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IFR Staircase exercise with half steps

In IFR Exercise 1: Landscape, one of our very first exercises is to move around the musical terrain by any given interval. We call this exercise "Staircase" to remind us of the image of a child playing on a staircase. As you practice Staircase, try to maintain this spirit of playfulness and creativity in your movement.

In this video Miguel 'Pintxo' Villar demonstrates the exercise on the tenor saxophone using the interval of the half step.

The three levels of the Staircase exercise:

1) Sound production. In your first experiences you should not be thinking about connecting the notes together yet. Just relax and enjoy creating a beautiful sound with each note in your musical range. Explore your entire palette of colors with each note: attack, sustain, volume, vibrato, decay, etc. There are so many sounds that you can create with a single note, and the physical demands of creating these sounds are subtly different for each note. So take time to experiment with your sound production at each note in your musical range.

2) Melodic phrases. In the same relaxed way that you have been exploring the sound possibilities for each note, now you can practice expressing short phrases that string together several notes. Again you want to keep your focus on producing a beautiful and expressive sound. Don't be in a hurry to develop an inventory of clever phrases. That will only lead to empty, uninspired playing. Give your full attention to each note that you play and strive to make each phrase expressive and beautiful.

3) Challenging yourself. Try committing to short rhythmic patterns that you can repeat from different starting notes. This forces you to think quickly and solve musical problems that might never come up if you were playing more freely. When we improvise melodies freely, our minds naturally avoid phrases that we're not sure how to execute. So it's easy to fall into the trap of only practicing what we already know how to play. When you commit to a pattern that you are going to repeat at different places in your musical range, it gives you a challenge that you need to think through and solve. So this is a great way to make sure your skills continue to grow as you practice.

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