to the sax the results were quite noticeable and I already felt more comfortable particularly in tricky spots of certain pieces. Working this way highlights those weaknesses very quickly. Now I just have to apply this more often even when the laptop is available for practice!

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