Essential Concepts for Piano Practice

Piano Practice
Ten essential concepts for practicing the piano:

  1. The best way to start learning a composition is to listen to a recording of the composition.
  2. Practice musically instead of solely focusing on techniques.
  3. Analyze the structure of the composition and break it into short practice segments.
  4. Practice difficult passages that you cannot play hands separately, but practice with hands together as soon as you are proficient in each hand.
  5. A practice segment should always include the beginning of the next segment.
  6. Memorize the composition as you learn it, first with hands separately, then hands together, beginning with difficult segments.
  7. Get up to speed as soon as possible by first finding the maximum speed at which you can play accurately, then going faster by shortening the segment if necessary. Fast playing utilizes hand motions that cannot be acquired through slow playing practice.
  8. Find the fingering that suits you the most physically, then don’t change it.
  9. Practice with a metronome but beware of becoming overdependent on it. Practice also without a metronome but use it to check your internal timing.
  10. Two-handed motions can only be cultivated through repetition. Therefore first develop any new techniques hands separately, so that when you put the hands together you only have to develop the coordination and not worry about the techniques of each individual hand.

Art Tatum Tiger Rag Transcription

This transcription was created by Jon Skinner (Pelisorious Editions, Portland Oregon).

Listen to the original 1933 Art Tatum Tiger Rag recording at half speed:

Listen to the original 1933 Art Tatum Tiger Rag recording at quarter speed:

Download transcription as PDF file:
Art Tatum – Tiger Rag

Tiger Rag Transcription as played by Art Tatum in his 1933 recording:












Saxophone Tone Development – Crescendo And Decrescendo

薩克斯音質練習之基本長音中,每一個音是分別用三個不同的音量吹。這樣可以練習到排氣量和臉部肌肉力度的一個普通狀態和兩個極端狀態。當這些不同的音量在分開練的時候可以達到一定的控制後,下一部應該嘗試用漸強(crescendo)和漸弱(decrescendo)的方式將不同的音量連接在一起:

  1. 開始時先用腹式呼吸吸入最大量的空氣。
  2. 再次以薩克斯中央的C#作為起點,先用最小的音量吹出聲音。
  3. 慢慢增大音量,直到能達到的最大音量。
  4. 達到最高點後,在慢慢減低音量,直到可以持續保持穩定氣流的最低音量。
  5. 注意薩克斯的音量不要在任何強度停留,漸強和漸弱時間的長度必須相約。
  6. 長音在最後最後中斷氣流停止聲音(不要用舌尖停止簧片振動)。

這個練習的整體時間長度是由你的呼吸技巧來定,如過發現能維持的時間很短,那必須先分開獨立練習腹式呼吸。目標是能維持多久便維持多久,但是整個過程必須注意控制音的質量和穩定性。跟第一個練習一樣,學生不需要在一次練習中練完從低Bb到高F那麼多個音,建議把一個音練得差不多才繼續練下一個。練完小->大->小的音量變化之後,用同樣的方式練習大->小->大的音量變化。

Saxophone Tone Development – Long Tones

The first goal when developing a good tone on the saxophone is to be able to play each note on the sax with 3 different volumes (soft, regular and loud) as nice, steady long tones. The regular range of the saxophone is from the low Bb to high F, notes above high F are known as altissimos. Development of altissimo playing usually begins with overtone exercises, but before attempting to play overtones, one must first gain a solid foundation playing in just the regular range. Attempting to play altissimos and overtones too soon may give rise to bad habits that are difficult to correct later on.

The middle range of the saxophone is the easiest range to play (consider the open C# as the center point). Lower notes tend to require a slightly looser embouchure to allow a bigger vibration amplitude for the reed, and higher notes tend to require a firmer embouchure to maintain a faster but smaller amplitude vibration. It is therefore best to start at the middle with the open C#. Another advantage of starting with the open C# is the elimination of fingering issues since no keys need to be depressed, thus allowing the student to focus solely on the control of embouchure and air stream.

Try following the procedures below when practicing long tones:

  1. Start from the open C#, first try to get a clean and steady sound using normal volume.
  2. Play the same note using a loud volume. A loud volume requires a faster airstream, and creates a higher pressure inside the mouth. The embouchure will need to work harder to maintain the higher pressure.
  3. Pay the same note using a soft volume. In order to maintain a steady airflow even with a soft volume, study the use of abdominal breathing.
  4. After practicing open C#, the student can choose to go higher (D) or go lower (C). Following the chromatic scale, play long tones with the 3 volumes as described above for the whole normal saxophone range.

It is not necessary to play all the notes from low Bb to high F in one practicing session. Spend as long as you need even on just one note before moving on to the next. It is important to understand that if the student cannot play satisfactory long tones in the middle range, he will only face bigger issues trying to play the more difficult high and low notes.

How To Prepare And Maintain Saxophone Reeds

Besides the mouthpiece, the reed may be the most important determining factor of the tone produced on a saxophone. With a proper mouthpiece/reed combination, a good tone can be produced even on a cheap student model saxophone. On the other hand, with an improper mouthpiece/reed combination, a satisfactory tone is not possible even on the best professional saxophone model.

Like saxophone mouthpieces, there are many different brands and hardness of reeds. Different reed brands and hardness will produce different tones. As a student progress through his learning and his embouchure strengthens over time, he may need to adjust the type and hardness of reeds that he uses. For beginners, it is not necessary to be too picky about the brand, more important is to choose an appropriate hardness. The reed brand may affect the tone, but the reed hardness determines whether the musician can properly control the reed. Therefore the saxophone student must first find out the hardness appropriate for him before experimenting with different brands.

Typically one has to buy reeds by the box, although some music stores do sell them by pieces. Because reeds are cut from bamboo, no two reeds can be identical, and consequently not all reeds from the same box may be usable. It is usually necessary to buy a box and try out a few reeds at a time to determine which ones are usable. For this reason, beginning students should choose more economical brands of reeds. Because beginning students will be less able to cope with the varying playability of different reeds, they can go through more reeds by simply throwing away the ones that they cannot control without wasting too much money.

When trying out need reeds, try the following procedures:

  1. Soak 3-4 reeds in warm water for about 10 minutes
  2. Take out a reed and lightly soak up excess water with a piece of paper towel. By this time the reed fiber should already be moisturized. Be careful not to soak the reeds for too long.
  3. Try the need reed playing on the mid range of the saxophone (between low E and high D)at medium volume. Don’t overblow because it may damage the playability.
  4. When trying a reed for the first time, it is recommended to keep the playing time below 5 minutes to avoid over working the reed with too much vibrations. After testing one should have a good idea whether the reed feels too soft or too hard. One can use a pen to lightly make markings on the bottom of the reed to indicate the initial playability./li>
  5. Soak the reeds in warm water again the next day and try them again to see if they play any differently. This time the playing time could be longer. If the reed feels good then it can be kept for regular use. If not, simply throw it away or put it back and try it again in a few days.
  6. With the usable reeds, one can gradually increase the playing time and the playing range and see if they are still playable in the low range (down to low B flat) or in the altisimmo.

Some people like to rework the reeds that are initially non-playable, for example by filing down the thickness to make it softer. Personally I think it is too time consuming and it is much easier to try a different reed. Some people also like to massage the reed surface, in order to close the fiber openings. Personally I think it is unnecessary and one may damage the reed is improper force is applied during massaging.

After picking out good reeds, soak them in warm water each time before use. Many people like to soak them in the mouth with saliva, but personally I think that is non-systematic and not hygienic. The act of soaking reeds in the mouth also doesn’t look good especially if done in front of the audience in a small gig. Each time after playing, the reed should be rinsed down with warm water, then excess moisture soaked away with paper towel. Most reeds nowadays come with a reed guard, and one should place the reed back into the reed guard after removing excess moisture to prevent warping. The reed should not be put away if it is still moist, otherwise mold will develop and can be damaging to the saxophonist’s health by infecting the throat. If one follows the above procedures, he should have very little troubles dealing with reeds and be able to focus more on playing music instead of battling unplayable reeds.