Deliberately Practicing the Saxophone

5. Conclusion

In this exposition, I have pinpointed different roles for exercises: the foundation is to develop and maintain general skills, and exercises for the particular is made in addition to basic practicing. Faulkner (2006) claims that the musical outcome reflects one’s practice history, where short – term practice for a particular event has a direct impact, whereas long – term practice more has to do with personal style. I still remember the feeling of performing Pee Wee, having all material instantly available, being free and creative within the limits of the given material, and when listen to it now, the recording displays an exemple of embodied knowledge of the piece. As the design of exercises, both the basic ones as well as for Pee Wee in particular, was made in a “Garbarekian” way, and therefore it is not surprising that my saxophone play on Pee Wee shows a huge influence from Jan Garbarek’s way of playing, particularly in the 70s and 80s. When listening to the recording, more than 17 years later, this influence is clearly present and almost embarrassing.  As it turned out, the Miles Davis concert in November 1999 happened to be one of my last concerts on the saxophone, and gradually after the millennium I lost interest, and the joy of playing the saxophone disappeared. One reason was that I felt I have stagnated, become trapped in a state of arrested development since I just continue to practice and play the saxophone the way I had done for many years. The way out of this was quite radical: I completely switched instrument in order to free myself from comfortable musical routines and habits. As mentioned in the background, I eventually become an electro-acoustic improviser, a practice that demanded and challenged the notion of practicing, a subject that is further discussed in my thesis A Field of Possibilities: Designing and Playing Digital Musical Instruments.


1. Introduction

A point of departure in this exposition is the author’s experience of practicing and playing on the saxophone for more than 30 years. In particular, three aspects of practicing a musical instrument are discussed: firstly, development and maintenance of general skills; secondly avoiding stagnation, and thirdly practicing for specific events. These aspects of practicing are elucidated thru lengthy time personal experience from playing and practicing on the saxophone. The saxophone [1] is an acoustic instrument where its properties are given by design and acoustics, and it is up to the player to master and perhaps extend its playing possibilities to its physical limits. Noteworthy, parts in this article is taken from the author’s thesis A Field of Possibilities (Nilsson, 2011), however practicing examples are either reworked or new, and formatted for this context. In my thesis, which treats designing and playing digital musical instruments, the purpose of discussing the saxophone was about to create a background, the other, as contrast to the main subject. In this exposition practicing the saxophone is the main subject. In this exposition however, written after more than 15 years’ experience of deliberately practicing electronic musical instruments of various kinds, they take the role of “the other”.


1.1 Concepts Employed

This exposition employs concepts and terms that might not are universally known. Two of these concepts are deliberate practicing and arrested development, which are taken from a scientific study presented in the article Attaining Excellence Through Deliberate Practice: Insights From the Study of Expert Performance (2002) by K. Anders Ericsson at the Florida State University. Ericsson discusses how professionals in various fields, such as music, athletics, chess, and medicine acquire and maintain professional skills. Deliberate practicing is, in short, to be able to design challenging exercises that improve skills with respect to specific conditions and skills necessary to master within a certain field. Arrested development is opposite to deliberate practicing, and can be described as generalized automated behavior, a habit of only practicing and performing the already known. Other concept employed are taken from the design area. Interaction design is a field of research established in the 70s, that deals mainly with the design of interfaces in electronic, particularly digital, devices, as well as designing video games. It is design that focuses on creating interaction, obviously, between man and machine, but also between humans. A design process is most used to describe product development, which goes on in spiral-like fashion of creating – testing – evaluating until certain design criteria are met. By applying these concepts on practicing a musical instrument one may gain new perspectives and insights on practicing. Finally, another important concept is the twin pair design timeplay time that distinguish between two modes of music making, which in this context correlates to practicing on the one hand, and playing/performing on the other.


1.2 Personal Background

I am an improvising musician in jazz, particularly in freer forms. I practiced the saxophone in principle daily for 30 years, from 1970 to the millennium, in order to develop and maintain playing skills. This meant like 25000 hours in the practice room, plus participating in countless rehearsals and recording sessions, concerts, as well as being in the audience. At the late 90s I did not develop any more, practicing had become a habit I did because I was used to, and practicing felt almost like a burden, and was boring. Finally, at the turn of the millennium I found myself at the roads end as a music creator on the saxophone, and could no longer force myself to continue. Therefore, I decided to take a break from the saxophone in order to explore other musical roads.

During my studies in music in the early 80s, in addition to study the saxophone, I was introduced to, and became interested in electro-acoustic music. Eventually I learned and developed its craft and aesthetics, and started to compose and teach in this field. During these studies, I realize that electronic musical instruments has a huge potential in improvised music, however, at the time electronic musical instruments, such as modular synthesizers, was rather part of a studio installation than portable instruments. The introduction of MIDI-based synthesizers, and somewhat later samplers, opened for using digital musical equipment on stage. Faster laptop computers available in the late 90s opened for audio applications running in real time, such as the software Max/MSP, which allowed for designing and playing your own digital musical instruments in a live setting.

The new musical road I entered was about to develop a series of digital musical instruments aimed at improvisation. In order to experiment with these new instruments, I initiated some improvisation ensembles, e.g. Natural Artefacts, and somewhat later Beam Stone. These and other constellations can be heard on CDs (Nilsson 2001, 2004, 2005, 2008, 2009, and 2014). In 2006, when I was accepted as a doctoral student in Gothenburg, the following conditions were met: a set of personally designed digital musical instruments at my disposal; a personal playing style and sound; a group of musicians to work with; a record of performances; and a number of CDs that feature my instruments. In short, I had established a new musical identity as an electro-acoustic improviser. Now, 15 years have passed since the divorce from the saxophone, what has happened? Electronic musical instruments, as it turned out, demands and challenges the notion of practicing that gives perspectives and insights to look upon, understand, and reflect on practicing the saxophone in a new light. In my thesis, I show how these experiences had formed, and still forms, my new instruments and my music.


1.3 What is an instrument?

An instrument, as I see it, is a tool that allows us to achieve something, which in a certain way becomes invisible since activity with tools is most likely not a goal in itself. American philosopher Aden Evens states in Sound ideas: Music, Machines, and Experience (2002): “An instrument disappears in its use, is absorbed by its use, and the more effective it is, the more effectively it disappears” (p. 82). The task is the focus, and the tool utilized is just a means to accomplish the given task. When we are banging a nail into the wall, we are focusing on the nail, and not the hammer. In Traitement des objet musicaux Pierre Schaeffer (1966) claims: “Instrumental activity, the visible and first cause of every musical phenomenon, has the distinctive quality that first and foremost it tends to cancel itself out as material cause” (p. 43).[2] According to Schaeffer, we hear a melody or a rhythm rather than the actual instrument that produces it. However, when playing a musical instrument, it does not merely vanish; it also remains opaque and present, since it offers resistance and surprises to its player, and therefore ceases to disappear completely; a notion that is further discussed in the next section.


1.4 What is Practicing?

All musicians, regardless of genre and instrument, need to practice, and different musical instruments and musical genres demands different ways of practicing. For the improvising musician, practice consists of exploitation, exploration, and experimentation, with the aim to develop, refine, and maintain improvising skills. In the essay, Shedding Culture in the anthology Art from Start to Finish, sociologist and jazz trumpeter Robert A. Faulkner (2006) discusses the dichotomy of discipline and improvisation in jazz. Discipline, on the one hand, is exploitation of already know routines, such as scales, templates, melodic/intervallic patterns, and chord progressions; on the other improvisation involves experimentation and exploration of the new and unknown. The former aims to be able to deliver musical ideas on an instrument, and the latter to challenge habits and clichés: “It means breaking loose from comfortable musical routines and established scripts. Oscillating between the two is a tense work” (p. 92). Jazz musicians often talk about practicing as shedding or woodshedding, which refers to the shed as a hidden space, a space where it is possible to practice privately without being overheard:

Improvisation involves a ‘perspective of practice’ in its relation to creative work. The jazz musicians I work with call the former ‘shedding’. They call the latter ‘playing’. The shed is a place and an activity. It is a private place for practice. It is a solitary location for ‘getting it together’ (p. 93).

Faulkner emphasizes that the musical outcome of a particular improvisation, to a great extent, relies on short and long-term practice previously undertaken by participating players. In the longer perspective, an improviser’s style mirrors her practice history. In other words: what can be heard in play time is to a great extent a result of previous activities at design time. One goal with practicing, referring the dichotomy cancellation – resistance, is about to cancel out the instrument; to make music, to interact with other players, rather than thinking of operating an instrument. In play time, a player has no time to think, by using Nunn’s concepts: she must use here “intelligent body” for controlling the instrument, whereas the “the intellectual mind” is used for decision making, interaction and such.

2. Conceptual and Methodological Framework

2.1 Design Time vs. Play Time                                                        

A basic conceptual tenet in my thinking is to distinguish between two modes of music making. I call them design time and play time respectively, which in this context correlates to practicing and playing respectively. Design time, on the one hand is outside time activity that deals with articulation, application, and implementation of ideas and knowledge in order to be embodied. Play time on the other is about real time activity where interaction with the environment, embodied knowledge, and the present are at the forefront. Activities at design time are the ground for activities in play time. Improvising soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy was once asked by composer and improviser Fredric Rzewski (2004): in 15 seconds explain the difference between composition and improvisation: “In fifteen seconds the difference between composition and improvisation is that you have all the time you want to decide what you say in fifteen seconds, while in improvisation you have fifteen seconds” (p. 267). This quote pinpoints one important difference between design time and play time: during the composition process, which goes on at design time, a composer has time to select, test, listen, reflect and refine, while an improviser at play time must make all decisions on the spot. Lacy’s statement, according to Rzewski, implies that the only difference between improvisation and composition is available time for decision-making, which makes improvisation real time composition, but he claims that it consists of two essentially different mental processes. One composer that has touched upon ideas compatible with the notion of design and play time is French-Greek composer Iannis Xenakis. In Formalized Music Xenakis (1992) discusses this dichotomy, and he claims: “Music participates both in space outside time and in the temporal flux” (p. 264). Moreover, in No Sound is Innocent British improvising percussionist Edwin Prévost (1995), while referring to British composer Cornelius Cardew as being both a composer and musician, talks about “the two modes of music-making” (p. 59). Faulkner (2006) uses the concepts shedding and playing, whereas San Francisco based improviser, instrument builder, and author Tom Nunn in Wisdom of Impulse (1998) distinguishes between the intellectual mind and the intelligent body (p. 40). As shown, the idea of two modes of music making is not unique. As seen, a number of writers have addressed this topic from different standpoints: from an improviser’s point of view, in addition to Prévost, and Nunn, British improviser Derek Bailey (1992) in Improvisation: Its Nature and Practice, Xenakis from a composer’s position, whereas Cardew and Rzewski approach it from both perspectives. In this context practicing takes places at design time, whereas activities such as performing occurs at play time, while rehearsing might vacillate between the two modes.'


2.2 Interaction Design

Terminology employed to discuss and reveal practicing processes is inspired and informed by interaction design concepts. It seems applicable to equal practicing a musical instrument, particularly in improvised musical settings, with interaction design, since the goal with practicing is to develop skills that aim to interact with others. The achieved result of design work in general, and practicing in particular, is to a certain extent measurable, e.g. in relation to specific genres and idioms, whereas other qualities are subjective and relative matters such as taste and personal aesthetical values, and therefore not measurable and quantifiable. The Swedish interaction design theoreticians Lars Hallnäs and Johan Redström (2006) argue:


Design is not science; its practice is not scientific. Designing things can never be a deductive correlate to empirical investigations. As design involves basic elements of interpretation and aesthetical choices there will always be hermeneutical gaps in all attempts to build a web of quantifiable science covering the design process.(p. 63)


As a musician, the only thing one can do is to monitor and evaluate the effects of certain practicing methods in play time contexts. Most often, it goes back to perceived level of control in each given situation. To be able to respond satisfactory to given challenges in a particular situation indicates good correlation between chosen practicing tasks at design time, with respect to estimated needs at play time.


2.3 The Design Process in Practicing

The inspiration for the methodological practicing model in this exposition comes from interaction designer Bill Verplank, mainly his compendium Interaction Design Sketchbook. (2009). Verplank claims that interaction designers answer three questions: “How do you know? How do you do? and How do you feel?” (p. 6).


•   To know is to understand the relation between doing and caused effect.

•   To do is about bodily activity.

•   To feel is to perceive effects of doing.


In essence, it departs from the idea that activity at design time is based in present knowing, understanding, model making, and the creation of maps intended for future interaction. By doing, for instance playing a scale over a chord played on the piano; the doer feels the effect of the performed action. In turn, this gives rise to new knowledge of the perceived connection, the mapping, between a performed action and result. In turn, this knowledge constitutes the basis for further fine-tuning, to make up better maps and implementations, and so on in a spiral like way.

3. Practicing the Saxophone

To master a saxophone is to control a subtle sound production system: airflow, embouchure, lip pressure, and the shape of the mouth cavity are probably the most important variables. Until this day, I cannot explicitly explain how to play the saxophone. It deals with processes that teach the body to do things, processes that, to a certain point, leaving out the conscious mind. It is embodied knowledge.[3]


3.1 Sound

The saxophone is a musical instrument designed with music making in mind, despite that the saxophone is capable to produce a huge and varied sound palette, including non-harmonic and noisy sounds. As mentioned previously: on a saxophone, the player produces its sound with her body, and according my opinion the importance of mastering sound production cannot be underestimated. Therefore, practicing basic sound production skills is fundamental and each practicing session must contain such exercises. The basic sound exercises are performed by playing long notes in the instrument’s entire register, and each note should be performed in different dynamics, from the strongest to the weakest and in a number of degrees in between, so called terrace dynamics. Still used today is an exercise collection designed by the German - American classical saxophone player Sigurd Rascher in the 1920s. His thin book Top Tones for The Saxophone is basically a method to learn to extend the high register of the instrument up to four octaves, but his exercises has been proven very useful for developing and maintaining basic sound production skills as well. An example of a sound exercise derived from Rascher is shown in Sound Exercize 1.


Most saxophone method books show, in addition to standard fingerings, the fingerings for high notes. However, for most novice players those fingerings will not work, to the players’ great confusion. It is necessary to learn and understand the nature of the instrument's acoustics before trying the high notes. Rascher’s stepwise exercises is a process in learning how to play high notes that also helps to understand and to internalize the acoustics of the instrument. Before practicing the special fingerings, the saxophone adept has to undertake preparatory exercises. To start, close all the keys, the low notated Bb, and try to find the immanent harmonics for that particular tone, one by one. Try to uncover the fundamental, the octave, the octave plus the fifth, the next octave, the major third and continue upwards in the overtone series. Then do the same on the next lowest note, the low B, and then the low C, etc. It will probably take an average player several weeks of daily practice to master this. When the harmonics can be performed fluently it will probably be quite easy to play the high notes with the special fingering suggested, and one can start to practice the saxophone with an extended range. As seen in this example, the way to achieve a certain goal can be difficult to understand initially. The young saxophone student simply has to trust mentors and instruction books regarding appropriate method.


3.2 Developing and Maintaining Basic Technical Skills

After basic sound exercises, I argue that practicing basic scales is of greatest importance, particularly for a jazz improviser. In jazz, scales are the building blocks, and here arpeggiated chords derived from scales are included. How to design scale based exercises as efficient as possible? There is no clear-cut answer, but one hallmark of a professional musician is their ability to design exercises that meet their artistic needs. As a saxophone student in the early 80s I took some lessons from the Norwegian saxophonist Jan Garbarek, who at the time was one of the most influential saxophone players world-wide, particularly after his participation in Keith Jarrett’s European quartet.[4] How did Garbarek practice? It turned out that Garbarek’s practicing habits was highly structured.[5] He asked himself: how can I be sure to cover all common scales in common combinations on my instrument in my exercises?[6] Accordingly he designed a series of exercises to meet this criterion. Without going into details, the basic idea is that there are basically two diatonic scale types in use in jazz-based music with regard to the pattern whole-half steps: the Ionian (or major), and the melodic minor scales. All other diatonic scales are modes of these two. In addition, there are the diminished scale, the whole-tone scale, and others that can be treated in the same way. The exercise, in my interpretation, looks like this: 1) choose a scale type and scale (switch between Ionian and minor melodic based scales each day), 2) design a pattern that should be played on the entire range of the instrument, start at the low Bb, and 3) practice the pattern starting on all twelve keys. With a basic number of patterns, designed and chosen at your own discretion, and with a balanced mix of patterns that primarily features seconds, thirds and fourths one covers all note combinations in a couple of weeks. It is advised to also group notes for rhythmic variation, e.g. three, four and six notes patterns, and then for instance dividing a three-group pattern in four notes and vice versa. The combinations are almost endless. Here is an example of a basic exercise in Bb major.

Doing tone production and scale exercises daily, in my opinion, is sufficient to maintain a basic technique on the saxophone. It gives a solid ground and confidence for playing. Such hard-structured way of practicing may not suit everybody, and there certainly are pros and cons. On the positive side, and I do think it is necessary to a certain extent, is that one must not start each session to decide what to do, just follow the schedule. The downside is that the practice might be so predictable that is takes away the fun with playing, and just become another everyday task to fulfill, like making food and cleaning the house. When this part is done however, one can start to practice specific things, such as preparing performances, exploring new techniques, learning new pieces, and improvise.


3.3 Deliberate practice

As mentioned in the personal background, around the millennium I had stagnated as a saxophone player, practice become a burden. How to avoid stagnation and arrested development? As shown in the provided exercises, a great deal of practice time each day is actually spent on maintaining basic sound and technique, which means performing similar exercises day after day. The risk of stagnation lurks around the corner as a consequence, and according to Faulkner (2006) “breaking loose from comfortable musical routines […] is a tense work” (p. 92). What does research say about this phenomenon? Among expert performance researchers I can mention the Swedish – American researcher Anders K. Ericsson at the Florida State University and others. Ericsson et. al. show e.g. in The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance (1993) that everyday activities, like driving a car, become internalized and automated after an initial learning period of about 50 hours of practice. A hallmark among professionals of all kinds is the ability to monitor oneself during practice and performance, and through such practicing methods avoids risks of automatization and arrested development.[7] A professional musician actively challenges his skills on an instrument by increasing the degree of difficulty of practice material, by looking for new sonic possibilities, and by varying practicing methods, for instance. According to Ericsson, it is about deliberate practicing:


Expert performers counteract the arrested development associated with automaticity by deliberately acquiring and refining cognitive mechanisms to support continued learning and improvement. These mechanisms increase experts' control and ability to monitor performance. The expert has to continue to design training situations where the goal is to attain a level beyond their current performance in order to keep improving (p. 39).


In other words, an expert musician must constantly and deliberately challenge practice and performance habits, and actively seek resistance from the instrument such as forcing a change in their own behavior, or by increasing the level of difficulty. A radical solution to meet the criterion for challenge and resistance can simply be to change instrument.


3.4 Resistance

An acoustical musical instrument never completely ceases to exist independently of the player. The materiality of the particular instrument is always there; it is present as the buzzing sensation from the reed and mouthpiece on the lower lip and front teeth, the raw power needed to set a double bass string in motion, or the harsh response from a violin bow. Therefore, an acoustic instrument offers a player presence through resistance as Evens put it: “It (the instrument) offers to the musician a resistance; it pushes back […]. Paradoxically, the instrument cooperates by resisting” (Evens, 2002, p. 160). A significant difference between everyday activities and, for example, music or sport activities has to do with purpose. Playing a musical instrument is a means in itself and not something we do in order to achieve something else. In contrast, when using the vacuum cleaner, the purpose is to clean the house, and not to “play” with the cleaner, and eventually such activities become habitual and tools employed become invisible.


3.5 Evaluation of practicing

Exploitation of the known is most likely deliberately planned and structured, whereas experimentation and exploration may be more irrational and intuitive. A mistake can open a new perspective worth further investigation, something heard on a record or the radio can catch interest, one may read something, or discuss new possibilities with peers. In a public performance of improvised music, an improviser will quite likely test fresh material from recent practicing sessions, and therefore a concert is an occasion for evaluation. Since practicing goes on continuously, the cycle of experimentation at the shed, followed by tests and evaluation at concerts, is a never-ending process. Prévost (1995) gives word of a similar notion: “The meta-musician is at the heart of an experiment. The audience checks the validity of the results” (p. 122).[8] Furthermore, the results of the private individual work done in the shed eventually become “cooperative behavior at work in a community of other musicians” (Faulkner, 2006, p. 94). Imitating one another and orally sharing findings and innovations made at the shed will distribute new habits and clichés within a community of improvisers.


4. Practicing the Particular: Pee Wee

The particular is particular, regarding both material to be used, and as a consequence practicing methods. Therefore, it is difficult to give general thoughts. However, as an example, the preparation for performing a jazz semi standard, Pee Wee by Tony Williams,[9] in a setting for church organ and myself on the baritone saxophone will serve as an example. As a presupposition, we assume that my shape as a saxophone player is good; basic sound and scale exercises are done. The first thing to do is to get an idea and overview of the material, in this case a modern jazz standard. Noteworthy to point out: the tune was part of a theme and tribute concert that presented well known music recorded by Miles Davis, which makes a difference in relation to learn new and unheard material. As a matter of fact, the tune was deliberately chosen by different reasons: firstly a personal preference for it, and secondly it suited the instrumentation and venue; a high-reverberated room designed for church organ. A first decision was to choose how close our version should be with respect to the original. Here we have a choice, either copying the record note by note, or trying to approach the material in the same way I think they did. The presens of a church organ made up for a free interpretation, however preserving the identity of the composition.


4.1 The Role of Recordings

Pee Wee was recorded 50 years ago, and despite that the music of Miles Davis Quintet from the 60s is well known, it is mainly known from analyses based on transcriptions from recordings. In addition, a body of interviews with the participating musicians offers valuable information of the band’s way of performance practices. Nevertheless, I claim that the recording itself is the main source of information and inspiration. At the outset, jazz was a local music in New Orleans, taught and learned in an oral master – pupil tradition. From the 1920s and onward however, recording technology has offered a possibility to study jazz to wider circles, regardless social and geographical context. In Jazz, Giddins and DeVeaux point out that Bix Beiderbecke was among the first jazz musicians who learned about jazz from records, and pinpoints three major aspects:


This kind of introduction had an immediate influence. First, young people were exposed to jazz without having to live in a particular area or sneak into off-limits places (saloons) where it was performed. Second, owning records encouraged, through repeated plays, study and memorization. Third, records freed the imagination of young listeners to interpret jazz as they pleased, without the constriction influence of tradition (Giddins, DeVeaux 2009, p. 158).


In the early 20s New Orleans jazz was still a living tradition. Beiderbecke and his colleagues however, came from a different social and geographical context and met the music of King Oliver and Louis Armstrong through the gramophone. Today, one must also consider that the music Miles Davis Quintet is historic music. I argue that records are as important today as for Beiderbecke, but by slightly for different reasons. In addition to recordings, the so-called fake – books (notably the Real Book) has played an important role to spread jazz, which in parenthesis also has played a role of creating a jazz canon; what’s in the Real Book eventually become a part of the canon. I claim that Giddins and DeVaeux’s three aspects, possibly adding bridging historic time as a fourth, are still valid and must be taken into consideration.


4.2 Pee Wee: the Composition

Pee Wee is one of a few pieces drummer Tony Williams composed for Miles Davis Quintet. The piece is a 19-measure composition in 3/4 that is based on both modal and functional harmony. The odd number of measures and types of scales and chords employed make up for an ambiguous piece of music. As mentioned before, the Real Book version is the reference, however, a version that has some errors, and there are many alternative versions and corrections available. In a recent book, The Studio Recordings of the Miles Davis Quintet, 1965 – 68, Pee Wee is discussed in depth (Waters 2011 p. 198-200). The author claims e.g. “[…]’Pee Wee’ offers radically different compositional solutions” (p. 203). At the time for my actual concert in 1999 however, this book was not available. During the 70s, among local jazz players in Gothenburg, a debate about the piano voicing employed by Davis’s pianist Herbie Hancock in e.g. Pee Wee of was discussed, and eventually an agreed upon version circled around in the local jazz community. Noteworthy, this version was based on one single recording like Waters’s analysis.


4.3 Practicing Pee Wee

Obviously, it exists no “right” or official version of Pee Wee to consult, rather spread bits and pieces of information derived from the recording itself, which function as the original, the “urkund”, are available. Therefore, with respect to available information, personal aesthetic preferences and performing context, in my opinion one has to reconstruct a version rather than interpreting the piece. In this particular case, I chose to connect each chord to a scale in a certain mode; the method used was to regard each chord as if derived from a scale, and therefore a first step was to deconstruct the piece into a series of scales and modes. With this approach, the possible function of chord sequences employed was of minor importance, which also was the intention. In my reconstruction, the piece might be characterized as a predefined sequence of a limited number of colors subordinated and superimposed a rhythmic grid. Even a quick glimpse on the chords reveals that there are no clear-cut scale solutions in certain measures, e.g. third measure, F/Db, which can be interpreted in many ways, either ignoring the bass note Db, as it functions as anchor note in the first three bars, or thinking of it as a F major scale with an added Db, which was my solution. In addition, there are other solutions as well that might work. Exercises used for practicing Pee Wee was derived from, and based on, the analytic deconstruction process, which become part of the reconstruction of the piece, and lot of the decision making was up to the discretion of the players. The systemized scale practices described above functioned as a template for designing exercises for Pee Wee. One goal with the exercises was about to firstly getting all scales and modes into the body, one by one, and the next step was about to make the sequence of scales embodied in order to be able to move from one color to the next fluently. The know, do and feel pattern.


[7] Arrested development is described by Ericsson et al. (1993) as generalized automated behavior, a habit of only practicing and performing the already known.

[2] French original: L’activité instrumentale, cause visible et premiere de tout phénomène musical, a ceci de particulier qu’elle tend avant tout á s’annuler comme cause materielle.

[3] Embodied knowledge, as I see it, is about things that a body can do, outside explicit verbal formulation. Cycling and swimming are two examples. It is impossible to explain how to do these things; intellectually it is possible to understand what goes on, but to really feel, comprehend, and to express what you are doing is another thing entirely. At least, I cannot do it. Everyone that has tried to teach a child these skills can bear witness about this.

[4] Listen to: My Song (Jarret, 1976), Belonging (Jarret 1978) and Nude Ants (Jarret 1980)

[5] Personal conversation in Oslo, February 1982.

[6] This is obviously a common goal in many saxophone exercise collections. Noteworthy to point out: this method does not cover all possible note combinations, like intervals over an octave, however it is possible to construct such exercises as well. The important thing is that exercises shall serve the player’s artistic needs.

[8] Meta-Music is discussed in-depth in Prévost (1995).

[9] Pee Wee is recorded by Miles Davis Quintet on the record The Sorcerer (Davis, 1967).

The Chord structure of Pee Wee by Tony Williams. In the first four bars I propose underlying scales/modes to be used for improvisation.

[1] For a complete story of Adolphe Sax and his instruments see e.g.  Rorive (2004), Adolphe Sax (1814-1894) - Inventeur de génie.

Pee Wee performed by Johannes Landgren, organ, and Per Anders Nilsson, baritone saxophone at Academy of Music and Drama (former School of Music) at the University of Gothenburg in November 1999.

Exemple of a scale exercise, in Bb major, that sholud be practiced in all keys.


Bailey, Derek 1992 (1980). Improvisation: its Nature and Practice in Music. Da Capo Press: New York.

Davis, Miles 1967. The Sorcerer. NewYork: Columbia.(Recording)

Ericsson, K. Anders 2002. 'Attaining Excellence Through Deliberate Practice: Insights From the Study of Expert Performance' in The pursuit of excellence through education (ed. Ferrari). Mahwah, New Jersey:

M. L. Erlbaum Associates.

Faulkner, Robert R. 2006. 'Shedding Culture', in Art from Start to Finish: Jazz, Painting, Writing, and other Improvisations (ed. Becker, H. S., Faulkner, R. R., and Kirshenblatt-Gimblett B.) Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Giddens, G. & DeVaeux S. 2009. Jazz. NewYork: W. W. Norton & Company.

Hallnäs, Lars, and Redström, Johan 2006. Interaction Design: Foundations, Experiments. The Interactive Institute; The Textile Research Centre, The Swedish School of Textiles, University College of Borås.

Nilsson, Per Anders 1993. Random Rhapsody. Halmstad: LJ Records. (Recording)

Nilsson, P.A., Lindeborg, S., Johansson, O. 2003. Natural Artefacts, Natural Artefacts. Halmstad: LJ Records. (Recording)

Nilsson, P.A., Lindeborg, S., Johansson, O. 2006. Natural Artefacts, Like Jazz. Halmstad: LJ Records. (Recording)

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