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John Harle's "The Saxophone"

David Roach

Senior Member
Messages
619
I now have a copy of this book at home and I am working through it extremely slowly so that I may understand as fully as possible what John is actually trying to convey through his use of proprietary terminology. I've got to the end of chapter 3.

For instance:
'Pulling down along the line' is an interesting idea. It's one that is commonly used in vocal and sports coaching I think. The idea of externalising effort is a powerful and effective mental exercise that allows the player to let go of the internal effort patterns that can actually block energy.

The 'Reed fan' is basically what is known as 'voicing', but explained in new terms and in a lot more detail.

There is a lot of excellent advice here, but I occasionally feel that John makes statements that are insufficiently explained, or that are not quite thought through and skated over but included because it suits the grand idea: I can't decide.

I do welcome reasoned discussion about this book.
 

Guenne

Senior Member
Messages
933
There is a lot of excellent advice here, but I occasionally feel that John makes statements that are insufficiently explained, or that are not quite thought through and skated over but included because it suits the grand idea: I can't decide.
Let's take the idea of "blocked breath" occuring because of breathing through the middle of the mouth. J.H. explains that you are kind of working against the air that is present in your mouth which "blocks" exhaling.

You can find a video of Sigurd Rascher showing breathing trought the corners of the mouth.

If you compare breathing through the corners and through the middle there might be a different explanation why "side breathing" makes sense. Being an Alexander Technique student I think it is just a different (and much better) management of you lower jaw while breathing which allows the air to go in much faster and without "trying to do" something.

The idea of the reed fan in conjunction with the so called "throat pressure points" - back in the low, down in the middle und forward in the high register really helped me a lot. Not so much for myself, as I more or less did it that way, but to explain for my students.

Cheers, T.S.

P.S.: It's the book that will travel along with me when I go to Tyrol tomorrow.
P.P.S: I emailed Faber and they said that there will be an E-book sometime this year.
 

David Roach

Senior Member
Messages
619
Let's take the idea of "blocked breath" occuring because of breathing through the middle of the mouth. J.H. explains that you are kind of working against the air that is present in your mouth which "blocks" exhaling..
This is precisely what makes no sense to me. If you are stopping your breath at the point of the vocal folds, and have the sax mouthpiece in position, there is no point of vacuum or blockage between those vocal folds and the body of the sax, so what possible use can there be in trying to release air from the mouth, sides or otherwise!?
 

Guenne

Senior Member
Messages
933
Very quiet around here! Is everyone studying this book hard? Or have we all given up?
Working hard!
Before the school holidays, I practiced the stuff 2 hours a day. (I started about Easter).
But at least for me it is useful to have breaks from time to time, to think it over.
I started again last week, and things make more sense every practice session.
What's beginning now is I can really use some things when I play.
I noticed that (although I was rather good in that before) it takes me less effort to let's say play lead in a loud Bigband.
Also his approach to double tonguing allowed my single tonguing to improve.
I also came to me that with frequent repetition of the register change exercises for instance there are times when suddenly "lightning strikes me", and allows me to question things I have done in a certain way for so long.
One of my colleagues used to say:
"We have been learning to play the horn for 30 years, and then try to get rid of all the stuff he have learned for the next 30 years..." :)

Cheers, Guenne
 

Guenne

Senior Member
Messages
933
'Pulling down along the line' is an interesting idea. It's one that is commonly used in vocal and sports coaching I think. The idea of externalising effort is a powerful and effective mental exercise that allows the player to let go of the internal effort patterns that can actually block energy.
Hi,

I found that this pulling stuff makes it easier for me to keep the intensity playing slow stuff or quiet, which often gave me headache to manage.
I don't know if it's "just" a mental thing. Well, if I think about, it's preparation for activity that also counts.

Cheers, Guenne
 

Guenne

Senior Member
Messages
933
Can someone explain the "reed fan"?
The theory is (as far as I understand) that the reed's direction of movement (vibration) varies depending on the note you are playing.
Low register (not overblown) from straight up with low Bb having the biggest amplitude, C# the smallest.
D (overblown) has the biggest amplitude downwards.
Kind of "mirroring" the bore.

Cheers, Guenne
 

MikeMorrell

Netherlands
Subscriber
Messages
1,376
Is there no end to the talented and famous sax players I've never heard of? John Harle was yet another. I looked him up and I enjoyed watching some video's of him (and of others singing/playing his compositions). I'd hadn't realised that he composed the haunting 'Silencium' theme (here the sax/vocal version) used on Silent Witness. I also like Elvis Costello's version of 'My Mistress Mine'

I'm in no way qualified to comment on his teaching skills or techniques. But I accept that any way that he can find to 'visualise' the finer points of technique that he wants to get across would be helpful in teaching students. I'm still a relative beginner and most resources either recommend 'doing this or that' to get the best tone/intonation or suggest 'experimenting with this and that and figuring out what works best for you'. Just from reading a couple of highlights from his book, Harle seems to have found metaphors or visualisation techniques to communicate in detail the principles that he thinks are important. It's all way above my head but if his 'reed fans' and 'power lines' help his students discover better breath, throat and oral cavity control it's fine by me.
Mike
 

Alice

Psychedelic
Messages
5,349
Is there no end to the talented and famous sax players I've never heard of? John Harle was yet another. I looked him up and I enjoyed watching some video's of him (and of others singing/playing his compositions). I'd hadn't realised that he composed the haunting 'Silencium' theme (here the sax/vocal version) used on Silent Witness. I also like Elvis Costello's version of 'My Mistress Mine'

I'm in no way qualified to comment on his teaching skills or techniques. But I accept that any way that he can find to 'visualise' the finer points of technique that he wants to get across would be helpful in teaching students. I'm still a relative beginner and most resources either recommend 'doing this or that' to get the best tone/intonation or suggest 'experimenting with this and that and figuring out what works best for you'. Just from reading a couple of highlights from his book, Harle seems to have found metaphors or visualisation techniques to communicate in detail the principles that he thinks are important. It's all way above my head but if his 'reed fans' and 'power lines' help his students discover better breath, throat and oral cavity control it's fine by me.
Mike
Why do you think it is above your head Mike? I'm sure it isn't.
 

jbtsax

Well-Known Member
Subscriber
Messages
7,404
The theory is (as far as I understand) that the reed's direction of movement (vibration) varies depending on the note you are playing.
Low register (not overblown) from straight up with low Bb having the biggest amplitude, C# the smallest.
D (overblown) has the biggest amplitude downwards.
Kind of "mirroring" the bore.

Cheers, Guenne
I guess I need to buy the book and have a look. From an acoustic standpoint, the reed behaves like a spring. The external air pressure from the player closes the opening of the mouthpiece as the reed travels to the tip rail and stops. Then the pressure from the returning wave reopens the reed and its elasticity allows it to open a bit farther than a reed at rest. Then the cycle begins again.

At any given moment in time, the reed is vibrating at the frequency dictated by the length of the vibrating air column defined by the first opening in the body tube. The reed's frequency of vibration couples with the natural resonant frequency of that column of vibrating air. It may be that on lower notes more of the reed is vibrating, and on higher note less of the reed is vibrating, however there must be sufficient movement of the reed as a whole to move toward the mouthpiece tip and close the opening momentarily while the reed is "beating" at dynamics of mf
and above.
 

MikeMorrell

Netherlands
Subscriber
Messages
1,376
Hi Alice,
I started off playing sax late in life (with just a couple of years of tutoring) so I'm still learning 'the basics' of breath control, tone, intonation, etc. I'm sure John Harle's book is very helpful but there are many other resources I want to work through first.

Mike

Why do you think it is above your head Mike? I'm sure it isn't.
 

Jazzaferri

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,508
Having watched several time lapse studies of reeds vibrating and considering that I find it possible to get all notes on my sax (except altissimo) while concentrating on keeping my embouchure exactly the same as far a shape and pressure are concerned....

I really don't understand what Harle is saying about the reed fan concept. Havent read the book so hopefully someone will enlighten me.
 

Jazzaferri

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,508
@Guenne I learned this skill to cover a few adjacent notes to get an idea of how to fine tune the setup on my sax. Other than that I am sure it has no purpose.

When I focus on embouchure doing long tones, I am aware of subtle changes in most ever note for intonation and tone.
 

Guenne

Senior Member
Messages
933
A brilliant book to accompany the Harle stuff would be Jon De Lucia's "Bach Shapes", which are diatonic sequences derived from J.S.Bach. The large intervals are very hard to play on the saxophone, and the only choice IMHO is to keep the outer embouchure as constant as possible while allowing for the changes that have to be made inside. This is still a long journey for me (air is a problem, too).

Bach Shapes - Practice Book for All Saxophones

There is a sample available which uses the chord progressions of a well known standard, the etude is called "Johann with the wind".
It's available here:
http://www.bestsaxophonewebsiteever.com/wp-content/uploads/Johann-with-the-wind-sample.pdf

I have made a BiaB-Playalong some time ago if you want to try:
Dropbox - Johann - Gone.mp3

I played it today to get familiar with a new program I am using, ScreenFlow:


Cheers, Guenne
 

TootSweet

Member
Messages
34
I bought the Harle book(s) some months ago. It's interesting stuff, but the more I read it, the more I feel like the famous millipede who couldn't walk any more when he was asked how he managed to move all those legs ...

And no, I don't really see what's so scientific in Harle's method. To me, it seems full of suggestions that are rather poetic or suggestive in character ("cathedral of sound" etc.).
 

Guenne

Senior Member
Messages
933
And no, I don't really see what's so scientific in Harle's method.
I was talking to my coach about that in our lesson on Sunday.

In my opinion, there's more danger in telling somebody do something in a certain range of the horn, do that, say "hee", say "hoo", keep your tongue in a certain position or whatever than trying to process that indirectly (power lines) and being not "scientificly precise". Ok, there's much under the smokescreen of that.
It's working perfectly for me, and - is I might have mentioned before - especially changing horns (Alto, Tenor, Bari Sop) or doubling on Bass Clarinet or Flute got way easier, as I have a better access to the parameters.

Again - it is just a different approach to voicing, and I find it great, it boosted my playing like nothing ever before.
It kind of opened my ears to what is possible, how it could sound, how easy and effortless it could feel, how much I struggled and compensated to get the (not really bad) sound I had before I started working with the book.

Cheers, Guenne
 
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TooSaxy4Me

New Member
Messages
24
When I first started playing fifteen months ago, I faced the familiar difficulties with high and low notes, poor stamina, inconsistent intonation and physical and mental tension while playing. Working through John’s book over the last six months has resolved all these issues for me. I am now able to play notes in registers 1 and 2 in tune with little effort and greater consistency. My playing feels much more relaxed and I have a feeling of intimacy with my instrument. Like a golfer following a clearly defined pre-shot routine before striking the ball, John’s method has given me a setup routine for body and embouchure which I trust to produce a consistent, clear note every time. I’ve very much enjoyed studying the material and putting it into practice and am confident I will see further improvements in the months to come.
 
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