I am obsessed with shakuhachi and practice 3 hours daily. Conventional wisdom has it that "mastery" level of anything requires a minimum of 10,000 hours of focused practice. That means 3 hours a day for 10 years. If you want to reach mastery level in 5 years, that means 6 hours a day of practice. I wish I had the time.
Some years ago I started wondering what my saxophone colleagues were practicing; I was looking for inspiration and new ideas. I also thought it would be helpful to collect these exercises and make them into a book, so other players could benefit as well.
The book is called Practice Like The Pros and it was published by one of the top music publishers worldwide, Music Sales Corp., and distributed by Hal Leonard. Twenty years later the book is still in print and still selling, an unusual feat. People still write to me and ask about the exercise I present, the Shadow Tone. The other 19 saxophonists featured in the book are from both the jazz and classical worlds, and they all have unique takes on practicing that are not only notated, but also played by them and elaborated upon in the accompanying CD. It's like getting a private lesson with 20 different great sax players.
I'm very proud of this book, and it also gave me a lot of satisfaction to dedicate it to the memory of two great saxophonists who passed away at a young age: Thomas Chapin and Manny Boyd. Since the publication of the book, we have also lost the great Sam Furnace.
The Amazon reviews for the book are hysterical....they range from "Not for Beginners" to "Great for Beginners." Well, all I can say is if any player thinks that these exercises from the most working sax players in New York who also teach and tour worldwide is not worth their time, then I wonder how successful they will be in their career.
We should also mention the importance of not forgetting about basics like longtones. Longtones are the foundation of any woodwind instrument. On the shakuhachi, we call it "ro-buki" and "sasa-buki", when we do extensive cycles of playing the ro, the lowest note, and then the other pentatonics all the way to the top.
I have lots of cool ideas for practicing and I write them down as they occur to me (while I'm practicing!) so no doubt a future practice book is in the offing....but this one will be all my own exercises rather than contributions from different players.