Daily practice is absolutely essential if you want to get better on the saxophone or just keep your chops up.
Problem is, sometimes the noise of the thing presents a real problem.
Practice Saxophone In the Car
For a while, my practice room was my lowly Fiat Punto that a friend gave me. Yes, I have a much nicer car now.
I would park on the side of the road and play. It would get all steamy inside and people walking by must have been having all sorts of crazy thoughts about what was going on in that thing.
I ended up giving the Punto away to another musician friend later on, but I spent a lot of time practicing in that car.
Playing Sax In the Park
Before I had the Punto practice room, I spent a few months practicing in the park. At first I thought it was going to attract a bunch of weirdosqq, but during all the hours I practiced in the park, nobody ever bothered me.
If you need a place to practice try the woods or a big local park, or the beach. At one point I practiced on top of a parking garage.
Practicing In Your Head
This one is not going to help you with sound development, but it is something I do just about everyday. At a certain point, you will be able to practice scales, patterns, tunes and even improvising entirely in your head. It takes a bit of work before you get comfortable with the process, but it is incredibly effective. Let me know in the comments if you’d like for me to make a video about how I do this.
Using Only Your Fingers
This is a method I learned from Bob Reynolds. He says he does this in hotel rooms while on the road. Again, it’s not going to help you with sound development, but it is extremely effective for focusing on technique, and rhythm. Once we remove the sound of the notes, we are left with the percussive sound of the keys. Practicing the saxophone like a percussion instrument changes the approach entirely. Sound production and articulation can very easily get in the way of solid rhythm so practicing with just the fingers will really expose weaknesses.
Play With a Sax Mute
There was another period of time where I practiced with one of these Sax Mute things. Let’s put it this way, they work, and if you live in an apartment, it’s a good tool to have, cause maybe you don’t want to get in the car and drive somewhere, or maybe the weather doesn’t allow you to practice outside.
There are a bunch of downsides to these though. The low notes don’t really speak, the intonation is completely out so you’re not doing your tuning any favors, and it gets really hot and steamy in there. Not to mention they are generally pretty uncomfortable to work with. If you want to get one for yourself, you can find it here.
Another very expensive option is a dedicated independent practice booth like a whisper room or Studio Bricks. I actually have a review of one of these coming up soon so keep an eye out for that. If you have the space this is a fantastic option. Yes, they are expensive, but so are saxophones, so maybe you have to choose between another new saxophone and a proper place to practice.
Sound Treated Room
For those of you who have been following this channel for a while, you will remember I started out in a very small room with lots of acoustic foam on the walls.
This was a room I built in the storage area of the basement in my apartment building where we used to live. It was a little funky, but I loved it. I could practice down there at any time of day. We put 5cm of rock wool between the outer wall and a new inner wall of acoustic sheetrock. Since it was already in the basement with a parking garage on the floor above, there was no worries about noise.Luckily the building had no humidity issues. Anytime you put stuff underground you have to look out for that.
When we moved out of the city and into this house, I converted a spare bedroom into my studio. It is not soundproof at all, so for the last year and a half I’ve limited my practice to daytime hours. Getting the practice booth is going to allow me to practice in the early morning or late at night. In the meantime, I’ve done some renovations to the room and added a second door. This should go a long way in isolating the sound in here. It is extremely difficult and expensive to soundproof a room, so I wasn’t going to try.
Keep in mind that the panels you see on my walls have nothing whatsoever to do with reducing the volume. They are there for reducing echo and reflections. It’s acoustic treatment that helps improve the sound you hear inside the room.
Use a Wind Synth
My last suggestion for silent practice is a good wind synth. I’ve been using these things for years and have done several reviews which I will link in the description. My top recommendation for a practice tool is the EMEO. I like this so much I play it even when I don’t need to be quiet. If you’re interested in purchasing one, use coupon code BETTERSAX/EMEO to save 5% (email them once you’ve paid the deposit to get the discount applied to the total bill). Find out how cool this thing is by watching my review of it here.