Playing the saxophone well requires good hand coordination (i.e. for jazz improvisation, or for playing classical etudes) and good hand-eye coordination (i.e. for sight-reading jazz charts, or for sight-reading classical music pieces). Typing is an excellent skill that develops hand-eye coordination, and I believe that taking typing lessons can be a helpful tool for saxophone players. Klavaro is a completely free and open-source touch typing tutor program that is available for Linux, Windows, and BSD (e.g. FreeBSD, OpenBSD etc.). I practice my typing on Klavaro for a few minutes every day to improve my hand-eye-coordination, which in turn makes me a better saxophone player.
Getting Started with Klavaro
Figure 1 below shows how a basic course looks in Klavaro. Klavaro has a variety of courses for every skill level, from very basic to very advanced. I personally run Klavaro on Pop!_OS 20.10 Linux which is my daily driver on my main computer. However, you can also download Klavaro for free if your system runs Windows. Just Google “Klavaro for Windows”, and you’ll see a link in the results to download Klavaro from Sourceforge.net. On Pop!_OS 20.10, I simply download and install Klavaro from the default repositories.
Figure 1: Klavaro
Why Do I Practice with Klavaro? Why Not Just Practice Sight-Reading?
My musical heroes, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Hazel Scott, Stan Levey, and many more, were all Renaissance People: they built their brain-power by exposure to a very broad range of stimuli. For example, Charlie Parker starting riding a horse at a very young age. A very famous picture of a young Charlie Parker riding a horse is here.
Famed alto saxophonist Vincent Herring loves to play chess.
The key takeaway: all work and no play makes Jack or Jill a very dull boy or girl. Sitting at home all day practicing scales will make a person a great scales player, not a great musician. It appears that becoming a great musician involves stimulating the brain with a wide range of stimuli: sight-reading, improvisation, typing, sports, writing, painting etc. The more broad the stimuli that you expose your brain to, the more creative you will become as a musician.
Constantly Go Back to Square One
As you become a very competent saxophone player, it is tempting to bask in the glory of being a great musician. However, I think that a better approach is to constantly expose yourself to things at which you are a complete novice. If you become a great saxophone player, then start over again on the piano: go back to level 0. Continue to practice your saxophone as you add the piano to your repertoire. Saxophone great Michael Brecker was also a very competent drummer, flutist, and clarinetist. Throughout his life, he remained very humble, and he continued to take saxophone lessons, even when society labeled him a “saxophone superstar”. Stay humble, and always be willing to go back to square one, and be willing to be very bad at something again. Then commit to continuous improvement in the new endeavors. For example, if you are a great saxophonist, but a terrible athlete, take up tennis, and transfer the discipline that you learn on the tennis court to your saxophone practice.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this article!