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When can you say....I can play the saxophone?

BUMNOTE

Senior Member
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573
So you decided to learn to play the sax,you get a teacher or learn on your own or you do both,but when can you say...i can play the sax..does playing 6months or 6 years enable you to say you can play the sax,me i can play loads from the various books i have,but ask me to improvise and it is dire,also wouldnt know how to start in a band,i have taken grades 3-4 abrsm and plan to do some jazz grades soon,so does that enable me to say...i can play the sax. Dave
 

aldevis

Surrealist Contributor.
Cafe Moderator
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If you are honest, you can never completely say you can play the sax.
You can use the saxophone to make music, but there will always be something you still have to learn.
 

BigMartin

Well-Known Member
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3,904
My take on this is: as soon as you can get a sound out of it. You might want to qualify it with "a bit" for a while, just in case someone says "play at my wedding then" or something. But by all means tell yourself you can play the sax and be proud of it. Every time you take the thing out of the box and blow it you're playing the sax. Assuming you choose to stick with it (and practise!), you get better as time goes on and there will always people who are better and worse than you at various aspects of sax playing. But there's no magic moment when you decide "I've now arrived and can play the sax". Whether you feel comfortable playing in a band yet depends on your personality, who the other players are, the kind of music they play, etc, etc...

Improvisation is just another musical skill that needs to be learned. There's no magic involved. At least I hope so, or I've wasted a lot of time (and money on lessons) over the last year.
 

aldevis

Surrealist Contributor.
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I agree with martin about the playing thing. It might sound like the opposite of what I said, but it's just another way of seeing it.

I totally disagree about improvisation: a good Voodoo sorcerer would save you time and money. I visited one, and now I can improvise on a Dmin6 chord.
 

Sweet Dreamer

Senior Member
Messages
505
I totally disagree about improvisation: a good Voodoo sorcerer would save you time and money. I visited one, and now I can improvise on a Dmin6 chord.
:)))

Yep, I would need the voodoo sorcerer for sure.

I don't know what it would take for me to be able to say that I "play" the saxophone. I certainly can't play it very well yet in any capacity. Although I think that if I get to a point where I feel I can play fairly decent, I would say that I "play" the saxophone.

In other words, I would go entirely by how "well" I can play it, and not by how large my repertoire might be. If you can play the saxophone well (or any instrument for that matter), then you should be able to learn new pieces fairly quickly and play them well too.

So for me, the ability to sound good on the instrument is paramount, whereas repertoire is not so important. A person can actually have a very large repertoire and play really poorly. So repertoire is not so impressive in that case.

The ability to improvise is, of course, super great because this allows a person to play freely with almost any band. So that's where I've been placing all my energy. I very seldom learn actual pieces of popular music. And even when I do, I tend not to learn them verbatim, but instead I just get a feel for how they go and tend to improvise in a way that sounds a lot like the original piece but it's really just me improvising along those some lines.

So for me, improv is everything.

Disclaimer: This has been the opinion of a specific human spirit and may not apply to other human spirits or other living entities of any form.
 

Moz

Senior Member
Messages
855
My take on this is: as soon as you can get a sound out of it. You might want to qualify it with "a bit" for a while, just in case someone says "play at my wedding then" or something. But by all means tell yourself you can play the sax and be proud of it. Every time you take the thing out of the box and blow it you're playing the sax. Assuming you choose to stick with it (and practise!), you get better as time goes on and there will always people who are better and worse than you at various aspects of sax playing. But there's no magic moment when you decide "I've now arrived and can play the sax". Whether you feel comfortable playing in a band yet depends on your personality, who the other players are, the kind of music they play, etc, etc...

Improvisation is just another musical skill that needs to be learned. There's no magic involved. At least I hope so, or I've wasted a lot of time (and money on lessons) over the last year.
Oddly enough, the example of the wedding is possibly a good guide as to when you can 'Play' the sax...

1) If you think you could confidently play at a complete stranger's wedding and then you actually do a good job of it... I suppose you could say you CAN play the sax; saxually, you HAVE arrived!

2) If you can play the sax at a relative's wedding and those that know you say they liked your playing, then you can say that at least at an amateur level you can play the sax.

3) If at any other event, your closest friends ask you if you can play "another instrument" ...then it is possible that you cannot yet quite 'play' the sax.

Does this help?

Cheers (as always, my opinions are IMHO)

Martin
 
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MandyH

Sax-Mad fiend!
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3,555
I usually say I'm learning the sax, but if friends ask me how good I am, I can at least say I have grade 6, play in a community band, a sax choir, a sax quartet and a Jazz band, and shortly to also play in a sax ensemble. Can I play the sax... well I can play the notes pretty well after a few practices. I can't sight read very well, although I am improving (at last!), and I can noodle up and down a blues scale, whether that is improvising, I have no idea, but at least if you stick to the notes on the blues scale you are unlikely to sound bad, boring maybe, but never discordant :))) :welldone
 

Chris98

Senior Member
Messages
1,093
I consider myself a student of the saxophone, and I can play a number of tunes that people would say "hey, that's..."

As to improvisation, classical musicians often can't or haven't had the opportunity to venture from the road and see where they end up, and I would consider them a very competent players. But is the sax different? I think so, it's a bit of a rebel instrument, and as such needs to walk it's own path on occasion, and this is when I feel I will have arrived as a sax player. Take Taz for example, he can't read music, but there is no question that he's not a sax player, it's part of him when he plays, not just a metal tube he blows air down. Has he got any grades? No, but people ask him to play in their bands, and isn't that what it's all about?

So for me, it's when I feel I have the ability to liberate myself from the music on the page, and play from my heart that I'll consider myself able to play the saxophone.

Chris
 

TomMapfumo

Well-Known Member
Messages
5,219
The guidance from Music Grades would seem to be the following:

1. There are 3 levels of playing - Beginner (1,2 & 3), Intermediate (4,5 & 6), & Advanced (Grades 7 & 8)
2. At beginner level a sax player should be able to play several scales from memory (less sharps and flats), play some arpeggios, play several tunes of up to 2 minutes long, possibly with a very short improvisation in jazz grades - from 8 - 16 bars; play along with some backing music - live and/or recorded.
3. Beyond that a sax player should be able to handle more difficult scales and pieces of music, & longer improvisations (32 bars and above in Jazz Grades). Classical players do not necessarily have to do improv, but do have to learn pieces of music of increasing difficulty.

I would therefore conclude that the capacity to play several tunes well, gradually learn some new tunes & possibly be able to do some "playing around" with various notes and scales would be an indication that you can "play the saxophone". A capacity to read music, know and understand the theory of music etc. is nothing to do with "playing the saxophone"per se, but some people do find it useful.

My own experience with the ABRSM Jazz Grades (in sax, trumpet and trombone) is that they are designed for players who learn through reading music and also learn by ear - with the emphasis being on learning to "play" - and both are considered valuable.
 
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Taz

Busking Oracle
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3,661
Take Taz for example, he can't read music, but there is no question that he's not a sax player, it's part of him when he plays, not just a metal tube he blows air down. Has he got any grades? No, but people ask him to play in their bands, and isn't that what it's all about?

So for me, it's when I feel I have the ability to liberate myself from the music on the page, and play from my heart that I'll consider myself able to play the saxophone.

Chris
:shocked::blush::blush: I've never been used as an example before:thankyou::blush::blush:

My personal take on when you can say "I'm a sax player" is when other people tell you you are!
 

baritonesax

Member
Messages
256
There´s a subtle semantic difference between the statements "I play the sax" and "I can play the sax" - the first being true of anybody who´s obtained a note out of the thing, the second perhaps being reserved for somebody who´s got a more confident command. Although, I would think of myself in the latter category, it´s also true that the saxophone and I have still not fully come to terms, 29 years on...
 

aldevis

Surrealist Contributor.
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If you can use the word "semantic" you cannot play the sax.
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
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Am I the only one reading this thread who now has 'Music Man' screaming around in his head?
 

aldevis

Surrealist Contributor.
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Coming from a different cultural background I didn't know "Music Man".
Now I do.

Thank you very much....
 

Targa

Among the pigeons
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8,899
Disclaimer: This has been the opinion of a specific human spirit and may not apply to other human spirits or other living entities of any form.
As an living entity of another form I think it depends on who I'm talking to and the impression I want to give.
If the neighbour asks what the noise is then I play the sax.
If someone were to ask me to join a band then I don't.
 

aldevis

Surrealist Contributor.
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Good point Targa.
If you are applying for a mortgage NEVER say you play sax.
 

jazzdoh

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,286
:shocked::blush::blush: I've never been used as an example before:thankyou::blush::blush:

My personal take on when you can say "I'm a sax player" is when other people tell you you are!
Taz i think you have a good point,because it is others i.e. your audience or family or friends that will convey that you can play but as someone as said there will always be better or worse players no matter how long you have playing,and you never stop learning something new.

Brian
 
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