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Saxophone Lesson by Kirk Whalum – Ideas for Practicing When You're Stuck

by Neal

Sola told me about this video, I liked it. It gives you more to do if you’ve ever thought you’ve run out of things to practice.

Playing in thirds means you play a note and go up (or down) a third.  If you’re in minor, you use the minor scale’s notes.

Two up and two down means you play the first note of the scale and a third up then the second note the scale and a third up then you play the third note of the scale and play a third down and then the fourth note of the scale and a third down.

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

elliot pineiro December 9, 2009 at 8:22 pm

Kirk whalum is one of the cats who on the money Some people are regurgitating lessons from people like this master and not tellin it like it is. He uses the proper musical vocabulary to describe his lesson. Intervals, patterns, keys. Notice his sound Neal. It resonates. I’m sure long tones at a slow tempo have been on his agenda for years and probably still is in his warmup. Except I’m sure he makes it interesting for himself by also incorporating other things he wants to hear. He didn’t even mention the circular breathing he was using. I guess thats another lesson. It makes me want to start practicing, but it’s late and the neighbors will complain. Overtones will help your sound. Don’t get caught up in the “name brand THing”. I could buy a kirk whalum edition mouthpiece for 400 dollars. does that mean I will sound like him. Practice , practice , practice, try to sound like yourself. Thank you mister whalum for a great video that could benefit any sax player who has reached a certain level of profieciency to understand the concepts you wre discussing. A begginner will see this and want to run before they can walk. You can’t buy dues, you have to earn them. You cannot start from the top. If you think you can, there’s only one way to go -down. I have studied with masters like Barry Harris, John Stubblefield, Charles Davis, Rolando Briceno and many others and feel that I am still learning. It’s a journey, enjoy the ride. God bless.


sola January 6, 2010 at 10:20 am

hi Neal, nice to know that you posted this lecture for all sax players to benefit from it.
i just want to ask if you understand what kirk was trying to say when he said you can play the exercise in cycle of fourths,
how do you play circle of fourths on one key? may be i didn’t get clear what he was saying… please kindly advice.
also i want to find out if anyone has an idea of the mouthpiece that kirk whalum is using? i think that also as added to the kind of tone he has produced over the year.
thanks and God bless


Neal January 6, 2010 at 1:27 pm

Hey Sola,
Generally, when a musician says play something in cycle of fourths it means you play it in all different keys.

You’re traveling around the circle of fourths. So if you start playing the pattern the in the key of C you would then play it in F and then in Bb, etc- that is play the entire pattern in the key of C, then play the entire pattern in F and so on.

.-= Neal´s last blog ..Saxophone Dynamics – Shades of Tone – Beginning Saxophone =-.


Evan Tate January 12, 2010 at 2:53 pm

A very good video. Honest, informative, giving & demonstrative.
.-= Evan Tate´s last blog ..Improv Etudes and their benefits =-.


Neal January 13, 2010 at 1:26 pm

Yep, I really like it. Would be cool if he had some more. Thanks for stopping by Evan


adrian swift October 2, 2010 at 5:04 am

Elliot…hi man. Your posts are real good man. You know your stuff, and seem to be a very dedicated player. Am i right in thinking you are the guy that met Gato….something about “Bellhausen”……oh man. I reckon you misheard man. Gato played a Berg…….Bellhausen…..Berg Larsen……easy mistake. I may be wrong….but that is my theory. He also played real thin reeds…..hence his tone. I dunno if i love or hate it. Never could decide. He was some player man. His album “Bolivia”….the first track…….Wow! Maybe put a post or two on the advanced forum. By the content of your contributions….also the quality….it would be good to exchange. Hope to speak sometime… and happiness….ade


Tahji January 5, 2011 at 12:39 am

I really found the videos to be very helpful! I have been trying to get the sound, my sound, and I see why it hasnt developed! I love this website that I clicked on by accident and found what I was looking for but didnt know where. I do wish you had more down loadable riffs to practice. Thanks!


Neal January 5, 2011 at 12:40 am

Hey Tahji, thanks, glad they helped you. I think I’ll start selling more downloads soon. Let me know what you would like to see.


sola January 12, 2012 at 4:09 am

Hey Neal, does anyone know what you can add to long-tone exercises that can make them more interesting and yet still very effective to achieve a much better sound?


Sam January 26, 2012 at 8:59 am

I believe there are no more excuses. Also the idea in learning scales seems endless as well as good practice.


KT September 11, 2012 at 4:32 pm

T hat was an awesome video!


Ed December 19, 2014 at 8:25 am

I viewed the Kirk Whalum “ASTWO” video long ago and now I want to apply the method to my practice. The video has since been removed by Cannonball Instruments. Can someone describe what was taught in the “ASTWO” Always something to work on Kirk Whalum video ?


Neal December 19, 2014 at 4:51 pm

Hello Ed,
I saw that video a little while back.

Basically, there are infinite variations within music. Even with a scale.

If you think you can play a scale, you then question whether you play it with perfect rhythm, whether all the transitions are clean, etc.

With a C major scale, there are actually some tricky transitions in there where you can have sloppy transitions easily. C to D, B to C for example.

You can change the tempo. You can play in thirds. You can change up the articulation. You can use other patterns.

Mastery is something you work towards, but never completely achieve. So you don’t want to feel too comfortable with your level of playing. If you stop challenging yourself, you’ll stop moving forward.



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