Here are some useful practice tips from saxophonist and Jazz educator, Greg Fishman:
Have a practice agenda. Before you play one note, you should decide what you're going to accomplish in each practice session. Some sessions might be focused on just one item, such as tone or technique. Other practice sessions may consist of 10 - 15 minutes on a variety of items such as: chords, scales, ear training, transcription, licks/patterns, etc. Put these items on a list and check them off as you complete them.
- Practice at a variety of tempos. Don't just play slow, medium or fast, but work on those "in the cracks" tempos. Be able to play from quarter note = 40 all the way up to 360 and you're ready for just about anything!
- Be creative when using the metronome. Let the metronome click on the upbeats instead of downbeats, or beats two and four in addition to beats one and three.
- Be aware of the harmonic context of whatever you're playing. For example, if you're practicing a lick, be sure that you can identify the chord progression that corresponds to the lick or idea. Sometimes the lick can fit in a variety of harmonic contexts.
- Always apply the "Five Time" rule. Play the scale, chord, lick, pattern, phrase or song five times in a row with no errors. If you make any error before you've reached the fifth consecutive time playing the phrase, no matter how small the error, you're back to a count of "zero." This method of practicing will improve your concentration and give your playing great consistency.
- Start your lick or phrase at any of eight starting points - the downbeats of 1,2,3 and 4 or the upbeats of 1,2,3 and 4.
For more great tips, exercises and etude books, visit Greg Fishman Studios