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chris98
03/06/07 7:18:10 PM
Beginners' Diary - Chris
Wednesday 30th May 2007




I got home, made dinner and then decided to put the sax together and have a go, I soaked my reed (Rico Royal 1.5) for four minutes and then massaged the vamp as per the instructions from ( http://www.superial.com/mainten_breakin.html ) then feeling rather cackhanded I set up the sax and tried to get a note. Nothing! I tried changing a few things, well actually gave it a stern look whilst trying to remember all the advice I had read, another go and still nothing. Great I thought, I'll be the one person who is incapable of playing the sax, I can't whistle, maybe if you can't whistle you can't play the sax!

I took the crook and mouthpiece off and played around with them until I got a rather out of tune but possibly slightly musical buzz, refining it a little I was able to be a little more consistent in getting the note, I'm sure if I were playing eastern music I was probably not far from one of their 1/4 tones. I think I was not putting enough pressure on the reed and mouthpiece. I re-assembled the sax and got my first note, very reminiscent of a fog horn but no squeak! That first note was like a bark because I was so surprised by the sound and the volume I jumped and stopped breathing, I wander if any one heard that?

It is a very strange sensation having the reed vibrate your lower lip and I noticed that the note was not well controlled, I hope this will come with practice once I have developed my embouchure and learnt to breath better. So I embarked on my first few notes, B, A & G, I noticed my embouchure tired really quickly and as a result, the notes fell apart, I also forgot to start and end by placing my tongue on the reed. I guess the thing is little and often until I build my stamina.

It's a bit of a palaver packing the sax away, you have to swab this, wipe that, strip apart that, but I really enjoyed it and I know I have a long road ahead of me but I relish the challenge.


linky_lee
03/06/07 7:41:21 PM
Re: Beginners' Diary - Chris
It's always best do 'lots of little' instead of 'very few of much' no matter how long you've been playing.

I generally practise for 2-3 hours, I break my practise into session with small breaks, ideal for drinking a glass of water or giving the sax a bit of a clean.

When you start, 15 minutes is a long long time, as you've predicted this increases the more you do it.

You sound highly enthusiastic which is great! it will drive you to practise and achieve!

Nice style of writing for the context too.

_________________
Started December 2005
Soprano: Borgani (1950's), Yam 4C, Rico Royal 3
Alto: Hanson SA-8/Martin Handcraft 1925, Link Tone Edge 6, RJS 2H
Tenor: Walstein Phosphor Bronze (prototype), Link STM 6*, ZZ 2.5
Officially an addict.

chris98
03/06/07 10:13:45 PM
Re: Beginners' Diary - Chris
Hi Linky lee, your encouragement means a lot, thanks.

Friday 1st June



jersey_mike
03/06/07 10:41:12 PM
Re: Beginners' Diary - Chris
Chris,
Good luck with your new horn. Been at it a bit over 2 years now and still get the occasional squeek, squawk, and some other sounds that don't seem appropriate in front of the children.

I believe there are 2 octave key holes to try and keep the proper pitch throughout the horn in the higher octave. I've read that about 4 is optimal while 2 is a compromise of manufacturing. Please correct me if someone has greater knowledge of this.

Anyway, have fun!!

peter_fitton
03/06/07 10:45:39 PM
Re: Beginners' Diary - Chris
Chris,

Great stuff & very interesting. It brought back memories of not so long ago when I got my first sax - marvelling at the complexity and beauty of the instrument, being anxious about damaging it etc.

I remember it took me about 40 minutes to assemble it, even though the reed was already attached to the mouthpiece!

Like you I couldn't get a note out of it at first but, undeterred, I also took myself off to the local music shop - only I bought myself a better strap.

Got back home and tried again, this time having moistened the reed first, and managed to play low D, E and F without too much effort. Without wanting to sound like a saddo I can honestly say that hearing those first 3 notes ring out was one of the biggest thrills I've experienced, just amazing. Of course at this point I was convinced I was a "natural" and would master this instrument in no time. How wrong I was...

Anyway, I don't want to hi-jack your diary so I'll shut up now. Very much looking forward hearing how you get on.

Peter


chris98
04/06/07 9:55:06 PM
Re: Beginners' Diary - Chris
Saturday 2nd June

I guess today I became a little more aware of how the sax feels, still a little alien, but I started to experiment with the strap length, trying to find the most comfortable position, all this really confirmed was that I am tense when playing, stiff neck, shoulders and arms, not very comfortable and not very productive I would have thought. I had a quick look at my two beginners books and although the pictures showing the correct height for the saxophone were good, they were inevitably in profile, not great when looking in the mirror, also how come other people look cool when you see them playing the sax? that certainly was not the reflection I got back of myself!





frankb
05/06/07 07:56:24 AM
Re: Beginners' Diary - Chris
Hi Chris,

Just a quick note from another newbie to confirm that a good teacher really is worth finding. Mine has diagnosed several beginner's mistakes which would have driven me crackers on my own (play a B and then finger for a 2nd octave D without tonguing and the sax plays a 2nd octave A...?! Turns out I wasn't pressing all the keys at *exactly* the same time, which apparently makes a difference...! ).

It also helps to have a point of reference to what I should be sounding like (bottom notes like his butter rather than my sandpaper!), instant feedback on my (attempts at) playing and some structure to my progress (or lack thereof!).

Sounds like you're off to a cracking start anyway. More power to you!

All the best,

Frank


rogerb
05/06/07 08:40:21 AM
Re: Beginners' Diary - Chris
Hi Chris

Good Stuff!

I find that if I suddenly start to squeak, I often find my reed has slipped sideways slightly.
(I use a Rovner ligature which has quite a bit of 'give' in it).

Keep at it

_________________
Roger

Hanson SA-5
Jody Jazz DV #6

chris98
07/06/07 9:05:36 PM
Re: Beginners' Diary - Chris
Hi Chris <br>
<br>
Good Stuff! <br>
<br>
I find that if I suddenly start to squeak, I often find my reed has slipped sideways slightly. <br>
(I use a Rovner ligature which has quite a bit of 'give' in it). <br>
<br>
Keep at it <img src='simpleforum_files/images/smileys/smile.gif' border='0'><br>

nick_cook
08/06/07 06:41:33 AM
Re: Beginners' Diary - Chris
Hey Chris, thanks for this - we ARE interested (well, I am!!!). It's great to get an in-depth view of how a fellow beginner's getting on.

Less than 3 weeks to my birthday now, so I'll soon have my sax. I booked my first lesson yesterday for 2nd July - can't wait!!!


_________________
Hanson SA-5.



jersey_mike
08/06/07 10:44:44 AM
Re: Beginners' Diary - Chris






Chris,
Let me be the 1st to start the chorus----FIND THAT TEACHER NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It's far too easy to form bad habits on the sax that become hard to break after awhile. When I started my lessons last August it took several months to break some habits and this slowed progress in other areas because of the concentration it took to overcome them.

pjonah
08/06/07 2:27:22 PM
Re: Beginners' Diary - Chris
Great stuff Chris,

It reminded me when I got my first alto (Conn) and the excitement I felt and do you know, I recently took delivery of a new alto and I still get the same buzz 34 years later.

You can marvel at them for hours on end, saxophones really are works of art.

Like the narrative too, nice style.

Take the advice also get your self a good teacher, before going too far down the road.

Simon

_________________
The man's an absolute shower!

frankb
08/06/07 2:48:50 PM
Re: Beginners' Diary - Chris
Another shout for the teacher!

It was my third lesson yesterday and my teacher identified a couple more problems with my technique (such as it is!) that I can work on, introduced me to arpeggios, confirmed my practice routine and gave me some tips on how to practice subtoning. He also has a decent piano and so some of my playing is accompanied with that, some more with his tenor and some is just me - a useful mix!

I'm very interested in your diary. You may also find it useful to keep it going here as the tips you'll get from the more experienced members will be invaluable.

Keep blowing!

Frank

chris98
16/06/07 10:20:39 AM
Re: Beginners' Diary - Chris
Week of 11th June



Embouchure, somehow I never seem to be able to get away from it! Thus far I have been resting my lower lip on my lower teeth and using my jaw to apply the pressure to the reed, with my lip sandwiched between my teeth and reed I was beginning to dig in a little, but like a ray of light things have started to make sense.

Caution, please note:

The following is coming from someone who closes all the doors and windows, pulls the curtains and traps themselves in a self induced sauna to practice the sax during the summer! I am considering clearing out the wardrobe and moving in there as well!




All the best,

Chris


chris98
26/06/07 9:45:31 PM
Re: Beginners' Diary - Chris
Week of 18th June

When the music stops.




I have my first lesson on Saturday which I am looking forward to, yet there is also a little bit of apprehension creeping in as well.

I am also using a new strap which has made a huge difference, it is much more comfortable, looks the part, stays where you want it to and small adjustments are really easy.


Here is the forum post if you are interested, I Hope Pete doesn't mind me sending you over to the competitors site.

http://forum.saxontheweb.net/showthread.php?s=f513a3160d2fae33af4c0ee21dba3f89&t=57817

All the Best,

Chris

frankb
27/06/07 07:35:11 AM
Re: Beginners' Diary - Chris
Hi Chris,

Pete is very active on the other forum so I'm pretty sure he won't mind.

I wouldn't get too psyched out about not hearing the note just yet. I think it's the sort of thing that comes probably over quite a long time with a lot of practice. After you've been playing a while your ear and brain will adjust to the sax's tone and you'll know what you expect to come out of it next. At the moment you're not yet in a position to do that (me too!).

As for the work thing, I'm finding the sax helps with that too.

I get in (last night being a case in point) and drag myself upstairs thinking, "I really haven't got the energy / motivation / patience for this right now!".

The long tones and scales settle me down and while I'm playing I haven't got time to think of anything other than the sax - my fingering, embouchure, air support, what note I'm supposed to be playing next, what's the tempo, is that a crotchet (no, dammit, there's a dot after the flippin' thing!), oh hell I'm in the wrong key...!

After a while and a few runs through the piece of the day starts to come together. I finish off with something easy played by ear and go back downstairs feeling hugely better.

I used to fret about the neighbours too, but the more I fretted the more tentatively I played and the worse I sounded. Now I just go for it (apparently there's a lot of forms to fill in before they can get me an ASBO, so I think I'm safe for a bit! ).

All the best and please do keep on with the diary - it's a right good read!

Frank

Pete Thomas
27/06/07 07:41:33 AM
Re: Beginners' Diary - Chris
Chris98 wrote:
Here is the forum post if you are interested, I Hope Pete doesn't mind me sending you over to the competitors site.

http://forum.saxontheweb.net/showthread.php?s=f513a3160d2fae33af4c0ee21dba3f89&t=57817



Not at all, I dodn't see SOTW as competioion, especially as I write articles for SOTW.

PS keep up the good work with the diary, much appreciated.


_________________
Pete

xxxxxx

peter_fitton
27/06/07 10:18:13 PM
Re: Beginners' Diary - Chris
FrankB wrote:

I used to fret about the neighbours too, but the more I fretted the more tentatively I played and the worse I sounded. Now I just go for it (apparently there's a lot of forms to fill in before they can get me an ASBO, so I think I'm safe for a bit! ).



I know the feeling, it used to make me feel very self-conscious knowing the neighbours could hear every botched tune and bum note. What was even worse was when I started getting mickey taking from a group of local kids who play in the street outside my house

In the end I just thought "Philistines, sod 'em" and carried on regardless. It helps you develop a thick skin this sax playing lark.

chris98
01/07/07 2:09:07 PM
Re: Beginners' Diary - Chris
Week of 25th June


I have good days and bad days, some days I feel like I am really getting somewhere and then the next day I will feel I have regressed back a week or more, it seems so many things can affect how I play, tiredness, concentration even mood.


My first lesson.


My teacher was just finishing off with another student so I was left to set up my sax, well try to, I have been doing this for a month now, much less tentative than when I started, but for some reason I was all fingers and thumbs. My reed was the waviest I have ever known and my mouth dry! Fretting about my reed it eventually succumbed to what ever moisture was in my mouth and flattened out a little, but by then I seemed to have developed difficulty in lining it up properly on the mouthpiece. A good thing as it turned out because my teacher showed me that I had been putting the reed too far forward, not by much but I could tell the difference straight away when I played. My performance was not that much better when I demonstrated my ability to wrongly name all the notes whilst holding the various keys down! Again something I could do reasonably well when not having to demonstrate it to others.



All the best,
Chris.

rogerb
01/07/07 3:40:09 PM
Re: Beginners' Diary - Chris
This is an excellent diary, Chris....I'm enjoying it a lot

One of the first and most useful things my teacher said to me was "Don't get disheartened if you don't progress as fast as you think you should...it's a marathon, not a sprint" (or words to that effect).

Did your teacher talk to you about 'attitude', rather than 'playing', at all ?

_________________
Roger

Hanson SA-5
Jody Jazz DV #6

chris98
01/07/07 10:02:35 PM
Re: Beginners' Diary - Chris
FrankB wrote:

As for the work thing, I'm finding the sax helps with that too.

I get in (last night being a case in point) and drag myself upstairs thinking, "I really haven't got the energy / motivation / patience for this right now!".

The long tones and scales settle me down and while I'm playing I haven't got time to think of anything other than the sax - my fingering, embouchure, air support, what note I'm supposed to be playing next, what's the tempo, is that a crotchet (no, dammit, there's a dot after the flippin' thing!), oh hell I'm in the wrong key...!

After a while and a few runs through the piece of the day starts to come together. I finish off with something easy played by ear and go back downstairs feeling hugely better.




Hi Frank,

You are right about getting in from work and really not feeling in the mood but by the time I have played my first note I have forgotten my tiredness, the only thing then that becomes frustrating is when my lip gives out before I am ready to pack it in for the night.


All the best,

Chris

chris98
01/07/07 10:05:55 PM
Re: Beginners' Diary - Chris
Hi Roger




All the best,
Chris

rogerb
01/07/07 11:50:51 PM
Re: Beginners' Diary - Chris
Possibly because I had a brief and abortive attempt to start 20+yrs ago, I didn't have too many initial problems this time with embouchure and getting a sound...... it's been reading the dots and translating 'em into the correct finger positions which are my main difficulty!

That and being more disciplined with my practising

Are you working from a tuition book?
We have alternated between "A Tune a Day" by C Paul Herfurth(more 'basic', IMO) and "Learn as You Play Saxophone" by Peter Wastall.


_________________
Roger

Hanson SA-5
Jody Jazz DV #6

chris98
02/07/07 9:05:58 PM
Re: Beginners' Diary - Chris
Hi Roger,

Before my teacher, as a guide to get me started I was using:
A tuition DVD introduced by Jools Holland and presented by Pete Thomas! Two books: Absolute Beginners Alto Saxophone & John O'Neill's The Jazz Method for Saxophone (alto) Volume 1 and I recently got The art of Saxophone Playing by Larry Teal.



All the best,
Chris

chris98
08/07/07 8:06:29 PM
Re: Beginners' Diary - Chris
Week of 2nd July





Carrying on with the learning to drive metaphor, I think playing along with your teacher or a CD whilst reading music, hitting the right notes and remembering to keep your embouchure and breathing right is a bit like learning to go round a roundabout, looking, turning the wheel, indicating and changing gear, all at the same time! I do it every day now but I can remember wondering how I was expected to do all those things at the same time.

It just goes to show the type of character I am, I was reading up about reed finishing, and I rather like the idea of personally tinkering with my reeds to get the best out of them, having said that it seems like a bit of a dark art and has the potential to wreck perfectly good reeds.

All the best,
Chris

rogerb
08/07/07 9:34:59 PM
Re: Beginners' Diary - Chris - Reeds
If you can't play 'em as they are, they aren't much good to you, so have a scrape at them, Chris !
I can't get anything out a 2.5, I'm still using RJS 2S!

I use a very sharp pocket knife and try to maintain the 'bullet' shape of the heart of the reed, scrape towards the tip but not too near the tip.... seems to work...sometimes!

_________________
Roger

Hanson SA-5
Jody Jazz DV #6

frankb
08/07/07 10:16:41 PM
Re: Beginners' Diary - Chris
Hi Chris,

I think (from my limited understanding) that tweaking a reed may be (borrowing your analogy) like tweaking the suspension on a racing car - for a pro driver it may make all the difference, but if you're still having problems with your gear changes...!

Easy to get it wrong too. You might get more consistency by trying a few different brands rather than DIY customisation.

I did a check around through a few brands and ended up with a filed Rico Jazz Select 2M. I tried a Rico Royal 3 a while back and it was like playing a floorboard, so I'm staying on 2M's for the foreseeable!

Don't get disheartened. It sounds like you're making great progress. Even should you stall out for a week or two I still wouldn't worry. It isn't a linear process - you'll have good days and bad days, good weeks and bad weeks. If all it took was throwing money at it there'd be a lot more demon sax players!

Keep on honking - you're on the right road making good speed and you *will* get there in the end!


rogerb
09/07/07 10:13:06 AM
Re: Beginners' Diary - Chris
All I'm saying is that if you've bought some reeds which just seem too hard, you may as well practice the 'dark art' on them as leave 'em in the drawer!
I am still using RJS 2Ss, but managed to make some 2Ms 'playable' by scraping 'em a bit, and I think that they will help me progress a bit towards 'unscraped' 2Ms, a few of which I can just about get along with.

I'm sticking with Jazz Selects for now, as I like 'em, and anyway think trying too many makes just adds too many 'variables'!

_________________
Roger

Hanson SA-5
Jody Jazz DV #6

sharon
12/07/07 5:46:56 PM
Re: Beginners' Diary - Chris
Frank - playing a floorboard is so accurate!

Hi Chris, I'm interested to see you say that you want to be able to sight read to play things rather than memorise things. For me it's the other way around. I've only been playing since February (god the time flies). My sight reading is really coming on. Thing is, I'm worried that I'll never be able to play anything unless I have the music

Great diary by the way.

Sharon

chris98
12/07/07 9:34:35 PM
Re: Beginners' Diary - Chris
Hi Roger,


All the best,

Chris
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