the jazz authority; random dubiously zappy rants about 'the musicians music'.: Jazz & Sax Myths

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.



Michael J. West said...

A myth that I learned a few years ago: "If you have the feeling down, that's all you need to be able to play."

For years I used that as an excuse not to learn music was when I started learning about jazz that I realized, if you don't know song structures, chord patterns, and the basic scale, you can only know so much about music.

Funnily enough, it was only after I had learned things like blues scales and diminished seventh chords that I realized just how important it is to have the feeling first and foremost. :-)

David said...

Ah, no doubt on the equipment issue. I was probably in 8th grade when I spent all my money on the same mouthpiece David Sanborn used. On my Yamaha-23. Hehe, didn't take long to realize that my old mouthpiece fit me and my style better.

Another myth is that one needs to sound like and imitate past musician greats in order to impress people. The reality is that I've found that making an authentic ME sound is far more impressive, since ME is someone that nobody has heard before. Create new music, new sounds, new tricks. If we keep playing like people in the past, it lessens the impact and greatness of the NEW things that they were doing.

Like the blog, btw. :)

Cameron W said...

Thanks David.

Great comments guys.


Michael, in TO said...

Feeling is great if u have phenominally huge ears and are lifting tons of stuff...but if that isn't you (and hardly anyone fits that description) you need to learn the theory. As for "feeling" well if you have the balls to stand on stage and blow a chorus, chances are you have "feeling."

Train your ears and your fingers so that you can express your feelings...technique is a tool, but an important one.