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Beginner 15 months later

Lloyd

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208
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Hertfordshire
.. and I'm still practising (almost) every day. I've been given a Grade 7 piece by my instructor, which I stutter my way through. Site reading is much improved but I'm still rubbish at counting. OK with the major and most of the minor scales and arpeggios. I was wondering what level somebody with 'average' musical ability would expect to be by now. Where were you musical greats at that stage?
 

Taz

Busking Oracle
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3,633
Location
Rugby UK
I've been playing for five years now, and you are way ahead of me on the theory side. Congrats on starting your way towards grade 7. I well impressed.:welldone

Just read your post properly, and I'm no musical great. Grate maybe! :)))
 
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Phil Edwards

Senior Member
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1,335
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East Sussex
Hi Lloyd, I'd say that's good progress for 15 months. Assuming it interests you, are you playing in any local concert bands or similar, as it sounds like you're ready to do that. Playing with others - particularly if they're good! - is a great way to move forward.

In fact, even if it doesn't interest you, give it a go. Playing with others is a great move, and you will enjoy it. Music that you'd never go and listen to is really enjoyable when you're part of it.

Phil
 
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Lloyd

Lloyd

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208
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Hertfordshire
Congrats on starting your way towards grade 7. I well impressed.:welldone

:)))
I don't do the grades (don't see the point at my tender age), it's just a Grade 7 piece. I'm confident that I would spectacularly fail if I did! Probably nearer an actual 5 or 6.
 
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Lloyd

Lloyd

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208
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Hertfordshire
Hi Lloyd, I'd say that's good progress for 15 months. Assuming it interests you, are you playing in any local concert bands or similar, as it sounds like you're ready to do that. Playing with others - particularly if they're good! - is a great way to move forward.

In fact, even if it doesn't interest you, give it a go. Playing with others is a great move, and you will enjoy it. Music that you'd never go and listen to is really enjoyable when you're part of it.

Phil
As it happens I performed in my first concert just before Christmas with a woodwind ensemble. I'm an aged rocker so it wasn't really my type of music but the experience was valuable. Miscounted towards the end of one piece and missed the last few bars. Then, realising that I hadn't arranged the music correctly on my stand for the last piece, dropped the sheets on the floor.:w00t: Didn't really cover myself in glory, but hey! Onwards and upwards.
 

Rogerb

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766
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Costa Blanca, Spain
As it happens I performed in my first concert ..... Then, realising that I hadn't arranged the music correctly on my stand for the last piece, dropped the sheets on the floor.:w00t: Didn't really cover myself in glory, but hey! Onwards and upwards.
With luck someone captured it on video and you'll find yourself on "You've been Framed" witha share of the £250 :)))

Congratulations on having the guts to have a go....I have still to pluck up the courage!
 
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Lloyd

Lloyd

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208
Location
Hertfordshire
Here's another thing. You would have thought by now that I could hit bottom C# without jumping an octave first but I'm still struggling with this. Bottom Cs OK though. I've read all sorts of advice and my teacher has had a go ('relax your embouchure, you are expecting it to happen so it will' etc.). The only way I can hit it is to move my embouchure into some sort of gurning position and then it comes out .. sometimes.
 

saxnik

Member
Messages
381
Location
Poole, Dorset, United Kingdom
Here's another thing. You would have thought by now that I could hit bottom C# without jumping an octave first but I'm still struggling with this. Bottom Cs OK though. I've read all sorts of advice and my teacher has had a go ('relax your embouchure, you are expecting it to happen so it will' etc.). The only way I can hit it is to move my embouchure into some sort of gurning position and then it comes out .. sometimes.
I changed my embouchure about two years ago - I was using the standard clarinetty bottom-lip-folded-over one, the 'classical' embouchure. Now I (mostly unless I forget) use a kind of chimpanzee-type forward projecting bottom lip teamed with a frowny mouth. This apparently is the jazz/soul/rock version.

The aim is to flatten the lip so that the reed has equal pressure across the width. The smiley mouth puts pressure on the edges if you're not careful. After about two months I could get the entire range of the sax with only tiny adjustments on the lip.

This wouldn't be the 'gurning' you mentioned?!;}

Nick
 
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Lloyd

Lloyd

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Hertfordshire
I tried this when I first started but couldn't get on with it. I'll give it another go and see what happens.
 

Pee Dee

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425
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Dorset
I find I use both types of embouchure. The pushed out lower lip for the lower notes, up to about low D,and the clarinet shape for the higher notes. I find the lower lip gradually curls over the bottom teeth and tightens up into the clarinet type embouchure as I go up the scale. If the music calls for an octave jump though a rapid adjustment of the embouchure is required.
Seems to me black musicians have, in general, a better jazzy sound, or marshmallowing I think it's sometimes called. Could this be due to the larger afro lips? By pushing our lower lips out, are we trying to imitate the natural afro lip shape.?
Just a thought.:)
 
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Lloyd

Lloyd

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208
Location
Hertfordshire
Well, I spent another 30 minutes trying this out tonight (much to my wife's chagrin as I'd had an hour or so earlier) and found that:
  • I needed to take a bit more mouthpiece in.
  • It produced a more rasping sound, which I'm unsure about because it's not as mellow but might be great for some music.
  • I was less prone to jump the octave on the lower register.
  • Upper register was not as clear.
  • It was much easier to 'yawn' and bend the notes.
  • It was less easy to hold a note - it had a tendency to waver.
I really couldn't make up my mind but I will definitely persist and see what happens. For the first time in months my chops started to ache so I'm definitely using different mouth muscles.
 

Andante cantabile

Senior Member
Messages
697
It is always good to see players to make good progress on their chosen instrument. Part of that is to try pieces that are clearly beyond one’s ability at the moment. (This, by the way, is not a reflection on your teacher's method). Trying such pieces is one way of finding out areas requiring improvement, etc. Nevertheless, I am a little sceptical of claims of improvement that are seemingly out of the ordinary.

I have in front of me the ABRSM saxophone syllabus for Grades 5 and 6. It doesn’t look easy. The prescribed pieces consist of real music, often written for saxophone. Grade 6, for example, lists two of the Ferling studies. Both of these two grades require considerable work on scales and arpeggios in major and minor scales (slurred and tongued), as well as dominant and diminished sevenths. That is why it usually takes a student of good ability and commitment to go from the previous grade to the next. Grade 6, by the way, has a range of prerequisites at the Grade 5 level.

Grade 5 players, and certainly those who have achieved Grade 6, already are valuable players in school and community orchestras and bands. They still make mistakes, of course, but the nature of the mistakes changes. One thing they are achieving, though, is the accurate playing of the pieces according to the written music in terms of technique, speed, expression, etc. A good tone at this level is a given. This is where school-age learners have an advantage. They gradually work themselves into the material.

We all aim to play better, and most of us can see progress over time as we go over the old pieces, and as we tackle new ones. But as we go on, we can also see what separates us from those who are really good at it, such as players at the advanced level.

Maybe this will be understood as a negative comment. It isn’t meant to be. It simply is meant to introduce a degree of realism. When I first began to learn I also was fixated to some extent with the grade of the pieces. It is partly to do with being an adult learner. At this stage learning Frère Jacques is not all that interesting, but pieces later in the book are (I had the same problem with piano where I went staright to Bach). Over time I worked out that what really matters in music is tone and expression and this is achieved through the right technique. For example, the simple tune Summertime can sound fairly ordinary when played by a beginner, but it is quite seductive when played by a professional.

So, good luck and carry on.

Walter
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
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Just north of Munich
I can only echo what Walter's said here. One of the benefits of following a presribed course of study is that the pieces gradually introduce levels of difficulty - it may be as simple as learning a new note (or alternate fingering for a known note) - or it may be more challenging - such as introducing triplets... But the key here is progression.

On the simplicity - Summertime is lovely. And one of the first things I got the notes for. I have a go at it. Put it away, then have another go a month or 3 later. It's a great way of measuring progress. And it helps to motivate you, when you're struggling with a boring little thing like the aforementioned Frere Jacques...
 

half diminished

Senior Member
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1,361
Location
Buckinghamshire
I was wondering what level somebody with 'average' musical ability would expect to be by now. Where were you musical greats at that stage?
Not sure you can get an answer to this. I was talking to my teacher about where I should be after 30 months playing and she laughed. Everyone's different and has an aptitude (or not :w00t:) for different things. I had never read music before nor (other than a couple of very brief interludes one on trumpet as a kid and another with a borrowed alto sax) played an instrument before nor even though about playing jazz - didn't really listen to much either.

If you're playing grade 7 pieces then your technical and sight-rading abilities are way ahead of mine. Proper sight reading I am probably only at around grade 2 but then my teach says my sound is very good for the length of time I've been playing. Win some, lose some :)

In July 2008 I went on the Abersold/Jazzwise jazz school which was brilliant but very hard going for me. In my combo there were 4 other sax players aged between 10 and 18 and the abilities ranged greatly. They had from memory all been playing two or three year though I reacall they all played other instruments too. There was also a 19 year old not in my combo who was totally awesome.

I think the only decent arbiter is are you getting what you want from it. Make sure you get sound advice on what/how to practice and then enjoy!
 

CaillouSax

Member
Messages
62
Location
Gatineau (Québec), Canada
I know nothing about what you called "Grade X" pieces... Don't know these grades.

My teacher use the Universal Method for Saxophone by Paul Deville and I have to practice pieces that are anywhere in that book (page 45 or 128, he doesn't care, just looking for pieces I could play), and no grades in it in my knowledge. In addition, he prepares pieces for me with "backgrounds" (is it the correct word?) on CD (with Band In The Box).
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
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The grades refered to are UK standards of playing ability and music theory and are compaable across instruments. These grades aer recognised in many other countries as well.

Thus a grade 5 piece is considerably more difficult than a grade 1 piece.

Jazz (where the sax sits) is slightly different, only runs to grade 5 so far. And has less theory involved. And can be done aurally.

Take a look at the ABRSM site fo more info: www.abrsm.org
 
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MandyH

Sax-Mad fiend!
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The Malverns, Worcs
I don't think it matters what "level" you are at as long as you are enjoying it. In all probability, the more you practice the sooner you are likely to master a piece - whether that is a whole piece, or just a couple of difficult bars.
My Sax teacher and I follow a "what do we fancy today" teaching approach. I had previously learnt to play recorder at primary school, and then violin for 3 years, yet the violin still sounded like I was murdering the cat (after 3 years we were still on "a tune a day - book 1"). :verysad
At secondary school, I learnt to play the trombone for a couple of years, far better than the violin. The trombone teacher had suggested taking ABRSM grade 3, but I just didn't want to take any exams.
So (many years after leaving school!) I started playing the sax 13 months ago, capable of reading music and reasonably good at getting the correct rhythm out of a piece within a couple of playings, but the thought of taking exams still didn't interest me:eek:
However... I have now decided to take the Trinity Guildhall grade 4 Jazz exam. The main reason being that I feel I have no target, direction, raison d'etre (call it what you will) for my practice. I practice 3 or more times a day for 30 mins or so and love practicing, but I felt I had no reason to achieve "perfection". I could play pieces well enough, but the final polish was lacking. I've chosen to do Trinity Guildhall, because I have no desire to do the written theory papers which would leave me stuck at grade 5 with ABRSM, but TG lets you go on to grade 6 and above without the theory. I have scales to learn, 3 pieces to perform, one having a significant amount of impro, and will have to play a piece on first sight on the day etc. I guess there are differences in the 2 exam boards.
I'm not a musician, I'm an engineer, learning theory for theory's sake doesn't interest me at all.
My daughter is about to take her ABRSM grade 4 violin, she at least doesn't sound like the cat is still being strangled :)

One of my standard practice pieces is Scott Joplin's Maple Leaf Rag. I think it's a grade 6 piece, and I can play it reasonably well, but I don't think I've ever played it perfectly. However, I know that I have made significant progress with it over the past 4 or so months that I have practised it, not only with just hitting all the notes, but with inonation and feeling as well.

Do grades matter? Well, I guess it gives others an indication of you ability in general, commonly-understood, terms, that's all :)))
 
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Lloyd

Lloyd

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208
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Hertfordshire
Some very constructive comments on this, thank you all. To clarify, my teacher is not pushing me to do Grade 7, it just happens to be his answer to 'what level would this piece be if I was doing grades'. My iniitial enquiry was related to whether or not I was making sufficient progress, based on the fact that my ability does not match my enthusiasm. However, I'm old enough (and ugly enough - feel free to disagree) to realise that much can be achieved through hard work and practice.

I practice because want to, not because there is an exam looming, and I go to band rehearsals because I enjoy it, simple as that. I'm hoping one day I will be suffieciently competent to be able to play music that I really like in a live band. In the meantime I'm just enjoying the journey.

When I get a new piece of music I find that I need to go away for a few days to learn it before I can play it, but I can't sight read and play it straight away. I'm hoping this is normal.
 

CaillouSax

Member
Messages
62
Location
Gatineau (Québec), Canada
The grades refered to are UK standards of playing ability and music theory and are compaable across instruments. These grades aer recognised in many other countries as well.

Thus a grade 5 piece is considerably more difficult than a grade 1 piece.

Jazz (where the sax sits) is slightly different, only runs to grade 5 so far. And has less theory involved. And can be done aurally.

Take a look at the ABRSM site fo more info: www.abrsm.org
Thanks for the infos. :)
 
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