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Beginner Picking up a sax / playing with non-readers

RayL

New Member
Messages
20
Hi
This is my first posting to Cafe Saxophone (thank you to Stephen Howard for the link via the Haynes manual). I've had the sax about four months (John Packer 042 tenor / Yamaha 4C / Rico Royal 2s) and I'd like to be bold enough to ask a question and make an observation.

The first is about picking up the sax. The advice seems to be that for safety it should be picked up by the bell. This leaves fingermarks on that lovely shiny surface. Is there such a thing as a 'sleeve' of material that would slip over the outside and inside of the bell to a depth of, say, five or six inches? For the inside end it would have a softly sprung ring to keep the airway open, and for the outside a loop of elastic to make it grip the bell. Obviously this would be a rehearsal-only device - too much danger of ribald comments about 'stocking tops' at a gig. I've scoured the 'sax accessories' ads but there's nothing similar. Or do sax players simply resign themselves to polishing off their fingerprints at regular intervals?

The observation is about playing in small bands with non-readers. Having played guitar in various rock and pop bands since the 1960s there has never been a need to learn to read music - it's all head arrangements learned from recordings and from watching other (better) musicians and from that osmosis that comes from living with the music for 50 years. Now I seem to have entered a land where reading the dots is sort of expected as the way to progress with the sax.

Frankly, I'm not sure I've got the inclination. If I want to make a contribution to the bands that I play in then I need to learn the fingering for about two and a bit octaves more or less in one go (to be able to play in any key, particularly the 'guitar' keys of A and E) and also to learn the 'real' names of the notes that I am playing so that if the band comes up with a tune in the key of G then I'll play the right notes and not something two semitones distant. The same principle applies when playing along to records or backing tracks.

Does anyone else feel the same?

Ray
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
Messages
21,947
Hi Ray, welcome from me.

I think you'll find most of us pick the sax up by the tube, not the bell, being reasonably careful not to force/break anything.

Your second comment carries a lot of merit, and there are many excellent sax players who don't read the dots, but just play by ear. Most of the books/guides have fingering charts and note names against them, so that would work, if you took a fingering chart and moved all the notes up a tone.

Some downsides...
If you decide to switch to alto or play it as well as tenor, you need to learn different fingering for each note.
If you talk to other sax players, you'll find that most talk in terms of the instrument's note names... So Bottom C on a sax is always 3 left fingers down and 4 right fingers down, irrespective of which sax you're playing.

There's also the C Melody (aka C Tenor) you could consider. Solves all the problems..
 

Fraser Jarvis

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,910
Hi Ray, and welcome to the Cafe, on your first point about picking up the sax i have, until recently that is always picked it up from the stand with the bell, but as my sax has no laquer it started to develop four obvious finger lines going down the inside of the bell, i now pick it up by putting my lefthand second finger through the round bell brace.

On your second point, the only thing that goes inside the body of the sax is a "shove in", or as they are now called in these times of political correctness... pad savers, but these are just to wick moisture away from the inside surfaces...nothing else.

Regarding reading music, i dont think it's expected or for that matter, not expected...just up to the indevidual i guess, if you want to play in a big band you simply wont be able to if you dont have a strong understanding of sight reading...on the other hand if you play in a pop type of situation then copying other, better players as you put it will work, personaly i try to do both.

I guess you could try a pair of those white gloves:)
 

MandyH

Sax-Mad fiend!
Subscriber
Messages
3,551
I pick my sax out of the case by the bell - more or less as you describe, but I pick it up from the stand by placing myright index finger under the thumb rest and cupping my left hand infront of the upper body to balance it. I then stand it on a higher surface and put the sling hook in place. Sometimes if there is no higher surface, I actually put the sling hook onto the sax while it is on the stand - this probably requires many of you to be far bendier than you are, though!!
 

thomsax

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,799
I've seen, on a German website, a saxplayer that made a protection for her saxes when they were in the cases. I can't recall her name. My daughter did "pouches" for my moutpieces, necks and saxbody (big ones!). I was not to keep my saxes shiny but to proctect the sax from cold. I live in Sweden and it can very cold here. I use both hands when i pick up my sax. One the bell and one on the top of the sax, but not over the octave key/pin. I use padsavers so I grab the "rubberend" on the padsaver.

Good to hear that you want to learn the Rockkeys A and E. I think these keys comes out very well on the tenorsax (B & E). Lots of nice songs to play. When I learn a song a read from charts if there are any otherwise I simply learn it by ear. I have a CD, we use the CD at our Rocksax Workshops, with lots of useful licks and patterns for both Bb (tenor) and Eb (alto/bari) in the key of concert A and E. That means the tenor plays in B (5 sharps) F# (6 sharps). The alto/bari are in F# (6 sharps) and C# (7 sharps). A and E are often called the rockkeys because the rockmusic is nowadays based on the guitar. I think these keys are pretty easy to the guitarplayers? So now it's it's your turn to have a tricky life!;} You get used to it!

Learn the bluesscales. You can do a lot with them. And I also think you have an advantage as a guitarplayer. You can pick lots ideas/lines from the guitar and play them on sax.

Last time on our Rocksax Project we did a song called "Killing Floor" (Howlin' Wolf) in A concert. The horns is playing the same figures through the whole song. The 12 bar giuitarsolo we tranposed the chords for Bb or Eb instruments. I have the charts, chordchanges and chordtones if you want it. We played it with a 4-piece rhytmsection.

There are some good books when it comes to Rocksax. Pete Thomas website and "Taiming the Saxophone" and John Laughters "Rock 'n' Roll Saxophone" and "Contemporary Saxophone" are good.

Good luck and Rock On!

Thomas
 

RayL

New Member
Messages
20
Thanks for your prompt replies. Lots of useful food for thought.

This afternoon hasn't be wasted either from a saxophone point of view since I've been up in town (London) at the annual Duane Eddy Convention (Duane has a thriving UK/international following) and Martin Waller, sax player with the Convention's own tribute band, The Twang Gang, gave me some very valuable demonstrations of the playing techniques that he uses. Most of Duane's recordings feature tenor sax alongside his trademark 'twangy' guitar and those sax soloists have included such notables as Plas Johnson, Steve Douglas and Jim Horn. Martin can reproduce their solos with all the necessary 'growl' and 'bite' when required and it was fascinating to find out how it's done.

Meanwhile, back here in Carshalton, lots more basic practice is needed!

Ray
 
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Taz

Busking Oracle
Messages
3,661
Hi Ray,no need to learn anything as far as I'm concerned! Let me explain that a bit better. I don't/can't read music (in fact I'm a pretty slow reader when it comes to books too) and I can't even remember what key on the sax plays what note! Just to confuse things even more I play alto, tenor and more recently, the baritone too! But I can manage to knock out a fairly passable tune when required.
Having played music of one sort or another for so long, you will have hopefully developed a good ear and, if your anything like me, you'll find the sax to be what I call an instinctive instrument. What I mean by that, is that you just seem to know where to put your fingers. The trouble is building up the speed to get them there at the right time! :)))
As for picking the sax up, I do the same with all of mine, I tend to slip the middle finger of my right hand under the bell to body brace, I then hook my thum around the tube and lift. My middle finger takes all the weight and its a nice ballance as well, the thumb just hold the sax there. You have to be a little careful when doing this as if you did it wrong you could bend rods I would have thought.
All the best.
 

Andante cantabile

Senior Member
Messages
695
The observation is about playing in small bands with non-readers. Having played guitar in various rock and pop bands since the 1960s there has never been a need to learn to read music - it's all head arrangements learned from recordings and from watching other (better) musicians and from that osmosis that comes from living with the music for 50 years. Now I seem to have entered a land where reading the dots is sort of expected as the way to progress with the sax.
Folk musicians all over the world play wind instruments with great skill without being able to read any music. So there should be no reason why you couldn't make a great constribution to a band simply by playing from memory or by ear. And it seems that you have developed that skill very well. What you may be lacking is sufficient skill in playing the saxophone, and that is something you can acquire in the same way you acquired your skill with the guitar.

Some types of music are difficult to learn or to play without being able to read music. Imagine trying to pick up the Glazounov alto part or a classical suite simply by listening. Similarly, some community bands may be out of your reach unless you are good at mimicking. But I gather that your ambitions lie elsewhere. Some lessons to teach you the layout of the saxophone might be useful in getting you under way.
 

thomsax

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,799
Ray,

I learned to play saxophone by ear. I can read (badly) and understand how music is built but I prefer to learn music by ear. I played in the keys of concert A & E without knowing it beacause the music I like and learned was often in the guitarkeys/rockkeys. So that is "easy" keys for me!

We try to to keep out of outwritten charts at our Rocksax Project. But some players most have a notestand and a chart in front of them. We concentrate on the feeling for the Blues and Rock music. You should be able to play an easy 3 tone blues riff ... at the first meeting. And for about 15 minutes. All players should play a 12 bar solo and the songs becomes long!!

Do you know Steve Douglas made a Rock & Roll Saxophone instruction video in the 80's. Douglas was a very good player. I saw a VHS with him yesterday. He was playing with JJ Cale. And Douglas was also playing his Grafton alto on the video. It sounds great!

Thomas
 

bodak

Member
Messages
72
Hi Thomas,that VHS of Steve Douglas sounds interesting,more so with the grafton connection.
Just had a search on the bay,but can't find anything.Any ideas ?
Regards.
 

thomsax

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,799
Hi Thomas,that VHS of Steve Douglas sounds interesting,more so with the grafton connection.
Just had a search on the bay,but can't find anything.Any ideas ?
Regards.
Looking at old VHS brings up memories. On the same VHS cassette Morphine with Mark Sandman and Dana Colley also appears.

The recording with J.J. Cale is from The Bottom Line , NYC, 16/3 1990. Beside Cale and Douglas, Spooner Oldham is also on keys. The song Douglas is playing a solo an his Grafton alto is called "Sensitive Kind". The video production is a Japanese one.

Are looking for more Graftons? I new a collector that also have three! I think he is going to sell some of them. They're mor or less crackled.

Steve Kreisman aka Steve Douglas was good player. He passed away in April 1993 just before a recording session with Ry Cooder.

Thomas
 

RayL

New Member
Messages
20
It seems that there are a lot more sax people 'playing by ear' than I thought!

An interesting point that was mentioned yesterday by Martin Waller related to a youth orchestra where he was brought in as a more experienced player to help out. The young guys could read music very well but were bewildered when asked to improvise a solo. They didn't know what to do when it wasn't written down for them. Like Thomas and Taz it seems for me a very natural thing to have music bubbling inside me all the time so that the sax becomes just another way of expressing it, as natural as singing or whistling.

Another aspect is whether someone hears music as an impenetrable 'whole' - just something they listen to without any sort of analysis or whether (and this is me again) they 'hear the layers' and (whether consciously or not) want to know how the music was put together - the instrumentation, the balance, the use of chords and all the other bits and bobs that make up the final result.

It's fun isn't it?

Ray
 

Targa

Among the pigeons
Subscriber
Messages
8,891
To keep the body clean of marks like that I just give it a quick wipe every time.
If you want something to protect the end of the bell you answered your own question, cut off a stocking top or a section of a pair of tights and then stretch it over the end as far outside and inside as you want it.
 

saxnik

Member
Messages
381
Hi Ray,

Good points you're making here, playing by ear is vital, I reckon! It's useful to play from music if you're going to play in a band that changes its entire repertoire each gig, but if you're playing function band style music (i.e. the gig changes, not the repertoire) then playing by ear is easier and more professional-looking.

To get there in the quickest possible way, get a teacher to translate fingering patterns into concert notes (i.e. scales and arpeggios I guess) so that you can use your ears to hear the difference, then start busking tunes. If you're playing in concert A and E there are a few shortcuts that aren't shown in the 'basic' fingering guides, that will make life a bit easier. A decent tutor ought to be able to help you to find them!

Good luck,

Nick
 

bodak

Member
Messages
72
Looking at old VHS brings up memories. On the same VHS cassette Morphine with Mark Sandman and Dana Colley also appears.

The recording with J.J. Cale is from The Bottom Line , NYC, 16/3 1990. Beside Cale and Douglas, Spooner Oldham is also on keys. The song Douglas is playing a solo an his Grafton alto is called "Sensitive Kind". The video production is a Japanese one.

Are looking for more Graftons? I new a collector that also have three! I think he is going to sell some of them. They're mor or less crackled.

Steve Kreisman aka Steve Douglas was good player. He passed away in April 1993 just before a recording session with Ry Cooder.

Thomas
I could be interested in the Graftons.Do you have a contact for him?
Regards.
 

thomsax

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,799
I could be interested in the Graftons.Do you have a contact for him?
Regards.
I'll call this week and see if they still there. Are you in UK?

I'll to get the Douglas-Grafton clip on a DVD so I can share it.

Thomas
 

flamingoer

Member
Messages
138
Ritz Music in Richmond, Surrey had a very nice Grafton complete with Dearman piece (I think)
in the window a week or so ago.
 
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