Please, help me sound decent

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3
Location
Helsinki, Finland
#21
Thanks to everyone who's replied - it helps, a lot.

I will give special props to VeggieDave, who is absolutely right that obsessing and playing with one eye on the tuner will do nothing to improve sound - on the contrary - but everyone has been fantastically helpful here. Long tones and overtones are of course essential, and I'll have to say screw it to being self-conscious of practicing them in an apartment with neighbors (not, of course, past 8 or 9 in the evening).

Also, yes, I've made a couple of small attempts at finding a teacher. Here in Finland instrument teachers tend (it seems) to only teach in music schools, which complicates the process of finding someone a bit (they only begin and end teaching periods with semesters, one must commit to an entire semester's worth of lessons both in terms of time and money, etc.).

But overall, the advice and encouragement has been great. I consider a good year to be a reasonable amount of time to be decently satisfied with my sound - not, of course, meaning I won't keep working beyond that time. But satisfied enough to be motivated to carry on.

In any case, thanks again. I'll make sure to revisit this forum as I have more questions.
 

Taz

Busking Oracle
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3,613
Location
Rugby UK
#23
Chris, you’ve been a very naughty boy! Now go and stand in the corner....... no I mean it, stand facing the corner of a room, or a glass window or mirror and you will hear yourself in a different way.
Normally, when you play, you “hear” the sax resonating through your teeth and jaw. It colours or taints the sound that you think you are hearing. When you hear a reflected version of yourself, you may be quite surprised!
Good luck and have fun.
 

Caz

Member
Messages
170
Location
Denmark
#24
consider how much time you want to commit on an average day. divide that time into small blocks of goals that you want to improve on (remember to schedual coffee breaks)
Eg: 5-10 min long tones, 5-10min overtones, 15-20min scales/arpeggios 10min transcribing/play by ear etc. (how your practice routine looks like is up to you and your teacher)
I use a time-timer app on my smartphone to help me push through it. I find doing some sort of diary/log helps me keeping track on what i'm doing.
 

JayeNM

Formerly JayePDX
Messages
404
Location
New Mexico, US
#26
Also, yes, I've made a couple of small attempts at finding a teacher. Here in Finland instrument teachers tend (it seems) to only teach in music schools, which complicates the process of finding someone a bit (they only begin and end teaching periods with semesters, one must commit to an entire semester's worth of lessons both in terms of time and money, etc.).
You might try approaching another sax player in town, and asking them if they teach, or if they can recommend someone.

I mean...it's Helsinki....I gotta imagine there are a couple of private reeds teachers in Helsinki (?)

Then, as noted above, there are skype lessons, which really are handy for people in localities where there simply is no teacher.
 

jbtsax

old and opinionated
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6,591
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Beautiful Springville, Utah USA
#27
There is another idea that is worth mentioning, and that is to transcribe songs and solos done by players you would like to emulate. My teacher had me do this and once the song was learned and memorized he recommended turning up the volume and playing along with the recording over and over and over again trying to match the tone, style, articulation, and rhythms exactly the way they are being played. After a while if you listen carefully your sound begins to become "one" with the recording. You mentioned you like George Garzone. This is a song that is not too difficult where the transcription has already been done for you.

 
Messages
32
Location
West Midlands
#28
I saw a mention of keeping an eye on a tuner. I assume this refers to visual tuner app or similar. I might be controversial but from experience in bands I'll guarantee that anyone who uses these is guaranteed to play out of tune! Intonation is an aural process. No sax plays in tune and you have to develop the automatic skill of hearing what's going on round you and adjusting. If you do this by looking at a screen you are developing a visual skill but you ain't using your ears. I have spent time doing long notes in octaves to check tuning between octaves and against a continuous tone (say middle C) you can hear the beats and get absolutely in tune, play various other notes and the beats will give you 1 or 2 extra tones which you can pull around. This helps ears and intonation
 
Messages
485
#29
I saw a mention of keeping an eye on a tuner. I assume this refers to visual tuner app or similar. I might be controversial but from experience in bands I'll guarantee that anyone who uses these is guaranteed to play out of tune! Intonation is an aural process. No sax plays in tune and you have to develop the automatic skill of hearing what's going on round you and adjusting. If you do this by looking at a screen you are developing a visual skill but you ain't using your ears. I have spent time doing long notes in octaves to check tuning between octaves and against a continuous tone (say middle C) you can hear the beats and get absolutely in tune, play various other notes and the beats will give you 1 or 2 extra tones which you can pull around. This helps ears and intonation
Many years ago, I did some evening classes in piano repair. The guy who taught us was a fine piano tuner. One evening he was testing out a fancy tuning meter. There are technical reasons why you can't use a normal tuning meter for tuning a piano (inharmonicity), but this was a special one that could be calibrated to take all that into account. He had terrible trouble with it saying he just couldn't get used to tuning visually. After much swearing and cursing he managed to tune an octave's worth of notes. Then he checked various intervals by ear and said "It's not bad, but I could have done it better and quicker by ear".
 

Guenne

Senior Member
Messages
815
Location
Austria
#30
I saw a mention of keeping an eye on a tuner. I assume this refers to visual tuner app or similar. I might be controversial but from experience in bands I'll guarantee that anyone who uses these is guaranteed to play out of tune!
Drones are a very good way to check intonation in real life.

Lesson 15: Drones and Pedals - mattotto.org

You can download using the link above.

Cheers
 

hedgehog

Just in from skiing.
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Messages
83
Location
Minnesota, USA
#32
I saw a mention of keeping an eye on a tuner. I assume this refers to visual tuner app or similar. I might be controversial but from experience in bands I'll guarantee that anyone who uses these is guaranteed to play out of tune! Intonation is an aural process. No sax plays in tune and you have to develop the automatic skill of hearing what's going on round you and adjusting. If you do this by looking at a screen you are developing a visual skill but you ain't using your ears. I have spent time doing long notes in octaves to check tuning between octaves and against a continuous tone (say middle C) you can hear the beats and get absolutely in tune, play various other notes and the beats will give you 1 or 2 extra tones which you can pull around. This helps ears and intonation
I use the Tonal Energy app. I started using the all-visual Target Tuner feature. After reading something similar to what @Saxmaniac posted, I changed to using it the to generate drones, it was tedious (engage drone mode, touch the screen to select a note, play, touch the screen to stop the drone, repeat). Then I learned of a feature called "Auto Reference" where you start playing and the app generates a drone matching the note you play When you stop playing, the drone continues for just a moment and you can move on.

The advantage is: you can use it with your eyes closed so it's all aural. This feature is controlled by a rather tiny icon on the display, so not highly intuitive (yes, it's in the instructions and no, I didn't read the instructions). Probably other apps have similar features.
 

JayeNM

Formerly JayePDX
Messages
404
Location
New Mexico, US
#33
There is another idea that is worth mentioning, and that is to transcribe songs and solos done by players you would like to emulate. My teacher had me do this and once the song was learned and memorized he recommended turning up the volume and playing along with the recording over and over and over again trying to match the tone, style, articulation, and rhythms exactly the way they are being played. After a while if you listen carefully your sound begins to become "one" with the recording. You mentioned you like George Garzone. This is a song that is not too difficult where the transcription has already been done for you.

It is a thought, and an interesting one...although you, yourself have mentioned numerous times in other threads the importance of getting down the fundamentals before venturing off into other, more varied exercises and directions.
So, if the OP is having issues regarding tone production.....I am not certain that transcribing songs and playing them is actually going to correct or improve that. It might be a fun endeavor, but....


I personally would NOT recommend Chris doing something like this until (as your initial suggestion reflected) he has taken several lessons (whether in person of via Skype) with a good teacher who can pinpoint his weaknesses/dissatisfactions etc. and assign appropriate lessons to address those.
 

spike

Old Indian
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1,827
Location
Half way up a hill
#34
I must agree with jbt on this Jaye
Although the word transcribe means to write it down, you don't have to. Copy would perhaps be a better term.
Learning to listen and emulate can be, and in my experience is, in fact very beneficial for the development of tone and technique.
At the same time listening very closely to what you're playing as you play it - up against a wall or in a corner for example.
Also it doesn't mean that you end up sounding like somebody else, but you can learn an awful lot without even being aware of it sometimes.
Granted it needs to be part and parcel of the daily practice master plan but even so, an invaluable aid in the development of tone and technique.
I'm an autodidact and it helped me in leaps and bounds. Who knows? It may help someone else.
 

GCinCT

Seeker of truth and beauty
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581
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Oneonta, NY
#35
@JayeNM , I would like to point out that what @jbtsax said was that a beginner should learn the fundamentals of tone production before attempting to improvise. Transcribing is not improvising. Following the example of an admired professional would be and usually is, enormously helpful in developing all aspects of one's sound.
 

jbtsax

old and opinionated
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6,591
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Beautiful Springville, Utah USA
#37
My 32 years teaching music in a school and private lesson setting has taught me that one of the most effective methods to teach students to sound better is to use "modeling" or "modelling" in the U.K. This is essentially listening and trying to match what you hear---the way children learn to talk. Transcribing or learning a song from a recording requires repeated listening and "playing along" with what one hears trying to match tone, style, articulation, etc.

On a personal note, I grew up in a small town in Wyoming where the closest University was at least a 2 hr. drive away making taking lessons from a saxophone teacher impractical. I made up for this by attending summer music camps from the time I was in junior high and absorbing as much as I could in those 1 to 2 week settings. I also made up for the lack of a private teacher by listening to recordings and trying to sound like the saxophone player(s) on the record. By the time I was in high school I could play dozens of songs I learned from recordings and I could sound like Paul Desmond, Ace Cannon, and Cannonball Adderly (on the melody at least). I learned vibrato by listening to the sax section in the Billy Vaughn orchestra. In high school I started to play classical pieces listening to recordings by Fred Hemke and trying to match tone, style, articulation just as I had done with jazz and pop tunes.

When I played my audition to be accepted as a music major at a state University the band director asked who taught me to play the saxophone so well, I answered I just listened to lots of recordings. He told this story for years after I graduated to make the point that it didn't matter where you grew up if you have the desire and determination to learn to play an instrument well.
 

JayeNM

Formerly JayePDX
Messages
404
Location
New Mexico, US
#38
Gents, gents....here is my point, more clearly stated:

IF a student is having, by his own admission, difficulty or dissatisfaction with his own tone production (i.e. he doesn't like how he sounds)...and, to date, we know he has not found a teacher...then it is more than reasonable to assume that there may perhaps be something going on fundamentally as far as technique...be this embouchure, breath support, or whatever.

In each reply to this thread...this is what I have been assuming. Something which would be somewhat easily correctable should the OP have a chance to play in front of a teacher and allow the teacher to ascertain what is going on.

IF this is the case in this instance (and again, from how I interpret the OP...I believe this IS the case)...then quite honestly....advising him to transcribe or find transcriptions of a favorite sax player and then practice learning the transcription and furthermore attempt to play them in such a way or manner as to emulate the player's sound....in an instance where the student may well be doing something fundamentally 'off' ....is NOT particularly useful advice, in my opinion.

Because you would be suggesting a player spend time on an endeavor which will not likely bear much fruit if his fundamentals are ersatz.
In which case, the player is already handicapped in achieving the goal of the suggested exercise right out of the gate.,


If one chooses to embark upon an exercise which is geared towards getting them to hear, listen, and sound like another artist, it's most helpful to have the fundamentals of embouchure, blowing, breath support, etc. fairly under one's belt. I glean from OP comments in this thread thus far that this may well NOT be the case.

Thus my comment.

It is not a critcism of "it's a good idea to transcribe"... nor a criticism of the notion "it's always a good exercise to listen and try to emulate" . Neither have I in any way stated "it's not a good idea to follow a professional's example", etc.

All of those things are fine things for a developing musician to try. However, in this instance I am not certain they address the OP's concerns. nor would they provide an Rx to his sonic frustrations....
 
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jbtsax

old and opinionated
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Beautiful Springville, Utah USA
#39
A player's "sound" doe not automatically mean tone quality or tone production. It can also mean style which is an extremely broad topic. A common misconception in the saxophone world is "if I get a Berg Larsen with a huge tip opening I will sound just like Pete Christlieb". No. You will sound like Pete Christlieb when you can play with the same, style, articulation, phrasing, nuances, etc. etc. and you can only do that by listening over and over again and trying to mimick and match every element of his playing.

In the original post that started this thread Chris mentioned that he started playing as a "kid" and has played the saxophone off and on since then---sometimes regularly and sometimes not. When someone has played that long it is reasonable to assume that the player has tone productions skills well beyond that of a beginner just learning to play. Nowhere does he talk about tone quality. Instead he mentions intonation, articulation, and not "sounding like" the great players he listens to---hence my advice to listen to recordings and try to emulate what he hears.
 

GCinCT

Seeker of truth and beauty
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581
Location
Oneonta, NY
#40
@JayeNM, my issue was with the fact that you attempted to use @jbtsax ‘s words against him, but you misquoted him. If you’re going to challenge a long time, highly respected former member, you should do your research. ;) (Notice the emoji. My comments are in the fun spirit of this forum.)
 
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