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      if you have timing issues like i do,
      try these 4 basic beginner exercises and
      see how good you are.

      timing exercise 1 for beginners (level – very very very easy)

      Set the metronome to 4 beats to the bar (time signature 4/4), at speed 60 bpm.
      Play the following 16 notes in C major from memory –
      going up scale starting from Low | C D E F | G A B C |
      going back down scale starting from Mid | C B A G | F E D C |
      Counting/Breathing exactly like this when you play –
      breathe in count | 1 2 3 4 | 2 2 3 4 breathe in count | 3 2 3 4 | 4 2 3 4 | for the 16 notes,
      make sure you hit all the notes on each count, make sure you are counting like that.
      Play each 4th count note very slightly shorter so you can grab
      a breath to start the 1st note in the next bar on the metronome beat.

      If you can’t do the above basic rhythm exercise then repeat it until you can.
      If 60 bpm is too slow increase it to a higher value. Choose another scale if
      C major is boring you.

      If that was easy try exercise 2 (level easy) –
      Repeat exercise 1, but play the 1st beat of every Bar louder (accent the 1st beat).

      if that was easy try exercise 3 (level medium) –
      Repeat exercise 1, but play beats 1 & 3 of every Bar louder (accent the 1st & 3rd beats).

      if that was easy try exercise 4 (level hard) –
      Repeat exercise 1, but play beats 2 & 4 of every Bar louder (accent the 2nd & 4th beats).

      Now buy JF’s major scale improvisation course – JF’s backing track loop is great
      for the above exercises as you can listen to the chord changes to hear if you are in time,
      If you can hear the different drums – your counting should be in time with these,
      if you can hear a base guitar playing – your counting could be in time with it
      if you can hear a piano playing – your counting could be in time with the piano players
      left hand harmony playing etc..

      Hope everyone can do these …


        Excellent Jimmy… just added them to my daily practice schedule.


          Glad you found them useful, after 22 months of playing – i can still fall out of syn playing these exercises!

          A fun way to do these exercises – if you are very proficient at doing them, is tongue the loud notes and slurr the other notes – it is comical, but the control is amazing – its the equivalent of juggling 3 balls.
          The more relaxed and laid back, the easier it is to do these – don’t fight the sax.

          These are good exercises – you have to get the breathing right, the embouchure right, the fingering right, each note in tune right, the tone right, the dynamics right – and keep all of them in time & on the beats.

          Might be simple exercises – but its all the other factors that count in tandem.


            James, regarding this exercise. I’m not quite sure what you mean.

            When you say : “breathe in count | 1 2 3 4 | 2 2 3 4 breathe in count | 3 2 3 4 | 4 2 3 4 | for the 16 notes”

            Do we play? : “breathe in count | C D E F | A A B C breathe in count | A B A G | C E D C | for the 16 notes”


              The basic idea is take a breath and play 8 notes (2 bars of 4 notes each) and count in your head (1 2 3 4, 2 2 3 4), with a metronome sound to keep the sax sounds on the metronome beat (4/4 timing)

              When you finish playing that grab a breath just before the end of the 8th note – so you will be keeping in time for the next 8 notes (another 2 bars of 4 notes each) and count in your head (3 2 3 4, 4 2 3 4).

              The choice of notes is up to you,
              but for a beginner its easy to play 8 notes up the scale ( C to C) and then play 8 notes back down the scale ( C to C). This gives the option of sticking scale practices in and saving extra time.


                You might ask the question, why not just count 1 2 3 4 for every 4 notes?

                This to learn you to keep track of which Bar you are in. So later on when you learn pieces from memory, and something happens at the end of a specific bar (repeated sections, chord changes, rests etc, soloing etc..) you know exactly where you are on the sheet


                  Is it imperative to count? I always hear my metronome and that’s enough for me to keep the tempo.
                  I know that counting adds an extra task to raise the difficulty level, but is it really worth?
                  I would add doing the up scale legato (slurring) and the downscale staccato (tonguing)


                    Don’t forget it’s beginner exercises – very basic stuff!

                    The general idea is to end up playing without a metronome, so you rely more on your internal counting.

                    So i wouldn’t stop counting all together, when you get onto playing 16th notes counting 1E&A 2E&A etc or triplets 1&A, it can still be useful.

                    As a beginner with a sax grade exam coming up i have to play 2 piano accompanyment pieces and 1 solo piece – theres no way i wont stop counting (im not that good)!

                    But with sight reading exercises, there is more effort being put into being realy expressive, so the counting sort of goes more into the back ground and you concentrate more on being expressive, otherwise your playing ends up sounding mechanicsl.

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