the jazz authority; random dubiously zappy rants about 'the musicians music'.: 2005

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Over 3000 visitors!!!


Hooray! People like my blog!

Keep coming back. If you want direct interaction, e-mail me and let's talk music.

Cameron W

(post title links to branvan3000, an interesting band)

Still Working...

Well, my candidacy has taken up a lot of time lately, not to mention my 20 month old, promoting my dinosaur poster business, working at the museum, and playing in my R&B band.

I will be adding more posts in the future, on the subjects that have been suggested, and I look forward to any and all e-mailed questions or suggestions.


Thursday, October 13, 2005

Green Party Candidate

Tonight I officially became a candidate for the Green Party of Canada.

I will be representing the green party as a federal candidate, and I know that this will be a learning experience.

I have little political background, but what's more important than that is that I have an extensive 'green' background, and I'm serious about this opportunity.

Obviously this means that I'll be very busy with my campain, preparing for the (probable) spring election. You will probably see about one monthly post out of me, and as always, you can e-mail me directly if you wish to get in touch.

For those of you who are curious, below are some links to sites, including a few green party pages.


Green Party of Canada
(a f-a-s-t growing party)
Alberta Green Party
(I'll be a local hero...)
Party Platform Comparison Chart
(see how they compare to the GREYS)
Green Party Review
(a green party blog)
Land Advocate Group
(an independant Alberta watchdog)
Canada West Foundation

Adbusters magazine

Info Wars

Dig the last two - they're very interesting.

Trust me... I'm a politician.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Don't forget my archives...

"If they act too hip, you know they can’t play $#!T."
- Miles Davis

So I finished my mouthpiece article and posted it. Now I guess I have to come up with some other subject matter. I hope people are checking the archives - I have a lot of great posts written on various topics that are worth checking out, and just because they're a couple of months old it doesn't mean that the information isn't current anymore.

I guess I'll list some ideas I have for upcoming posts. Reply in the comments section of this post if you have any preferences.

- Improvisation 101 for the non-musician
- jazz history in 500 words or less
- musicality vs. technical proficiency


Q: When should a saxophonist change his reed?
A: Whenever a difficult section comes up in the music score.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Mouthpieces & You

There is a lot of ground to cover when the subject of mouthpieces is up for discussion. With so many variables, it's hard for us to know if we've really got the right one. Not only do we have dozens of mouthpieces to pick from; there is the issue of how they all interact with our horns and our reeds. The ligature is another concern, and of course if our embouchure is incorrect, nothing will sound good. Whew! While it all seems like too much to consider, and just going ahead and getting a mouthpiece that was recommended on a jazz forum by 'Saxy372' appears to be the easy thing to do, perhaps I can ease the pain by offering some real nuggets of wisdom, hard won through years of trial and error. The following are some thoughts on mouthpieces, and I hope you all find this useful and informative.

This is the part that the reed is clamped onto by the ligature. The table must be extremely flat or the reed will distort and cause squeaks or allow air to leak.
The inside of the mouthpiece. The size and shape of the chamber can have a big effect on the sound.

The sides of the mouthpiece along the vibrating part of the reed. The thickness of the rails has an effect on the sound. They should be symmetrical.

The tip of the mouthpiece. This should line up with the tip of the reed when looking at the reed side of the mouthpiece. The better the fit, the better the consistency of response.

The curved part of the mouthpiece. This curve allows the reed to vibrate. Long lay = more resistance. Often if the tip opening is very wide the lay is shorter to allow for proper resistance.

The part that joins onto the neck of the saxophone. There must be an airtight seal between the inside of the shank and the neck cork. The seal should also be quite snog to allow for strong vibration transfer.

A relatively modern innovation. Some mouthpieces have a wedge shape built up inside which causes the airstream to flow faster, resulting in a brighter, more cutting sound.

This clamps the reed to the mouthpieces. Some people consider that the type of ligature affects the sound - I’ve never noticed this, however it is very important that the ligature is not distorted or the tone will definiteley suffer. For this reason the more flexible textile based ligatures may sound better if compared to a damaged metal one. Do not overtighten the screws, they should be tight enough to just stop the reed from slipping.

The length of lay and width of tip opening are usually the most important considerations for the player when choosong saxophone mouthpieces. Wider tip openings can be harder to play, though it is the combination of lay length and tip opening that really determines this. A long lay can make a wide tip opening easier, and a short lay can make a narrower tip opening harder to play. Generally the wider the tip opening, the softer the reeds required.

Saxophone mouthpieces are usually metal or hard rubber. The main differences in sound are due to the dimensions and shape of the mouthpiece.

So that's a quick list. Below is a more personal rundown.

First, let me remind you that I'm a tenor player. I've doubled on alto and soprano in the past, for the most part this mouthpiece info is pertaining to the tenor, although much of this is universal to all saxes. So first, a bit about alto and soprano mouthpieces.

Now don't get excited, but I believe that there's no reason for anyone to use a metal mouthpiece on alto or soprano, because the horns already have enough brightness to them. That is, unless you play nasty dirty funk, or lead in a big band. My favs on alto are the C** (no, not the C*, and not the D either), and the Meyer (can't remember the tip opening and type). For, sop, whatever is easiest to blow on and stays relatively in tune. The tuning is hard to tell, as the Sop is notoriously hard to keep in tune anyway.

Basic Tips On Selection, Etc.
I'll string together some random bits of bite sized wisdom here...
Get familiar with a couple of reeds before you go out mouthpiece hunting. You'll want a slightly weaker, broken in one, and a slightly stiff newer one. Every mouthpiece responds differently to assorted reeds.

Do the suction test. Put a reed on – that you know isn't warped – and blow a buzz note. Then, suck the air out a little and close up the reed to the tip of the mouthpiece with your tongue. If it holds for a split second and then pops off, you've got a good seal. If it doesn't hold the air, there may be a problem with your mouthpiece. Of course, if you didn't really wet your reed down or if it is warped, this trick won't work.

Look for thin side rails and tip rail. This will allow for a brighter sound and a faster response to notes in fast lines. Seriously, this tip is a little jem. If you want your lines to come off crisp and clean at blistering tempos, you'll want a mouthpiece with thin rails. The opposite to this is fat rails, and all but the daftest of players can get a reed to seat blindfolded on a mouthpiece with big runway rals. This will make your sound less bright, and notes will come off a bit more sluggishly. NOTE: There is a trick you can try if you notice that your mouthpiece does in fact have wide rails; get a fine grit sandpaper (400 – 600) and set your reed on it's side on the sandpaper. Hold it two thirds of the way towards the butt of the reed, and with short, slow, light strokes, slide the reed forwards and backwards. This will remove only a very small amount of width from your reed, and will basically make it fit 'tight' on the facing. Go with 10 strokes per side untill you notice that it is thinner. Hmmm... maybe this should be a reed and mouthpiece article... naw, back to the topic...

Again, unless you are lead sax in a big band, or playing R&B or funky stuff, you don't need a giant baffle. The baffle is the amount of material just past the tip below the reed at the from of th mouthpiece. Some brands do silly things like create huge tables that destroy the tone, but allow for ridiculously easy altissimo and super peircing notes. I'm maybe old school, but I think that what one should do is get a mouthpiece with a nice centered solid tone, and work on the brightness through emboushure and tone exercises. I once had a beautifull metal Otto Link 8 with super thin rails, a nie carved out chamber, even rails, and it just played so nicely. Sadly we parted company a few years back, but it's probably for the best. It was an 8, for Pete's sake! I had to use a med soft reed in order to blow it for a long time, and I could literally crack walnuts with my lips! Anyways, now I have a metal Link 7*, and it's good for me, but it sure isn't made as well as my 8 was.

This brings me to another point: mouthpieces are fairly inconsistent from one to another. Two exact same models will blow differently, and this is the case for every brand (with a few exceptions). When you find a brand you like, get the tip opening in a reasonable range, and try two or three or four. Speaking of tip openings...

Wide tip opening = loud. Small tip opening = quiet. Well, it's not really as simple as this, but let's keep it dumbed down for now. If the tip is very open, you will need to use a softer reed than if it were small in order to do the same amount of work. You can push more air through a wide tip, and you can 'cheat' with your tuning by just blowing hard and setting that as your tuning. I know, that doesn't make sense, but let's look at it from the other side. With a very small tip opening it's easy to lip a note down or up as far as a half tone. This is much harder with a wider tip, but all in all this is pretty useless info. An average tip opening for tenor mouthpieces is between 95 and 105 thousandths of an inch.

Like the baffle, the chamber can affect your tone greatly. This is the area located just behind the baffle, and it goes all the way back to wherever the neck in the mouthpiece ends. Here is a not-so-useless-fact: if the chamber is big, this will lower the tone slightly, and a large chamber won't push air through as fast as a small chamber. Often a large/high baffle is coupled with a tight/small chamber in order to achieve a 'punchy' tone, and similary a low/small baffle can often be seen with a large/wide chambler. Oh yeah, about the air speed: mouthpieces can match horns. I have a Selmer MK VI, and using my big 7* link seemed good because it's what I was used to. Then I found a vintage Selmer Soloist D, and I discovered what matching a horn with a mouthpiece can do. The soloist has a long rolled baffle and a tight chamber, and evidently it was designed specifically for the Selmer MK VI. This can be more exact than you need to get, so just remember that it may be causing you grief, but other factors are more important than this one.

Mouthpiece cusions. Man, I'm all over the place with my topics and subject matter, but so far it seems to make sense. So yeah, if you haven't used mouthpiece cusions I strongly suggest that you do. With them it is easier to anchor your top teeth lightly to the mouthpiece, and the vibrations don't travel through the mouthpiece into your head through your teeth. Believe me, once you use one, you'll never go back. There are a few brands – Blayman & Selmer are two I've used.

I could go on, but instead I'll end this post now and offer to answer individual posts in the comments area.
By the way, the title links to the same place as the site below, and it's got great info on mouthpieces if you wanna go a little deeper. Find out what mouthpiece your fav sax player played, and compare tip openings of different brands. Wee!!!


Friday, September 02, 2005

End of Summer Woes

Q: Why can't vocalists get through a door?
A: They either can't find the key, or don't know where to come in.

Well, it seems that summer is over and I didn't even get to go camping. In fact I didn't do much this summer. It seems like all I did was work and change diapers. Well wait a minute - it wasn't all that bad. Life really is moving forward and I'm enjoying it. If I ever get pissy about the little stuff, I just have to remember back to what my life was like at a time in the past when I was totally lost (see post called 'musicians & drugs').

So yeah, I'm having a good year. I'm sad for all those whose lives have been directly affected by the hurricane that tore through the gulf. Of course we'll all be indirectly affected, but like I said before, it could be worse.

My wife asked me this morning, "If we had to evacuate suddenly, what would you take?" I replied, "My sax, my reeds (I have lots), and my music books. Period."

So she reproachfully asked why I'd leave Graham (our 18 month old).


"Good jazz is when the leader jumps on the piano, waves his arms, and yells. Fine jazz is when a tenorman lifts his foot in the air. Great jazz is when he heaves a piercing note for 32 bars and collapses on his hands and knees. A pure genius of jazz is manifested when he and the rest of the orchestra runaround the room while the rhythm section grimaces and dances around their instruments."
- Mingus

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

New Links At Bottom Of Page!

Check out the new link list at the bottom of this page. I scoured the web to find you only the best sites to list here. I'm not exaggerating - I spent hours searching for thrilling nuggets of surfing bliss for all of my faithfull jazz-head blog readers.


Monday, August 22, 2005

How To Get Paying Gigs

How To Get Paying Gigs

There are books written on the subject of how to be a successful musician, but I haven't seen any that address the subject of pay. Here, now, I will offer some tips on how you can get a gig, and get paid well.

Every band and their dog has a demo C.D. How excited would you be to get a copied low quality recording of some guys jamming in their basement? Not very. That's why you want to have a portfolio. This is simply said C.D., plus a professional band photo (8x10 is best... c'mon, you're friend has a 3.1 MP camera and you've got a color printer – Do It!), a bio including info on you and your band with history, and a letter to the specific establishment you are dealing with (to make them feel important). Put it all in a good quality folder – found at your local office supply store – and don't expect to see it again. Don't get your girlfriend to color it with sparkles around the band name; just put the stuff in there and take it to your meeting with the manager of the club. You did call ahead and schedule an appointment with the manager, didn't you?!? Oh yeah, and do a follow up within the week. Close that deal man, or get the portfolio back (if you can).
The sale for them here is that your band will draw more business. If your not charging at the door and there's no cover, then you need the venue to know that it's going to be worth it. Sometimes the public needs to know that it's a regular thing, so tell the venue that you're doing crazy promotion in the newspapers and postering all over town. They'll like that. If you do want to charge cover, don't go over $5.00 because people are cheap, and they want to spend their money on booze. $7.00 is the max, and if you are well known with a following, $10.00 is the absolute max, but be ready to see people go elsewhere for their music. Seriously, cover should be 5 bucks or less, so sometimes a cover plus base pay is a great way to do it. You can really complicate things here though. Say the club charges a $2.00 cover regularly, but because you want $100.00 per man, they're gonna charge 6 bucks for cover, and you're not getting any of it directly. You do the math. Or, they give you a minimum pay of , say, $25.00 per man for the night (not good), and a percentage of the bar sales. Hmmm... sounds tricky, and even if it looks busy, they can give you whatever they like. Stick to simplicity and get a flat pay deal. See below for the actual numbers.

You should look at the local musicians union, but I don't necessarily recommend joining one. You can accept gigs that pay less if you're not with the union, but if you are a member, you cannot play for less, unless as a sideman secretly, maybe... Just look into it.

Be Nice.
So the manager of the bar or restaurant is a jerk, and you want a gig there because it's a great venue. Brown nosing isn't the answer, and may in fact make him/her respect you less. Instead go in hard, with a 'business proposal' that shows why they want to hire you. If you are confident and pleasant, they will listen. If you are nasty, confrontational and insecure, they will smell the fear and piss on you.

Well, this varies greatly, and that's the whole point of this post. No one wants to work all night for 20 bucks only to have to pick up the $30.00 tab at the end, and we all dream of big money, so what can we really expect? Take a good look at the venue for an idea of what you'll get. This is where you have to think about the bands split. I truly believe that pay should be split evenly for everyone. Maybe, if you are the leader and you are fronting the cost of the bands' portfolio, and you are doing all of the promotion, then you can take a little extra. Let's see if I can break it down. Remember, I'm using Canadian funds.
You might get $100.00 per musician for a two set gig, with 45 minute sets & 15 minute breaks. That's pretty good, and I'd say it's a good starting point. You could also say, for the same band, same amount of work, 'X' amount for an entire show, and have them break it down. This can sound like more to the venue, as it's a lump sum, so be ready for a haggle. I'd go no lower than $200.00 for a four man two set gig, and the venue might want a third set thrown in. In fact, many gigs are three sets, so set your price higher ($300.00) and go from there. Try for a free dinner or a few complimentary drinks thrown in after the deal is inked out, but don't let that count as pay, unless you like to be pushed around. At the nicer popular spots start higher. $600.00 for a three set four man gig, or $100.00 per man with free dinner and a drink. That's a sweet deal. Give it a shot – you never know. If you've represented your band well, you'll get the cash, and maybe a solid weekly or monthly out of it if you're play well and put on a good show.

So there it is. Go get that gig and get paid.


Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Practicing In My Mind

"Opinions are like assholes . . . everyone’s got one."
- Art Blakey

Sometimes I can't get my sax out to practice. If the situation arises where I wan't to practice and have the time to do it, but something gets in the way. When this happens I can 'practice' in my mind. Going through the motions while moving my figers as if I was playing has been productive for me, and I even do it when I'm on long bus rides or in line ups.

Imagine reading a theory book, or a scale/pattern/technique book, and instead of playing the exercis you visualise them in your mind. Tap your foot to keep time if you want. Practicing in this way can make it easier to get through the tedious stuff like learning patterns using triad pairs, with inversions, over weird chords.

Anyways, if you haven't tried this, you are probably still wasting your 'bored' time away. Why not be the only person in the line-up at the bank with a smile on your face?

L 8 R

Small wonder we have so much trouble with air pollution in the world when so much of it has passed through saxophones.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Jazz on Star Choice Satellite Cable

"Invest yourself in everything you do. There’s fun in being serious."
- Thelonious Monk
If you are looking for a new cable service provider and live in North America where Star Choice satellite cable is available, I recommend trying this company. I live in a valley where FM radio doesn't penetrate, so I do my radio listening on my satellite radio.
The jazz played on one of the 'galaxie radio' channels is mostly current canadian artists, and good ones too. They have other channels with classic 'jazz masters', and a cheezy easy listening jazz-rock.
Supposedly they may get the Cool TV channel for subscription soon. I hound them weekly to see if it's available.
Anyways, forget Shaw, Bell, and any others. Star Choice has wicked programing, good features and good rates. I get basic cable with radio for $26.00 CDN a month!
Q: If you were out in the woods, who would you trust for directions, an in-tune tenor sax player, an out-of-tune tenor sax player, or Santa Claus?
A: The out-of-tune sax player! You were hallucinating the other two.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Jazz & Sax Myths

- You need the same mouthpiece as your favorite player in order to sound like him.

- You need to do lots of drugs to be a great player.

- Talent and/or being 'gifted' is the more important than hard work & tenacity.

These three misconceptions have caused a great many players to experience far more greif than they should have. I think it's sad that so many cats are giving p because they don't think they're talented enough, getting high all the time in the name of deep music, and buying new mouthpieces only to find that they sound like themselves, maybe with a hint of their favorite sax player mixed in only in timbre of tone (not tone quality - I don't want to mislead anyone with the word 'quality').
So, if you've subscribed to any of these myths, you're in luck! Now you have been saved from years of greif. Below are the facts...
- To sound like Johnny Longhorn, lift his solos. The gear is relatively unimprtant compared to how many transcriptions of this cat you do. Play along with their albums and you'll sound like them. Just keep the gear somewhere in the same ballpark.
- Forget the drugs. They won't do squat for your playing, and eventually if you get messed up with the hard stuff your life will go down the toilet. They won't make you play the blues better, they won't give your playing 'soul', and they definately won't give you groove.
- If you go to a karaoke bar, you'll see great talented singers wail out their impressions of their favorite singers. Most have no formal training, only some natural talent. These are not the singers who go on to get record deals. The singers who work hard at their art are the ones who go on to be great singers. There's no substitution for hard work, and in the long run that karaoke singer will be wishing they'd put a little more effort into learning how to sing. When I was a kid I had some natural talent, but most of all I worked hard. All through high school I busted my butt to get better at playing the sax, and eventually I ended up at a respectable post secondary music program at 17 years of age, exempt from most 1st year courses. I didn't just stop there - I had a lot of work to do. Talent isn't even a part of the equation.

If you know of any other music myths post them in this posts' comments.


Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The Value Of Audio Quality

Let's say that I have a quality recording of some music. This music is on a Compact Disc, and the recording in studio to disc is very good. My disc player is connected to my amplifier with average/good RCA audio cables, and my amp is of decent quality. Again, the speaker wire is of good quality (thick - a proper guage of wire for home audio) and the wire leads us to the speakers. They are great speakers - three way, used but in great shape, solid punchy bass & crisp clear highs. Sadly, my speakers are in crappy places because my house is small, and I have to constantly fiddle with the EQ just to get a decent sound (that is unless I sit exactly between the speakers on the coffee table, 'cuase then it's like I have giant headphones on and stereo surround sound is all that exisist in the world - fun, but I don't like to sit on the coffee table for long).

I had everything right all the way up untill I reached the subject of speaker placement. This why I don't have a fancy high quality stereo. Most people screw up somewhere along the chain - crappy RCA cables, lousy CD audio to start with (becoming more of a problem with compressed audio files that are shared and downloaded to be uncompressed from 128 bps onto a CD), thin speaker cables or cables that are way too long, crappy amp, etc. With any of these steps existing at a subpar level your audio will never be what it should.

For my money (which isn't much), I go with decent quality gear and focus on a standard all across the board. This way I don't blow 2000 dollars on a tube amp just to have my music sound basically the same. Sure, if I could grab those 3000 dollar speakers to go with the amp maybe I'd do it, but like said already, I' m not gonna blow that kind of cash on a stereo when I do most of my listening on my bicycle through mediocre headphones. At least my discman has 'bassboost'... I use it to drown out loud engines around me.

This brings me to a final reflection for this post. More of a question actually...

"Where, when, how, and why do you listen to music?"

The answer to this question will help one figure out what one needs for their audio equipment, and hopefully help one to be more at peace with the gear one has.


Saturday, July 23, 2005

LISTENING to music

It surprises me sometimes when I meet someone who doesn't know how to listen carefully to someone or something. It takes practice and a trained ear to be able to pick out what chords and/or voicings are being played in a jazz show or recording, but the average person SHOULD be able to recognize the difference between a cymbal and a snare drum, a sax and a trumpet, a high note and a low note. This isn't always the case, and it's the times when I'm with these infidels that I'm glad I'm not a violent person.


Sunday, July 17, 2005

Thinking About My Sax...

When I was in high school I nearly gave up on music. I had discovered a passion for jazz, but as I was stuck with an old student model Yamaha tenor that was out of tune and sounded thin, I was at my wits end. My family saw that I was struggling with this and rallied together to buy me a vintage Selmer MK VI tenor from my music teacher (I'll never be able to thank them enogh for this). That day was the beggining of a relationship that has lasted to this day, with all kinds of adventures along the way. I'd love to tell them all now, but I've decided to make this a short post.
It's about time I had a tune-up done on her (yes, it's a she, and her nickname's 'little lady'), as the felts and corks are starting to jump ship. The pads are good still, and even though I could do this work myself, I'd rather wait for the opportinity to have a qualified shop take her of her.
I went to a jam last night at the request of my sister in law. She said there'd be some friends of hers there, but she had the wrong day and we ended up at a bar called 'The Last Chance Salloon', in red-neck Alberta (I'd played there before, actually), watching an upright bass player and giutar/singer churn out some classic hillbilly rock. This folk bass player wasn't half bad, and it seemed that it was in the cards for me to get up and jam after all.
There's something fun about walking into a strange club/bar with my sax on my shoulder, seeing the crowd enjoying the groove and appearing as 'just some guy', untill later when they see my horn and yell "A sax! Yee-haa!" (I've gotta get out of this place...) Seriously, I like to sit in with bands, regardless of their ability or the genre they're into, just to have that interaction with other musicians. This is surely one of the draws for most musicians - the thrill of creating music. It's just so rewarding to do. Period.
Anyways, I said this would be a short post, so bye for now.

"Where’s jazz going? I don’t know? Maybe it’s going to hell.
You can’t make anything go anywhere. It just happens."
-Thelonious Monk
Q. What is the best example of an optimist?
A. A trombone player with a pager.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Less Posts... For Now

Well, my R&B band is done for the summer. The lead guitarist is also a palaeontologist and he's off to China for a month to go fossil hunting. It'll do the band some good to have a break - one can only play Mustang Sally & Chain Of Fools so many times...
I'm getting back into a regular practice routine, even while work is getting busy. I work in the tourism industry and the summer is hard core. I look forward to getting some new stuff under my fingers.
What this all means is that I'll be posting less frequently here and at my forum(s). If you'd like you may contact me directly, or just post as usual and eventually I'll get around to responding.
So, look around in my archives, make some posts, try my links, and don't be a stranger!!!

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Vibrato & Other Special Effects

Vibrato and Other Effects

(This article was written by another sax player out there. I think posting it here is fine, but for me to take credit would not be cool. Enjoy!)

Two effects I refer to specifically are growling, and slurring notes.

Growling, as used in rock and roll quite frequently, involves getting your sax to play a combination of notes together to produce an oscillating, `gritty' sound. There are two ways to do this, humming and key work. I have never really had much success using the keys to play undefined notes and hope for the best - I suspect this is as much my fault as anything as it's not easy to remember another set of fingerings. One such fingering you may like to experiment with is playing a low C, and then releasing your right hand F key. The resulting multiphonic can be extended into all sorts of other notes, if you carefully plan your fingerings.

The easy way is to hum into the mouthpiece as you play. This is quite a strange feeling and may not prove simple to master, but a few weeks will usually be sufficient to get the growl in at will. Choosing your hum is very important. If you play an A, try humming a D, or generally a 5th or 3rd. The resulting growl will be much more effective than if you just hum any note. The tendency will be to hum the same note you're playing! You'll get no growl if you do this...
Slurring notes is not too difficult, but will not be easy if your embouchure is untrained (beginners) or too much jaw pressure is being used. These two evils should be the first thing to look at if you're having problems sustaining notes or are damaging your lip, incidentally. To slur a note, you may like to start with a middle C. Now, gradually, let your lower lip apply less pressure on the reed until the note begins to drop. You can keep slurring down a full semitone, if you try carefully enough and release your jaw in the correct way (while keeping your airstream going). Then, tighten your lip again to sharpen the note and get your C back. Practice! It's harder on the lower notes, and easiest in the middle register. You will need to supply more air at the bottom of the slur. Using this technique it is possible to play a low A on any Bb instrument!

Vibrato is a useful technique. This is a rapid flatten/sharpen sequence, producing an oscillating note. If you can master slurs, then vibrato is the next important effect. A point worth remembering is that when you're on stage or using a microphone, you need more vibrato for the audience to get your tone. Vibrato does, of course have one problem: you are oscillating your pitch lower and then normal, lower and then normal. The net result is a flat note. Ideally, you need to be able to sharpen your note as well as flatten it. This is a feat which can be achieved (allegedly!) with the following method:

Using a metronome and working out vibrato speeds, evenness, and so forth is very helpful for learning vibrato, but what you have described above is a prescription for pitch problems. It makes you flat. Never mind that it is the method most people use. I don't think it is David Sanborn's method, though, or anyone else who sounds pretty much on pitch even when using vibrato.

Here's the problem. You are starting with a pitch in tune, and when you want to get expressive (with vibrato) you make it go flat.

For a vibrato to sound really nice, it must not create the effect that the pitch has gone flat. Unfortunately, that is exactly what you hear in most players, especially legit or classical players. It can be very annoying when overdone.

It cannot be done if you play on the high side of the pitch. By that, I mean if you already have your pitch compressed upward so that "lipping up" the pitch is difficult in a tasteful way throughout the range of your horn, then you will not be able to do this kind of vibrato. Instead, you'll get a chopped sound where the sound chokes on every upstroke of the pitch.

In order to play this sort of vibrato, you must center your pitch at the more natural level of the instrument, lower. That means you might be pushing in your mouthpiece a little bit. Many student saxophones make this undesirable, as they are designed to play with a pinched embouchure with the mouthpiece further out to compensate. The Selmer Mark VI is a good instrument for the proper kind of technique (and by no means is it the only horn), although it can be applied successfully to any instrument with some work.

This gets very tedious, I know, which is one reason I've never posted on it before. Consider this information as something on the virtuosic end of saxophone technique, and don't fret too much about it if you can't or don't feel like pursuing it at this time. But if you want perfection in your control of vibrato and pitch, this is the path. That said, let's continue.

In order to do this consistently throughout your instrument's range, you must first be able to comfortably vary the pitch upward on the flattest note on your instrument, which is often a low D, low G, or somewhere in the lower half-octave of your horn. This means the mouthpiece must be pushed in enough to allow for it. But it's not quite that simple. If you play a hard reed, pushing your mouthpiece in will only make you play extremely sharp. We're talking about a whole new concept of playing for some people; one where the pitch is actually centered in a much more relaxed position. Holding it stable requires - I repeat, requires - controlling the instrument through the airstream more than the embouchure.

This means you'll be playing the sax more like the flute. Incidentally, the same airstream control works on all wind instruments, making doubling a lot easier. If you resort to the upward pressure you may have used before, you'll just go sharp all the time. Nobody wants to play with someone who just blows sharp, so you'll pull out your mouthpiece again, and then you'll be right back where you started with the "flat vibrato." So, if you're not prepared to go the whole distance, don't bother to try this at home!

Now, I know it's looking pretty grim at this point, but do you think I'd lead you into the dark woods without a path to get you out of it? Of course not! And if you've read my posts in the past, you know what I'm going to say next: Mouthpiece Exercise. This is where it really fulfils its promise.

Now let me repeat, in case you missed it above: If you play a hard reed, this will be difficult for you. I play a reed that must be very balanced, free-blowing, but with some resistance. Not hard, though. I've always used Vandoren Mediums, but I might go through several boxes of them to find one that is worth working with. Then it takes a lot of patience and reedwork to get it consistent. Note that by no means is the reed "soft." Never. Like Goldilocks preferences, it has to be "just right."

Once committed to doing this, and with the proper reed/mouthpiece setup, commence perfecting your airstream with the mouthpiece exercise. I won't repeat that here. But obviously, it is a major chunk of what we're doing.

Now... when you've gone through the mouthpiece exercise, the harmonic exercises, and are ready to work on long tones with vibrato, get ready to use a tuner. Slowly vary your pitch as per the ASCII diagram above and learn to do it in rhythm. Work so that every note has even vibrato. Your lower notes will change more in actual pitch than your higher ones. Altissimo vibrato is almost more of a suggestion than a real change of pitch. It is especially important that you learn that five vibrations per second difference in one octave is equal to 2 [[Omega]] vibrations per second change in the next octave up in order to keep the proportion the same. That means that your low D vibrato, applied to your high D would sound like a screaming nanny goat. See what I mean? It's tedious at first.

You'll need models, so listen to flutists, cellists, and violinists. Soon you can branch off and listen to the jazz and pop players, but I recommend starting with some classical challenges for immediate perfection. This is not a comment about perfection or lack of it in jazz. Classical vibrato offers the regularity we want for training muscles at this time. I recommend listening to a variety of players, but don't miss James Galway on the flute. He has pretty much revolutionized wind playing over the past 20 years.

The rest is up to you. Do the studies with the metronome at first, in 4's, 6's, and 8's. Keep your vibrato narrow and tasteful until you are in control enough to make it do what you want. Learn to apply it at different rates, varying the rate, and at different widths. Learn specially to taper it to straight tone at will, or vice versa. Listen to your favorite artists. Remember that from here on out you will never be able to play a note without considering the pitch and vibrato (or straight tone) as essential elements of your expression at that point in the phrase. Pitch isn't something you tend to when tuning your horn. It's part of your sound. Vibrato is merely the manipulation of pitch.

That's pretty much it for now. There's no way that this short explanation can cover the intricacies of everything, but if you are intuitive, it will give you some direction."

One last note on fingerings for sax. Your instrument will sound out of tune in some registers but there is something you can do to change this. The palm D key for example will not be right in the middle register. This is so on all saxes. There are ways to correct the intonation, by adding other keys or finding other ways to play the notes. For example, a palm Eb key can be flattened at the embouchure to sound like a D (don't play the D key). Similarly, you can get a high E by playing a palm F key only. These are not accepted fingerings but the idea is fine: experiment. Saxes are versatile! (e.g. finger C, add a D palm key - it will be quite close enough to use as a trill from D to low C, release the D key for an octave A... middle D can be played in passing using the palm D key. Traditionalists would frown, but it really helps sometimes...)

"In soft passages it is also possible to use alternate fingerings for a few more pitches. Add the RH E lever to the palm key E-flat and you get D-sharp. Add the F palm key to that combination and you go up another half step to E. On some saxes you go once again up to F by adding the high F-sharp key. I wouldn't use this technique except for trills or very soft passages and as Ben said, a little work on voicing is necessary."

Here are a few ways of playing a low A note on a standard Bb instrument:

It all started when I read about how it was possible (with alto) to get a low A thus:-
Be sitting down and doing the playing.

Comes time to do the low A, get the left leg up (K. Everett style!)
Place side of knee near bell of horn as you hit E.

Move onto C.. then as you finger Bb, put the leg over the bell using behind the knee joint, and work hard on the embouchure.

If not playing seriously, Bb flattening to A can be tested by moving leg across at the same time as going for the lowest note Shooshie type embouchure control.

Now all this seemed a bit inconvenient, and ah.. could be interesting if attempted with a tenor. The same effect can be achieved by approaching a person of appropriate height er.. from behind! In general, that method is only good for one note per person approached.

So finally we contrive a workable artificial low stop. The antinode of the standing wave of low Bb can be encouraged to move up out of the bell a bit by putting the edge of the bell up against a vertical hard corner, a little way from a "top stop". The m ost convenient is to stand two crates/gig speakers/whatever slightly staggered to produce a vertical "corner. Then the "top stop" is a book/LP cover etc placed so as to "overhang", providing the third face of a point corner. You find the right place by ex periment - but once you know how, you would be surprised at the number of viable variants that will occur to you.

Most altos will not make low A without the "corner trick". I think, with a little trying on embouchure and airstream control, it might be possible to just do it without any special aids.
Occasionally the question of alternative fingerings which are not the `cheating' sort are discussed in the newsgroup. For example, there are five ways to finger Bb, but these are all more or less appropriate depending on the passage. It's wrong to choose just one Bb fingering and stick to it. This can make playing certain passages more difficult. Even if you're a good, competent player, your method will be improved by the use of the correct alternative fingering at the right moment. Here's a helpful post pointing out the pluses and minuses of the `biz' (i.e. B key plus the small Bb key) and the other Bb fingerings.

"I recommend the biz fingering (covering both the B key and the biz key with one finger-1) unless going down chromatically (use side or biz) or trilling (use side).

Many jazz dudes use the biz. It corresponds nicely with the middle (call it the middle finger) fingering for C (when playing either the C scale or the F scale, many jazz dudes use the middle-finger fingering for C, with 1 used for either the B or Bb biz), and the 1-biz Bb fingering also corresponds as the easiest and most accurate (for execution) when playing arpeggiated or pentatonic runs involving Bb (1 finger-one hand is easier vs. 2 hands for the side fingering e.g. G# A# C# D# F G# or G Bb C# E G). I believe that the biz key was intended to be used with the #1 finger (covering both B and biz), especially when you note the close proximity of the biz key to the B key.

I was a side Bb and side C player for a while until realizing that the biz was the easier (and getting the advice of Eric Kloss). It took me less than 2 weeks (the 1st couple of practice sessions were tough, I admit) to convert to becoming a biz (almost exclusively) player and I regret to this day ever starting out as a mainly side Bb/C player.

The side Bb/C guys can argue against this because they can't get used to going from the 1-Bb or B fingering to the middle-finger C fingering (thus not using any side keys which means you may have to relearn how you play the Cmajor scale), but once you incorporate pentatonics/triads/minor thirds and many other arppegiated combinations and permutations involving C, you find yourself using the middle-finger fingering for C a lot anyway and to me, for improv and for the purposes of assimilating a standard "feel" for a given key signature (such as the key of C for ironic starters) I wanted to have a unitized fingering for all of the key signatures (what I mean here is that I didn't want to be improvising in the key of C say, or any key for that matter, and be using 2 different fingerings for C at anything remotely close to a 50% ratio ....even 80%/20% is too differentiated), thus my abandonment of the side C key except for trill options. That gave me a very limited need to use side C and I've never looked back... I'm comfortable using the side C option when needed and it's handy at times, but I'm glad to have converted to biz Bb and middle-finger C for the vast majority of my playing.
“Musicians tell me, if what I’m doing is right, they should never have gone to school.”
- Ornette Coleman

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Over 2000 visitors today!

Well, with about 70 posts, three months worth of archived material and many late nights promoting this site, it's finally recieved over 2000 hits!
Here at this jazz authority site I've seen a great amount of requests for posted sheet music, as well as posts on my own personal insight regarding saxophone technique and jazz music in general. It's great to see interest increasing, and I will keep up with any posted comments, questions, etc.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Repost: What's important to you?

What is important to you? It's a general question - one that requires more context perhaps. When you listen to music what are you listening for? When you play, what do you hope your audience will hear? Would you rather play a show with an awesome audience and little pay, or great pay and a lousy audience? (that one's obvious - the pay...good crowds are always somewhere to be found, but the cash is what pays the bills).

Is improving your craft the most important thing in your life today? If not, what is? Man, I don't know how I got into this headspace, but I guess i should call up a buddy or something. Obviously I'm not getting many answers as I type this, and I'm sort of an 'instant gratification' sort of personality type.

Everyone listens to music in different ways. I hear Miles Davis' Bitches Brew album and I hear some funky $#!T, and some great musicality. I hear unique bass lines and chord progressions, while others might hear be listening to the melody, solos, or the groove. Maybe the goal for us musicians is just to reach as much of the audience as we can at any one time.

Years ago when I was about 16 or 17 years old I was obsessed with jazz, woodshedding constantlty, and i somehow got a spot in a local reggae band. It was really hard for me to hold back and play cutesy in-the-key solos that the crowd could dance too, and often i just let loose with unbridled wankery, much to the dismay of my band mates. Years later I had the oportunity to sit in on a show with Chris Murray - a well known ska artist (remember king apparatus?). My friend was playing bass with him on a Canadian tour and when they got back to my hometown I sat in. By this time I had learned how to express myself without feeling cramped by the different genres. I blew a fine solo, had the crowd smiling, and it was all good. I guess my point here is that what was important to me then was having fun, entertaining the crowd, and staying true to my art. I did.

So post back. I know someone is reading this, and I want to know what is important to you.


Monday, July 04, 2005

Playalong Records & The Proliferation Of Wankers

Q. How can you tell if a stage is level?
A. The drummer drools out of both sides of his mouth.
Back in my college days I remember being one of many horn players, while the rythm players were like rare creatures - hard to find and usually too busy to jam. What the sax players did was pick up their favorite playalong record (Aebersolds are the most famous), and go play in a practice room.
Now there is a big difference between a real musician and a prerecorded song. The biggest problem is that you can't actively communicate with a recording. So, for many years, horn players have been training themselves to just get up on stage and play solos. What's wrong with that? Well, did you ever see a drummer and soloist deeply engaged in a rythmic storm of swirling lines, polyrythmic arpeggios and call and response? It seems to me that this is going on less and less in recent years. Could it be the play-along records?
I was hipped to this dillemma back in high school when you could still find aebersold records. My sax teacher at the time told me that with these playalongs you can practice learning the heads, work out patterns and riffs, and familiarize yourself with the changes, but you absolutely cannot jam out for an hour just as a replacement for a band. It might seem fun, but you'll get to a point where you forget to communicate with the band next time you do jam. I believe this is sage advice, and have always used my playalong recordings sparingly.
Of course I love them and have found them to be extremely usefull. The problem is that so many cats get up on stage at jams and rattle off a bunch of material for way too long, as if it's some kind of free-for-all wank-a-thon. There's nothing I dislike more than getting stuck behind some long winded self-absorbed pattern runner that eats up all the time for a song. The rythm section doesn't like to be abused in this way.
So next time you dig out your Aebersolds, think twice before you just go on a virtual jam session.
“When you’re creating your own $h!t, man, even the sky ain’t the limit.”
- Miles Davis

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Sax Made Simple

Below is a lengthy post of great advice for sax players at any stage...


The saxophone (or any other instrument for that matter) doesn't need to be a freaky thing. If one steps back and looks at what they need to know right now, one can set simple goals that won't be too big. For example, a beginner would do well to get down to business with their scales and arpeggios in all keys. That way later on they will be able to nail lines in advanced scores or effortlessly float through crazy changes using their seemingly natural feel for strange keys.

What I'm going to do is break it down into categories for you. This stuff will for the most part apply to other instruments as well, but there are some sax specifics that I'll give to you here. Below we have BEGINNER BASICS, INTERMEDIATE BASICS, and ADVANCED BASICS. Seriously, this stuff is too good to just skim over. Of course, if you don't care if you become a great player, you don't need to know this. For those cats, I suggest that you keep your noodling confined to your basements in order to save us all the unnecessary grief. Everyone on!!!

What do you like about a particular sax player? Most often we forget that their 'sound' is made up of different aspects: tone quality, melodic lyricism, emotive quality (urgently frantic or sedately mellow), and the band that backs them. One needs to consider all of these things in their quest to be a good player.

There's no way around practicing to improve your tone quality. Nobody will hear your wickedly intense patterns/riffs/licks if you sound like a sick goose. Make sure that you practice through the entire range of your instrument, including the bell tones and palm keys. Extend scale exercises up and down as far as you can go.

A good improviser is 1% talent and 99% hard work. This is a fact, as opposed to the myth that someone may be blessed with good talent. One may be more inclined at the outset to play comfortably, but in the long run tenacity and straight-out unmitigated hard work is the key to becoming a killer player.

As long as your gear works (horn, mouthpiece, reeds), then you should only give it secondary consideration in your quest to get better at your craft. Many try to buy their way into becoming a better player, through a fancy horn or expensive reeds. Others are afraid that a student horn will hold them back and that they need a pro horn at the outset in order to sound good. Well, this is partly true, but as I've already stated, a good musician is created through hard work – not fancy gear. Make sure your sax has no leaky pads( with the use of a leak light), and that you have a reasonable setup (refering to you mouthpiece an reed).

There are many good mouthpieces for all kinds of different sounds on the market. If you want a standard jazz mouthpiece that's versatile, go with the mouthpieces suggested here. Alto players will do well with a Selmer C* and a #2 ½ to #3
½ strength reed. Also Meyers are great mouthpieces that have edge but aren't too bright. Highly recommended for alto players. Stick with the above reed strength and use a 4M, 5M, or 6M facing. Tenor players should can go with hard rubber or metal. Avoid giant baffles – they make your sound buzzy and shrill and you'll lose body and depth of tone. Otto Links are great mouthpieces, if you can find one that's well made. Try a few and compare them to each other, as they are sadly inconsistent in quality. A tip opening from 6* to 7* is appropriate for jazz and classical, with lower volumes more easily achieved with the 6* (it has a smaller tip opening). Meyers are o.k. for tenor too, but go with an equally wide tip opening. Match this with a 2 ½ to 3 ½ strength reed.

There you have it. Solid tips to help you become a solid player.

Your at the point where you've recently started improvising and you want to take this a little more seriously. Here's where it's at: the next level is for serious cats only. There's no point in wasting your time unless you expect to be able to commit to at least two hours of blowing time daily. This is the stage where you pay your dues.
I once heard it broken down like this: you gotta shed like crazy, getting all the patterns licks, and riffs, under your fingers that you can, learning tons of harmony theory, and then after a few years, forget it all and just let it flow naturally. You say “aw, I want to be a fluid, organic kind of player. I don't need to learn all of those patterns and that theory stuff.” Well, the point here is that it shouldn't sound like you are playing out of a text book, but you need to be able to call on that knowledge in a split second without thinking about it when the moment is right. You can tailor your studies to best suit the sound you want. I like minor keys personally, so over the years I've focused a lot on melodic minor scale patterns, modes, and transcriptions of solos over tunes in minor keys. Whatever your goal is you can achieve it if you practice efficiently, and put some solid effort into your studies.

What you should be practicing is transcribing, memorizing tunes and applying riffs and patterns directly to specific changes in specific songs, and tonal exercises like long tones with dynamics and overtone exercises. I won't get into a long drawn out music lesson right here and now. My aim in writing this is to just point players in the right direction so that they don't waste countless hours in their basement learning the wrong things.

Jam lots. Nothing replaces real people jamming out and learning the dynamics of a solid jazz band. Go to local jam sessions and let yourself get schooled – if you aren't humble enough for that you can just stay in your basement with your Aebersold play-alongs and keep on doing your own thing. You'll get there one day, and the sooner, the better.

Use your practice time wisely, and expect to spend long hours memorizing things in all keys over the entire range of your horn, with variations when wanted/needed. At one point in my teens I copped a riff that was so great I had to learn it inside out. It was inside enough that it didn't sound to distinctive (preventing me from using it often), and it was fluid enough that I could cannibalize it and insert bits in my lines when it felt right. I spent almost a year focusing my allotted 'patterns and riffs' time in my practice to this riff alone, and after that span of time I could tear things up like never before. Of course, In high school I could afford to practice for three or four hours a day, and I wisely broke my practices down into mini-sessions that had slots for specific subjects. This isn't over the top gang – it's the best way to make use of the time we have for enjoying our instrument.

Obviously at this stage you should have a pro horn and a private teacher. If you don't you're making it that much harder on yourself. Buy cheap reeds & refrain from blowing your paycheck on that fancy metal mouthpiece, because you need to get a jazz player to give you some solid direction. They will be able to help you find the right gear.


It's all about opinion now. What I say may not be what another is into, so I'll keep this part brief.

You may or may not be practicing a lot. If you're gigging frequently and know a lot of charts, payed your dues and are settling into a groove, then you probably don't want to kill yourself with overplaying. Of course I'm of the obsessive and compulsive variety, so I never really want to put it down for long, but you get the idea.

Be a nice person. None of the pros that I know are jerks, and the ones that I've heard are/were temperamental were world famous, and so good that they got repeat gigs even if they showed up late in their underwear stoned and spat on the event organizer. As a sideman your style is second to your reliability. If you try to pull that stuff, bands and clubs will look to the next guy for future gigs.

Aside from that, one should have their own direction. I could get into advanced improvisation stuff, but instead I'll save that for another time.

Stay cool gang. If you have something to add go ahead and post it. If you disagree, you can direct your complaints to 'the office of fancypants whiners'. Seriously, I like a good debate/discussion, so go ahead and tell us how it is according to you.


Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Injuries & Pain

Q. How can you tell if the stage is level?
A. The drummer drools out of both sides of his mouth.

Injuries & pain when playing

It happens to a lot of us. Sometimes there's a dull pain in the start, gradually progressing to a sort of pain that makes you want to shoot yourself. The worst part about pain for a musician is that it can end a career very quickly. Yeah, so what if buddy there has a migraine – I can't play my instrument. For those who don't play, you may or may not be able to understand the gravity of this situation.

My personal experience was with tendinitis. I was busking for a living and sometimes played for ten hours a day. Over time, my hands started to get 'tingly', and in the mornings I'd awake to find my hands dead asleep. This led to nerve damage in only my left little finger. It could have been a lot worse.

You wont want to hear this, but I gotta tell you like it is – if you have symptoms like that you have to stop playing for at least half a year. That's no joke – you need to give your wists time to heal. I put my horn down for a little longer than that, and eventually got back in the game. I've known people who played through the pain self medicating, and now they can't play. Period.

Stretches will help this sort of pain. I learned early on that posture played a big part in how many injuries I get. Apparently if you play sax you should lean forward so your hands don't hold up the weight, but only stabilize the horn as it dangles. BUT – you should stand straight up with the sax resting on your body so that you don't ruin your back. Yes, that's confusing and I still go between the two (mostly I stand straight up). Never press the keys harder than you have to. The same goes for typing. If you're hammering against those keys imagine your hands doing twice the work they have to. Why?!? Obviously proper technique and posture are the keys to keeping the pain to a minimum. Muscle exercises help too.

Diet and supplementation can make a big difference. Sadly, deep fried foods, coffee, smoking, and other assorted indulgences can be very inflammatory. I won't suggest that you become a vegetarian, but you should be reasonable with your diet, only having treats once in a while. Green drinks are great for preventing inflammation. Mixed with your favorite juice, you can add a whole bunch of healthy nutrients to your diet. How'd we get on the diet topic? Well, this is a very big part of staying pain and injury free. Eventually if your pain gets bad enough and is diagnosed as an 'injury', you'll be told to take stuff like MSM, glucosamine, Vitamin C, Dolomite(Cal Mag), and other things like Ibuprofen. I've used all of that list in the past, and you might do well to look into them at your local health food store(except for the Ibuprofen). The bottom line is that you can stop it from getting worse if you take care of it instead of ignoring it.

So back to my tendonitis. The first time was from overplaying, smoking too much, and a bad combination of bad diet and bad 'substances'. The second time was after getting in shape and putting my life in order. I started gigging a lot (surprise! the clubs wanted to hire me at that point), and the pain and numbness came back. I saw a physiotherapist and they said that the numbness in my wrists was caused by inflammation brought on by pinched nerves in the back of my neck due to years of pressure on my vertebrae from my neckstrap. Go figure. I did wrist strengthening exercises and had electric muscle stimulators put on my neck once a week. It really did help, and when I added glucosamine an the occasional anti-inflammatory, the pain, swelling and weakness all but went away.

So if you're getting a nagging ache in your whatever, you should stop and take a look at the cause, how to correct it, and how to prevent it from happening again.

If you've had nasty pain, tell us all what happened to you.


Sunday, June 26, 2005

Best & Worst Instrument Cases

I'm just going to spew forth a bunch of random thoughts on instrument cases here. I'm not in the mood to compose a smooth flowing essay on this subject. Bear with me as I let loose the waters of my 'dam' brain (I love puns, but it hurts to write so cheesily).

I'm a sax player, so I talk about saxes a lot, but most of this stuff applies to all instruments. Hard shell is better than gig case. Trust me – overall they are usually way more protective, and there are many other perks to them. If you want a gig case, get one that's got a shell, not the soft ones, unless you are so careful that your friends call you 'Mr. Fancy-Pants Coordination King'. Gig cases are very confining, so any little bumps will jostle your horn. That said, you don't want your sax bouncing around in your case – that'll really mess things up. With most cases I recommend placing dense foam padding in strategic places inside to secure the main body of your horn (I'm not referring to key clamps, which I don't recommend and is too far off topic to get into right now).

Forget about locking cases. If you buy one that locks, stash those keys where you'll forget them and never lock your case. I guarantee you that you'll lock that thing and lose the keys one day, and you'll regret it.

So, what are some good case companies? I'll start the list with SKB. Good prices, and good selection. PROTEC is another decent case company, but for sax I say SKB all the way. You may find a Reunion Blues case. They're great too. On and on it goes, with dozens of other case companies out there. Often the best fit will be a case from the manufacturer of your instrument.

Some companies seem to like to put furry lining in their cases, as opposed to the more logical felt or velvet type of lining. Vacuum your case occasionally if it has a hairy lining. In the long run you'll be glad you did.

Looking for extra storage? Why? Want to put all your eggs in one basket? This should really be a distantly low ranking priority in all but the strangest of circumstances. This is where I contradict myself by admitting that I bought a hard shell gig case with no extra pockets or space, but then bought a case cover with a huge pocket on the side. This is a great way to go. I have extra padding, it's securely snug, and can carry my music and stuff in the side pocket. The only downside is that it weighs a lot. I used to busk on the streets, and this case was great for that. It stores nicely in the corner of a small stage or tucked under a table too.

Well, I've lost steam, so that's all for now. If you have any questions or anything to add go get that taken care of. I hate nothing more than lazy freeloaders that surf like they're watching TV. C'mon, put a little effort into your life and give something back to those who are doing the majority of the work on this planet. Woah, O.K., that was a bit too harsh. I'll let you go now so you can call your therapist. Anyway I'm sure you get my drift.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

your role in the band

Ever think about how you fit in when your band is performing? Are you a horn player or a member of the rythm section? The reason I ask is because one can significantly modify & improve their bands sound by stretching the boundaries of each musicians role.
As a horn player, the biggest role is to create melodies. The saxes, trumpets and other wind instruments are there to be at the front of the band. There are exceptions to this, but for the most part it works this way.
As a drummer, bass player, pianist or guitar player, the role is to lay down the goove. Also, the piano and guitar provides harmonies to frame the melodic horns. There have been drummers that get into the role of leader, but again, they most often do so through simply playing more solos.
Now why haven't more bands switched up their instrumental roles? I've heard bass players double the melody, and horn players lay down the rythm at times, but what I am talking about is a total reversal of roles. The horns would outline harmonies and rythms, the drummer would lay down the eighth note melodies through the use of varied sounds on their kit, the bassists would play melodies and even harmonies, and the guitar or piano could go anywhere. Why not?
Check out Ray Brown on Tricotism. He doubles the melody on the head, and it gives the tune a neat sound. When busking solo, I used to play whole choruses on my sax as bass lines, or rythmic shots. This is just a starting point. As musicians we are bound by only our imaginations (I know, that's a cheezy cliche...). Let's mix things up with our roles in the band.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Busking for Big Bucks

When I was about 15 years old I started busking back in my home town. It was a tourist town, and in the summer I could make easy money playing my sax on the street corner. In some towns busking (or street performing) is strictly regulated, but no matter where one does it, they have to learn the basic buskers code of conduct.
Don't set up near some other cat and drown him out. He'll come back the next day and do it to you, and no one makes any cash with bad karma like this.
Slip a buck to the guy who's playing before you. If you're waiting for his spot, he'll notice, and the crowd notices when other people put cash in a hat/case. He'll do the same for you one day, guaranteed.
Be nice to the panhandlers. You don't need to, but on those late nights when there aren't many people around it's nice to know that you have friends on the street and not enemies.
There are more guidelines, but I won't get into it now. Thinking of busking? Learn the theme to the Pink Panther. That was my money song, and it'd make me big money so I played it all the time. I've come to hate it now, and the store keepers used to pay me to NOT play it. That crap gets old fast.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Sheet Music

If you want sheet music, you'll have to ask for specific songs. You won't find many (if any) more random charts posted here, without someone requesting it. I've had many requests for more sheet music, but I need to know what you want in order to post it here, and I won't post copyrighted music.
It's easy to request: just ask in the quick comments spot at the left column of this page, or ask in the 'comments' link at the bottom of any post. You can look up my e-mail in my profile and ask that way too, if you have a list. I'll do my best to get them posted right away.
What I don't get is why so many ppl want tunes, but no one is asking for specific ones. Maybe it's because we all want what we want and we want it now, and nobody wants to put any effort into getting something if they can help it, even if it is free and hard to find.
On a brighter note, the jazz authority sites are doing very well. We're building a community of sax players and jazz fans and I'm proud to see this project taking off! See my other posts or the links area for the links to the jazz authority forums and sister blog.
Allright cats, time to give some serious feedback! No more quick and easy one click poll answers or scan-and-leave attitudes here! How does the saying go.... "communication goes both ways."

Cameron aka The Jazz Authority

By the way, upcoming topics include:
- best and worst cases for your instrument
- musicality vs. technical proficiency
- mouthpieces and you
- jazz history in 500 words or less
- injuries and pain when playing
- how to get paying gigs
- Wayne Shorter interview
- and much much more!!!

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Our third (and final) forum!!!

Well, I think I've got the forum bug out of my system now. Wait, that didn't sound right - there's no problem/bug in the system - I had a bug in my system...not my computer, I mean metaphorically speaking "a bug in my system". The forums are fine - no bugs. (I'm sure you got it the first time but I'm prone to cheezy over-done humor).

Now one of these forums should take off, and when it does the others will be left to sit in limbo anattended for as long as the webhosts allow. I'm very pleased with this newest forum, and I hope to get some posts there soon.