Working on Difficult Rapid Patterns #2

I use the techniques that Harry explained in "Hard Passages #1" all the time. They just seem to be the most effecient way to master the "really hard ones". Even though beginners sometimes think it sounds like too much extra work, it actually is the fastest way to mastery. Here is a variation that also works well, and will give you the side benefits of becomming more flexible in your articulations (something that is important for "classical" players, and even more necessary for jazz improvisers). When you are faced with a difficult passage of many notes of a similar length, try varying the articulation patterns. For example, measure #1 pictured below is a passage from the wonderful Saxophone Quartet that Lukas Foss wrote for the Amherst Sax Quartet in 1985. (This measure might not look that hard, but it is played very quickly -- a half note = 128! -- and must be very smooth.) Think of as many variations of articulation patterns as you can. Measures 2 - 11 are some of the variations that I use. Use a metronome and set it to a slow enough tempo that you know you can safely play the whole passage. Play it at that tempo until you can play it flawlessly every time. Practice to perfection. Then increase the tempo by 6 to 10 beats per minute (for example, from 60 to 66). Each time you master a tempo, increase it. Keep going until you have reached your limit and can no longer play it cleanly, even after many repetitions. This is the point to stop with that articulation pattern, reset the metronome to a slow tempo and start a new articulation pattern (on the same hard section). Make sure that you practice enough different patterns that you avoid becomming 'lopsided.' For example, make sure that if you practice #6, you also practice #7. Use this whole routine of practice every day, and each day you should be able to start at a faster tempo. Also, your fastest possible clean tempos will go up each day. You have achieved your practice goals when you can play the difficult passage in each articulation at a tempo that is faster than you would need to play it in actual performance. This is habit forming. Have fun! Good luck. —Steve Rosenthal