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Introduction

Mark Sepinuck has been collecting and selling vintage mouthpieces and saxophones for over 30+ years. Over the past few years, Mark decided to come out with his own line of mouthpieces since he was not entirely happy with the vintage/modern mouthpieces available on the market today.

His goal was to create a mouthpiece that suited him as well as a mouthpiece he believes many other saxophonists would enjoy. The 10mFan mouthpieces that Mark has introduced over the past 5+ years include:

  • Robusto (T)
  • The Classic (T)
  • Merlot (T)
  • Showtime (T)
  • Black-Widow (T)
  • The Boss (T)
  • Daddy-O (A)
  • Showboat (A).

Of note is the fact that there will be metal versions of his tenor mouthpieces in the near future (and may already be out by the time you’re reading this).

Recently, Mark has been working with a new mouthpiece maker to produce his line of mouthpieces with some further updates that are different from his original models. Mark was nice enough to send me a 10mFan Robusto 7 as well as The Classic 7 to test play. I will be reviewing each mouthpiece on tone, response, intonation, quality, and my overall thoughts.

10mFan Classic Mouthpiece (7)

Product Overview

Mark describes The Classic as a mouthpiece which is focused and warm but also incredibly flexible at any dynamic level with an even sound from top to bottom.With the recent updates, the new Classic model has a facing length measuring 50 for a 6*, 7, and 7* tip openings which Mark feels will further enhance, the warmth, core, and flexibility of The Classic design. In comparison to the Robusto, The Classic showcases a higher floor, a shorter and lower baffle, super scooped-out side walls, and an oval shaped chamber. In addition, the new Classic now contains wider tip rails which are not as thin as the previous model resulting in a better alignment with the reed and table of the mouthpiece.

Tone & Response

As Mark described The Classic had a warm focused sound that did not lean towards the dark or bright side but right in the middle in my opinion. I will say by trying different reed brands, strengths, and cuts did have an overall effect on the sound leaning towards the brighter or darker side. I was using a Boston Sax Shop 2.5 reed which is Rigotti cane with a different cut that leans towards the darker side of the sound spectrum.

I found The Classic could have edge to the sound when pushed, but maintained a very clean and focused sound from low Bb into the altissimo range. The Classic response was immediate and free-blowing. In comparison to some of the other previous 10mFan models I have tried in the past, I believe the new facing length provides a little bit more resistance to push against which is something I believe many players will enjoy because sometimes if a mouthpiece is too free-blowing it makes it a bit more difficult to control at various dynamic levels.

Intonation

The intonation was great. From low Bb to the altissimo range I had no problem adjusting to The Classic. I was very surprised how easy it was to play in the altissimo range with little to no adjustment from my current Slant hard rubber link as well as maintain the note in tune.

Quality

The Classic is made from high quality German bar stock hard rubber. When I looked at the tip, rails, and table, they all looked clean, even, and I did not notice any blemishes or irregularities. I did notice the table, rails, and inside of the mouthpiece was not buffed which showed the hand finishing that was done. As per Mark, each of his mouthpiece designs are “saved on the computer, cut by CNC  precision machined for complete accuracy, and hand finished one at a time” which ensures a consistent mouthpiece.

Overall Thoughts

I really enjoyed playing the 10mFan The Classic tenor mouthpiece. I found The Classic embodied some of tone and focus characteristics that I find on my Slant Link while offering much more flexibility and really projecting when playing at various dynamic levels. The overall flexibility and projection of The Classic are characteristics that really stood out to me with The Classic as well as The Robusto mouthpieces.

I will say that if you are coming from vintage metal or hard rubber Link and are looking for a copy, The Classic might not be the right fit for you. With that being said, if you are open to a mouthpiece that embodies many of those characteristics found in a classic link and other vintage hard rubber mouthpieces but are also looking for much more projection and flexibility, The Classic could be the right mouthpiece for you.

Sound Clip

Equipment

  • Saxophone: Lupifaro Platinum Tenor
  • Ligature: Marc Jean Ligature or Vintage metal two screw ligature
  • Reeds: Boston Sax Shop 2.5 (T)
  • Mouthpiece: The Classic (7)
https://www.bestsaxophonewebsiteever.com/wp-content/uploads/The-Classic-1.wav 10mFan Robusto Mouthpiece (7)

Product Overview

In addition to testing out The Classic model, Mark sent me the Robusto model in a 7 tip opening. Mark designed the Robusto as his own personal mouthpiece and describes the Robusto as a hard rubber mouthpiece that contains a “spread, fat, warm, and punchy sound with a sizzle when pushed.” In comparison to The Classic, the Robusto has a medium height baffle with straight side walls and the floor drops after the baffle into a round chamber.

Tone & Response

When speaking with Mark about my current setup, he told me that I would prefer The Classic model but wanted me to try the Robusto to see what I thought. Mark’s description of the Robusto is spot-on. The Robusto had a spread fat sound that could be warm as well as edgy when pushed. Similar to The Classic, sonically speaking, I found the Robusto fell right into the middle of the sound spectrum, but I also believe that using a different reed and ligature combination could brighten or darken the overall sound. Like The Classic, I test-played the Robusto with a Boston Sax Shop 2.5 reed.

The biggest difference I noticed between the Robusto and The Classic was the overall response. The Robusto seemed to project even more than the Classic when pushed and I found that the overall sound was much more spread than focused, but depending on your playing style, the Robusto can play with a focused sound. In addition, on the Robusto, I found that the sound was a bit brighter in the upper stack than on The Classic and could really project and cut  while playing into the altissimo range.

Intonation

Similar to The Classic, the Robusto’s intonation was great. From low Bb to the altissimo range I had no problem adjusting to the Robusto.

Quality

Similar to The Classic, the Robusto is made from high quality German bar stock hard rubber. When I looked at the tip, rails, and table, they all looked clean, even, and I did not notice any blemishes or irregularities. The Robusto’s tip, rails, and table looked clean, even, and I did not notice any blemishes or irregularities. As was the case with The Classic, I did notice the table, rails, and inside of the mouthpiece was not buffed, which showed the hand finishing that was done.

Overall Thoughts

The Robusto is a great mouthpiece. From the tone, response, and intonation, the Robusto provides the player a lot of flexibility from a dynamic standpoint as well just sheer projection when pushed. I would recommend those players looking for a spread, fat, and punchy sound (Mark says to think of Gene Ammons) to consider checking out the Robusto.

Sound Clip

Equipment

  • Saxophone: Lupifaro Platinum Tenor
  • Ligature: Marc Jean Ligature or Vintage metal two screw ligature
  • Reeds: Boston Sax Shop 2.5 (T)
  • Mouthpiece: Robusto (7)
https://www.bestsaxophonewebsiteever.com/wp-content/uploads/The-Robusto.wav My Final Thoughts

I would like to thank Mark Sepinuck for sending me his 10mFan The Classic and Robusto tenor saxophone mouthpieces to try out. I really like the recent updates that Mark has made to each of these models and think many players will feel the same. With that being said, overall, I preferred The Classic over the Robusto in terms of its playing characteristics, as they suited me best.

After checking out The Classic and Robusto, I still see myself playing my vintage Slant Link, but what’s important to note is that the 10mFan line of mouthpieces were not designed to be copies or modified versions of a vintage Link, Dukoff, Meyer, Freddie Gregory, Berg, Selmer, etc., but as truly original designs that stand on their own.

If you are looking for a Link or Meyer copy, Mark’s mouthpieces might not be the right fit for you. However, after play-testing The Classic and Robusto, these 10mFan mouthpieces have a lot to offer in terms of dynamic range and flexibility which are areas in which I believe many of the classic vintage mouthpieces & many modern mouthpieces fall short.

Again, I would like to thank Mark for sending me The Classic and Robusto mouthpieces to review, and I am excited to try out  the new models that Mark has in store for the near future.

10mFan Website: https://10mfan.com/

Sale Happening Now

6th Anniversary “THANK YOU” sale! July 1st – July 31st, 2019

The post Do 10MFAN Mouthpieces Live Up to their Mission of “Innovation Over Imitation”? appeared first on Best. Saxophone. Website. Ever..

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Playing the saxophone requires a lot of practice and repetition if you want to be the best. Warmups are a big part of keeping your muscle memory sharp and increasing your lung capacity so that you can play better, for longer. Doing saxophone warmups and practice exercises before performing also help to focus your mind and get you in the right headspace for playing music.

Breathing Exercises for Saxophone

Many musicians who play wind instruments like the saxophone do not realize how important breathing correctly is to proper fundamental techniques. Saxophonists need to master airstream focus and breath control to improve quality of tone, pitch, intonation stability, volume, and flexibility. Saxophone players should start every practice session with breathing exercises, much like an athlete stretches before a game.

When you are doing breathing exercises, you should sit upward, maintaining good posture on the edge of a chair. Make sure your feet are flat on the floor and relax your neck, shoulders, and abdomen. Your hands can rest in your lap. You should always be breathing through your mouth, not your nose, try to be conscious of this as you are completing the exercises.

Breathing Exercise for slow tempo:

  • Inhale deeply for two full counts so that your lungs are as full of air as possible
  • Exhale as a hiss, pushing out with your diaphragm for four counts
  • Repeat six times

Breathing Exercise for Medium Tempo:

  • Inhale deeply for two full counts so that your lungs are as full of air as possible
  • Exhale as a hiss, pushing out with your diaphragm for six counts
  • Repeat six times

Breathing Exercise for Expanding Lung Capacity

  • Inhale deeply for eight full counts so that your lungs are as full of air as possible
  • Hold the breath in your lungs for two counts
  • Take a sharp inhale and hold all of the air without exhaling any for one count
  • Take a second sharp inhale and hold for one count
  • Take a third sharp inhale and hold for one count
  • Exhale slowly for eight count
  • Repeat three times

When you are practicing breathing techniques, it is essential to keep in mind that pushing yourself to feel dizzy, or sick while breathing is not a good thing. If breathing deeply and filling your lungs causes you pain or makes you lightheaded, discontinue the exercises, and consult with your doctor.

Finger Training Exercises

Finger training exercises are important because they help musicians build their muscle memory and help you to play faster, accurately, and with better technique. Use sheet music to practice finger training exercises but try to memorize the music so that your practicing also works on your brain/hand coordination.

Finger training exercise without the saxophone:

  • Put your palms down flat on the table (you can practice with one hand at a time if you need to)
  • Lift your fingers one by one
  • Next, lift them in pairs 1 & 3, 2 & 4, 1 & 2, 3 & 4, 2 & 3, 1 & 4
  • Next, left them in threes, 123, 234, 134, 124
  • Repeat this rotation three times

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD A MORE READABLE AND PRINT-FRIENDLY VERSION OF THE FOLLOWING SHEET MUSIC EXAMPLES

This fingering exercise is a pattern that was used by John Coltrane:

This fingering exercise features easy triads that ascend and descend chromatically but to master this fingering exercise; you need to focus on playing fluidly and evenly. Start slower and work your way to faster tempos.

This saxophone fingering technique features a triad arpeggio and when played at fast tempos can but played in any chord so long as you end on a chord note. This type of fingering exercise can help to create tension in a piece of music.

Exercises for Tone and Sound

Tone refers to the raw tone that is produced when you blow into a saxophone. The tone is measured in frequencies. Sound is the way the tone sounds based on the way that specific saxophone player is playing the instrument. Sounds can change based on vibrato, pitch, articulation, or dynamics. Great saxophone players have great tone and a unique sound, but controlling both tone and sound are key when it comes to practicing. You should also focus on pieces that have long notes to perfect your tone.

Keep in mind that you need a specific type of saxophone and mouthpiece to achieve certain sounds. The alto saxophone and tenor saxophones will sound completely different, even while playing the same piece because the alto sax is an Eb instrument whereas the tenor sax is half an octave lower in Bb. This is why it is also important to make sure your sheet music was written for the specific type of saxophone you are playing.

Most people think about a tenor saxophone’s sound when they think about saxophones because of its long history in jazz music and rock ‘n’ roll. Alto saxophones are usually best for beginners because they are smaller in size with a smaller mouthpiece.

Very experienced saxophonists sometimes go on to learn the soprano saxophone which is also a Bb instrument but is the highest pitch of all types of saxophones. Soprano saxophones will vary in sound and tone depending on if the saxophone is straight or curved.

The largest and lowest pitched saxophone is the baritone saxophone. This large sax is probably the least common but is sometimes highlighted in jazz solos. The baritone saxophone is so large that musicians have to wear a harness while playing. This instrument can also reach the key of Eb when an extension is added.

Basic chromatic scales are great to practice for tone. Beginners should start by mastering and memorizing the Bb scale. If you have time, play the chromatic scale, holding each note for as long as you can without losing breath or losing the quality of tone.

Once you have mastered holding out long tones with proper tone and sound, start practicing your scales using volume dynamics. Start each note quietly and increase the volume, then decrease back to quiet while maintaining the quality of tone. You can also start the note loud, decrease the volume, then increase it again back to loud.

Conclusion

Focusing on your breathing techniques, finger training, and exercises that help you perfect your tone and play your saxophone flawlessly will help you to develop a sound that is unique to you as a saxophonist. Developing your own personal sound will help you to stand out in the jazz scene and make a name for yourself.

If you want to read more interesting information check website – consordini.com, or if you prefer too watch instead of reading check his youtube channel – https://www.youtube.com/c/ConsordiniMusicalinstruments

The post Basic Saxophone Warmups and Practice Exercises appeared first on Best. Saxophone. Website. Ever..

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Like many of you I’m sure, my first loves on jazz saxophone were people like Charlie Parker, Cannonball Adderley, Phil Woods, Stan Getz, John Coltrane, Hank Mobley, Joe Lovano, Michael Brecker, etc…. you get the idea – the modern lineage that I connected to easily and shaped this music that we love.

I immediately wanted to play the songs they played, spent thousands of hours listening, studying and playing transcriptions, running patterns, learning how to navigate relatively complex chord progressions and also play both “inside” and “outside” the tonality over modal progressions as well.

What I didn’t realize was that the music these greats play and their approach to playing was steeped in a language that was much simpler in origin. I was learning in a backwards way, starting with the complex, and had to start to dig deep in order to discover the roots of the music I so loved.

Why the Easiest Changes Are The Hardest to Play Over

As I first swam through the freelance scene in NYC taking any gigs I could possibly get, I remember being terrified on some of my first Latin, pop, early jazz and even bluegrass gigs when having to solo over very few and extremely simple chord changes, sometimes in fact just a tonic and a dominant chord. My first reaction was often “This is baby stuff – how am I supposed to create something interesting here?” It felt so much easier to plow through the changes of Confirmation, Stablemates or Airegin than play over this.

However, after a lot of embarrassing moments and some a great deal of practice and study at home, I not only grew more comfortable over these barebones progressions, but they became a core part of my practice over the years and a key to unlocking a vocabulary that now informs everything I do today.

Applying Complexity to Simplicity

Dig deep enough, and there are endless possibilities for both simple melody and voice-leading, but also endless chromaticism within these progressions. Dig into early jazz or Latin music and you’ll hear the magic that was created within them, and it’s also interesting to find recordings of the more modern jazz and bebop greats playing over simple material like this. For starters, check out Charlie Parker’s forays in Latin Jazz, or Sonny Rollins playing over the Calypsos of his Caribbean heritage.

Below you’ll find two samples of jazz and bebop inflected lines over a simple I-V-V-I progression in both C Major and C minor.

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD A PRINT-FRIENDLY PDF OF I-V-V-I (Major Key)

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD A PRINT-FRIENDLY PDF OF I-V-V-I (Minor Key)

Use them as a starting off point for your own improvising, and depending on your level, feel free to write your own lines. Make up or grab some other ultra-simple progressions from things you like and start to fly.

As always, work your way through all the keys – make all of them feel as comfortable and easy as C Major!

I’m always eager to hear your thoughts, so please feel free to share them in the comment section below.

Learn with and Listen to Sam

Sam Sadigursky is currently offering online lessons through Skype and private lessons in NYC. He has given improvisation clinics across the U.S., is a regular guest professor at Hunter College, and currently performs internationally with Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society, Folklore Urbano, and others. His new book, 12 INTERVALLIC ETUDES for Saxophone, is available here. His albums can be purchased at http://samsadigursky.bandcamp.com. To find out more, visit SamSadigursky.com.

The post Overcoming the Challenge of Soloing Over Simple Chord Progressions appeared first on Best. Saxophone. Website. Ever..

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Photo by Terry Madeley

I know I’m not the only guy out there who loves to futz around the music store, trying the latest gear, wanting to play a different horn or a different mouthpiece, looking for that edge – that mystical “something” in the sound that just gives me that little “extra boost” toward sound nirvana.

But if you’re anything like me, you know how easy it is to slide into a rabbit hole searching for that perfect gizmo that leads to the “holy grail” of the ultimate saxophone setup. Unfortunately, it is all too easy to fall into a trap here, similar to the kind of traps that unwary exercise enthusiasts fall into in their pursuit of the perfect pill that will make everything right.

Don’t get me wrong. In the gym, supplements help. They can make a big difference. But in the end, you’ll never get to the desired result without some sweat. No pill can do all the work for you.

It’s the same with your setup on your sax. Like the gym and the pills, there are wide differences between mouthpieces, reeds and even ligatures that really can make differences in your sound. And some of these differences can be significant. And finding the right setup is important because these real differences can boost your confidence and, therefore, improve the way you play.

If you do your homework and you test new gear the right way, it can definitely get you further in the direction of the ultimate sound. But I have boxes of proof at home – several small boxes filled with mouthpieces, reeds and ligatures – that are a testament to the fact that if finding the exact right mouthpiece, reed or ligature was the whole answer, I could have likely quit looking before filling the first box. Good gear makes a difference. But before you go shopping (again, because you still didn’t find “perfect” the last time) you need to think about a few things.

If you think new gear might help, here are some things to consider.

I’ve written articles elsewhere about things to think about when shopping for new gear. If you’re curious, I’ve shared my thoughts on one of my sites about things to keep in mind when looking for a new mouthpiece or a new ligature. But my thoughts don’t have as much to do with the shape of the baffle in the mouthpiece or the style of ligature so much as they have to do with all the other stuff you need to think about when you’re shopping for new gear.

And quite honestly, a lot of these thoughts have to do with giving you a healthy caution about shopping at all. Here are some things to think about before you run to the music store again when you should perhaps be putting in an extra hour in the shed, trying to get that sound out of what you already have.

Here is a list of things you should keep in mind when you’re considering a search for a new mouthpiece or a different ligature or brand of reed.

1 – Those different mouthpieces and ligatures definitely do (sometimes) make a difference in the sound of the horn.

This is one of those things where opinions differ. Now, I don’t know many who would dispute that the different shape of the opening in the mouthpiece (size of chamber, height of baffle, etc.) make a difference in the sound. That seems pretty much a given.

But I know there are some people out there who swear by that different ligature. And yet, there are others who have videos out there saying that they don’t make any difference in the sound of the horn. My experience is that the differences might be subtle, but they are real. And sometimes, that little bit makes a difference.

Just a word of wisdom here. If one person says there is no difference, and someone else says there is, then give the idea a chance that there might actually be a difference. Red and green might look the same to someone who is color blind. But that doesn’t mean red and green are the same color.

I’ve written quite a lengthy article on ligatures on my site, explaining how different ligatures attempt to hold the reed in different spots. And those differences are important enough that, for some people, it is noticeable. You might notice, too.

2 – Even if you don’t hear a difference, you might feel a difference. And that is sometimes just as important as a difference you hear.

Let me give you an example from personal experience.

I play a Cannonball tenor. I used to have a Buffet Super Dynaction and when I would go to different music stores trying different horns, I kept coming back to the same question: is it really worth it to me to shell out several thousands of dollars for this other horn? When it came to the Cannonball, I played 5 notes on the thing and for me, it was true love. For me, it was different enough that I wanted to shell out for one.

But here’s the thing. When I go to a music store and try a P. Mauriat, I’m often enticed to think about a trade. And the difference for me is not sound so much as feel.

Every time I try a Mauriat, there is this magic thing that happens (with my mouthpiece setup, anyway) with a feel I get. Specifically, I get some back-pressure with the Mauriat. Not everyone likes that. And my Cannonball is free-blowing like putting air through a fire hose. For me, that back-pressure is inspiring, in a way. But it might not appeal to you. You might not even notice it. But it is noticeable enough for me that it made me feel differently about how I played. (There are other reasons I’ve not made a trade yet. But that is for another article.)

The point is that for me, it isn’t a sound difference that I love about the Mauriat. But it’s a feel difference. And it is very real. And if that kind of difference inspires you, it will make you play differently. A subtle but real difference can affect your confidence and how you feel about your playing. And THAT makes you play differently.

3 – The differences might be subtle enough that you’re only going to hear the difference in a side-by-side comparison.

These subtle differences you might discern between mouthpieces or finishes on a horn or the like sometimes make a real net difference in how you play based on how it feels or sounds to you. And the sum of these differences might be worth a switch in what gear you use.

But then again, if you can’t hear or feel the differences without that “side-by-side comparison,” you should ask yourself if it is worth the switch.

Maybe these things are different for me now, as I approach 60 years of age. But years ago, I remember friends going to the stereo shop to listen to a song played on different sets of speakers to try to figure out which ones gave the sound they liked. I thought that was a worthwhile exercise back then.

Now, though, in my later years, I’ve come to realize that if I go to Best Buy and compare two different televisions and need to get up close and personal to the screen to be able to detect the difference in the picture, then it’s not likely worth twice the money (to me) for that subtle difference in the picture that I’ll never miss once I’m watching the black-and-white version of “It’s A Wonderful Life” at home with the grandkids.

But the difference might be important to you. And if you notice the difference, then you have to decide if that difference counts. If people listening don’t hear it, but you do, then how you hear yourself will affect how you feel about your sound. And that will affect how you play. And that might be worth the bucks. But you have to decide.

4 – While you might only detect the difference in a side-by-side comparison, you need to do the side-by-side comparison anyway.

The room you’re testing in will color your sound. And sometimes, the only way you’ll be able to detect the difference between your mouthpiece and that one you think is the magic bullet is to compare them side-by-side in the same room.

The room you’re in affects the sound so much that you might actually not even recognize your mouthpiece in that little room in the music store. It might be a practice room that is so dead you hate the way you sound no matter what you’re playing on. Or, it might be really bright or “reverby.” But unless you compare what you’re hearing to what you are already comfortable with, you might mistake a room difference for a mouthpiece or ligature (or horn) difference.

Play into the center of the room. Play facing a wall. Do it with the new setup and with your current setup for reference. Find the best and worst spots in that room, the best and worst volumes to play in that room. Do it with the new setup and your current setup.

And if you’re dealing with a quality dealer, they might let you take it on a trial basis. If they do, jump on the chance. Take it with you to a setting you’re familiar with. And stick with that dealer. They’re invested in making you happy. That’s worth some money right there. VALUE that relationship.

5 – Don’t neglect all the stuff that isn’t sound-related but is still important.

Does the mouthpiece only come in rainbow colors? Do those colors make you happy or annoy you? Does that ligature hold the reed perfectly but only until you try to move the mouthpiece to adjust for tuning? Does the cap that comes with that ligature have a flat bottom so you can stand it on the table top somewhere, or does it fall over? Is the mouthpiece so expensive you have to mortgage your aquarium to buy one? Is it cheap enough you could by two so you have a spare? Is it hand-finished to the point where it is pretty much “one of a kind?” Is the twin you’re buying for a spare a true twin or an “only close” relative, so that if you switch, it could throw you off in the middle of a gig?

Does that mouthpiece need a patch on top? Did you stock up on those? Did you try that mouthpiece with a fresh reed, or with one you’ve played forever on your old mouthpiece? And if you don’t think that could make a difference, do you realize that, in a way, your reed and mouthpiece get to “know each other” over time?

Is the mouthpiece quirky in any way? I will give you an example of what I’m referring to here. I play on an older version of a Jody Jazz mouthpiece. And although I’ve used others on and off, this one is a piece I’ve gone back to. But I have to watch it. For some reason, a tiny area of my inner lip will often get caught between the mouthpiece and the reed if I don’t get it on there just right. I hate when it happens, but I’ve learned how to set my reed up on this sucker to avoid it. As it turns out, the mouthpiece is slightly narrower on the outside further up the reed, and so I’ve learned that warped reeds which might be forgiving on other mouthpieces will actually give me this trouble on this one.

But I otherwise love the piece. So I stick with the piece and fix or pitch reeds when they won’t get along with my lip any more. The point is, lots of gear has quirks of one kind or another. But the idea is to get to know them and decide if the sound is worth the “bite.”

And it depends partly on quirks you might have. You see, if you’re the guy with only one leg, then you’re the guy who will really always only pay attention to the left shoe. Or the right. But see if anything jumps out at you as you’re trying stuff out. Quirks don’t have to be the end of the game. But they might be a game changer. You decide if it is what you want and what works for you. For you.

I can’t think of a lot of other examples of this, offhand. But test with a tuner. Play the notes and then look at the tuner. See if it goes sharp or flat easily with overblowing or in different ranges. Stuff like that. Does it let you move easily from high to low and still hit the notes in the lower register with ease? (Some mouthpieces will require more change in palate than others going between ranges. How is this mouthpiece, or reed, or ligature?) You get the idea.

6 – Never forget all that affects the sound that isn’t from your setup, but from how you play on that or any other setup.

There is something I don’t often hear brought up when talking about gear, but it is important to think about. Because if this is an issue for you and you don’t know it, you might end up with more than three small boxes of mouthpieces like I did before you realize why you wasted so much money.

Here, then, is the question: the important question you need to ask yourself is: “do I like my style?” That might seem like a funny question to think about when you’re evaluating your sound. But you might want to give some serious consideration to the real issue that you might be dealing with. Perhaps you don’t like what you sound like, no matter the gear, but it doesn’t have to do with tone so much as style.

I know that over the years, I’ve had to do a good hard re-think on my playing to realize that there are so many aspects to my sound that didn’t have as much to do with tone as they did with how sloppy my fingerings were, or how much I scooped (ad infinitum, ad nauseum). I had to take an honest evaluation of how often I played the same accents in my playing, or the same runs. Part of the problem I had was I was tired of hearing me. I had to change how I played and when I did, my gear started to “sound better.”

Maybe you’ve been here before. You find this amazing mouthpiece and it really gives you more of exactly that kind of difference in your sound you think you’ve been looking for. But after you’re playing that new piece for a while, you’re comparing it to what you were using before. You’re just not sure now. You go to the closet and pull out “the box.” You swap between the new piece you thought was the solution to your sound problem and the one you left behind in order to commit to the new one. And now here you are, once again, torn between two lovers.

And then, what’s even worse: you hear Jeff Kashiwa, or Euge Groove, or God help us all, Kirk Whalum, and wham! You hate the way you sound again, even with that new mouthpiece.

Maybe it’s not the sound, brother. Maybe it’s the way you play. Salt and sugar cover a multitude of sins in a bad kitchen. But every once in a while, when you eat at Ruth’s Chris or Hell’s Kitchen in NYC, then if you know anything about cooking at all, you know if your own cooking is not up to par.

Ditch the salt and sugar as the cure-all to everything. Learn to cook.

It’s the same with your playing. Do the hard work of listening to your style and seeing what in there is good and what you want to make different.

And when you’re evaluating the mouthpiece or the ligature, focus on the sound difference for what it is: it is only a part of the whole package.

7 – Don’t underestimate the reality that, in the end, your palate and the shape of your oral cavity affects your sound. And it will mark any gear you use with the marks of your unique “soundprint.”

My “go-to” guy to use as an example for saxophone sound is Kirk Whalum. There are a lot of amazing players out there. For me, Kirk Whalum is an outstanding saxophonist, and for me, most notably for his sound. He has this distinctive sound that I’ve often tried to emulate but have never been able to duplicate. Now, I’ve chased after his setup. I’ve tried to duplicate his hardware to get that sound. But it ain’t never ever happened for me.

What’s curious to me is that I’m aware he has changed his setup over the years. But he always still sounds like “Kirk.”

You see, like it or not, part of what shapes your sound is those unchangeable features built into your face and into your head, like the shape of your palate, your teeth, the size of your oral cavity and how your jaw moves. And if you don’t realize that at first, you need to accept it as a reality. (If you don’t believe that, then think for a minute about how you effectively get the low notes and hit the altissimo more easily as you shape your oral cavity by how you shape your tongue. If changing the location of your tongue affects these things, then just realize it affects other components of the sound, too. Like it or not, to some extent, so does the rest of your mouth.)

The bottom line is, for better or for worse, to some extent, you are uniquely engineered to sound at least a wee little bit “unique” on that horn or any other. So you better learn to love that part of the sound that is you. Because your oral cavity is the only one you will ever get to use when you play.

And now for one last point.

8 – You don’t have to be married to your gear.

Perhaps a change is good and necessary. But like any good long-term relationship, you have to get past the first several dates and maybe even a fight or two to get to that place where you really get to know a person.

I say this because it is easy to hear something you like in that back room at the music store where you’re testing something out, but you don’t realize in the moment why you liked what you heard. Sometimes, you have to live with that new mouthpiece or ligature for a while to understand what quirks come with that new sound that wowed you.

I tried a piece last time I was in New York city at one of the many shops that does some excellent work in our saxophone universe. I purchased it, on a whim, on the prompting of my wife, who figured I should get myself a new toy. But it wasn’t until I got that sucker home that I discovered how to make it work for me. I didn’t think I liked the sound of it at first. But both my wife and the guy in the shop heard some of that “Kirk Whalum” grail I was after…

The funny thing is, though, I’ve come to realize that it’s a great piece for me for studio, but not so great for playing live. For some reason, this particular mouthpiece is very touchy for intonation. I find that if I’m playing it loud, it has a tendency to go flat. And I didn’t know it until I heard it on playback in a recording of a live gig. (Talk about embarrassing.) And so I realize that I love the sound of it, but I need to be in the right setting to really hear what I’m putting out so I don’t embarrass myself. Otherwise, I won’t use it live.

The point is that every mouthpiece is going to be a combination of qualities you like and things you maybe don’t like that come with it. But you might not find those things you don’t like until you’ve taken it through the loud and the soft, the high and the low, the altissimo, the studio and the stage.

And every piece is going to have consequences that go with the gains you bought it for. So learn that mouthpiece or that reed or that ligature.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not talking about spending hours to catalog the quirks. You don’t have to make getting to know your hardware a new project or anything. But be aware that every piece has tradeoffs that come with the qualities you like. Give it time for you to be comfortable with that setup. Learn what that setup will do to you in different situations. And once you’ve found the good and the bad, commit to make to most of the quirks. Decide that the things you love, you love so much that you know the juice is worth the squeeze.

The bottom line…

Get a rough idea of what you’re looking for. Go look for it. And if you try gear that you think should get you there, live with it for a while. Get used to it. And in the end, realize that the perfect setup isn’t a substitute for the woodshed. It should be seen as an easier way to get the wood chopped better.

A sharper axe always helps. But you still have to learn to swing it.

Jamie has a website called www.TameTheSax.com where he is developing resources specifically aimed at enabling the beginning or retuning player to be able to get back into the game of playing saxophone.

He also is working on a new site called www.WorshipWinds.com (and is looking to collaborate with other like-minded musicians) to develop resources for incorporating wind instruments into the mainstream of Christian praise and worship music.

For anyone interested, he has a CD available on iTunes, Amazon Music or on CD baby.

The post 8 Tips for Smart Spending on New Sax Gear appeared first on Best. Saxophone. Website. Ever..

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Wayne Shorter (photo by Chris Hakkens)

This article is a lesson that comes to us courtesy of world-renown saxophonist, Jon Gordon, and also appears in his book, Foundations for Improvisors.

For nearly all jazz improvisors, the chord progression that is most familiar is the two-five-one (ii-7, V7, I), which is the basis of be-bop harmony. However, as we learn to expand our harmonic knowledge, we learn that harmonies are not always easily defined (e.g. Wagner’s prelude to Tristan and Isolde), and often move in ways other than sub-dominant, dominant, tonic.

First, let’s try to review and understand a bit more about functional harmony. Subdominant refers to a chord, often a ii or IV chord, which leads to or sets up the dominant chord. The dominant chord, often a V7, is thought of as the one with the most tension and therefore, the most impetus towards the I chord, which is considered the release of that tension, and called the tonic. In classical terminology, if the IV chord resolves to the I, which is common in rock and blues, it’s called a Plagal cadence – and can also be thought of as the “Amen” cadence.

This idea of sub-dominant to dominant to tonic can be and often is expanded in many ways. For example, D7 will usually resolve to G (major or minor). However, in classical theory, if that D7 resolved to an E minor, it would be considered a deceptive cadence. Depending on the key center you’re coming from (in this case G), if that D7 resolved to Eb or C#, these would also be considered deceptive cadences, as would anything other than a resolution to G. Many of us have come across these kinds of harmonic sequences in the past, but perhaps used different language to think about them.

Obviously many tunes played by jazz musicians extend the ii-V’s for 4-8 measures before resolving them to a one chord. Tunes such as “Honeysuckle Rose”, and “Woody n’ You”.

Also, many pre be-bop era tunes did not rely as heavily on the ii-V-I progression and often simply cadenced V7 to I, or moved between various dominant chords. The traditional 12-bar blues is a perfect example of this, as is the tune “Limehouse Blues” or Jelly Roll Morton’s “Tiger Rag”.

But when you look at and analyze certain music written and played by jazz musicians, it expands the idea of functional harmony even further. Take some of Monk’s music for instance. “Epistrophy” stays on a I chord (minor) for the first four measures of the bridge after alternating dominant chords on the first two A-sections:

  • Db7 – D7 for 4 bars
  • Eb7 – E7 for 8 bars
  • Db7 – D7 for 4 bars.
Thelonious Monk "Epistrophy" (1957) - YouTube

You could also look at the first dominant chord in the A-section as the tonic, as we do on a blues, but the harmonic movement is very different in this case. Also pieces like”Skippy” and “Monk’s Dream” used dominant chords in a way that no one else did. (By the way, “Skippy” is a line written over a brilliantly re-harmonized set of changes that Monk wrote over “Tea for Two”.  And the dominant chords move one-per-beat towards the end of the last A-section. Very challenging to play on!)

Thelonius Monk - Skippy - YouTube

Miles Davis’ “So What”, which is simply D minor on the A-sections and Eb minor on the B-section, is a perfect example of what began to be called modal music, and shaped much of the music written and played from the late 50’s to the present time. A piece like “Epistrophy” might also be considered modal.

Other pieces by Miles, Bill Evans, Coltrane and others stretched and transcended the previous ideas of standard harmonic movement. Some tunes that I’d like you to learn that fit this category include “Naima”, “Inner Urge”, “So What” and “Impressions”. And in particular, Wayne Shorter’s “Iris”, “Nefertiti”, “Fall”, and “E.S.P”.

Miles Davis - Iris - YouTube

It’s not that tension and resolution are not taking place, obviously they are. However, these pieces are going about that process in ways that were not previously done. You will quickly find that some of your vocabulary that worked on standards and earlier jazz compositions will not work as well over these kinds of pieces. In short, ii-7 V7 I’s can no longer be the sole basis of your vocabulary.

The Role of Form

I also want you to consider form. As you may have noticed, many standard American songs were written using the A-A-B-A form. They’re often 32 bars, though some may have an extended last A-section (like “I Got Rhythm”).

There are also 32-bar tunes like “Days of Wine and Roses”, or “Like Someone in Love”, which could be interpreted as “A-B-A-B prime” (“prime” referring to a similar but somewhat different take on the earlier material). “Limehouse Blues”, also 32 bars, could be interpreted as A-B-A-C. Blues as we know it today is usually a 12-bar form, though it’s not limited to that form, and in it’s earlier incarnations was often not 12 bars.

Also, many of the great standard songs that are played by jazz musicians have verses, usually played only once at the beginning of a piece. These obviously expand the form and often set up the rest of the piece brilliantly, as in Hoagy Carmichael’s “Stardust”, Strayhorn’s “LushLife”, Monk’s “Round Midnight”, the standards “Tea for Two”, “A Foggy Day”, and others.

But a piece like Wayne Shorter’s “Infant Eyes”, for example, which is three 9 bar phrases, is unlike almost any other standard or jazz composition before it. Or Monk’s tune, “Boo Boo’s Birthday”, which is two 8 bar A-sections followed by a 5 bar section (or perhaps a 3 bar B-section and 2-bar last A), is clearly another brilliant and original take on form. Much of this information may be evident to many students, but it’s very important to be aware of and to take into consideration as an improviser, composer or arranger.

Wayne Shorter - Infant Eyes - YouTube
Thelonious Monk - Boo Boo's Birthday - YouTube

Lastly, I think now is a good time to mention that while this article deals with many post be-bop concepts, I strongly urge you to work backwards in time and music history as well as forward in the process of learning and appreciating this music. Regardless of your direction or aesthetic, you need to know the history of your instrument. And by going both forward and backward in time with your studies, you will also certainly learn a great deal about form and harmony, as mentioned above, as well many other things about time, your instrument, and the music.

And if you’ve not yet checked it out, you’ll be amazed at Duke’s “The Clothed Woman”, Bix’s impressionistic, “Clouds”, Hawkins’ use of chromatic passing tones on his classic3recording of “Body and Soul”, or Tatum’s uses of polytonality. Notice the forms of the pieces being played, and be aware of the different harmonic conceptions from ii-V-I’s. Duke’s music, the Scott Joplin rags, Jelly Roll Morton, et al.

Duke Ellington - The Clothed Woman - YouTube

So, along with doing all of the suggested listening, I want you to learn all the tunes mentioned in this lesson. You should probably also be investigating other pieces not mentioned specifically by the aforementioned musicians- they’re all prolific!

I also want you to write two contrasting pieces that each have forms that are somewhat unusual (e.g. A, B, C, D, 10 bars each), and that utilize harmonies that stay away from ii-7, V7, I language that we’ve become accustomed to.

For example:

  • Try to avoid a direct V7-I resolution and only use “deceptive cadences” on one of the pieces.
  • On the other, try to write something in the style of Scott Joplin or Jelly Roll Morton.
  • Then try to play over what you’ve written.

You will teach yourself quite a lot and expand your musical language and thinking over these different options on form and harmony.

Be a part of Jon Gordon’s new Artishshare project! You can pre-buy the CD, or become a producer level supporter of the recording. There are also offers designed specifically to bring students into the process of the creation of the CD. Click here to check out the project!

http://www.artistshare.com/Projects/Experience/64/506
http://www.artistshare.com/projects/Index/64/195
http://www.jongordonmusic.com

The post Expanding Your Musical Language by Moving Beyond Typical Jazz Harmony and Song Form appeared first on Best. Saxophone. Website. Ever..

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Images by William P. Gottlieb – https://www.flickr.com/photos/library_of_congress/4843755786/ and Brianmcmillen at English Wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)]

This article is in response to an article by renowned NYC jazz saxophonist, Mike Lee titled, “How Did ‘Licks’ Become a Four Letter Word?”. Click here to read it if you haven’t done so already.

Mike and I agree on one thing. There is no faster way to go from a clueless beginner to sounding like a jazz musician than learning licks. I’m going to explain why, in my opinion, it’s a shortcut you shouldn’t take and how it’s a dead end in the long run.

Magical Entropy

Jazz has a delicate balance between order and chaos. There is something terrifyingly chaotic about standing on stage without knowing what you’re going to play and knowing you’re going to be judged for it, so it’s understandable why many musicians prefer to play it safe and prepare licks at home to play at their shows.

The problem is that chaos is where the magic is. Maybe not if you play a couple of shows a month, but definitely if you perform nightly. If you let yourself improvise every day on stage for thirty days you’ll notice you make tiny changes to your playing every night and by the end of the month they accumulate to something substantial. Your understanding of your playing and the direction you want to take it will be much richer and deeper.

The Safe Route

If your playing is mostly comprised of playing licks you will be executing your licks better, but you will be stuck at the same spot musically. Furthermore, you’ll find that the more you play your licks the less impact they seem to have for you, the band, and as a consequence the audience.

Let’s take the lick approach to the extreme.

Sit down and try to write the perfect chorus over a blues. You’re welcome to use licks from any saxophonist in history you wish.

Did it work? Of course not. What limits players is rarely the format (playing in real time), but their imagination.

Breaking Out of The Comfort Zone

If you want to get better you will need to start noticing new things in music:

  • rhythms that are not in your wheelhouse (different subdivisions, ways to switch between subdivisions, groupings, etc)
  • articulations
  • sounds you’re not utilizing and harmonic tools you are not aware of.

But beware – the same temptation to organize things too quickly can be detrimental here as well. If you want to play more triplets in your solo it’s not enough to learn a lick of triplets. You’ll need to insert triplets to your playing in a way that allows you to develop ideas, improvise, and that leaves enough chaos for you to improve and explore.

Being Prepared for “Real World” Musical Situations

Another issue with learning licks is how inflexible it makes you as a player when it comes to playing in varied situations. I’ve heard players that spend their time learning modern jazz licks rife with substitutions and superimpositions get completely and utterly lost on simple swing songs since none of their licks work.

Ignorance is Not Bliss

Some might say that while basing an entire solo on licks is not necessarily great; it’s good to learn some licks to use in your solos as needed. It’s important for me to pause here and say that I don’t encourage ignorance.

It’s essential to transcribe other players and figure out what they do, but the next step should be an analysis of the components and a thorough breakdown of the lick  – not memorizing and parroting.

Examine if there are any physical movements inside the lick you find difficult or awkward and learn how to smooth them out and incorporate them into your playing. Figure out how the notes fit in the harmonic context, the rhythms sit against the groove and what is emphasized by the tone and the articulation that player is using.

At the end of the day a lick is a pre-set combination of rhythm, pitch and timbre in a way that fits a musical situation which will never repeat itself identically. What you should do is train yourself systematically in rhythm, pitch and timbre to be a creator of licks, rather than a repeater of licks.

Danny is a co-leader of the jazz-fusion band Marbin. To download/stream a live recording the band recently made available for FREE please visit: https://marbinmusic.bandcamp.com/album/alabama-sock-party-bootleg

The post The Reason “Licks” Became a Four Letter Word appeared first on Best. Saxophone. Website. Ever..

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Images by William P. Gottlieb and Brianmcmillen at English Wikipedia

The advent of social media has allowed me to witness the re-emergence of the phenomena of “lick” haters. The complaint against licks, I think, boils down to musicians sounding uninspired and clinical because their improvisations sound like exercises and don’t illicit a sense of freedom and spontaneity that true art requires. The conventional wisdom is that learning licks leads to this kind of performance. But I couldn’t disagree more.

The Role of “Licks” In  My Early Musical Development

As a young musician growing up in the midwest without a lot of access to improvisation instruction, I remember being very frustrated trying to get information about how to improvise in the style of my heroes. I was primarily listening to Miles Davis groups, Dexter Gordon, Charlie Parker and Sonny Stitt. I didn’t have great ears naturally so my first forays into improvisation weren’t very successful. I tried to use Dorian and Mixolydian scales as they were explained to me, but nothing I played sounded like my heroes.

At a summer camp, I was introduced to the concept of learning “licks” in twelve keys and applying them to my improvisations. I liked the challenge of figuring out how to work the few licks I knew into different chord progressions by altering a note or two, or starting the lick a few notes later, or trimming a few notes off the end. I got facile enough that I could even stitch a couple of licks together creating longer sixteenth note lines.

I practiced obsessively and became very familiar with a fair amount of licks and started to gig and play with other players. As far as I was concerned, I was an improviser.

In addition to using arpeggios and some scalar ideas, I was incorporating the licks of Dexter Gordon, Charlie Parker and Sonny Stitt in various combinations with some artistic success.

Judgement From Other Players

When I first got to a school as a jazz major, I was a little taken aback by the idea, espoused by some of my classmates, that learning “licks” was a bad way to approach improvisation. Most of the comments I heard were regarding other players. I didn’t feel criticized directly until people heard me in the practice room. And there I was obsessive – working licks through the keys at various tempos, with varied articulation and swing feel. But there was a lot of pushback from people who heard my process. They’d deride my focus on licks. I wrote off the naysayers and kept working.

When I started teaching a few years later, I’d find myself frequently in front of players who wanted to “get away” from their licks and do more “real” improvising. Usually I’d find that the students with this desire hadn’t really learned licks very well or how to alter them to fit a variety of situations, or how to and get in and out of them with ease, or vary them rhythmically, and use them to make genuine music.

Naturally, their use of licks sounded awkward, preconceived, and worst of all, didn’t swing. One thing that comes from obsessively practicing licks is that you learn to articulate and swing authentically.

Finding Freedom by Learning the Language

What I realized was that they needed was to get more into their licks, using repetition to drive them into the depth of their souls. Playing authentically and with a joyous presence doesn’t require that the melodies coming out of your horn have to be spontaneously conceived, they just have to be masterfully and artistically executed.

The notion that learning phrases too well will stifle your artistry can be disproven by attending a great classical performance. Do you think Heifetz, or Donald Sinta, or Glenn Gould suffered from too much preparation? I believe that in their world of Western European classical music, it is accepted that true freedom comes from intense study and familiarity with the material. I don’t think it’s much different in our world as improvisors.

Most musicians agree that improvising in style of masters like Charlie Parker, Sonny Stitt, Dexter Gordon, Miles Davis, and John Coltrane is a language. We learn this language the same way we learn spoken language.

We learn simple phrases first. We learn sentence construction rules; we learn colloquialisms and conventions of fluent speakers. We imitate what we hear and we increase our vocabulary and complexity. But we never discard what we started with.

The Stigma Against Licks as a Departure from Common Sense

The idea of “getting away from our licks” is equivalent to an English speaker declaring that he or she would like to stop using “the”, “and”, and several key word strings like “want to go to the” or “come up with a” and get to some new stuff.

That just doesn’t make any sense.

Just like language improvement, growth in improvisation is attained by adding to and reworking our basic vocabulary not eliminating parts of it.

I’ve noticed that people try to avoid the term “licks” and will substitute words with less negative connotations like “ideas” or “language.” I have started calling licks “melodies” because that’s what they are. And as a building block for the great improvisations of Charlie Parker and John Coltrane, they probably deserve a more substantial sounding term than “licks.”

Reaping the Rewards

But sometimes I use the word “licks” because I want the student to be clear about what they’re doing and not dodging the rigors of their craft by using more ethereal names. It’s a contrived process, to be sure. To take a ii-V-I lick and apply it on a tune like Ornithology over all the iterations of ii-V-I is not in itself high art, but it can train the fingers to play and the ear to hear the language in a way that will allow the student to find her own voice.

Students who practice diligently like this find freedom rather quickly and start to sound like themselves. Ironically they usually get to a personal style quicker than their peers who are using scales and trying to make every phrase up from whole cloth.

It is truly an ironic phenomenon that students who refuse to imitate the masters all sound the same. Artistry comes from living inside what has come before.

Learn More About Mike and Check Out His Music

For NYC people – this coming Monday, March 25, Mike performs at Dizzy’s Club (Broadway and 60th Street 5th Floor) with tenor saxophonist Julian Lee, pianist George Colligan, bassist Ed Howard, and drummer Lenny White.
https://www.facebook.com/events/358011534784673/
https://www.jazz.org/dizzys/events/8843/mike-lee-and-friends/

Check out his latest album, “Song For All Of Us“:

Performance Videos: Youtube

Official Website: https://mikeleejazz.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mikeleesax/

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Image courtesy of tomek.pl

If you’ve found your way to this article, chances are pretty good that you know who Michael Brecker is. Chance are also pretty good that you’ve spent many a listening session in awe of his legendary, unparalleled command of the saxophone as well as his often-imitated-never-duplicated improvisational vocabulary. For most of us, he ranks at, or near, the very tippy-top of our list of favorite saxophonists.

For those not familiar with Michael Brecker’s name, I can assure you that you’ve heard his playing – whether it was on a classic pop record by James Taylor, Paul Simon, or countless other pop and rock legends, or on a jazz record by – well, just about any, and I do mean, quite literally, any major jazz artist. With 15 Grammys to his name, he is without a doubt one of the most imitated saxophonists in the history of instrument, and very likely the most recorded saxophonist of all time.

Celebrating Michael’s Legacy

In January of 2007, the world lost a musical giant and an amazing all-around human being when Michael passed away due to complications of leukemia stemming from a rare form of bone cancer. Since then, his wife, Susan Brecker took it upon herself to memorialize his legacy in a myriad of ways. including producing an acclaimed documentary titled, “More To Live For”, which follows the stories of Michael and two other patients diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer.

Susan also produces a recurring all-star concert titled, “The Nearness of You” which over the years has featured stars such as James Taylor, Bobby McFerrin, Hugh  Jackman, Chris Potter, Wynton Marsalis and Diana Krall to name a few. Proceeds from the shows go to cancer research.

Supporting the Next Generation of Saxophone Greats

One of the latest projects that Susan has been involved in is the Michael Brecker International Saxophone Competitionwhich is set to take place at the Red Sea Jazz Festival in Eilat, Israel, August 25-27, 2019.

In the following interview, Susan recounts memories of her husband’s passion for music as well as his ardent support of younger saxophonists. She also shares the news about a very special competition for up-and-coming saxophonists.

The Interview

Doron Orenstein: The first, and probably most obvious question – what is it that inspired you to put on this competition?

Susan Brecker: Michael was always inspired by young musicians. After he passed, Herb Alpert called me and wanted to do something in Michael’s memory — a competition, perhaps. This felt right to me and after many years we are finally kicking it off.

DO: Many saxophonists who got to be in Michael’s presence would muster up the courage to introduce themselves only to be taken aback by Michael’s humility, as they got to experience a truly inspiring and meaningful conversation with their idol. What do you think it was that drove Michael to sacrifice so much of his time when we was already unbelievably busy?

SB: Michael never perceived spending time with musicians as a ‘sacrifice’. He believed everyone who reached out was deserving of what time he could provide — and he got as much out of these encounters as aspiring sax players did. For Mike, the act of giving of himself to others was important to thim; and he learned from everyone. Mike was not just generous but curious.

DO: Out of the many saxophonists that Michael admired – were there any names that might surprise us? Perhaps saxophonists who might have been frowned upon by much of the jazz, or perhaps were highly obscure?

SB: Not really… he listened to everyone, and found something interesting in all styles of playing.

DO: The impression I got was that Michael was a lifelong learner and never satisfied to rest on the laurels of being a living legend. Can you share what it was he seemed to be working on the most when he was home between tours?

SB: Michael practiced. He was a really good drummer, and played every morning for an hour. Then he would hit the saxophone, composing, listening, etc. Michael went through phases of listening to music of different cultures that would inevitably inspire future compositions. For example, he was listening to a lot of Irish music when he wrote “Itsbynne Reel.” And before he became ill, he became immersed in gypsy music — specifically Bulgarian gypsy music. He studied the complex time signatures for a year, and began composing tunes in that style. He’s written some amazing tunes, which hopefully will be recorded at some point.

DO: Moving on to the competition, the website states that applicants will be “evaluated based on a variety of criteria that includes your technical facility, rhythmic feel, imagination and your interplay with fellow band members” – all qualities which I think it would be safe to say Michael would be looking for if he were judging the competition himself. That said, is there anything else you think Michael would have looked for in a saxophonist competing for this award?

SB: Generally Michael valued honesty and sincerity and more specifically in the paths musicians take in their creative journeys. He loved players who followed their own musical instincts — whether they be original or not. That said, he had greater admiration for those who created something fresh and different and who continued to refine and define their work as they move through their creative lives.

DO: Following up on the previous question – how relevant is an applicant’s chosen style of playing? Could the winner end up being someone who sounds absolutely nothing like Michael?

SB: Of course! The last thing we would ever encourage is someone to be “Like Mike.” In the context of the competition, originality is incredibly important. We are hoping entrants will embrace the competition as an opportunity to present who they are as players, not how well they can play like Michael. I believe Michael would tell the applicants to be true to themselves and not to try and sound like any one player. Playing what they feel is the the most honest expression they can offer.

DO: Being that you are based in the United States, how did it come about that the semi-final and final competitions are set to take place in Israel?

SB: Michael appeared in the first Red Sea Jazz Festival and decades later the Festival held a bone marrow drive in his honor when he was to perform and couldn’t attend. The current artistic director, Eli Degibri, loved Michael, and he wanted to champion and honor Michael’s legacy in the context of the Festival — something which Eli’s predecessor Danny Gottfired had initiated. We’ve long felt it was a lovely idea.

Ready to Throw Your Hat in the Ring?

For all the details on entering this year’s competition, please visit the website at https://breckercompetition.org. If you’re a serious saxophonist looking to make a life in music, I’d highly recommend applying. Regardless of the results of your entry, the submission requirements are sure to stimulate your own creative process, and who knows – you may find yourself in Eilat, Israel, paying homage to one of the all-time saxophone greats this August – and wouldn’t that be amazing?

The post Susan Brecker On the Legacy of Her Husband, Michael and the Saxophone Competition in His Name appeared first on Best. Saxophone. Website. Ever..

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For those 10 or so of you who follow the Best. Saxophone. Website. Ever. on social media or are subscribed to the sax tips newsletter, by now you have probably heard me blather on about saxophone recording artist and master class clinician, Adam Larson’s new video course, Lightning-Fast and Crystal-Clean, which I am publishing through my music education website, InfiniteMusician.com.

We had a very successful pre-launch of the course for newsletter subscribers last week, and during that pre-launch I received the following technique-related question which I forwarded to Adam.

Now, Adam’s course delves way, way deep into the exercises and techniques that lead to developing killer technical chops, but I thought his response would be worth sharing because it’s in the theme of his new course, and takes all of a minute to read the exchange. My hope is that, at the very least, it’s a good reminder to for advanced saxophonists, while being an eye-opener for newer players.

The Question

Are there any tips you could offer on keeping your fingers “welded” to the sax keys? I find that if I concentrate on this when I’m playing, it’s at the expense of playing notes correctly. Equally, when I concentrate on the playing, I find my fingers tend to fly off the keys,

Is it just one of those ‘practice, practice, practice’ things?

— Mike

Adam’s Answer

My best suggestion is to practice all of your scales at quarter note = 40 bpm with a metronome, making absolutely certain that as you move from each note to the next within the scale that you are moving exactly with the click of the metronome.

By doing it this slowly, you will have more than enough time to be aware of where your fingers are at in relationship to the keys, and also have time enough to hear the pitch in relationship to the larger picture, which is the scale.

After you can play everything in perfect time at that metronomic marking, begin moving the click up a few beats every two days.

More on Lightning-Fast and Crystal-Clean

There’s’ a 20% discount for the first four days of the course’s official launch on February 12, 2019.

If you’re not signed up yet to the Best. Saxophone. Website. Ever. newsletter or the Lightning-Fast and Crystal-Clean email list, then I hope you’ll take a moment to do so now, since the discount is exclusively for our email-subscriber saxofriends.

Here’s a sneak peak at what you can expect when the program launches.

Lightning-Fast and Crystal-Clean Saxophone Technique - YouTube
For more info, head over to SaxTechnique.com.

The post 1-Minute Tip for Keeping Fingers Close to the Keys appeared first on Best. Saxophone. Website. Ever..

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