Marion Music Academy

Getting Comfortable Outside of the Box

Posted by: david at 7:20 pm on May 15th, 2016

Circle_of_fifths_deluxe_4.svg (1) - small.pngI have an interesting perspective on music because I am both a woodwind and a stringed instrument player. I spent my time growing up in the band room playing clarinet or saxophone, while I spent my afterschool hours with a guitar in my hands playing along to the hits on MTV in the early 1990’s.

This dual identity carried on through my college and early adult years. In many ways the differences on each instrument seemed to augment the others. However, when it comes to key centers there are definitely some difficulties.

This became most apparent when I started taking my saxophone to sit in with guitar oriented bands. For the guitarist in me, playing in the key of E is a piece of cake. Playing in this key on alto saxophone means I would be playing in the key of C sharp or D flat. I can tell you, playing in 7 sharps or 5 flats is a bit challenging.
After a few embarrassing solos I decided to make myself a better player in those keys. The way I did this was to force myself to play in the most difficult keys, the keys guitar players love. I did this every day for several weeks. The result was that I was much more confident and agile in my improvisations.

Through this process I came to the realization that these keys weren’t hard, they were just unfamiliar. Yes, there are some technical aspects of certain instruments that make some keys difficult to play. However, we generally are really good at things we do often and we struggle with those tasks we rarely take part in. The solutions is simple: make familiar those things that are unfamiliar.

Take this idea and give yourself a challenge: get used to being out of your comfort zone… be comfortable thinking outside of the box. Start simple by playing major and minor scales in the keys you find most difficult. You can then move on to arpeggios and other scales and modes. You will be surprised that it doesn’t take very long to see a noticeable improvement.

If you have any questions or would like to sign up for private lessons contact The Marion Music Academy at 319-377-3343.

David-Arnold.jpgA graduate of Luther College, David Arnold has been providing high quality private music lessons to students of all ages for over 15 years. His specialties include saxophone, guitar, and bass guitar. Drawing upon his diverse musical background, David provides a unique experience that merges his formal training in music with his professional performance experiences. Students will learn to be confident, well rounded musicians that are capable of performing in a wide array of musical settings.