Taking it Slow

After I got my stitches out the other day I did some practicing. Would you like to take a wild guess as to what happened? If you guessed a new pain in the same hand, you guessed right. My thumb feels like it will break off at the second joint from the tip. I can’t seem to catch a break.

Anyway, I have been practicing. The thumb hurts but I think if I give it ample rest it can get better. Maybe there is some sort of support I can use; a splint or something.

I think I’m getting better. My technique is getting a little sharper. Articulation seems a little better. And my speed and accuracy seem, well, a little better. I have discovered that practicing at slower speeds is more effective in solidifying just about everything.

Practicing tunes which are typically played at up tempos at slower tempos makes them better sound better when you finally do speed them up. It’s hard to say why. It seems that when I play tunes (improvising) at slower speeds I can work out things I’d like to play in a tune. Turns out that most of the time things I can play slow I can play fast(er).

Once in high school, we played a tune called, “I Ain’t Gonna Ask No More,” by Toshiko Akiyoshi for a contest. It was a bass trombone feature and had a great saxophone soli. Our bass trombone player was a senior when I was a junior, Mark Alexander, and he played the hell out that tune.

It is a slow bluesy tune and I learned a lot of great licks that year just from playing the song. Of course, the bass trombone solo is written out, a transcription of the bone player’s performance in Akiyoshi’s band when the tune was recorded. And the sax soli was incredible, packed full of some of the greatest jazz licks a kid had ever heard.

I said all that as an example of learning to play things slow. All of those lines from that awesome sax soli got burned into my memory. To this day I can still play them. They often surface when I’m improvising. The same is true for the lines and patterns I’ve learned from the Charlie Parker OmniBook. So now, I’m learning the take things slow. I practice my scales slowly even though I’ve known them for years. I practice tunes slowly. I outline chords slowly. It’s a great way to learn.

So things are not going too badly post surgery. I am still enjoying my practice time. As long as I’m improving I will keep going. As long as my body continues to cooperate I will keep going. I really love playing the saxophone and I love listening to music. For a while, I thought it was gone. And I thought maybe this renewed interest might fade, but it hasn’t. I think I am developing a genuine passion again for playing

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