Soprano Saxophone Warm-Up Routine

Here are some thoughts concerning a warm-up routine for the soprano saxophone. It is the same as my routine on alto. I always have 8-10 reeds on reed holders that I play through everyday, breaking in new ones, practicing and performing on older ones that are broken in. My warm-up routine begins with long tones, without and with vibrato, starting with the newest reeds I'm working in. I never play on new reeds more than a few minutes, and try to avoid the very highest and very lowest notes. So, I begin by playing some long tones, changing reeds when necessary. I pay very close attention in particular to the attacks and try to play with the most beautiful sound I can. I play some slow melodies, with some vibrato, listening carefully to the sound and vibrato and tuning. As I get to the older reeds, which I can play on for longer than a few minutes, I start on my scales. Do not neglect long tones! A beautiful sound requires that work, not to mention good initial attacks and vibrato. I begin with some slow scales using the entire range. Sometimes I do them in intervals, sometimes just diatonically. Listen for precise, elegant technique when playing slowly. Do not slap the keys down. Press them down. Don't allow "blips" in your technique. I believe every musician has to become his or her best teacher/critic. If you don't hear something is not perfect in your playing, you won't be able to fix it! Warm-ups specific to soprano: I do a lot more work on initial attacks in the low register on soprano than on alto, because that register on the soprano is more difficult. I work everyday at trying to get a beautiful piano in the lowest fifth of the range. I also work on the palm keys and higher, to make good attacks at various dynamics. Many saxophonists have asked me for tips to attack the palm key notes on the soprano. Control of that range comes from practice, practice, practice. There really isn't any short cut, but one small tip that helped me when I was pretty new to the soprano was not to overblow in an effort to get the note out and to use a little extra "puff" of air to make the notes speak. Remember, if you play mezzo forte in the palm keys on the soprano, it will sound at least forte! Warm-ups should focus on problem areas. You should make up a warm-up routine for yourself that includes techniques you need for a piece you're playing, for example, or a bad habit you want to get rid of. I always include long tones, work on initial attacks, and scales with and without articulation, fast and slow, and altissimo scales, too, slurred and tongued. —Susan Fancher

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