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Universal Method for Saxophone - Still Relevant Today?

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What are your thoughts about the Universal Method for Saxophone? Is it still relevant today? Is it still the Sax Bible? It’s very inexpensive for a 320-page book and I’m considering maybe picking up a copy. I’m aware it’s out of copyright and can be accessed online but I don’t really want to print out 300+ pages.

I’ve already purchased Taming the Saxophone’s Vol. 1: Tone without Tears. I’m just waiting for it to arrive. In the meantime, I want to pick up another book (or several) to help me with improving tone and technique. I’m not tackling altissimo yet, just the normal range of notes. Other book recommendations are also welcome. You know, books that every semi-serious sax learner should have in his library.

I know there are a ton of stuff on the internet, including lots of videos and subscription lessons, and I definitely learned a lot from those. However, for in-depth learning, my preferred method is the book, where I can flip back and forth if I don’t understand something at first.

Thank you.
 

brianr

 
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Yes, it is still relevant.
It is a very thorough and methodical book , which could take you a long way. Charlie Parker, amongst many others, is said to have used it.

The bit that worries me is that you are looking for other books too!!!!

I have boxes with probably 100 books. It was the biggest error I made in trying to get better. Given my time again, I would work from one book until I could play everything in it. That would be my suggestion.

However, depending on where you want to end up, you may want to add another book which deals with rhythm/syncopation. There are many which do this. I like some of the Lennie Neihaus stuff for this.
 

Andante cantabile

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The Universal Method contains a lot of material. Many will tell you that if you master everything in it, you'll be a pretty good player. To that extent it remains relevant. Its structure appears almost unplanned. Someone characterised it as resource book that is best used under the supervision of a teacher. As far as I know, DeVille, the author, was not really a saxophonist. Much of the material he presents was lifted from other methods. Whether it would suit you I don't know. You get a lot of pages for the money, but you may also wish to examine material that is more recent and compiled by someone with a knowledge of the saxophone and its literature. My humble opinion.
 

GCinCT

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I also have a ton of books I’ve collected. I agree with @brianr. Focus on one book at a time. A couple of recommendations to consider:

For technique, articulation and reading, Klose’s 25 Daily Exercises for Saxophone is excellent. Diligently working your way through it will pay big dividends.

Also, for tone, Sigurd Rascher’s Top Tones for the Saxophone is still one of the best. It leads to altissimo at the end of the book, but as Rascher himself says at the beginning, you will gain great improvement in your tone even if you never plan to play above the high F.
 
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Thanks for your thoughts everyone. I will take a look at the books mentioned.

I’m looking for other books too because (1) I’m a bit of a hoarder so buying lots of things all at once is just a bad habit (2) I’m picky/a perfectionist so if I’m not fond of one particular book I might move onto another. I don’t intend to work from all the different books at one time.

Just to give you some background info. Currently, I’m in an awkward situation. I played clarinet and sax as a child/teen for a couple of years in a concert band but didn’t have a private teacher. I could sound the notes written on the page “well” and blended in with the rest of the band. I must’ve even been pretty “good” at the time since I was almost always 1st chair. So I can read music and play lots of “intermediate“ stuff.

I picked up the sax again recently and joined a community band. They weren’t too concerned how I sounded so long as I could play the right notes at the right time and blended in well with the band (just like when I was a child!). It is a “for fun” band for adults where the motto is “your best is good enough”. I was really having a lot of fun in this band but as I got more into things, and watched a lot of YouTube videos, I soon learned about tone, long tones, overtones, subtones, altissimo, tonguing , attack, and so on. I also saw many great players (many who were kids!), in particular the classical players, who sounded so sweet and mellow, and who could control their sound so well. And the jazz players, well, I don’t even want to attempt the stuff they can do.

Very quickly, I realized just how many gaps I had in my saxophone playing. It was literally like Swiss cheese. I must sound horrible and I feel like an imposter. I found myself a teacher but after a few short lessons, the pandemic hit and here I am, eager to move forward to fix my playing with no teacher. I’ll probably go back to my teacher after the pandemic but for now, I’d like some books to fill my time. My weaknesses are tone production and technique. It’s like I need a bootcamp to fix these things.
 

jazzdoh

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I used the Otto Langey book when I started, still got it, I also have one of Pete's books vol iii and Top Tones all good books.
 

jbtsax

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The main issue with the Universal Method is that if you want to work on scales, scale patterns, arpeggios, and etudes in one key at a time (which I believe to be the best) it requires using tabs and/or paper clips to go from one to the next. It gets "cumbersome" to say the least.

The standard woodwind method in the U.S. for many years has been the Rubank Series. It includes an Elementary Method, an Intermediate Method, and Advanced Method in books I and II. If you are looking at learning to play by playing "fun tunes" this series isn't for you. It is well organized, sequenced, and comprehensive when used as a complete series. That is not to say you can't complement the studies in these books with other solo material you enjoy playing or sightreading. I went through the Rubank Series when I was in high school and was well prepared when I entered the University to major in music education.

You don't hear much about these any more, but I can highly recommend the "Music Minus One Series"---especially when working without a teacher. Growing up in a small town at least a 2hr drive from the nearest (competent) teacher, much of my musical skill and musicianship was developed listening to and playing along with recordings. For classical style I recommend the books by Paul Brodie and Vincent Abato. You can take a "private" lesson every day in your own home learning a concept of tone, phrasing, articulation, vibrato, and expression. Each recording allows you to "play along" with the artist, and also includes the accompaniment you can play along with and even record yourself if you like.
 
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158
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The main issue with the Universal Method is that if you want to work on scales, scale patterns, arpeggios, and etudes in one key at a time (which I believe to be the best) it requires using tabs and/or paper clips to go from one to the next. It gets "cumbersome" to say the least.

The standard woodwind method in the U.S. for many years has been the Rubank Series. It includes an Elementary Method, an Intermediate Method, and Advanced Method in books I and II. If you are looking at learning to play by playing "fun tunes" this series isn't for you. It is well organized, sequenced, and comprehensive when used as a complete series. That is not to say you can't complement the studies in these books with other solo material you enjoy playing or sightreading. I went through the Rubank Series when I was in high school and was well prepared when I entered the University to major in music education.

Thanks, I’ll take a look at that series, although I’m not sure I want/need something that is linear. As I said, I have specific gaps. However, that series must be good because I’ve heard of it several times and I already have one of the duet books from the same series, which my teacher told me to buy. And they’re rather inexpensive so no harm in checking them out.

FWIW, I also already have the Standard of Excellence series books 1 & 2 (was told to buy these for the band I play in) as well as the RCM Technique and Etudes books (teacher told me to buy these).
 

Andante cantabile

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Some suggestions:

  • You are already aware of Taming the Saxophone. That should keep you going for a goodish while.
  • Foundation Studies for Saxophone. Edited by David Hite. Scales (major minor: harmonic and melodic, and chromatic), chords and intervals. Patterned after Carl Baermann.
  • Eva Perenyi and Peter Perenyi, 222 Studies for Saxophone, going from very easy to reasonably difficult. Material by many Hungarian composers that I'd never heard of before.
  • John Davies and Paul Harris, eds., 80 Graded Studies for Saxophone, also going from very easy to reasonably difficult.
  • I don't know how proficient you are, but here is something from left-field: Guy Lacour, 28 studies on mods with limited transpositions by Olivier Messiaen for saxophone. The publisher classifies this book as advanced, but it is in fact surprisingly approachable. An intermediate-level player should find it manageable.
 

brianr

 
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However, depending on where you want to end up, you may want to add another book which deals with rhythm/syncopation. There are many which do this. I like some of the Lennie Neihaus stuff for this.

Sadly, Lennie Niehaus died just a few days ago.
In amongst all the tributes to him on Facebook are lots of favourable comments about his educational output. Highly recommended.
 

GCinCT

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Sadly, Lennie Niehaus died just a few days ago.
In amongst all the tributes to him on Facebook are lots of favourable comments about his educational output. Highly recommended.
I still remember when my saxophone teacher handed me Lennie's book, "Jazz Conception for Saxophone" I was so eager to learn to play jazz. I worked my way through the entire series. Those were my first steps along the path to swing. I still have those books.

Great player and educator. RIP.
 

Caz

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It will teach you how to read music as well as some basic theory, scale/intervals and techniques.
The practice planner at the end of the book was for me its most usefull feature.

I just got the book without asking what i wanted to learn from it, which probably was why i experienced dimishing returns from it.

I’m not super interested in learning how to read music. I want to learn how to improvise and learn how to use my ear, and in my perspective the “universal method for saxophone” doesn’t do that.
 

sizzzzler

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ABRSM Saxophone Exam Pack 2018-2021 grades 1-5 will take a student thru the early stages. Chords and scales, pieces to learn with piano accompaniment audio to download, and sight reading exercises. An hour a day is the minimum. Use a metronome and count the beats.
The ABRSM Music Theory App is very good.
 

Ivan

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I’ve already purchased Taming the Saxophone’s Vol. 1: Tone without Tears.
I have the three volumes and I keep going back to them

There's much more in there than you might at first think. The principles that Pete teaches are the fundamental building blocks that are found in any good sax teaching book

Like you I returned to sax and I have been papering over the holes, little by little, though my cheese will always look Swiss
 
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So just an update. I've purchased the following 3 books, 2 of which have already arrived:
  • Universal Method for the Saxophone;
  • The Art of Saxophone Playing; and
  • Rubank Intermediate Method
I also have at my disposal some downloaded copies of (apparently they're out of copyright?):
  • Klose 25 Daily Exercises for the Saxophone;
  • Top Tones for the Saxophone; and
  • some others I thought were interesting
I'm still anxiously awaiting Pete's Vol. 1 on Tone, which I suspect will take a while to arrive due to having to come all the way from the UK in the midst of a pandemic. I should've ordered Vol. 3 as well since I was at it, but now it will just have to wait.

But no matter, I think I'm pretty much set for a very, very, very long time. Probably forever. :happydance:

As an aside, since recognizing that I didn't sound so good, I've been laser focussed on practicing my tone production, technique, and articulation. Within just a few weeks of practicing scales slowly with alternating slurring and tonguing, and etudes from the very beginners' stuff, paying close attention to my tone and fingers, and making sure my tongue is doing the right thing at the right time, I've noticed a significant improvement already. I'm very enthused! Thanks everyone for all the thoughts and suggestions!
 

GCinCT

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You can go very far working through those books. Going back to basics is always a good idea. I've been working hard on fundamentals since the quarantine started. It pays off.

Glad you're making progress and are excited about it. Enthusiasm makes a huge difference.
 

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