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photoman

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I'm just coming into my 4th week of playing my Sax (ever) and had my 3rd lesson last Tuesday.

While I realise that it takes a LOT of time to play only hafl as well as I would like and practice makes perfect etc, I found myself in a bit of a slump this week, having been given a C scale arpeggio to practice.

E to G, and G to C and back are reasonably simple and I'm getting them quite cleanly up and down, and reasonablt quickly.

But can I get a clean low C to E? No, I most certainly can not. The D is always "late" (as my teacher put it) or early on the way down. I'm practicing it separately to the point where the muscle in my right hand aches along the side of my little finger (pinkie). I get it now and then, but if I said I was lifting them together once in every 10 tries, I'd be exaggerating greatly.

Is this especially difficult? Is there a technique that would help, or should I just melt down the BW now and save a lot of heartache and frustration in the future?

Stephen
 

kevgermany

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Relax, It'll come. Slow down a touch. Don't force it, this probably causes the pain. Without practice moving the ring finger up on it's own is difficult, try it just putting your hand flat on the table.

What may help is consciously trying to move the D before the C. once you get that right, back off a touch and they'll move together.
 

photoman

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What may help is consciously trying to move the D before the C. once you get that right, back off a touch and they'll move together.

Brilliant advice, I have tried that a couple of times already and I can feel a difference. The D and C are already coming off more cleanly going up to the E. Coming down the D is still a bit "early" but, I feel a bit more confident about getting it.

Thank you very much - that's the way I'll practice it! :thumb:

I will say though, that getting the ring finger up and down when the hand is on a table wasn't difficult for me. But raising it and the pinkie together is very tough!

Stephen
 
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Young Col

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Another way is to finger and say. Don't put the mouthpiece in your mouth. Finger C and say it. Then, slow as you like at first, move your fingers to E and say it (you don't have to shout it!) when your fingers are in the right position. Do the same with G, then up to C and back down again. Don't move faster than your fingers and voice can work together. Do it several times. Take a break, come back to it. Gradually you'll be able to do it quicker and start to develop muscle memory. When you are fairly confident of not getting it wrong, blow it and you'll find you can blow it while while saying the note in your head. Eventually it will come naturally. Do the same with scales.
 

photoman

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Another way is to finger and say. Don't put the mouthpiece in your mouth. Finger C and say it. Then, slow as you like at first, move your fingers to E and say it (you don't have to shout it!) when your fingers are in the right position. Do the same with G, then up to C and back down again. Don't move faster than your fingers and voice can work together. Do it several times. Take a break, come back to it. Gradually you'll be able to do it quicker and start to develop muscle memory. When you are fairly confident of not getting it wrong, blow it and you'll find you can blow it while while saying the note in your head. Eventually it will come naturally. Do the same with scales.

Another useful tip that I will try tomorrow - thank you.

Stephen
 

jbtsax

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Since it involves a finger coordination issue, I would suggest practicing the fingering without playing. To analyse the problem as you described it, you need to train the ring finger to "lead" the pinky---not follow it. Try slowly raising the finger on the D key first then lifting the pinky on the C key. Repeat this pattern gradually increasing the tempo. Another exercise that can be done on a tabletop or other surface is to rest the fingers on the edge and practice raising 3 and 4 together at the same time while keeping 1 and 2 down.
 

BigMartin

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Also, as Kev suggested above, if your fingers are aching you're probably pressing too hard. The harder you press, the more sluggish your fingers are in opening the keys. You just want enough pressure to close the key. Any more is just making life hard for yourself. If you have to press hard to close the key, the sax needs some adjustment.
 

old git

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Might be worth asking your teacher why his "late" and "early" criticisms did not elicit similar advice?
 

Jane M L

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It's a good idea to do finger warm ups - my guitar teacher called it yoga for the fingers. One I always still do is to gently force my left wrist between the pairs of fingers on the other hand one by one. It excercises the tendons too and stretches everything. And another is to rub each finger generously between the thumb and forefinger to generate real friction warmth.
2 minutes per session and you will find the hands an fingers really start to move as you want.
Good luck!
 

photoman

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It's a good idea to do finger warm ups - my guitar teacher called it yoga for the fingers. One I always still do is to gently force my left wrist between the pairs of fingers on the other hand one by one. It excercises the tendons too and stretches everything. And another is to rub each finger generously between the thumb and forefinger to generate real friction warmth. 2 minutes per session and you will find the hands an fingers really start to move as you want.
Good luck!

Thank you Jane - they are very useful tips and I'll do those each time I play - although I do have quite a broad stretch already on my fingers.

Might be worth asking your teacher why his "late" and "early" criticisms did not elicit similar advice?

He did say that I was lifting the fingers too high and that his fingers stayed on the keys as they came up. He didn't offer anything other that that though.

I'm still deciding on my teacher. I've been 3 times - he can really play, but often seems quite tired and a bit "shaky", physically, some days.

The other issue, for me, is that he teaches children a lot and talks to me in "la-dee-doh" language - and writes notes down as "B, A, G, F, E, etc" even though I could read music when I was 12 (46 years ago) and have told him several times, and try to use musical terminolgy myself.

The area I live in is very barren in terms of good sax teachers. The nearest other one may be 50 miles away. So I'll give it few more weeks (another lesson due Wednesday) and see how it goes.

Thanks for all the helpful posts everyone, this is a great forum.

Stephen
 
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MandyH

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He did say that I was lifting the fingers too high and that his fingers stayed on the keys as they came up. He didn't offer anything other that that though.

I'm still deciding on my teacher. I've been 3 times - he can really play, but often seems quite tired and a bit "shaky", physically, some days.

The other issue, for me, is that he teaches children a lot and talks to me in "la-dee-doh" language - and writes notes down as "B, A, G, F, E, etc" even though I could read music when I was 12 (46 years ago) and have told him several times, and try to use musical terminolgy myself.

The area I live in is very barren in terms of good sax teachers. The nearest other one may be 50 miles away. So I'll give it few more weeks (another lesson due Wednesday) and see how it goes.

Thanks for all the helpful posts everyone, this is a great forum.

Stephen

I have been playing for 4 1/2 years (a half hour lesson every week) and for the past 18 months or so, (when I remember and have the time) I have been training my fingers to stay on the keys.
My teacher has told me to stand in front of a mirror and look at my fingers as I play, to ensure that they really do stay on the keys, and not just that I think they stay on the keys.
To get a good technique, everything takes time and practice, many, many hours of practice.
I usually play 2-3 hours every day, and the fingers on keys thing is still not second nature, because it is so easy to just "play as I always have" when I am just playing for fun. When I am seriously practicing keeping the fingers down, I can, but I wouldn't say it was second nature yet.
It will come, with time and practice.

I can do this far better on my Bari than I can on my sop. (tenor not bad, alto a bit worse, sop really bad) I thought about this a lot and eventually decided it was because the Bari is bigger, my fingers are already quite relaxed and the curl of my fingers is already quite open, so I don't move my fingers very far to open / close the keys. On the sop, I think I move the fingers equally as far as I do on the Bari, hence the fingers come a long way off the keys.
 

gladsaxisme

Try Hard Die Hard
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The one thing to remember when starting on the sax is that slow is Good as you will notice with a capital G and slower still is better and even slower still much better again, doing things slowly but correctly builds muscle memory which is what you are aiming for,speed can be achieved later ....good luck ......and enjoy........John
 

Tenor Viol

Full of frets in North Shropshire
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Speed is something that develops - I'm not particularly quick.

Synchronising the movement of fingers precisely for a change of note is not a trivial thing - it's complex fine motor co-ordination (if you play a bowed stringed instrument, it's even more complex as the timing of the fingering change has to be timed with the change of bow direction to get a clean transition). Relax and do it slowly.

As you will discover if you put hand on table fingers down (as if playing an imaginary piano), lifting the ring finger independently is not easy - that's because it shares tendons and so is not as independent as other fingers.

Doesn't matter if it's a sax or a 'cello, you only use the amount of force needed to perform the task - don't apply too much pressure - you're just wasting energy and making it harder to move to the next fingering. Fingering should be relaxed and fluid but if we're anxious etc., we tend to apply a death grip and tighten up. It's important to keep the hands relaxed and equally the arms and shoulders. Too much tension can give you tendinitis. Make sure you are not lifting or tensing your shoulders. Also, head needs to be balanced over your spine - not leaning forward otherwise neck muscles will be working hard and giving you trouble after a while.

Some teachers don't seem able to distinguish between their pupils. The cello teacher I had until the end of last year was fairly young and taught mostly youngsters (mostly U12). He used to SPEAK VERY LOUDLY to me I think because that was how he taught young ones. It was very irritating. I'd make a point of saying, repeatedly if necessary, "You don't need to do that, I have no trouble reading music." I've been able to read music fluidly (bass and treble clef) since I was about 12, so it would annoy me too. For tenor viol I have to read alto and octave treble and for cello I need tenor as well as bass clef. Tenor is my least secure clef.
 

photoman

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County Limerick Ireland
The one thing to remember when starting on the sax is that slow is Good as you will notice with a capital G and slower still is better and even slower still much better again, doing things slowly but correctly builds muscle memory which is what you are aiming for,speed can be achieved later ....good luck ......and enjoy........John

I went for my 4th lesson yesterday and then called in to see a friend who is a semi-pro traditional Irish musician. He can play most things easily, and was learning bluegrass on a 5 string banjo (not usually played in Ireland - the 4 string tenor is the main instrunment, and he doesn't even play that one). He showed me some finger picking that he had been practicing for two months. It sounded amazing. He said that he was getting some of it OK at 100 bpm and then had to practice one part at 50 bpm before he got it right. His main point was SLOW DOWN and keep doing it until it works.

As you will discover if you put hand on table fingers down (as if playing an imaginary piano), lifting the ring finger independently is not easy - that's because it shares tendons and so is not as independent as other fingers.

I find that I can raise the ring finger of the right hand easily nough independent of the others, but the left hand is harder - although I'm doing it with a struggle. But the main issue is that when I play the right hand ring finger come down before the pinkie and usually comes up beofre it too, (from E/C and C/E going up.

Some teachers don't seem able to distinguish between their pupils. The cello teacher I had until the end of last year was fairly young and taught mostly youngsters (mostly U12). He used to SPEAK VERY LOUDLY to me I think because that was how he taught young ones.

This is now starting to bug me. I had my 4th lesson yesterday, and my teacher took out some basic practice sheets, which is playing I definitely need to practice, C/D/E, C/E/C, etc. What bothered me was despite having told him on the last 3 occasions that I played in bands when I was 12 and could read music OK, he still said things like "this is a crotchet; we call it a quarter note...here you come across a new note, we call this a semi-breve".

I said..."I was a trying a solo by Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull on my flute a few months ago. It's a jazz arrangement of Bach in Bb. There are hemi-demi-semi quavers in it, and I got lost on the sixth and seventh ledger lines, but otherwise, I managed to sight read the first 20 bars, by the third attempt, but quite slowly."

He looked at me briefly and then said...this mark is a one beat rest... :w00t:

Stephen
 
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Tenor Viol

Full of frets in North Shropshire
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Umm. The only thing I can suggest is before the next lesson, talk quite clearly about it and ask him why he's talking in such terms to you and be honest that you are finding it off-putting.
 

BigMartin

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He looked at me briefly and then said...this mark is a one beat rest... :w00t:
Stephen
If he's that inflexible/intransigent, I suspect you'd be better off on your own until you can find someone better. I don't care how good a player you are, if that's your attitude to your students then you're a lousy teacher. If you can play the flute to the standard you described, what you need is fundamental sax technique. I highly recommend this book, from one of the top sax teachers in the UK:

http://www.robbuckland.com/node/320.


It's made a huge diffference to my playing over the last 8 months or so.
 

photoman

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County Limerick Ireland
If you can play the flute to the standard you described, what you need is fundamental sax technique. I highly recommend this book, from one of the top sax teachers in the UK:

http://www.robbuckland.com/node/320.

It's made a huge diffference to my playing over the last 8 months or so.

I can sight read to that level and play a bit of the music not too badly. I am in need of good sax technique though - not a basic music course. My issue is that having rushed into signing up for my teacher - as I am very busy and wanted to tie myself to a term of lessons at the local school, I have handed over €250 for a half term's fees.

I will speak to him and then the school's owner next week, and see if I can persuade them of my "prior learning" :)

I had look at the Rob Buckland book a while back but have 2 others already. I think I'll give it a go though, thanks for the feedback on it.

I was also considering Skype lessons. Has anyone tried Nigel McGill at "sax school"? And/or what do you think about Skype lessons generally?

Thanks for all the advice so far.

Stephen
 

saxplorer

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Ahhhhhh Peggy-O ....

Sorry for off-topic, but couldn't resist!. Every time I saw this thread title, I thought of this ....

 
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kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
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What bothered me was despite having told him on the last 3 occasions that I played in bands when I was 12 and could read music OK, he still said things like "this is a crotchet; we call it a quarter note...here you come across a new note, we call this a semi-breve".

I said..."I was a trying a solo by Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull on my flute a few months ago. It's a jazz arrangement of Bach in Bb. There are hemi-demi-semi quavers in it, and I got lost on the sixth and seventh ledger lines, but otherwise, I managed to sight read the first 20 bars, by the third attempt, but quite slowly."

He looked at me briefly and then said...this mark is a one beat rest... :w00t:

Stephen

You couldn't make this up. I'm laughing out loud here. Sorry. Time to start lokoing for someone else I think.
 

BigMartin

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You couldn't make this up. I'm laughing out loud here. Sorry. Time to start lokoing for someone else I think.
And maybe complain to the school. If he's not listening to you, he's probably not listening to the kids either.
 

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