Sam Newsome

Sam Newsome
"The potential for the saxophone is unlimited." - Steve Lacy

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Small Muscle Athletes

Whenever I'm looking for some intensive training on the soprano, I often practice classical etudes. In the past, my two favorite books were "Marcel Mule 48 Etudes d'après Ferling" and "158 Saxophone Exercises" by Sigurd M. Rascher.

However, more recently I've been working out of flute books. Flute etudes tend to have a lot of exercises that are left-hand oriented, not to mention the extended range, which is often in the saxophone's altissimo register.

The big advantage of practicing classical etudes is that you spend longer concentrated periods of time with the horn in your mouth, with little time to breath. So if you practiced a 5 minute etude, six times, after a 30 minutes or so, you've really felt like you've pushed your chops, which is a great way to build up endurance. This is particularly important to me because I often perform solo concerts, which can last anywhere from 30 - 60 minutes.

When practicing these types of etudes, it's good to have two or three that you're working on at a time, since each one will present it's own unique set of technical hurdles. It's like weight training. You don't want a workout where you only work on your biceps. You have to also work your abs, triceps, chest, legs, back, and any place where there are muscles.

And like lifting weights, you also have to let the muscles rest. And once they do, tear them down again. That's the name of the game. As they say, musicians are small muscle athletes

Anyway, give it a try, and let me know how it turns out.


  1. Hi Sam

    Nice to read as I (although not a real soprano player like yourself) have always loved using classical etudes for working on stuff and finding ideas. At the moment I seem to spend much time (again) using my Slonimsky especially the sections based on 'Ultrapolation' of One Note, Two notes etc. When working with these you find yourself gradually building larger and larger interval leaps, yet with direction and of course useful when trying get away from scales - breaking the habit?

    The other book that I love, and especially when I'm short of time is Gilles Martin - 12 Mini Caprices...... for Soprano Sax, no less! In Europe it's in Billaudot Editions. In a way these are like shorter and more melodic versions of a cross between Bach and Paganini (well very roughly). If you don't already know it pop down to your local music store and see if you can browse a copy as they're good fun and hard work.

    Let me know if you know or not about these, and of course if you end up finding them what you thought/think.

    All the best.

  2. Hi Joe,

    Thanks for the recommendations. I'll check into them this week. They sound challenging and fun!

    - S

  3. Hey Sam,

    Some other etude books I've enjoyed:

    guy lacour - 28 Studies on modes of limited transposition of olivier messiaen (has altissimo) -

    karg-elert 25 caprices and an atonal sonata -

    Chad Eby

  4. Hi Chad,
    Thanks for the suggestions. I'll check those out. And I dig your CD, by the way. Really great playing. It's a regular in my CD player!

  5. Hi Chad,

    Good suggestion concerning Guy Lacour - 28 Studies on modes of limited transposition of Olivier Messiaen. I'd forgotten all about those as I also enjoyed those very much ...... but they must be buried somewhere in my cellar and so it's a nice reminder for me to go a dig out again.

    In the meanwhile, I must admit to being ignorant to your work, but now I'm very curious!

    Sam .... it's great to see info and suggestions appearing on your site, it looks as though I'll be to busy practising to read the blog anymore ;-).

    Best - Joe


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