Beginner Playing for Change 2019

randulo

Playing saxophone 21 months - 2.4% of my life
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It is 620 days (622 days or 88 weeks and 6 days, but who's counting?) since I first rented an alto saxophone to see if I could learn to play it. I bought a new one last December. Of those 620 days, I would estimate I have practiced at least 1800 hours. I've taken lessons from a local jazz guy and looked at lots of YouTube videos. I joined an online lesson thing for one month, and finally, I have been studying with the Eric Marienthal ArtistWorks program which has a lot of lessons, songs with backing tracks and Eric's works on them (impressive!) and the main feature, exchanging videos with Eric. Since all students can look at everyone's videos and Eric's responses, it's very informative. None of these various lessons take a perspective that is completely aligned with the songs in my head.

Last night I played the first short actual structured "set" (I.e., not a jam session) for the Playing for Change concert I've mentioned elsewhere. It wasn't a disaster. Over the different tunes, I can see plenty of room for improvement and a nice variety of fumbled fingers and the odd squeak. I also have been trying to mix singing and sax, and that requires some thought to arrangement, as you can't do both at once (although I think a few people have). I need to get the habit of tailoring the improvised phrases to end in a way that allows getting back to the mic in time. The opposite, tailoring the singing at the end of a phrase to allow playing the saxophone. As you can imagine, this is not a problem on guitar.

My hope is that next year in September, I will have a much better grasp of the problem areas. Meanwhile, here's an excerpt of my part in the concert, a tune I recorded in 1993 on guitar. It's a modified blues in concert F, 16 bars with a 4-bar tag at the end: F, Ab7, F, C#7, C7, B7b5, Bb9.

View: https://youtu.be/XojPMiGtRrI
 
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s.mundi

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:)
Bravo Randy.

Your saxophone had a great sound and I also enjoyed how you worked the rhythm. Of course, your extensive musical background and hard work have assisted in the great progress. I would not change anything about your saxophone playing, so keep trucking.
At times, a gig will require you to be a South Texas sound engineer and saxophone technician.
The combination of vocals and saxophone is special. You did a fine job.

Small adjustments:
1. The vocal mic needs to be positioned closer to your mouth, taller and adjusted to the left side of our body. Your bending down to sing and the mic in the way for the quick transitions to the saxophone.
2. You need more volume on the vocals. People love singers, but you need to be heard above the band.

You did an amazing job and the Cafe Saxophone Family is very proud of you!
Thank you for sharing.
 
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randulo

randulo

Playing saxophone 21 months - 2.4% of my life
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Appreciate the feedback! I noticed the mic positioning right away, but couldn't change it, definitely needs to be better adapted. Experience helps!
I think in the room the vocal volume was ok, I believe I had the video recording audio set poorly. I added some of the original track, so that buried the vocal a little, while the sax parts were sufficient.

I really hope to have a band by the time the next one rolls around.
 

Wade Cornell

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You've definitely got the music in your head and hands. You're way too modest about your singing. Really like the song as well and the arrangement. One comment that may, or may not matter to you: You're pinching up your shoulders tensing the whole top half of your body, and (it appears) closing off your neck when you play. I'd try to relax them. Look at your body when you sing and then when you play. The sax should be exactly like singing. If most of us did that we'd be very sore and tired after a few hours. If you'd like to stop doing that practice in front of a mirror so that you have instant feedback.
 
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randulo

randulo

Playing saxophone 21 months - 2.4% of my life
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Thanks, @Wade Cornell and @s.mundi. I asked my wife and she said the vocal level was fine. There was someone in the room who was watching the levels. What's scary is that there was an act later the was not mic'ed at all, and the singer was yelling so loud my ears hurt, and I was at the other end of the room!

I don't feel I'm tensing up, although I did make a close up video yesterday to ask my teacher about my embouchure. Looking at it, I see my neck is definitely tensed up. (Cropped version below)
vlcsnap-2019-09-23-07h38m20s034.jpg

What puzzles me, though, is that I practice 3 or 4 hours a day. In the morning, at least two hours straight. Yet, I have no problem after or at night with neck or shoulder pain (knock on ebonite). I do have a battle with trying to keep the throat open, especially in the upper register, to keep in tune.
 

Wade Cornell

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Try to let your shoulders drop. Shake out your arms and play some scales and easy stuff while relaxing your shoulders. You might also try bringing the sax up higher on your neck strap so that you're not bringing your head down or shoulders up...probably won't make that much difference. Sure looks uncomfortable and it's hard to imagine being able to play with good articulation when tensed up that much. But as they say...whatever works is fair.
 
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randulo

randulo

Playing saxophone 21 months - 2.4% of my life
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I think what you're seeing is my awful posture. The harness does occasionally need to be adjusted to raise the sax, I have to keep checking that from time to time.
 

Pete Effamy

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Try to let your shoulders drop. Shake out your arms and play some scales and easy stuff while relaxing your shoulders. You might also try bringing the sax up higher on your neck strap so that you're not bringing your head down or shoulders up...probably won't make that much difference. Sure looks uncomfortable and it's hard to imagine being able to play with good articulation when tensed up that much. But as they say...whatever works is fair.
The shoulders was the first thing I spotted too. I can play with perfect posture on the clarinet, but as soon as I play sax, the body moves to the music man!
 

Pete Effamy

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Yes, as others have said, your have years of musical knowledge and feel - this has rocketed you to where you are on the sax. Personally I think that you could put a little more air into the horn. Like the others, I really like the combo of singing and playing all the fills on your sax, it's a really big sound with the backing too but the sax helps bridge the gap between backing and live. 620 days... I tip my hat. :thumbs:
 
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randulo

randulo

Playing saxophone 21 months - 2.4% of my life
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Again, many thanks. My feeling (if I may) is this. The air stream is very unstable, you can't get that right quickly, or at least I can't. Intonation has been improving and I'm happy with the progress, but there's much more work needed. The higher notes suffer from both of these. As for moving, on guitar, I had to force myself to move in situations where the look matters. That was in the days before scantily clad dancers were twerking in every video. But playing my own music on the saxophone, it's almost impossible to stay still. Final fault, I hear a lot of stuff so I almost constantly overplay. Hopefully you can hear there's structure in the playing, but I know that would be much stronger if I could better control the moments where there should be less notes and embellishment. This is less apparent on my tunes because there's no melody to play, it is sung. What's nice about playing my own music is that I don't need to remember the melody. When I play other songs like standards, I rarely am able to play the exact melody. And to date, there are no alternative versions to compare to :)

Coming up on 21 months!
 
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randulo

randulo

Playing saxophone 21 months - 2.4% of my life
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I don't understand!?!?! Does your raised shoulders hold you back? I know some saxplayers that are not doing the right things. Or maybe they doing it as it should be.
It seems like Sax Gordon is also tensing up ? Still the first call, so it can't be that bad?
I don't see tensing up but the second has his cheeks blown out, I thought that was "wrong".

At any rate, those are two great tenor players, I love the style and the sound.

My raised shoulders don't bother me, but it does seem to be wasted muscular effort that I will watch and try to reduce.
 

thomsax

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I don't see tensing up but the second has his cheeks blown out, I thought that was "wrong".

At any rate, those are two great tenor players, I love the style and the sound.

My raised shoulders don't bother me, but it does seem to be wasted muscular effort that I will watch and try to reduce.
My point is that somekind of harness is better for the neck. I became a better player when I started to use a harness.

I like your clips. Singing and, playing the saxophone. Your raised shoulders and tensing up doesn't bother me. I'm looking forward to hear more sound clips from you. I also like PFC.. A blues backing track, a key that most saxplerys can handle .... . But I guess you must record at the same Hz and use headphones. As you probably recognize, I know nothing about recording.
 
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randulo

randulo

Playing saxophone 21 months - 2.4% of my life
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Thanks @thomsax I'm never sure who gets what I'm trying to do with the sax/voice combo. It's humor, semi-blues rock and some musical things snuck in, as opposed to a string of licks. We're already talking about next year's PFC event and I hope I'll be in even better shape by then! Oh, and I wouldn't be without my JazzLabs harness.
 
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randulo

randulo

Playing saxophone 21 months - 2.4% of my life
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All in all, I feel no discomfort from doing this 2-3 hours at a time, twice a day, so I'm not worried, just trying to cover all the bases.
 
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