12 Moons Solo Saxophone Project Day 42
Instrument: Tenor saxophone
Location: Home studio in Clinton, WA (Whidbey Island)
As a daily exercise I work on articulation patterns to increase my speed and flexibility. A recurring theme in this daily practice is articulating consistent sixteenth notes as fast and light as possible. I’m always amazed by how difficult it is to consistently produce even a single pitch over and over again for a number of minutes. Fatigue becomes a major issue during this task, but I’ve found that by trying to retain focus I’m able to make slow but steady progress. My improvisation today features consistent sixteenth note articulation, but with phrasing interruptions with tradition pitches performed at will.
When I articulate sixteenth notes as quickly as possible, I find that I actually use very different parts of my tongue than when I articulate at even just a slightly slower speed that what I believe to be my maximum tempo. This has shown me that the idea of articulating “as fast as possible” is really just a trick of the mind. If I record myself from day to day I find that my fastest tempo will fluctuate a bit in either direction, but as stated above, I still use this different part of my tongue. During this improvisation I attempted to play sixteenth notes as fast as possible, and then retain that original speed throughout. Consistent with my current ability, I found that during this 9 minute improvisation I begin slowing down after about 45 seconds, and then remain fairly consistent until the end.
While attempting to articulate at my maximum speed, I performed a free improvisation with pitches that were performed at will. There emerged a few phrases that I returned to subconsciously during this piece. This particular improvisational model is one I practice on a semi-regular basis. I play a few pitches as quickly as possible until it begins to feel second nature and requires little thought to do so. I then attempt to free my mind of clutter and begin to improve freely, the idea being that the articulation just becomes the status quo, and I simply work with it or around it to create my own shapes of sound.