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cheap v pro sax gear - a controversial view...

zannad

Member
Messages
410
Today, I've restarted playing a cheap Vietnamese colorful sax (Cranes) which I bought years ago...
To start with, it was a bit of a struggle - I had to put much more effort both physical and also in terms of control than what I normally do on my Yamaha YTS32 - I had to be more careful about the note produced and at one point I was so bothered I was about to give up and put the thing back in the case (after all the Yami was only a few meters above - in the loft).
The initial discomfort rapidly disappeared (20 minutes?) and once I figured out I was just limiting myself and finding excuses I was then able to play the Cranes the same way I enjoyed it years ago...it just that now (for that initial 20 minutes) I was behaving like a spoiled brat who complained because I was being fed from a rusty spoon instead of a silver one!

The bottom line of this short episode is simple....is pro gear too easy? (mind you, the Yamaha YTS32 is just an intermediate horn...). I mean, is there a danger of becoming too spoiled by spending too much money and time on better sax gear?

At this point if anyone say e.g. "well, one has to concentrate in producing music and the horn shouldn't interfere with that"....which is also a debatable point since in my case (for example) it took only 20 minutes of adjustments to reconquer/tame the Crane and I'm glad I didn't give up too easily (don't ask me why...).
Back to the moot point above: "the horn shouldn't interfere with the music" or a similar thought...well, in fact it does interfere one way or the other...the design of the sax itself has so many limitation compared to other musical instruments - the Boehm system being an obvious one - which make keyboard players wondering if sax players have some sort of masochistic tendencies by putting up with such a cumbersome system (that's just one example).

Let's face it....most "commoners" out there think of musicians as being a bit of a bunch of masochistic individuals (especially those who are "unsuccessful" somehow) - why spending hours behind our horns? Wouldn't be rather better go out chasing blonde birds? That why so many give up practicing at one point in their life...>:)

I'm wondering how many pro player out there are just too spoiled to "drive" a cheap horn...of course it's human nature trying to have it easy - but then it defy the very nature of learning and having control of our environment...some form of struggle or achievement is the very nature/essence of what we do in our daily lives (it can be applied to anything, not just sax and music).
At this point, if it was just about producing music, then let's invent some special pills which make all of us better players instantly (let's assume these pills do exists) - would you buy these pills or a better sax? (or both?)...after all, why spending time learning scales and chords etc. if the music come first there should be no struggle - why sweating?

(controversial Zannad).
 

old git

Tremendous Bore
Messages
5,545
Not controversial at all, just illogical.

Learning anything should be made as easy as possible, reassuring the pupil regarding progress and so the easiest model to achieve this should be chosen within financial restrictions.

Also, who is likely to provide the best performance, the musician at ease with their instrument or the one who realises a battle against his horn might develop later?
 

thomsax

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,927
Zannad: Good thread. The importance of the sax is often overrated. You can sound great on a "cheap - bad" sax!! I listen a lot to rock and blues saxophonists like A.C. Reed, Eddie Shaw, Noble Watts, J.T Brown .... and they are not performing on modern pro saxes (Selmer MKVI or simular except Reed)! And I prefer to listen to live recordings. But these guys had(s) (Eddie Shaw is still blowing his sax) a story to tell with thier saxes. If you have Spotify, check out a live redording by Noble "Thin Man" Watts playing "Please Send Me Someone To Love" (Percy Mayfield, one of my favourite songs!). From what I know Watts is blowing a Conn "Shouting Star" (Mexico Conn) which nearly all saxplayers says is a bad horn. You can hear the keynoise from his sax as well. A sax with bad intonation, ergonomics, noisy keys ..... but in the hand of Mr Watts I think it's sound great!?!?!? Watts is pushing, (note)bending, sceaming .... and the "Thin Man" had a big-fat-greasy tone/sound in his sax to built his music on. I think he would sound great on a Selmer, Yani, Yama, BW .... as well, beacause he had something to tell his audience and I don't think he cared if a tone was 5% sharp or flat, he just blew! If Watts was on a Yanagisawa, Yamaha .... his tone/sound would perhaps be boring and predictable?

Old Git: Yes, learning should be as easy as possible. But there are lots of ways and methods to learn how to play the saxophone. If I meet adult persons who wants to play sax I introduce them to the blues. After some bassic training how to blow and what tones to play on thier saxes they should be able to blow an easy three-tone-blues-riff together with a live rhythm section. The song "Killing Floor" (Howlin' Wolf) is a good sample. We don't care if a saxplayer is on a "bad sax" that can be flat or sharp. They want to play, so let them play!

Thomas
 

zannad

Member
Messages
410
Not controversial at all, just illogical.

Learning anything should be made as easy as possible, reassuring the pupil regarding progress and so the easiest model to achieve this should be chosen within financial restrictions.

Also, who is likely to provide the best performance, the musician at ease with their instrument or the one who realises a battle against his horn might develop later?

Do you know why Brasilians are so good at playing football? Apparently it's because their kids learn playing on sandy beaches....very tricky indeed, and of course any mortal would rather be playing on grass but apparently it pays learning the hard way.
Other example in sport? Baseball players practicing with smaller bats?
 

VirusKiller

Member
Messages
449
Do you know why Brasilians are so good at playing football? Apparently it's because their kids learn playing on sandy beaches....very tricky indeed, and of course any mortal would rather be playing on grass but apparently it pays learning the hard way.
I agree with you only up to a point. Playing football on the beach or playing with tin cans in the slums no doubt helps develop skills at an early age. However, once the "chosen few" make it into the academies, they play with smaller footballs appropriate for their size and age and they don't play 11-a-side until their mid-teens, concentrating instead on smaller team formats in smaller spaces. So, in fact, once in a formal training environment, everything is tailored to make it as easy as possible for them to learn.

Unlike in this country, where playing with full-sized balls is commonplace (and more difficult) and kids are shoehorned into pointless 11-a-side on full-sized pitches at 10 or 11. It is no wonder England isn't performing at the highest level.
 

Nick Wyver

noisy
Subscriber
Messages
5,996
"My instrument's harder to play than yours. So ner."

At this point if anyone say e.g. "well, one has to concentrate in producing music and the horn shouldn't interfere with that"....which is also a debatable point since in my case (for example) it took only 20 minutes of adjustments to reconquer/tame the Crane and I'm glad I didn't give up too easily (don't ask me why...).

Yeah, and when something seizes up or drops off the Crane halfway through a gig you wonder why you didn't stick with the Yamaha. For a gigging musician it's as much about reliability as everything else (intonation, tone, etc.) - if it don't work it's no bloody use to anyone. Anyway there's enough struggling to do to learn an instrument without having to overcome the limitations of a crappy example of it.

The reason we're stuck with dreadful fingering systems (yes, that's you Mr Clarinet I'm talking to) is inertia in modern mass manufacture. When instruments were hand made a maker could innovate, but once a particular style wins and gets locked into manufacture for the masses then you're stuffed. Windows, anyone?
 

old git

Tremendous Bore
Messages
5,545
Thomas,
Total agreement. Good idea, introducing them to the blues. Pity you are not teaching the thread starter who wanted to play some tunes but his teacher insisted on scales and arpeggios only.

With just a Hanson ST-8, I'm no instrument snob either but as Nick says, it has to be reliable and would prefer to play an instrument that takes less skill. At my age, there aint enough time left to get good enough to cope with the awkward ones. ;}
 

zannad

Member
Messages
410
Thomas,
Total agreement. Good idea, introducing them to the blues. Pity you are not teaching the thread starter who wanted to play some tunes but his teacher insisted on scales and arpeggios only.

With just a Hanson ST-8, I'm no instrument snob either but as Nick says, it has to be reliable and would prefer to play an instrument that takes less skill. At my age, there aint enough time left to get good enough to cope with the awkward ones. ;}

You are assuming the cheap sax was awkward or not up to scratch - others have posted similar comments....this isn't correct.
The sax in itself it's ok and well tuned too, as it always has been...the problem is (was) that I've changed my approach and getting too spoiled as I'd been using a better sax (that's all)....as I've said: "I was just limiting myself" and nearly giving up without much struggle.
It seems like hair splitting reasoning but it really makes all the difference...
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
Messages
21,947
Zannad, in many ways I agree, but.... (Isn't there always a but or two).

Saxes vary in sound, and often a better sax has a better sound.
Keywork quality affects one's ability to play - heavy, awkward keywork can really slow you down, even if you're familiar with the instrument
Dead springs (especially stainless steel) on cheaper saxes kill the feel.

and there's also Nick's point about reliability... Corks seem to fall off cheap saxes remarkably easily, for instance.
 

BigMartin

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,916
I'm learning on a couple of cheap saxes. Like yours, Zannad, they play OK but are probably not the easiest to manage. No complaints from me, I'm just glad that such things exist or I wouldn't be playing at all. But if I could afford easier instruments to play, I would buy them. That way I could spend more of my practice time learning scales, chords, tunes, improvisation etc and less on overcoming any shortcomings of my horns.
 

saxyman

Member
Messages
267
I think I made a similar point in another post, about how I find it "easier" as a beginner to play my Yamaha YTS 25 than my Selmer SII.
I liken it to learning to drive in something easy, like say a Corsa then moving on and driving a Ferrari later, they will both do the same job, but one is more appropriate for someone who has experience and knows how to get the best out of its superior qualities.
 

zannad

Member
Messages
410
No alto saxophone can be described as "class".

Now that is how to be controversial, Zannad. >:)>:)

Would you buy these special pills to make you a better player? Think about - these pills will make you a master of jazz/music theories in an instant...Beware: your answer can be a very controversial one...
After answering it....just transport the same reasoning of your answer in term of sax/music gear.

(at least give me some credits for coming up with such imaginative idea - these magic hypothetical pills - indeed it might well highlight some uncomfortable truths).
 

Chris98

Senior Member
Messages
1,094
I just wrote a whole diatribe on this subject and realised I was ranting like a grumpy old man!

So please read this truncated version in good humour, I've just had a bad day at work:

I just knew it was my saxophones that were holding me back, they are just far too easy to play, It's no wonder I'm becoming disillusioned about the whole thing.

After a bad day at work, trying to inspire and teach something to the next generation, I feel the need to release all that pent up frustration, so in light of the subject of this thread I intend to go for a run wearing a pair of wellington boots, the awkwardness is bound to improve my running ability ;}

Please see the yard sale area for my saxophones...

Best wishes,

Chris
 

zannad

Member
Messages
410
Still none dare to come up with an answer about those special pills?
As I've mentioned these pills make you a pro sax player instantly - no pain all gain - all those scales, patterns, chords and harmony are at your fingertips (literally) - all you have to do is just producing beautiful music as easily as breathing fresh air...tempted?
 
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