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Practice devices.

JamesOxford

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48
Location
Oxford, UK
Finally picked up a tenor, so texted my neighbours warning them to let me know when it becomes unbearable. Luckily both said noise was ok, so I no-longer have to worry about building a room within a room or investing in a mute.
I've only played the tenor over a weekend, but I am ready to swear fealty and abandon the alto. Assuming I am now a tenor player, I wonder how other tenor or Bari players who travel for work etc. ever get to practice?
Not that anyone is travelling much at the moment, but in general. I used to take my alto into the woods to play, the size of the tenor is on the cusp of me choosing not to be arsed.

I read with interest the review here of the Yamaha YDS-150 and have seen the Roland Aerophone and other wind controllers. It seems these are somewhere between being an instrument in their own right, novelty instrument, or practice device. The Emeo is pitched as a practice device rather than instrument, has more realistic keys than other controllers and solves the problem of playing anytime, anywhere without disturbing others; as usual with these devices, embouchure practice is unresolved. The main problem is the price, $1550 is more than a lot of people starting out would spend on their saxes.

I feel like this problem (playing quietly, with something small and light enough to travel with) is something that manufacturers keep moving closer to, but no solution is quite there yet.
Seems getting a cheap soprano may be the best practice device for a tenor player? Could possibly DIY mute one too, or this, if it is a real thing:
Digital Mute For Woodwind Instruments | Freedom Player. (I've never touched a soprano, so don't know what their issues would be or how softly they could be played.)

What are your thoughts?
 
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nigeld

I don't need another mouthpiece; but . . .
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Bristol, UK
I suspect that most neighbours would prefer to be next door to a tenor than a soprano. In my experience it's no easier to play a soprano softly than a tenor.
 

JamesOxford

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48
Location
Oxford, UK
Thanks @nigeld , that answers one question.
I wonder if there is any solution to the problem of having something portable and preferably quiet to practice with when travelling.
It seems that none of the solutions enable practice of articulation, embouchure. So whatever the answer is would be some kind of compromise. The EMEO seems to be the closest, but the price doesn't make sense for me if all you can practice is fingering.
To practice muscle memory for scales etc. If a cheap new soprano from gears4music is £250, you could probably pick up a second hand one for £150, and if what you are practicing is fingering, it wouldn't even have to make a decent sound. You could sing the notes in your head while practicing scales etc.

Take it for read, that I am not talking about something to replace playing a saxophone. Obviously that is the main practice, but the year before COVID I travelled a lot, often 2/3 weeks at a time and looking at my tenor case no way would I be able to travel with that, or be loud where I was staying.
Anyway this is just hypothetical ramblings and maybe a non-issue for most people, but wondered if some more experienced players had any thoughts about this
I see lots of posts about how difficult it is play in tune with a sop anyway. I am not really interested in doubling, but I can see me wanting to take something for a walk in the countryside for an outside practice.

Having just learned what GAS means, maybe I've just been infected with that?
 

mizmar

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298
Location
Trondheim, Norway
Clarinet is the way to go, apparently

 

turf3

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Earth
No woodwind instrument can be effectively muted except by playing it in a closet or equivalent. They're also all loud as all get-out. No standard woodwind instrument will be acceptable to the next room in a hotel.

I'd suggest a classical (nylon string) guitar, or a small keyboard with headphones.
 

Colin the Bear

Well-Known Member
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13,744
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Burnley bb9 9dn
Recorder?
A shaped case can make a tenor less cumbersome.
However, playing something else isn't a substitute for saxophone practice. Your chops need regular excercise to develop and maintain them.
Mutes are a waste of time imo. You could try playing into the clothes in a closet.
It's all part of the saxophone game. ;)
 

mizmar

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298
Location
Trondheim, Norway
No woodwind instrument can be effectively muted...
In the spirit of curiosity, I just compared my tenor with a Ney (basically a tube), with a random sound meter app, both played they same distance from the phone and at a comfortable (not blasting) level - both about the same 70-80db (app says "heavy traffic"; and, for comparison background is 17db; 55db my normal voice). I'm sure I can go louder on the sax etc.
But, yeah, wind instruments, hu!
 

JamesOxford

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48
Location
Oxford, UK
Thanks for letting me know about that thread @mizamar , I hadn't considered a clarinet. After reading the whole thread though, just as many opinions against the clarinet.
Although it wins on portability, I don't really think it suits my case, as I want something with exactly the same key setup as a sax. I'm only looking for something to support my tenor playing, not looking to double on.
I guess some kind of wind controller is the best solution:
EMEO out in front, design-wise, but ridiculously expensive as the practice device it is pitched at.
Yamaha YDS - also good design wise, but a bit big, I'd probably buy a second hand one if they become available and saw the bell off to make it more portable.
Aerophone Go - maybe a good all round solution as smaller and keys reasonably saxophone like, although not as good as the other two.

Be happy to get any other opinions from people that have used any of these or have other ideas. My main priority is practice device to travel with, rather than actual instrument. i.e. Aerophone now have a Pro version, but I wouldn't be interested in that as I don't want extra sounds, would rather have a smaller but limited device.
 

JamesOxford

Member
Messages
48
Location
Oxford, UK
Recorder?
A shaped case can make a tenor less cumbersome.
However, playing something else isn't a substitute for saxophone practice. Your chops need regular excercise to develop and maintain them.
Mutes are a waste of time imo. You could try playing into the clothes in a closet.
It's all part of the saxophone game. ;)
Thanks, I am playing in a wardrobe full of clothes at home now, which I took from one of your other threads! I think you are probably right on mutes and glad I don't have to consider it. Luckily my neighbours are okay with the sound level and playing at home is not the problem.

The problem is simply playing when travelling. Either outside hiking, or on business, which in normal times I do a lot.

If I go to Japan for three weeks, taking my tenor is out, I am not a gigging musician. Other instrument suggestions, keyboards, guitar recorder etc. don't address my needs of practicing saxophone fingering. I basically want a practice 'device' rather than another instrument, which is what most wind controllers are. I can't believe I am alone in this. I think the EMEO was born to address this gap in the market, but a practice instrument that doesn't address articulation/embouchure needs to have a price point significantly less than an actual instrument.

This is just shooting the breeze. I won't be travelling anytime soon and very happy getting to know my tenor for now. Although when the weather is better it would be nice to have something to take on hikes.
Maybe I should get a cheap sopranino, a hacksaw and an arduino and take the idea on Dragons Den.
 

JamesOxford

Member
Messages
48
Location
Oxford, UK
In the spirit of curiosity, I just compared my tenor with a Ney (basically a tube), with a random sound meter app, both played they same distance from the phone and at a comfortable (not blasting) level - both about the same 70-80db (app says "heavy traffic"; and, for comparison background is 17db; 55db my normal voice). I'm sure I can go louder on the sax etc.
But, yeah, wind instruments, hu!
Loving this forum, I now know what a Ney is. Looked at some videos, great mysterious sound, like a bad-boy shakuhachi.
 

Yansalis

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28
Location
USA
You've introduced me to two options I didn't know about, thank you. There's one not on your list which is perhaps half the size of the YDS, the "travel sax". There's a comparison review to the YDS on youtube.

I got a YDS, and it has massively increased my practice time. FWIW it's not entirely without articulation response--it seems to be very sensitive to things that happen to pressure at note start. On days when I can't get to the real horn I use the YDS and also put some time in on a mouthpiece on a Jazzlab Silencer just to keep working on the chops. If all I could do was the non-sax options for several weeks I think I would still have made progress although I might need a little re-orientation to the sax when I got back to it.

The Freedom-player website is quite disappointing. I look forward to discovering that there's something real behind the hand-waving.
 
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JamesOxford

Member
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48
Location
Oxford, UK
Thanks @Yansalis !
The Travel Sax is pretty much what I was imagining and a third of the price of the Emeo.
Also good to hear of your experience on the YDS, also is a serious contender.
I'll have a look at some more reviews of both. Since portability is my main issue the Travel Sax is probably in the lead now.
 

Wonko

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466
Location
Belgium
or maybe the nuvo j sax from gear4music. ;)
I bought a J-sax about 3 years ago, that was my first attempt at getting a travel instrument. But it is way too loud for that purpose. And it has some odd fingerings for some notes, and only 1.5 octaves reach.
More like a toy than a real instrument in my opinion.
could be usefull for childeren perhaps???
 

mizmar

Member
Messages
298
Location
Trondheim, Norway
Loving this forum, I now know what a Ney is. Looked at some videos, great mysterious sound, like a bad-boy shakuhachi.
Not just the great grandaddy of the shakuhachi, but can be made out of no more than a PVC tube. So a perfect travel instrument so far as it's; robust, no moving parts, small, no resale value etc. And, being flute like, very good for training breath control.
 

Colin the Bear

Well-Known Member
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13,744
Location
Burnley bb9 9dn
I bought a J-sax about 3 years ago, that was my first attempt at getting a travel instrument. But it is way too loud for that purpose. And it has some odd fingerings for some notes, and only 1.5 octaves reach.
More like a toy than a real instrument in my opinion.
could be usefull for childeren perhaps???
It'll have to be the carrot clarinet then.
View: https://youtu.be/zrme04RIsE8
 

Dave Dunn

New Member
Messages
22
Location
South Australia
pocket sax1.jpg
I've been playing these since Christmas, they use a genuine Alto mouthpiece and reed so everything bar fingering relates to playing a sax. They are hard to play in tune, but it can be done once you develop your embouchure and intonation skills. Of course, buying a decent mouthpiece is helpful, my wife uses a Yamaha 4CM, I tried a Rico Graftonite B5, but I think I like the Chinese one better! Due to playing these, my wife and I could both play "When the saints..." within a few minutes of unpacking our Tenor Sax when it arrived the other day (I'm not implying it sounded great, but we did both play it!). For the octave from low C to middle D, the fingering exactly the same, although with these, the next octave is accessed solely through embouchure, there is no octave key. They're still pretty loud, especially until you get the knack of soft and low, but nowhere near the volume of a Tenor Sax! If you want something to exercise your embouchure muscles, with a challenge to play in a higher octave, that can play a lot of songs using the same basic fingering as a sax, this might work for you. They even have a F# hole! The smaller one is in C, and is HiXing brand (check YouTube), and the other in Bb, Zebra Brand, which is the same brand, just the older version, he now has rereleased it under the HiXing brand. His website is www.littlesax.com, he seems to think you can buy the Bb version there, but you can't, the link to Amazon is only below his new videos on YouTube, Banggood is still selling the Zebra version. I much prefer the Bb version, as does my wife. There's a version from Erik the Flutemaker, and another version in Stainless Steel, if you want something more expensive, but the ones I have can be played in tune with practice, there's nothing inherently wrong with them, tune to G by moving the mouthpiece (once you are skilled enough to play in tune), and you'll get a concert Bb with all holes closed. They might be worth considering. :)
 

JamesOxford

Member
Messages
48
Location
Oxford, UK
Thanks for letting us know about these.
There seems to be a plethora of sax/flute-like instruments, but apart from portability that doesn't fit my usage case.
i.e. not quiet, or having sax-like fingerings. I imagine it would be nice to walk outside with if you don't mind learning new fingerings or adapting to keep it in tune.
Travel sax briefly went to the top of the list due to cheapness and portability, but there were several reviews about the build quality and keys not feeling good, it does look a little too-scrunched for fingers to be comfortable too.
As a practice device the YDS-150 is probably now at back at the top, due to EMEOs ridiculous price point. Still the YDS is expensive as a practice device (not as an instrument perhaps, but I am not so interested in that).
What I want may not exist yet, but I think my ideal would be, a reasonably priced EMEO or a smaller YDS without the bell.

By the way, Yamaha say the bell on the YDS is for feedback of feeling like a sax, I can't really see it would make much of a difference, apart from making it look my soprano-like. It seems to just add size.
Anyone who has one have any thoughts on this?
 

Yansalis

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28
Location
USA
By the way, Yamaha say the bell on the YDS is for feedback of feeling like a sax, I can't really see it would make much of a difference, apart from making it look my soprano-like. It seems to just add size.
Anyone who has one have any thoughts on this?

Maybe the weight and how the lower frequencies come out from the bell? (This is barely noticeable on soprano, but I can create a wa-wa on bari by covering and uncovering the bell.) I thought I read somewhere that it's supposed to pick up vibrations and add to the effect, but I just turned up the volume all the way and played one of the baritone settings with the bell on my knee and did not notice anything.
 

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