Approaching the classical style - a resource for jazz saxophonists


jbtsax, I totally agree with your feelings on the saxophone as an instrument vs. the saxophone as a stylistic medium. No matter what style one plays, there are aspects of the instrument that are ever useful: solid finger technique without lost motion, good breath control, efficient tonguing, and the ability to mold one's tone. Speaking of embouchure and stylistic tone qualities specifically, if a player can understand the "middle of the road" approach that must be learned in order to play with an even, robust sound, it's more likely that player will successfully experiment with different soundscapes because he/she will have discovered what physically must be done to alter the tone and timbral qualities. The saxophone is the saxophone, no matter what style you play. At a professional level, of course the nuances between styles may seem like a world of difference, but a novice doesn't have the frame of reference to make that judgement. Play, practice, listen, and explore, hopefully with an open-minded teacher and great recordings.

Sometimes I find that misguided (but I hope well-intentioned) teachers will advise students to buy an "all-around mouthpiece." At the risk of upsetting the mouthpiece police, I dare say there is no such thing as an all-around mouthpiece, not if one's intention is to play those multiple styles correctly. A Meyer is not a classical mouthpiece, and an Optimum is not a jazz mouthpiece. Sure, a great player should be able to mold the tone somewhat, but you won't hear me playing the Dahl Concerto on my V16 mouthpiece anytime soon.

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