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Thread: How to Play the Saxophone

  1. #1
    Registered User Doghouse Riley's Avatar
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    How to Play the Saxophone

    I pinched this from the "Sax on the Web" message board a few years back.

    "It has been a great deal of help to me."


    Question:

    Hi, is there someone who can give me some directions about playing the sax? I've just purchased one and would love to know how to play it. Some helpful weblinks would also be great!

    Answer:



    First things first. If you're a white guy, you'll need a stupid hat, the stupider the better, preferably a beret. Sunglasses are optional, but all the really really good players wear them, especially indoors.

    You'll also need some "gig shirts" -- Hawaiians are good, in a pinch anything with a loud floral pattern is acceptable, as are T-shirts from various jazz clubs and festivals. Get them mail order, so you don't have to go to all the trouble of actually seeing live music. And sandals are an absolute must, even in winter.

    Once you've assembled the proper attire you can begin practicing.

    One of the most important things about playing is being able to convey emotion to the audience. This you do through various facial expressions. The two emotions you'll need to convey are (1) rapture/ecstasy and (2) soul wrenching pain/sadness (i. e., the blues).

    You may find it useful in the beginning to borrow a page from the method acting school. So, for example, to convey rapture try thinking of something nice, like puppy dogs or getting a kiss from Uma Thurman while Phil Barone feeds you Armour hot dogs with truffle sauce.

    To convey the "blues" try thinking of something really really appalling, like ulcerative colitis or Alec Baldwin. Practice your facial expressions in front of a mirror at least two hours per day. You may feel a tad stupid at first, but you'll never get the chicks if you don't jump around on stage like a monkey with your face all screwed up like there's a rabid wolverine in your colon, believe you me. And bottom line, chicks is really what music's all about.

    Next, you'll need the correct ligature. Some people think that the ligature is just a stupid piece of old metal that holds the reed on the mouthpiece.

    Well, those people are idiots. Besides your beret, your ligature is the single most important piece of musical equipment you will ever buy. Mine, for example, is 40% platinum and 60% titanium; one screw is rubidium and the other plutonium. It makes me sound exactly like Booker Ervin would if Booker Ervin were (1) not dead and (2) on Mars, if (2)(a) there was oxygen on Mars.

    You may have to spend years and years and thousands of dollars finding the proper ligature, but in the end it will definitely be worth it.

    Now: reeds. Optimally you'll want to move to the South of France, grow and cure your own cane and carve your own reeds by hand. If you're just a "weekend warrior" however, you can get by with store-bought. First, buy ten boxes of reeds, that's 100 in all. Next, open all the boxes and throw away 60 reeds. Those were unplayable. Take the remaining reeds and soak them in a mixture of
    27.8% rubbing alcohol and 72.2% pituitary gland extract for a period of 17weeks.

    Throw away 20 more reeds. Those were stuffy. Take the remaining 20 reeds and sand each one for exactly 13 seconds with #1200 grade 3M sandpaper. Throw away 14 reeds. Those squeaked. Take the remaining
    6 reeds and soak them for another 17 weeks, this time however in a mixture of 27.8% pituitary gland extract and 72.2% rubbing alcohol. Sun dry the 6 remaining reeds for 3 weeks, optimally at an equatorial latitude, and throw away 3 more just on general principles. You now have 3 reeds that will last you several months if you play each one only 20 minutes a day in strict rotation.

    Now, you say you just bought a horn. Although you didn't say what kind it is, I'd sell it immediately and get a different one. The best one to get would be a Selmer Mark VI made at 4:27 PM on June
    14, 1963, serial number 135543. If you can't get that one though, generally speaking the older and more expensive the better. The following brands are good: Selmer Paris Mark VI.

    The following brands suck: any other Selmer, Yamaha, Conn, Beuscher, Yanigasawa, Cannonball, LA, Jupiter, Elkhart, King, Martin, Keilworth, Boosey and Hawkes, Couf, Silvertone, and Holton.

    On no account should you play the horn before you buy it: go strictly on reputation and price. If you can't get a Selmer Mark VI and need further information, there's some broad in here who's owned every freaking saxophone ever made, Sherry or Sheryl or something, she can probably tell you which one's the best.

    You will also need some accoutrements: a flight case capable of withstanding atmospheric pressure of dP = - Dg dz where D and g are, respectively, the density of air and the acceleration due to gravity at the altitude of the air layer and dz is a horizontal layer of air having unit surface area and infinitesimal thickness; a metronome; a tuner; a combination alto, tenor, and baritone sax stand with pegs for oboe, bass clarinet, flute, English horn and bassoon; Band in a Box; every Jamie Abersold play-along record ever pressed; a reed cutter; swabs, cleaners, pad savers, pad dope, pad clamps; a Sennheiser Digital 1092 Wireless Microphone; an effects rig with digital delay and parametric EQ; and a 200 watt per channel (minimum) amplifier with 18" monitor.

    It will be suggested that it's helpful if you listen to lots of sax players. Unfortunately, listening to players you like is the worst thing you can do. To really understand the music and its traditions, you have to go back to the beginning and work forward. I'd start with madrigals and listen to every note of music ever recorded. Once you get to the 20th century, pay particular attention to Jimmy Dorsey and Sidney Bechet, the wellsprings of the modern jazz saxophone. In no time at all, or by 2034, whichever comes first, you'll be able to understand the unique be-bop stylings of players like Ace Cannon, Boots Randolph and Grover Washington Jr.

    Oh, yeah. To play the sax itself, blow in the small end and wiggle your fingers a little.
    "I don't mind if you don't like my manners!
    I don't like 'em myself, they're pretty bad.
    I grieve over them on long winter evenings."

  2. #2
    musician Jeff Smith's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Doghouse Riley View Post
    I pinched this from the "Sax on the Web" message board a few years back.
    Was it funny back then?

  3. #3
    Registered User Doghouse Riley's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Smith View Post
    Was it funny back then?
    It was to sax players with a sense of humour, I guess this leaves you out?
    "I don't mind if you don't like my manners!
    I don't like 'em myself, they're pretty bad.
    I grieve over them on long winter evenings."

  4. #4
    Registered User Itsme's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Doghouse Riley View Post
    I pinched this from the "Sax on the Web" message board a few years back.


    PMSL

    and yes I do play sax.
    Album " Sneaky Pants"

    http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/chrisknowlesmikemilillo

  5. #5
    Registered User Doghouse Riley's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Itsme View Post
    PMSL

    and yes I do play sax.
    I was intrigued that there was no mention of mouthpieces, (you tell me how many you have and I'll tell you mine).
    I think it ably demonstrates the condition of GAS, from which many sax players suffer.






    "Gear Acquisition Syndrome."
    "I don't mind if you don't like my manners!
    I don't like 'em myself, they're pretty bad.
    I grieve over them on long winter evenings."

  6. #6
    Registered User Itsme's Avatar
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    GAS, Hmmm!!! Been there done that, perhaps some sax players have a well developed immune system ( common sense )?? A couple of sax's and a couple of mouthpieces..There now that should pacify some latent GAS tendencies for now. Came to the conclusion that I should learn to play well before finding fault in the sax. Therefore sparking off a GAS attack..Interesting first post though Dogster.

    Don't even mention reed preparation Arggggghhh!!! I knew this would happen.
    Just put the reed on the sax and play it..Its OK I feel better now..
    Album " Sneaky Pants"

    http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/chrisknowlesmikemilillo

  7. #7
    AAJ's Spammer Exterminator Tenorman's Avatar
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    If you think that Sax players are bad - talk to keen amateur photgraphers who can tell you the spec of every new bit of kit on the market - half of which they purchase and never use

    But that reply is very funny -- Did the original poster ever come back?

    Birth Controller to the Jazz Community. (click on the underlined text for more information)

  8. #8
    Registered User Doghouse Riley's Avatar
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    Here's the latest post from 2009.
    Further references and a link to a previous topic on the same board and even back to a saxophone message board elsewhere in 2006. It was suggested that they were two actual postings from the saxophone alt.news group:

    http://forum.saxontheweb.net/showthr...fingers+little.

    This forum is run by Harrie Rautiainen a musical instrument shop owner in Las Vegas.

    It has 39,000 members of whom over 6,000 are active and always a lot of guests.
    As I type, it has about 500 people on line, but during the evenings in the USA there can be as many as 1,000 or more. The most on-line was in June this year, just short of 12,000.

    Must be a lot of out of work sax players.

    As they say;

    "How do you recognise a professional sax player's car?

    It's the one with the pizza delivery sign on the top."
    "I don't mind if you don't like my manners!
    I don't like 'em myself, they're pretty bad.
    I grieve over them on long winter evenings."

  9. #9
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    I've had a few experiences with picking up the sax. One thing I've learned, you must have a really good sound! I've really worked on my sound and found the type of sound I want by using shadow tones.

  10. #10
    Registered User Doghouse Riley's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aquatist View Post
    I've had a few experiences with picking up the sax. One thing I've learned, you must have a really good sound! I've really worked on my sound and found the type of sound I want by using shadow tones.
    This is so true, the "blowing in the small end and wiggling your fingers a bit" is the "easy part" much due to the refined ergonomics of the instrument.

    But tone is a different matter, it's finding the right combination of reed, mouthpiece and ligature with which you are most comfortable. The endless practice of long tones, which can be tedious for some.
    It can be years before you are really comfortable with your own tone. On the journey you can also several times go through the alternate stages of being satisfied with it or completely hating it.
    "I don't mind if you don't like my manners!
    I don't like 'em myself, they're pretty bad.
    I grieve over them on long winter evenings."

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