Everybody knows that scales are an important part of warming up but there are other parts of an instrument that may be missed by only doing scales.
In part 1, I go through steps 1 – 3 of 6 ways to get that perfect sound out of your reed instrument.
1. WET THE REED
This may seem like an obvious one but the amount of people I've come across who put the reed in dry and try to play is alarming.
By wetting the reed beforehand, you are allowing the reed to loosen up; giving it more freedom to vibrate when the air pushes against it, thus making it easier to blow a note.
But, when is the best time to wet it and how long for? When you open your case, pick it up and put it in your mouth first. Then it's in there for a minute or so while you're putting the instrument together. Once everything is set up, pop it into place and you're good to go.
2. BLOW AIR DOWN THE INSTRUMENT
The key is to do this without making a sound. This is more relevant to the saxophone as it's made of brass and when you set it up it will be stone cold.
By blowing air down through the mouthpiece, you are warming up the metal. This then means that the instrument will be easier to tune and notes will be easier to produce.
3. PLAY LONG NOTES
By playing long notes, you are getting used to playing the instrument, allowing less resistance in the reed and more accurate tuning.
Start with middle B on the saxophone (left-hand, 1st finger) and middle E on clarinet (also left-hand, 1st finger); they're one of the easiest and most common notes to produce.
Play at a confident volume and try to keep the note going for as long as you feel comfortable, keeping the tone nice and steady without any wobbles.
After B/E, it's up to you which note you go to, though I prefer to jump up or down a third (two notes) each time I move.
Once I've gone all the way in one direction through the instrument's register, I reset back to the starting note and do the same thing in the other direction.
Again, if you don't have much time, it's up to you how many notes you do in this step and how big the jumps between them are.
This is just the first 3 of 6 steps but these first few cover the basics and will still help improve your playing. The next part includes metronome work, dynamics, and tuning.
Hopefully, once you're into a routine, running through these exercises should take around ten to fifteen minutes. If, however, you want to go into detail, you could easily spend an hour or more on them.