Sources of Inspiration for Practicing

My Inspiration

Sometimes we all need a little extra inspiration

It’s November, the weather is getting colder and the kids are back at school. This is the time of year where I get the most work done on the saxophone. I am also hoping to get a lot more done on this winter as well.

I’d like to catch up with everyone and tell you about some of the things that are inspiring me to get into the practice room each day. In today’s post I talk about some recent concerts I’ve attended, a couple interviews I did with some great saxophonists and a great book I’m currently reading about practicing.

Now On Instagram

I started a BetterSax Instagram account and would love it if all of you Instagramers out there would connect with me there and help me to make it another great resource for learning saxophone.

Instagram is still quite new to me so I’ll be experimenting with different ways to connect with more sax players out there. Looks like a very popular thing to do is post short videos from gigs/rehearsals/practice sessions. Maybe you’ll find some extra inspiration there!

Recent Live Concerts (spectator)

I just got back from a 2 week trip to NY visiting my family, and while there I saw four great concerts. I know it’s not always easy to get out to see live music, but if you are serious about improving as a musician it is absolutely essential.

If you live somewhere where live music is not readily available, then get on YouTube. There is more great live music on there to watch than you could fit into a lifetime. It’s better to see and hear musicians playing live though.

The California Honeydrops

The first show was the California Honeydrops at the Bowery Ballroom on the lower east side of Manhattan. This is one of my favorite bands. Their music is a mixture of everything I love performed with an energy, groove and good vibe that is hard to find in music these days. They are not yet widely known so go check out their music on YouTube, spotify, Pandora or where ever. I bet you’ll love listening to the California Honeydrops too.



YouTube video

Johnny Bones Interview

I met up with their sax player Johnny Bones before the show and the two of us sat down to talk sax stuff. See the full interview on YouTube here:

YouTube video

One of the important takeaways from this interview is where he talks about his musical influences and rattles off a list of great yet lesser known saxophonists of the 50’s and 60’s who defined the classic R&B sax sound.

Valuable Takeaways

I created a YouTube Playlist with some examples to listen to and I recommend anyone who wants to play good rock & roll or R&B sax solos study these and other work from the artists on the list. Whenever I listen to great musicians I always find a new sense of inspiration. 

Early R&B Saxophone Players YouTube Playlist

It’s important to mention that Johnny and I had never met before this interview and I knew nothing about his journey as a saxophone player. However, I was not surprised to learn that he no longer uses sheet music despite being a good reader and that he learns everything by ear.

Importance of History

I was also not surprised by his extensive knowledge of the history of early 20th century popular music. Once again highlighting the importance of actively listening to and studying recordings of the music we want to learn.

Go get on YouTube (or Spotify or your public library or your neighbor’s record collection) and listen to some good music today and everyday. This is at least as important as practicing the saxophone if you want to improve.

Tedeschi Trucks and Birdland

Two nights later we went to see Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks at the Beacon Theatre which is a beautiful room. My wife is a big fan of them both. Great band and fun concert.

The following week we went back into Manhattan to catch the Birdland Big band. My friend Nathan

Childers has played lead alto in this band for many

years and we also got together for an interview after

the show.

Ron Carter was playing later that evening with his trio and

walks by a couple times during ourinterview. Fair enough since we were in his green room after all.

I’ll be editing that in the coming weeks and posting it to YouTube. There will be a lot more insights from a top NYC saxophonist to learn from so make sure to check it out.

Long Island Heros

Finally, we ended our trip with a concert on Long Island (where I’m from originally). Mike Delguidice is a guy who grew up about a mile from my house and now plays every month in Billy Joel’s band at Madison Square Garden.

I am a big fan of Billy Joel (one of Long Island’s local heroes) but I can honestly say that Mike DelGuidice sings Billy Joel’s music better than Billy Joel himself. I guess that’s how he landed a spot in Joel’s band.

Mike has his own band called Big Shot (they do mostly Billy Joel covers) that we went to see and on saxophone that night he had the fantastic Andy Snitzer. Big Shot also regularly features Richie Cannata, the sax player from Billy Joel’s origina

l band.

Andy is a great player and has toured and recorded with many top artists (Paul Simon for example).

Here’s a clip of me and my wife singing with Mike at the end of the show:

The Practice of Practice by Jonathan Harnum

This book is very well written, thought out and insightful. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to get more out of the time and effort they put into learning music (or anything else).

Much of what Harnum talks about in the book I was already aware of but it’s good to have confirmation that many other professionals are using the same techniques in the practice room. The core fundamentals of practicing efficiently is something I teach in my lessons and courses. Check out this blog post: The Process of practicing.

The Practice of Practice has introduced to me a few new concepts that I have been incorporating into my daily work flow. Once I have a solid grasp of how they work for me, I’ll make some YouTube videos/blog posts to share.

In the meantime, get the book for yourself and feel free to discuss in the comments below.

New Blues Course in the Works

Finally, I’m working on a new course about playing blues saxophone. I know this is going to be very popular and I’m taking my time with it to make it as awesome as I possibly can. As this project comes closer to completion, I’ll keep everyone posted.

I hope this time of year is productive for you as well and I wish you all success in life and the practice room. As in life, some days in the practice room go better than others. The most important thing is to get up everyday and try again.

Final Thoughts on Finding Inspiration

I hope you’ve found some inspiration through these resources, like I have. 

Need some more inspiration? Check out “I SUCK! Turning Frustration Into Musical Growth.” 

Also be sure to follow BetterSax on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube to stay up to date with us for news, giveaways, and other saxophone tips and tricks.

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Philippe VIVIER says:

Hey Jay
Just enrolled two days ago and just started courses -High motivation for this new start and first goal to achieve will be to keep practice on daily basis !
I do not have any excuses to not doing it !!!
i have many rooms at home , garden,car ,my wife is musician, lot of understanding from her when notes are not OK . and rythm not in place 😉 Warm greetings from France – Phil

Jay Metcalf says:

Great to hear from you. That is all any of us can do, just make sure we practice every day. The pentatonic foundation course will give you plenty to work on. Take your time and have fun. Moi aussi j’habite en France.

Sal says:

Hello Jay,
Thank you so much for this course. I’ve been a member for about a month now. I continue to practice daily until my lips get numb.
However, I’m having trouble hitting the low notes in the tenor.

Other than continued practice, any advice on low C And lower? I can hit it, but it’s not smooth at the start.


Jay Metcalf says:

The low notes on tenor can be tricky. You need to 1. have your horn sealing well with no leaks. 2. use a lot of air and push from your gut.

Glad you like the course…

Todd Coates says:

Great stuff Jay. I’m a new Member and very excited. I have a saying that I printed out and posted on my bulletin board about 2-years ago….”If I miss one day of practice, I notice it. If I miss two days of practice, my Family notices it. If I miss three days of practice, my dogs notice it!” Although it’s meant to be lighthearted, I kid-you-not that one of my dogs started howling while I was practicing after a week long vacation with the family! Too funny. Thanks again.

Jay Metcalf says:

that’s funny Todd, thanks for sharing.

Rich Baker says:

Hey Jay,
Sounds like you had a great visit to NY. I look forward to viewing the videos that come from this trip. You seem to be mostly interested in Jazz as it seems most sax players are. I am not as interested in jazz or blues but rather like pop hits. One of my favorite sax players on YouTube is Justin Ward who plays cover songs and does it with a style I would love to be able to perform also. Do you ever get into any types of pop hits or cover songs and do any of your courses teach a sax student to play that type of music?

Jay Metcalf says:

Rich, I’m into anything that is good music especially when the saxophone is involved. My courses focus on the essential components necessary to play melodies by ear and improvise solos in popular music styles. In other words, I start my students out by giving them the tools necessary to work toward playing in a similar way as Justin Ward or anyone else playing a popular music style.



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