Exercises for First-Position Play
Here are three exercises that will improve and refine your first-position play. First try a breathing exercise. More than any other position, first position demands that you be economical with your air because you're playing mainly blow notes. Try this: switch back and forth between playing a couple of single notes and then a chord. Make sure you're getting a full-sounding volume, but then focus on using the least amount of air pressure possible to maintain that volume. You'll realize how much excess air you normally use and how much longer you can play on the same breath if you're breathing from your diaphragm and conserving air.
This five-step tongue-slapping exercise will rapidly increase the accuracy of your tongue-slapping skills.
Using holes 4-5-6-7, play a single note on hole 7 blow while tongue-blocking holes 4, 5, and 6.
Switch to playing the octave holes 4 and 7 blow while tongue-blocking holes 5 and 6.
Play the whole chord 4-5-6-7 blow.
Switch back to playing the octave holes 4 and 7 blow while tongue-blocking holes 5 and 6.
Play the single note on hole 7 blow while tongue-blocking holes 4, 5, and 6.
Start slowly with each step until you can move from one to another cleanly, and then start speeding the exercise up.
Finally, here is an octave jumping exercise. Try this series of notes:
6 blow – 5 blow – 4 blow – 7 blow
The skill you're developing here is the octave jump from 4 blow to 7 blow. If you're not hitting the 7 blow cleanly when you jump, listen for whether it's the note above or the note below that's creeping in, and adjust the amount of your shift accordingly. You can also play this exercise using holes 3-2-1-4 and using holes 9-8-7-10.