Evan Tate's SaxTips eZine

Sunday, March 27, 2005

My Meeting with the Master

Just before I ever heard of Joe Allard, I spent my freshman year in college as a Composition/Jazz Studies major at a University in Connecticut. After deciding that I wasn't learning my instrument the way I wanted to, I decided to audition for admission to the Manhattan School of Music back in my hometown of New York City.

At that time I had almost no knowledge of classical saxophone literature. I only had a few transcriptions from G.F. Handel. But I was going to go for it. I did not meet my future saxophone instructors at my audition, but I had read about them in the Manhattan School of Music admissions handbook. Both names were unfamiliar to me, but hey, this is the Manhattan School of Music! They had to be good.

A few weeks after my audition I received my letter of acceptance. I told the news to a couple of colleagues of mine and informed them that I would be studying with a guy named Joe Allard. Suddenly their eyes got really big. "Man, you're going to be studying with Joe Allard? Oh, I envy you." It seemed that with nearly everyone who I had talked to mentioning Joe's name, he got the biggest praises. I made the acquaintance of a professor of saxophone in the Virginia / Washington, D.C. area, who again, was astounded to hear the news that I would study with Joe Allard. I asked him; "Who is Joe Allard?" He explained to me that anybody who's anybody studied with him: Michael Brecker, Dave Liebman, Steve Grossman, Eddie Daniels, Eric Dolphy, Harry Carney... the list goes on. You can imagine I really got excited and eager to start the Fall Semester.

Well, the time finally came. After going through admissions and meeting fellow saxophone students, I was advised to go to Joe's teaching studio right away to schedule an appointment to make sure I got a good time. Before I entered his room, I imagined Joe was a man in his mid-30's to 40's with dark hair, tall with a medium build. Why did I imagine all that? I don't know. I could hear that Joe was still giving a lesson, so I waited patiently outside his room until it was over.

A few minutes later, a student left the room. I nervously knocked on the door as not to disturb him. As I entered the room, I saw a white-haired man with a close cut beard; he had a slight build, medium height and was about in his early 70's. He had a big bright smile and was full of energy. I first thought to myself; "Is this the master that everyone's been talking about?" I explained to him that I was a new student and that I was advised to come to him right away to make an appointment. The only slot he had left in his schedule was Monday mornings at 8 am. I agreed, although I wasn't too excited about having to get up so early.

I arrived at the school building the following Monday at 7 a.m. in order to warm up before the lesson. I came into his studio at 8 am. Joe was already there, reading a newspaper and drinking a cup of tea (I think. I can't recall all details). He was in a good mood and full of energy (in fact, he always full of energy). I sat down, packed out my horn, we exchanged a few words, and he asked me play something. Not knowing what to play, I began to play that what I did at my audtion. He stopped me not even midway. He spoke with me a while, explained a few things to me, showed me a few things. Joe never had his own horn with him. If he did play an instrument during the lesson, he played your horn and got a better sound than you did!

The concepts that he explained to me in that first lesson blew me away! It was almost like receiving a revelation! I became convinced immediately that this man is a Master Teacher. After I got home that day, I sent Joe a postcard. I thanked him for the lesson and that I was eagerly looking forward to the next lessons.

Joe was a very friendly, youthful man. In the school cafeteria, he always sat with the students and did not sit in the designated area for faculty. He wanted his students to call him "Joe" and not Mr. Allard or such. Joe was a very positive man, a supportive man. He had a no nonsense attitude about making music and playing the instrument. So many things he taught were based on simple laws of physics. He concepts challenged many previously held concepts of saxophone technique, embouchure, you name it. Joe stated that his job was not to teach you how to play, but to help you discover how you want to play, and give you the necessary tools and techniques to realize that goal.

I have taken as much of Joe's concepts to my more than 100 students that I've had over the past 15 years. Of course, I don't have the magic that Joe had, but I try to transmit what I can.
The years that I spent under his tutelage were some of the most productive and influential times in my musical life. I miss the Master as a teacher and as a person.

Many thanks to you, Joe!

We all miss you.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

An Interview with Greg Osby

This interview was conducted on the 28th of May 2003 at the Jazzclub Unterfahrt in Munich, Germany. Greg was currently on tour with the 'New Sound Collective' along with Terri Lynne Carrington, Steve Khan, and Jimmy Haslip. I spoke with Greg after the gig in the musician's room.

ET: You were born in St. Louis. How did you come to play saxophone?

GO: Well, you know (in) the junior high school band, 7th grade, 12 years old; there was a choice of playing trombone or clarinet. And of course I jumped to the clarinet because it looked more interesting. And one year later, this is 1972 actually, I got my hands on a saxophone and immediately fell in love with that because it was applicable to more contemporary situations. But I stuck with the clarinet as well because of the challenges. So I was doubling. And a year later I got a flute. So, by the time I was 13 I was playing saxophone, flute and clarinet. So, I took to it very rapidly because I enjoyed it so much. And after two years from the beginning, I was good enough to play with some the local bands. I was playing in Blues band, pop bands and soul bands, and R&B. Because you know in the 70's, they didn't have synthesizers so they had to have a horn section. So, I learned to play in the soul bands, and to play in a section. It was really good. It was important.

ET: Do you come out of a musical family?GO: No, no musicians at all. It was just a stroke of fate, and I'm really happy that it happened that way. Because I would stand out and it was unique and music posed a whole set of challenges, and it gave me something to work on and to work towards.

ET: You mentioned that you played with local R&B bands and such. What brought you to jazz?

GO: Well, I guess while I was playing in those bands, it was frustrating for me. Although we did take solos it was usually over one chord like a groove or some vamp. And even though I didn't know much about the higher properties of music, I knew that there was a lot more that could be done. There was a lot more potential. So, a friend of mine, he gave me a Charlie Parker record and I had never heard anybody play like that. I never heard saxophone played so intricately and with so much complexity. So, I got my hands on every Charlie Parker record I could. And then Cannonball Adderley and Sonny Stitt followed. You know, technicians. Players of my instrument. So that started it. Because I said; “Wow! I didn’t know that this was possible.” And then I studied on my own and I questioned a lot of the older players around St. Louis. I asked a lot of questions. Not formal study, but badgering them. Actually, following them and being a pest. And when you you’re young you have to be shameless and full of will. You can’t be shy. And you can’t be afraid of rejection and you can’t be afraid to expose the fact that you don’t know something. Wherever the information lies, you have to go for it. From players in your peer group, or players who have been playing a little longer, or older players. So, I just jumped in headfirst.

ET: Who were some of the older players in the St. Louis area?

GO: People like Willie Aikins, and Freddy Washington, and E. O'Harra Spearman, these were local players in St. Louis, though. People really don’t know them, but they were very inspirational to me, because I was able to see at a young age, players on that level, of that caliber, on a professional level. They were actually very generous with the information (they gave me). They told me exactly what I needed to study, and what I need to approach and do. So, it was good. I was informed properly at an impressionable age.

ET: You studied at the famous Howard University and Berklee College of Music. Could you tell us what were the greatest “highlights” of what you got out of these institutions?

GO: Well, interestingly enough, while I was there (Howard Univ.) I was very resistant to what was being taught. The fundamentals that were being presented were primarily Western European choral writing, counterpoint and things like that. I was resistant because I didn’t see the value in that. I couldn’t see how that could be applicable to any kind of contemporary situation. I called it “powdered wig” music.

[Outburst of laughter]

[Terri Lynne Carrington: “Powdered wig” music?]

Yeah, I said; “I can’t make any money playing this. I’m not going to play in any orchestras playing saxophone.” So, then I became very impatient after my second year and visited the Berklee College of Music. I had some friends studying there. And after sitting in on a couple of ensembles there, those teachers wrote letters of recommendation about me to the Directors of Admissions. So, I got a scholarship to go there. So, I transferred from Washington, D.C. to Boston. There was a higher caliber of players, there were more players and it was much more intense because it wasn’t a university, but a music conservatory. So, it was great. Now, in retrospect to look back at the things I learned initially, the choral writing, figured bass, and all that· now, that encompasses a great deal of how I approach music. Dealing with form and structures.

ET: Now that you found a medium where you actually can apply it, it makes sense.

GO: Yeah. So, it’s all relative. There’s really no such thing as disposable information for me. Some things you may not see the purpose for or value in, but there are various ways you can incorporate that information into your craft.

ET: You display a phenomenal technical ability on your instrument. Do you have a certain type of philosophy about how you approach the saxophone on the technical aspects?

GO: Well, during my formative years, the years I was in college, I endeavored to try to develop a technique that was unique, that was exclusive to me, that was readily identifiable. When people heard it, they would know that it was me. This was as a young player. I really had no business thinking that, but that is what I wanted to do. I knew I would be up against legions of saxophone players, all going for the same gigs, and I said; “What can I do?” So, as opposed to be exclusively studying Charlie Parker and Sonny Rollins and other established players of my instrument, I also studied a great deal of piano players. It almost superceded my study of saxophone. I transcribed a lot of Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Herbie Hancock, Herbie Nichols, um… Nat Cole, Fats Waller, Teddy Edwards, Phineas Newborn, Errol Garner, like really technical… Jaki Byard, those kind of players.

ET: It’s funny that you mention that, because that’s my impression when I hear you play. To me it sounds like you’re trying to play piano. I mean, I can hear the influence.

GO: That’s right on the head. I’m trying to play polyphonic technique on a monophonic instrument, like a two-handed duality kind of thing. A pianist can play in different directions, they can “comp” with themselves, and they can do different kind of things because they have two hands and ten fingers. So, I’m playing a simulation of that. You know, jumping registers and doing real technical kind of things and larger groups, and smaller intervals and smaller clusters· so, that’s exactly what it is. I would take a 4-bar, or 8-bar or 16-bar phrase from Bud Powell, so to speak· transcribe that. Sometimes the whole solo but more likely, exactly what

I wanted which would be a great run, or a great passage. And I would put that on the top line of some manuscript paper and consequently, I would transpose it into all twelve keys. So, as opposed to working on that line in one key, I would work it in all keys. So, I would work on that until I have it under my fingers, for a week or two. Then I would that take same line and start altering accidentals, changing rhythms, changing the stress points and accents, and stuff. So, that by the time I had modified it after a month or two or so, it no longer sounded like the original line. It sounded more like a Greg Osby line. So, therefore I could retain it a lot more readily on the bandstand or in a jam session because it sounds like something that I made up, but its origins came from somebody who really knew what they were doing.

ET: So, you were really going through the process of getting the most out of the material that you were picking up.

GO: Sure. It’s an evolution, it’s like theme and variations and it taught me how to modify things and think quickly on the spot. Say, for instance, you’re on a tour and you’re playing the same songs in the same sequence every night. You have to figure out different approaches.

ET: Right.

GO: So, by doing that, if you have four variants of the same line, I have four different ways of doing it. I can change rhythms and delete things, add things, and stagger things, you know, it’s endless. So, it really baffles me when I hear younger players say; “I don’t know to practice.”, “I don’t know what to study.” You know, there is a great deal to be done with smaller fragments of information. You can just change rhythms, you can add accidentals, and you can delete things but you have to have an imagination and just say to yourself “What if?”

ET: Along the way, did you have any saxophone instructors that were most memorable to you, or had the biggest influence on you?

GO: When I was playing in these funk bands in high school; we were playing exclusively by ear. We would learn Earth, Wind and Fire songs, Tower of Power, you know, we played them from records, we were playing by ear. So there was no written music. So I developed a great ear, so that I can hear things and play it back. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, we had this turntable that was really temperamental. The turntable was a belt-driven turntable. It was affected by humidity, and heat. If it was too hot, it would run fast, if it was to cold it would run slow, so the key was always different. So, if the tune was in “C”, we would invariably play that tune in “B” or “C#”. If it was “F”, it was “F#” or “E”. So we’d always played tunes in the most difficult keys, with the most sharps and flats. We didn’t now. We didn’t know any better, we just thought that all tunes were in “C#”, and “F#”. So, that gave me a great deal of facility in these really difficult keys. I developed a great deal of fearlessness, when I saw key signatures, because I didn’t know any better. And I also learned to play saxophone in a very unorthodox way, because I didn’t have formal instruction until I got to college. I was fingering things really uniquely and unorthodox, it was quite interesting. So when I did get to Howard University, there was classical instruction, you know, all the saxophone majors had to study classical. And I was really resistant because I really didn’t like the sound of that French school of classical saxophone. I didn’t like the discipline, you know, they tried to make me play a small mouthpiece with a really soft reed and all that. I just didn’t like it. So, I was reluctant but I did it anyway just for the grade. But in retrospect, he helped me out a lot. There were keys on the saxophone I didn’t even know what they were for. I played all my “Bb’s” with two fingers and a side key. I didn’t even use the “bis” key at all, or even “one-to-one”. So, I had the most difficult fingering for real easy things. When I learned other options, I had a lot of alternate fingerings and that’s what I do now. I have alternate fingerings for different keys, different passages, different tempos and stuff, which allowed me a greater flexibility than some players who had only one way of doing things.

ET: What advice would you give a young saxophonist today, according to the instrument and to playing music in general?

GO: Well, first of all, I’d encourage any player, young or old, to try to maximize what they are working with. “Play the hand you are dealt.” A lot of players have this illusion that if they buy an Otto Link mouthpiece, they are going to sound like Coltrane, Wayne Shorter, Dexter Gordon or whomever. Not only has that been done to death, there is no guarantee that you will succeed. These players were dealing with a very personalized physiology; their oral cavity, chest cavity, lung capacity, bone structure, those issues factors into how they sounded.

ET: It all pays a role.

GO: Right. So, the thing is to really examine how you play, what your strengths and weaknesses are, and capitalize on the strengths and to develop and hone the weaknesses. So, you have to be honest. If your technique is faulty or if your tone is weak, or you don’t have any endurance, you can work on these things. It’s pointless to drill yourself in areas where you excel. If you can play your scales flawlessly, and play your arpeggios great, there’s no point on doing that everyday. What you need to do is work on the stuff that is weak. If your high register is thin, you need to work on your long tones. If in your low register you have to honk out notes, you need a softer reed. A lot of people won’t do that. They’re playing the setup that their idol played, not realizing that Cannonball was a really big guy, and Charlie Parker had a lot of power, you know that kind of thing. You have to deal with your sound, and polish it. The sound that I’m playing with is basically the sound that I’ve always had. It might be stronger now, and more centered and focused, but it’s basically the same sound. I never endeavored to sound like Sonny Stitt.

ET: There’s a certain “Kernel” to your sound that’s always you, because it is you. It’s your jaw, your teeth…

GO: It’s like your speaking voice you can’t change it. You can’t really change it. So the best thing to do is, you try to enunciate and try to have as much focus and proper musical diction as possible. It comes from dealing with articulation, you know, tonguing exercises, and good reading, good posture, good attack, not to be sloppy and not developing lazy and bad habits. My saxophone teacher· I’m happy now, at that time I was really angry at him. He used to hit our hands with a ruler. Gary Thomas, and me we were at college at the same time, so we had the same teacher and he was into the “sticky fingers” technique, where your fingers don’t leave the keys too much. That’s the Charlie Parker technique. He used to say, “Don’t flap your fingers”, “Don’t show people what fingerings you’re playing”, “Don’t use excessive body movement”, you know, focus. My other teacher at Berklee, Andy McGhee, he would talk about; “Play to the exit sign”, “Don’t play to the people in the first row, play to the people in the back row. Throw your sound back there.” I want to give the simulation that, if you’re a smaller framed cat, like me· if somebody hears me on tape, they should think that you weigh 300 pounds. He wanted your sound to be wide, and fat, and broad and distinct… projecting. You don’t want it to come out of the bell and let it drop to the floor, you want to throw it like a ventriloquist. To the back. So, those types of things, you get a visual picture and· it was some very helpful information. He never told me what to do and what not to do. He said, just follow your instincts and just be honest. If you know that you need work on in a certain area, you have to do the work.

ET: No one else is going to do it for you.

GO: The results are directly reflective of the work.

ET: Who was your instructor at Howard?

GO: At Howard, his name was Reginald Jackson. He was a renowned classical cat on alto. He made the alto sound like…it didn’t even sound like an alto anymore.

ET: More like a cello probably.

GO: Yeah, it was a Buffet and he had half-moon cork in the low Bb and B keys and when he played he just had so much control. He could whisper a low Bb and come from complete silence. I just marveled at his control. However, he could never improvise, he couldn’t sight-read jazz rhythms, -syncopation. He used multiphonics and played tricky fingerings. He was from the French school. He studied in France. So, I listened to him and extracted from that experience what I could. But I never wanted to pursue that as a lifestyle. But there are still remnants of those studies still in my playing. The control. Even though, I don’t fancy myself as a practitioner or die-hard fan of classical saxophone.

ET: I noticed also when I hear you play; I hear a lot of classical saxophone technique, as far as the control is concerned. I had wondered if you had seriously spent any time doing that.

GO: That may be by default. I never really paid attention, even when I was studying.

ET: That’s why I didn’t assume. It could happen without having to deal with…

GO: Sure, because I would just cram for the lesson an hour before. [Outburst of laughter] I had a whole week to study the stuff, and I tried to shed an hour before, because I hated it. So, it’s just by default.

ET: So hey, that about wraps it up. It’s been a great pleasure talking with you and you’ve shared a lot of great information. Many thanks to you Mr. Greg Osby.

Greg Osby is one of the most innovative voices of the saxophone and of jazz today. You can visit Greg at www.gregosby.com. You’ll find MP3 and MIDI files to download, photos, more interviews and more. His latest recording “St. Louis Shoes” is available at Amazon.com - http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00009L52P/ntnmedianet0b-20

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Alternate Fingering: High Notes

This week, we'll shortly explore alternate fingering for notes in the higher range. Alternate fingerings have the purpose of making things easier for us to perform and extending our technical ability. Some alternate fingerings serve the purpose of changing the timber of a certain note. The easiest way to demonstrate this is to play your left palm high "D" without the octave key to alternatively play middle "D". This "D" is more "open" the regular fingering for this note. Try playing low "C#" with the octave key in order to play middle "C#". This produces a "C#" that has a more "closed" sound rather than regular open C# fingering.

I'd like to present two sets of alternate fingerings here that are used to enhance your technique for playing high "E", "F" and "F#".

The first set involves using the alternate high "F" key found above the "b" key on the left hand. If you depress this key with your left index finger, and then your middle finger depressing the "C/A" key, and your ring finger depressing the "G" key, and using the octave key, you'll produce a high "E".

To produce high "F", use the same fingerings mentioned above omitting the ring finger on the "G" key.

To produce high "F#", use the same alternate fingering for high "F" as above and include the side "A#" key (right hand palm key).

The second set of alternate fingering are a bit unusual and may at first be difficult to produce the desired tone, but if you play them often, they will speak as they should.

To produce a high "E", use the normal fingering for a high "G#" and include the high "E" key (as played by the right hand when you play a nor mal high "E").

To produce a high "F", use the same fingering for high "E", minus the left hand ring finger.

To produce a high "F#", finger the "Bis Bb", depress the "G#" key and the high "E" key on the right hand palm.

I've prepared some exercises to begin using these fingerings, which you can download under http://www.evantate.de/media/altfingeringex.pdf

Evan Tate is a freelance musician/instructor and the author of "Way to Mastery: Saxophone". He holds a BM of Music from the Manhattan School of Music under the tutelage of Dr. Joe Allard and has over 20 years of professional playing and teaching experience and has performed at various jazz festivals and radio broadcasts. Since 1993, he is an endorser for Julius Keilwerth saxophones.http://www.evantate.de or mailto:evan@evantate.de

Saturday, March 12, 2005

"So you wanna play saxophone, huh?"

No other instrument enjoys so much popularity as the saxophone. People love it’s sound. How many times have you heard people say; “You play saxophone? That’s my favorite instrument!” Whether it’s jazz (where the sax is the number 1 symbol of the music), pop music (next to a screaming guitar solo, fans love a hot sax) or any other contemporary style of music, the saxophone has secured a place in the hearts and minds of avid listeners.

That much more pressure is on you, the saxophonist, to live up to many expectations. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am someone who believes in setting personal standards and not chasing after the ideals of others as far as how one should play. Nonetheless, we are all confronted with the desires and ideas of others and somehow “must” give a little compliance to these ideas in order to lead a successful saxophone career.

Think about it. What made you choose the sax as an instrument to play? Was it the sound? It’s popularity? The desire to play modern music? Was it forced upon you? Were there certain saxophonists that you heard that inspired you to play it, too? You see, you also had your own ideas, desires and expectations and you still do.

What are you doing to live up to your expectations? Are you practicing what you want to play, or are you just practicing? Do you have an idea about what sound you’d like to have, or are you hoping to develop a sound some day?

The saxophone carries a long history behind it with many master players in very diverse directions of music. The sax may be a little over 100 years old, but it has come a long way from Adolphe Sax’s attempts to have it included in the orchestra, and it having to settle for a place in military bands.

Saxophone technology has come a long way. There have been attempts to re-invent the instrument. Jim Schmidt tries it. Check out http://cvip.fresno.com/~js210/. Simultaneously it’s experiencing a “retro” phase (Check out the Selmer Reference, Julius Keilwerth saxophones).

In my humble opinion, I believe that saxophone pedagogy is still in its baby shoes, but more techniques are being discovered to advance this area as well.

Mouthpieces mad from different metal alloys and woods have also taken their place next to the standard hard rubber and plastic models. Cane reeds have to share their place with plastic-covered and fully synthetic reeds as well. Ligatures have taken all forms and are made from several materials.

Today, we have such a wide choice in equipment; it’s baffling trying to keep up with it all. But be glad! The up side of it all is that we have more choices than ever before, and we will probably continue to have ever more choices in the years to come. Adolphe Sax can actually be proud if he were alive today.

Think about it. Where do you fit in amongst of all this? What statement do you wish to make to contribute to the vast history of the saxophone (if at all)?

Many more composers have taken on the challenge of writing for saxophone as for years gone by. Some attempts have been successful. Many have been failures. But the beat goes on. (Or is that the “honk”?)

So, you wanna play saxophone, huh? Well, do your best and honor the instrument by being the best you can be.

Have fun,

Evan Tate

Thursday, March 10, 2005

More Tips on Self-Promotion

Hey! Here are some more self-promotion tips I think that one really needs to think about and implement. Playing your instrument well is great and often necessary, but promoting your talent is the "A and O" of your career.

* If you have a CD (regardless if it's "official" or self-produced) or a music cassette of your music - Give it away! Hand it out to your friends, family, colleagues, students, anyone who you'd think should hear it and could eventually help your name get around. If you've recorded a CD and had it reproduced say, 500 times, give about 50 of them away. Yes, 10%! Don't think of it as losing money, but as investing in your career.

* If you teach lessons, make special offers. For example, offer a block of 5 lessons and give the student 10% off the fifth lesson. If you hand out your own materials during your lessons, see to it that your name is on every sheet of paper. For example, I use a music notation program on my computer.

I print out my own manuscript paper with my name and my email address and telephone number ("Evan Tate - evan@evantate.de") on the bottom of every sheet. In case, that sheet of music paper should wander elsewhere, someone else has seen your name and can contact you in the future.

* Send out a regular newsletter to all your students and/or contacts. Inform them about your projects, concerts and activities. And I do mean regularly. It is extremely important that your contacts should see your name on a regular basis - weekly, monthly, bi-monthly, whatever you choose but DO IT!

Collect those mail addresses and Email addresses and get that information out.

* Produce flyers and postcards advertising your band, concerts and music lessons, and bring them by every music store you deal with personally. Build rapport with the clerks and storeowners. These people are an important source for repeat business. They recommend you to customers who ask about where to get music lessons, a band for a wedding, school dance, etc.

I hope that you find these tips very useful to you. Of course, there are many more things one can do to promote oneself. Brainstorm a few things and get going!

Evan Tate is a freelance musician/instructor and the author of "Way to Mastery: Saxophone". He holds a BM of Music from the Manhattan School of Music under the tutelage of Dr. Joe Allard and has over 20 years of professional playing and teaching experience and has performed at various jazz festivals and radio broadcasts. Since 1993, He is an endorser for Julius Keilwerth saxophones.

http://www.evantate.de or mailto:evan@evantate.de

How to Quit Playing Sax

Before you get the wrong idea, I'm not trying to get any of you to give up playing the sax. During the careers of nearly every musician, (and many of them quite famous) there comes a time when one has doubts whether all that they are doing, playing, etc will ever amount to a successful career as a musician. I‘ve always said that every artist has quit the profession at least 5 times in his/her career. No joke. They'll come a time when your technique seems to not be good any more, you won't get any calls for gigs over a longer period of time, you may be working a day job and you feel that you'll never be able to quit it because you don’t make enough money as a musician to support yourself or your lifestyle. The list goes on.

First of all, I'd like to say that this is actually healthy. Really! When you get to one of these points, it's always a message to you and one should treat it as an opportunity and not as "bad luck". Personally, I don't believe in "bad luck". Luck is the meeting of preparation with opportunity. "Bad Luck" is therefore the meeting of no preparation and therefore no opportunities. Get my drift? When you get to the point of doubting yourself, find out what's getting you so upset. If you’ve got no gigs maybe you've been relying to much on other people to hire you and not having enough self-initiative to keep yourself in work. If you’re playing plenty of gigs but they're not the type of gigs you can be proud of "maybe you're not setting your standards high enough. If your technique is lacking " maybe you're ignoring other things about your playing. If you’re having a relationship crisis – maybe you’re paying too much attention to your sax. ??? Who knows? You do!

Take the time to evaluate what you’re doing and/or not doing. Take a break! Go fishing. (By the way, I've read that Phil Woods had done this regularly. Every Sunday, he wouldn’t play his horn. He'd go fishing.) Read a book! Go places! Meet new people. Get around places where life’s more positive. It’ll supercharge you and give you new ideas and new courage to keep on keepin' on.

Have fun!

Evan Tate is a freelance musician/instructor and the author of "Way to Mastery: Saxophone". He holds a BM of Music from the Manhattan School of Music under the tutelage of Dr. Joe Allard and has over 20 years of professional playing and teaching experience and has performed at various jazz festivals and radio broadcasts. Since 1993, he is an endorser for Julius Keilwerth saxophones.
http://www.evantate.de or mailto:evan@evantate.de

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Jazz Improvisation

If you've read the interview with Greg Osby, you'll noticed that Greg talked about the need to optimize whatever techniques that you pick up and/or transcribe to improve your playing in general and for improvisation in specific.

I'd like to introduce you to a technique that I have used over the years teaching students jazz improvisation with varying levels of ability. The most popular "school" method of learning improvisation has been the "Chord/Scale" approach. That is basically learning to use certain scales over certain chords in order to learn the different sounds of the scales and accompanying chords. Along with this method I like to use what I call as a "Minimalist Approach" to improvisation. It is based simply on the premise that in improvisation, we need to construct melodies, much in the same way a composer composes a melody. A composer starts with a single musical idea, a germ or "motif" if you will. This motif is then expanded, turned upside-down, transposed, interpolated, rhythmically varied, etc. in order to use the material to the maximum. We can approach improvisation the same way.

On the "SaxTips eZine" website, I have provided a link to a PDF document displaying various exercises for improvisation that you may use to your benefit and to illustrate the concept somewhat better. You may also download this file directly by going to http://www.evantate.de/media/Ex4Improv.pdf.

The first exercises display an exercise for beginners using a simple dominant 7th chord progression in coasting along the Cycle of Fourths. You can use the Play-along recording provided by Jamey Aebersold "II-V7-I, Cycles and Turnarounds" for this purpose. It starts with playing just the root tone of the chord on every change. Then the first 3 notes of the scale are played. Following that, the first 5 notes of the scale are played. Then it gets a little more "jazzy" by playing the first, second, third and fifth tones of the scales (this is the famous 1-2-3-5 pattern). Next, the pattern is varied using 1-2-5-3, then 5-3-2-1, then 3-5-2-1. This is just a beginning to illustrate what can be done with just 4 notes of a scale.

In the next segment, using 8th notes, we are mixing patterns "1-2-3-4-5-3-2-1. Then, 5-4-3-2-1-2-3-5. Following that, I've provided a simple bluesy V7 lick " 1-2-3-5-b7-5-6-6-5-1. Next, a linear approach to chord connecting is introduced " 3-2-1-b7-3-2-1-b7, etc.

Now the first II-V7-I pattern is introduced "b3-2-1-b-7-3-5-b7-9-5. Then using a couple of simple ii-V7 sequences.

Next, more advanced players can incorporate a basic Be-Bop lick over the Dominant 7th chord.

Finally, for the really advanced players I've provided what I call a "Jazz Etude" or "Practice Solo". It is based on a concept that I first learned from saxophonist Steve Grossman. If Classical etudes are used to learn and convey the language of classical literature, then it may be just as helpful to do the same in a jazz context. Here, I've provided a basic blues progression. I wrote a solo using entirely eighths notes, without rests. The purpose here is three-fold. One is to help develop a linear thinking in your playing. Two, to improve your technique. Three, it is done this way in order that you don't just memorize the exercises and then play it on stage! (You have to breathe some time!) Steve Grossman contends that part of the difficulty in playing tunes in harder keys is not so much as the lack of technical ability, but more so the lack of being able to hear in those keys. Blues in concert Bb sounds great. We all know it. But as soon as we have to play blues in A or Ab, or B we seem to not only stumble and run out of ideas, but we can't seem to "hear" blues in that key. Using an exercise such as this is used solely to give a key (as opening a door) to learn to hear in those "difficult" keys by using material that is familiar to our ears already. Subsequently, after you've gotten this exercise under your fingers and in your ears, transpose it to another key, a harder one, and learn to play it and hear it in that key. Eventually, add on a chorus or two to the exercise. This way you can concentrate on the way you want to learn to play and integrate it into your playing. Take licks out of a transcribed solo from one of your favorites and build it in!

If you'd like more exercises like this, download it here: http://www.evantate.de/media/PracticeSolo.pdf

Have fun!

Evan Tate is a freelance musician/instructor and the author of "Way to Mastery: Saxophone". He holds a BM of Music from the Manhattan School of Music under the tutelage of Dr. Joe Allard and has over 20 years of professional playing and teaching experience and has performed at various jazz festivals and radio broadcasts. Since 1993, he is an endorser for Julius Keilwerth saxophones.
http://www.evantate.de or mailto:evan@evantate.de

Being and Staying Prepared

Today I'm going to tell you about an experience I had when I was in the early years my profession. I was a hard lesson to learn, but also one I never forgot.

I had just graduated college and had gotten a "dream job" (which was any regular gig playing music and making good money at it). I got an opportunity to tour with the musical "Bubblin' Brown Sugar", a jazz musical, throughout Europe. I played Tenor sax and clarinet. Things were riding smooth. Soon, I was able to memorized the whole book and play with reading. I saw a little bit of the world, met interesting people and played with some fine musicians. After a few months, I go back home to New York City and I got a call from a colleague who I was just on tour with. Jackie Byard's big band (the Apollo Stompers) was playing a weekend gig in the Village and they needed a sub on 2nd alto. I thought, "Great!” I can get to read some charts again, and possibly make some more contacts for more jazz gigs. I asked, "When is the rehearsal?", I was told that there was no rehearsal. I just needed to show up to the club and play the gig.

Well, Friday evening came and I showed up nice and early for the gig, ready to blow. Most of the band was already there, too. Jackie Byard wasn't there yet. I heard from a couple of the other guys in the band that there were a number of subs in the band that night. Almost half the band! 

The guy next to me playing lead alto sax asked me if I'd like to play lead. I declined saying I was hired to play second alto. He told me that he was a sub too and didn't know the book! Well, Jackie Byard showed up 10 minutes before the downbeat and brought the music with him. Just so you understand, none of the "new" guys got to see the music at all before we had to play. Tough!

Anyway, Jackie passed out the charts and called out the first tune. We all flipped through the book, looking to the tune and Jackie started counting off! The tune was a "Rhythm changes" at break-neck tempo with a sax soli. You can imagine how many of us panicked! On top of "fluffing" through a lot of the notes, the big moment came: the first solo with a solo break. Who was it? Yes, you got it. Me! The second alto was to play the first solo! I was barely able to keep the tempo and just made it through by the skin of my teeth. After my solo there was even more sax soli to play.

After the first tune was over, you can imagine how I felt. I was shaken! Jackie was cursing at the band (so that the audience didn't hear it), and I felt 2 inches tall. The rest of the evening was a little quieter but there were always surprises.

On the way home that night, I was determined to play the next two nights better than ever and really fight to play everything in sight.

The next two nights went a lot better, but nonetheless, after it was over, I got paid, no "thank you"s, and didn't get a call to play with the band again.

Lesson here? You always have to be ready. Ready to read anything, solo over anything at any tempo, and keep your chops up. You see, although when I was on tour, I always kept practicing (which can be hard to do on tour) but forgot to keep my reading chops up. Well, I paid a dear price for ignoring that.

Now, you all may not live near a metropolitan city where the music scene is so intense as it is in New York, or Chicago, Philadelphia or Los Angeles, but it pays to keep your skills at the highest caliber you possibly can - just in case.

Have fun!

Evan Tate is a freelance musician/instructor and the author of "Way to Mastery: Saxophone". He holds a BM of Music from the Manhattan School of Music under the tutelage of Dr. Joe Allard and has over 20 years of professional playing and teaching experience and has performed at various jazz festivals and radio broadcasts. Since 1993, he is an endorser for Julius Keilwerth saxophones.
http://www.evantate.de or mailto:evan@evantate.de

Music, Midi and Sax

Here we are in the next Millennium! The music industry continues to evolve and musicians are being afforded more opportunities to create music.

What's definitely here to stay is the marriage of traditional acoustic music and computers. Whether you're performing music with a combination of acoustic instruments and electronic instruments (such as samplers and sequencers), solely electronic, or just using the computer to write your acoustic music scores, MIDI (that's Musical Instrument Digital Interface for those who've still shied away from electronics) continues to play an integral role in all of this.

In the electronic perspective, as synthesizers are for pianos, electronic wind instruments are for wind instruments. Over the years there have been many instruments that have sprung up to meet the challenge with varying degrees of success. Starting from the low-cost "toys" like the Casio MIDI sax, to more professional models like the AKAI EWI, Yamaha WX7, WX11 and WX5, and the seldom used or heard of Synthophone from the Swiss saxophonist and computer specialist Martin Hurni.

We've come a long way from the first electronically amplified saxophone using a wah-wah pedal or other effects to fully electronic instruments that use saxophone-like fingerings (like the EWI and WX-models) to actual saxophones jam-packed with electronics, such as the Synthophone.

Many saxophonists have experimented with this new challenge in different ways. Greg Osby and Gary Thomas electronically amplified their horns and used Pitch-to-MIDI converters in order to drive synthesizers and sequencers on various recordings with Jack De Johnette’s band "Special Edition" and their own recordings. Michael and Randy Brecker used a wah-wah pedal in earlier recordings of the "Brecker Bros", and Mike later picked up the EWI with "Steps Ahead" and his own recordings. Concert saxophonist John Sampen has used the WX-7 in specially hired works for the instrument. Saxophonist Chico Freeman used a Synthophone on a live recording while on tour in Germany. Steve Coleman has also used the Synthophone although solely in his home studio for sequencing purposes. I've even heard that Branford Marsalis has experimented with it.

Whether you're considering using one on stage, in the studio or just for fun, there are a few obstacles connected with these instruments, but may be well worth the effort to investigate them.

The Yamaha and AKAI models are what I call "new animals". They are intended to use saxophone-like fingers but they are not saxophones in any sense. That may please you in the way that you will treat it like a new, unfamiliar instrument. It may bother you because you have to learn to play another instrument and not just let loose and play as you do a sax. The Synthophone is an actually saxophone stuffed with electronics but mind you, it generates no acoustic sounds at all, just like the other instruments. You may like that because the learning curve is a lot smaller. Again, that may bother you that it is a sax because it doesn't really respond the sax way as a sax does. All in all it is a matter of personal preference which electronic wind instrument may be worth your time and money. They can be expensive.

If you use music software such as Steinberg's CUBASE, Elogic or CODA's Finale, you can hook up your "e-sax" to your computer to enter notes into your scores the same way you would do with a MIDI keyboard. Instead of struggling to play a piano solo for your sequencing project, maybe you want to play it with your "e-sax" instead.

I personally have experimented along this direction. I've used a Roland VP-70 Digital Voice Processor (in Pitch-to-MIDI mode) with Korg Poly 800 (Monophonic/Analog sounds) and Yamaha TX81-Z (Polyphonic/FM-Snythesis) synthesizers with a contact microphone on my sax bell. This worked very neatly in the studio, but it was a catastrophe on the stage. The problem there was that a Pitch-to-MIDI converter can only process one note at a time. Fine in the secluded cabin of a recording studio. But on stage you get "spill over" from the guitar, the drums, the bass, etc. - too many signals - the VP would just shut down. I had to change programs in order to get it to kick in again. I should have used a built-in microphone, but really didn't want to have a hole drilled into the neck and I really didn't want to change necks in the middle of gig.

Anyway, while using an "e-sax" many things have to be learned and taken into consideration. Sounds are the biggest issue in my opinion. I've heard many failed attempts at it. The most common mistake of the "newbie" is to use synthesizer sounds that are really made for a keyboard instrument in mind. If you try to play the sound as though it's a wind instrument, it really sounds terrible. One really has to pick sounds that are more adept for a wind instrumentalist's technique.

Have fun,

Evan Tate

Sunday, March 06, 2005

"Tales from the Crypt"

This week’s issue is NOT about the old television horror program that played in the 70’s (although it may still run now, and I imagine many of you are too young to have even heard of this program. Whatever.), but it is another story about my early experiences as a young musician. I often feel that these are “horror stories” in their own right, but I find that they are also useful as I think back on these experiences.

Like (or unlike) many saxophonists today, I started as a saxophonist, and not as a clarinetist that later switched to saxophone. In fact, I avoided playing clarinet for the longest time. Although my middle school band teacher tried to encourage me to learn clarinet – I listened to my schoolmates play it and, of course, they sounded terrible – I didn’t listen to him, and the clarinet and I were like a string of garlic and Dracula.

In High School I picked up the flute and learned to play that with a lot of dedication. I even considered playing oboe, but I was told that there were too many oboists in the school already and not enough instruments to go around. Anyway, my mother advised that I stay away from oboe due to the massive pressure to one’s head.

By the time I got to college I had to finally face the fact that clarinet was going to become a part of my life (at least a small part, if any). I finally bought one. I forgot which brand it was. The next day, a colleague of mine called me up and told me that a High School in Brooklyn was putting on a student production of the musical “West Side Story”. The organizers of the production were looking for college music majors to form the orchestra. I asked him, “What do I need?” He said; “Your alto sax, flute and CLARINET.” I thought, “Cool. So I can start using this thing and get a return on my investment.” I told him that I was up for the gig.

“West Side Story” is a beautiful musical. A beautiful piece of work. I had no idea how difficult, or should I say “musically challenging” it was.

Since the production was low budget (almost all budgets are), the musicians had to “double-up” on books. What do I mean? Well, I played the first reed book, AND the second reed book. I had to play music for two musicians! I had to figure out which were the most important cues to play, and play them regardless of which book they were in. the whole band played this way.

On top of that, the clarinet parts were not for someone who was just learning to play clarinet. The most challenging part was the “Rumble Scene”. It is like a very modern classical work and the clarinet is VERY exposed. No chance to cover up anything here.

Believe it or not, I learned to play clarinet playing that musical. I “shedded” clarinet for hours a day. Mainly practicing the music to “West Side Story”.

Lesson here? When an experienced musician or teacher wants to give you some advice, listen to it. Even if at that moment you didn’t think it was the coolest thing, take heed. You can save yourself a lot of unnecessary stress in the future.

Have fun!

Evan Tate is a freelance musician/instructor and the author of "Way to Mastery: Saxophone". He holds a BM of Music from the Manhattan School of Music under the tutelage of Dr. Joe Allard and has over 20 years of professional playing and teaching experience and has performed at various jazz festivals and radio broadcasts. Since 1993, he is an endorser for Julius Keilwerth saxophones.
http://www.evantate.de or mailto:evan@evantate.de

Ways to Cultivate Creativity

Whether or not you're an improvising musician or not, creativity is an integral part of this profession. We need creativity not only to find the best ways to play a passage, express a cadenza, whale a bluesy solo, or play the most interesting chord progressions over a modal tune. We need creativity first and foremost, in my opinion, to solve problems. We need it to adjust our intonation when blending with other instruments, to find an effective way to master our scales, arpeggios, chord progressions, trills, interpreting pieces and styles of music. Yes, we are called on to be creative more often than we probably have ever acknowledged.

Here are some tips you can try to cultivate and nurture your creativity:

1. Listen to music everyday. If you already do that, take advantage of listening to various styles of music. Go to your public library and dig out archived recordings of music you've never heard of and give them a listen. Please do this regularly.

2. Practice something your usually don't. If you're a jazzer, practice some classical etudes. If you're a classical saxophonist, explore some jazz exercises and articulations. Nothing expands your creativity as much as expanding your musical horizons.

3. Learn to play another instrument. If you don't have the time or patience for that, play the music of another instrument. Get a hold of an etude book for flute, oboe, violin, piano, recorder, guitar - and do some sight-reading.

4. Transcribe solos of another instrument. It's been known that Miles Davis often listened to guitar players. Dave Sanborn listened not only to Hank Crawford, but also Stevie Wonder's harmonica playing to get his soulful sound. Greg Osby listened to and transcribed piano solos. Expand your horizons! (You've heard that before, haven't you? :-))

5. If you're not already an avid reader, I suggest you take on this habit. Read! Read! Read! Read a book. Read a magazine. Read the music industry periodicals. Read lifestyle mags, fashion mags... If you don't read this stuff already, you can borrow them from your sister, brother, mother, father, girlfriend, boyfriend, neighbor, whatever the last guy left sitting on the seat in the bus, etc. Read stuff you've never read before. Read stuff you'd never had an interest in before (you may just be surprised).

6. Take 15 minutes a day, or an hour or two a week and think about how or what you could improve on in your present situation. Get creative! Write it down and put it into action. Today!

Evan Tate is a freelance musician/instructor and the author of "Way to Mastery: Saxophone". He holds a BM of Music from the Manhattan School of Music under the tutelage of Dr. Joe Allard and has over 20 years of professional playing and teaching experience and has performed at various jazz festivals and radio broadcasts. Since 1993, he is an endorser for Julius Keilwerth saxophones.
http://www.evantate.de or mailto:evan@evantate.de


A Minimalist approach to improvisation

Often times when we are improvising in jazz or any other idiom for that matter, we come to a point where we are in search for new ideas. There has never been a shortage of scales and patterns to try and utilize. Improvisation can also be looked upon as spontaneous composition. So what about using one of the essentials for composition? The Motif.

A Motif is a germ, or small musical particle that sets the mood and direction of a composition. We find similar qualities in all music genres. The best examples in jazz music are blues tunes. One can follow the same logic in many swing and Big Band tunes and arrangements from the swing era up through the Hard Bop era.

This has of course, been a great tool for improvisation, even in the most modern and “avant garde” idioms.

Let’s try this with a blues. Create a four-note motif, preferable chord tones, with a specific rhythm. With every change chord either transpose, or modify the motif to fit with the chord. Continue this pattern throughout the form. In places where you have two bars of the same chord (i.e. bars 3 & 4), extend the motif to “spill over” into the second bar. If you transposed the motif in bar 2, transpose it also in bars 5 & 6,or use a transposed version of the motif as you did in bars 3 & 4. In bars 7 & 8, use the same version of the motif as you did in bars 3 & 4. In bars 9 & 10, you may either create a new motif or modify the original motif to fit the chords. Then in bars 11 & 12, repeat what have done in bars 3 & 4 and 7 & 8.

Using this pattern as a template or “cookie cutter”, you can create several blues tunes. Whatever you didn’t do in your first tune (i.e. if you transposed, now modify), do this now with same motif for your new tune. From the same motif, you’ve now composed two blues tunes.

You can also use this technique in regards to intervals. Say for instance, you decided to use a perfect fifth interval as your motif. The tune “High Fly” from Randy Weston is a perfect example. Play, compose or improvise through the entire form of the blues using only a perfect fifth as your motif. Transpose it, modify it, do whatever you have to do keep the interval. I’ve also used this technique during a jazz workshop with the tune “Lady Bird”. Although, there were some advanced players present, it still was not easy at first to think in this way, and try to improvise. It is a challenge and will in any case give you new ideas for your solos.

Analyze a few of few of your favorite tunes for motifs, intervals and sequences. Learn to play them in all keys. Try “quoting” from one tune over the changes of another tune.

Have fun,

Evan Tate


Calisthenics for the Saxophonists

As we all know, playing the saxophone (or any other instrument for that matter) is not a natural activity for the human being. Therefore, it can be at times physically challenging playing an instrument for long periods of time. Although we have purchased our instruments (therefore, it must do what WE say) and not the other way around, the instrument should be designed to fit us. But there is still the action of actually playing the sax that we still have to modify ourselves a little in order to get the best out of our instruments and ourselves.

Here are a series of light, physical exercises designed to facilitate our playing and lessen fatigue. The beauty of these exercises is that you don’t have to have your saxophone with you to do them. You can perform these exercises on the train, bus, and car, while walking, anywhere! (Make sure people aren’t staring at you. They may consider you for “medical” treatment. ;-)

Exercise No.1: Stretching the neck/jaw muscles.

This exercise gives you more support to the lower jaw. Tilt your head back slightly. Put a big smile on your face so that your teeth show and feel the muscles underneath your lower jaw stretch and pull. This is similar to chewing. Hold each position for 2-3 seconds and repeat 10 times.

Exercise No.2: “Doo-wee”

This is an exercise for the muscles involving your embouchure. Say the word “Doooo” with exaggeration, protruding your lips forward. Then say “weeee”, again with exaggeration. Pull the corners of your mouth back toward your ears. Repeat this exercise 10 times.

Exercise No.3: Wrist exercise.

Holding your arm straight out in front of you, bend your wrist so that your palm faces your chest. Hold for 2-3 seconds. Then bend your wrist so that your palm faces away from you to the front. Hold for 2-3 seconds. Repeat up to 10 times. Do not over-do it!

Exercise No.4: Palm Stretch

Open your hand, spreading your fingers as much as you can. Hold for 2-3 seconds. Relax your hand. Repeat 10 times.

Exercise No.5: Finger Stretch.

Hold your index finger with the thumb of the same hand. Apply tension by stretching the remaining fingers away from your palm. Hold for 2 seconds. Continue with the middle finger, then ring finger, and finally the little finger. Then do the same backwards. Repeat 10 times.

Exercise No.6: Finger Game

This is an exercise in agility. Touch the tip of your thumb with tip of your index finger (1), then middle finger (2), ring finger (3), and then the little finger (4). Do the same backwards. Repeat this as rapidly as you can. You may also play this game using other combinations:

1 – 3 – 2 – 4

1 – 3 – 4 – 2

You may even play this game with both hands simultaneously in sync or out of sync.

This article is also available with illustrations for download at: http://www.evantate.de/media/Saxtips_22.pdf

Evan Tate is a freelance musician/instructor and the author of "Way to Mastery: Saxophone". He holds a BM of Music from the Manhattan School of Music under the tutelage of Dr. Joe Allard and has over 20 years of professional playing and teaching experience and has performed at various jazz festivals and radio broadcasts. Since 1993, He is an endorser for Julius Keilwerth saxophones.

http://www.evantate.de or mailto:evan@evantate.de


Thursday, March 03, 2005

How to get out of a Slump

You know the feeling. You go to practice, put your horn together, start blowing and....you don't know what you want to practice. Everything bores you or frustrates you. You don't seem to be getting any further in your development.

What do you do?


No, really!! Get creative about what you can practice. Learn to play consecutive minor ninth intervals chromatically. Practice playing Half-diminished arpeggios. Learn to play any etude that you know a half-tone higher, a half-tone lower. Transcribe a solo off a record. Listen to a recording of yourself and transcribe your won solo. Do anything that will break your routine!

What are the benefits? First, the fact that you're breaking a routine is a good thing. It is through routine that we often why we get bored. Some of may need routines and that's OK. Through breaking the routines every now and then, keeps us creative in our thinking and obviously, can build our technique, our ears and much more.

So now, the next time you get stuck you won't have an excuse anymore as to "not knowing what to do".

Go for it!

Evan Tate is a freelance musician/instructor and the author of "Way to Mastery: Saxophone". He holds a BM of Music from the Manhattan School of Music under the tutelage of Dr. Joe Allard and has over 20 years of professional playing and teaching experience and has performed at various jazz festivals and radio broadcasts. Since 1993, He is an endorser for Julius Keilwerth saxophones.

http://www.evantate.de or mailto:evan@evantate.de


Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Practicing - How to do it with goals in mind.

This week we're going to deal with practicing. Not just in the common sense of the term but in a special way. This week we're going to go through a type of "Goal-Setting Workshop". What do I mean by that? Let me explain.

Why do we practice? To get better? (Whatever that may mean) To master our instrument? To learn new material? A new technique? Why? The answer is different for everyone. In order to achieve the purpose we set out for practicing we have to do decide what we are trying to achieve. This week's tip is geared to show you how to find that out.

1. Ask yourself "What do I want to achieve as a saxophonist?" - Do I want to be a concert soloist? A fabulous jazz musician? A master improvisor? A great all-round studio musician? Write down on a piece of paper right now what you wish to achieve as a saxophonist in your lifetime. Dream, and dream BIG!

2. Ask yourself "Why do I want to achieve this goal?" - Before we set out defining what we have to practice and how we think we can achieve our goal or goals, we have to get clear about WHY we want to achieve these goals. Only when you know why you're doing certain things are you assured in knowing what to do and how to do, and then eventually achieveing the goal. Write it all down. Think of as many "Why's" as possible. The more reasons you have, the better chances you have to reach your goals.

3. Now ask yourself "What do I have to do in order to reach this goal?" - Write down all the things you believe what must happen, performance and professionly-wise, along with what you think you'd have to practice and know (theoretically, musically, etc.) in order to reach these goals. If you're having a little trouble figuring this out, start with a picture in mind of the goal and work backwards. "What has to happen BEFORE I reach this goal?", "What has to happen before I reach THIS goal?" and so on. Keep asking yourself these questions and write it all down until to you arrive at the point of where you are right now. This generates "mini-goals", steps along the way that you'll have to take in order to reach your main goal.

4. Next to all these "mini-goals" write down a time frame in which you believe you can achieve this goal. Use a time frame of 20 years, 10 years, 5 years and 1 year or less.

5. Pick out the top 3 "1 year or less" goals from your list.

6. Write a paragraph under each goal describing why you ABSOLUTELY MUST achieve this goal in 1 year or less. Make it strong! Write as many reasons as you can think of.

7. For those goals pertaining to what you have to practice, write down what you think you'd have to practice or learn in order to achieve these goals. If  you're not sure on some points, ASK more advanced players, teachers or professional musicians for advice. Investigate books, articles and interviews.

Now, what you have here is a basic protype of your practicing session. Add whatever elements you deem as necessary to round it out. Success leaves clues for their attainment. Achieveing desired goals is not a matter of chance or luck, it is deeply though about, methodical planning. Every successful musician did certain things on a constant basis in order to achieve his/her goal and reap the benefits thereof.

Take the challenge!

Have fun!

Evan Tate is a freelance musician/instructor and the author of "Way to Mastery: Saxophone". He holds a BM of Music from the Manhattan School of Music under the tutelage of Dr. Joe Allard and has over 20 years of professional playing and teaching experience and has performed at various jazz festivals and radio broadcasts. Since 1993, He is an endorser for Julius Keilwerth saxophones.

http://www.evantate.de or mailto:evan@evantate.de

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

"Jack of all trades" - Tips on doubling.

Doubling. For those saxophonists who plan to make playing music their profession, playing several woodwinds is eventually a necessity in order to keep yourself in supply of enough work. There is also much to gain out of what you learn by playing other woodwinds that can augment your saxophone playing.

There are a few things that are good to remember when considering doubling. First of all, every woodwind is a different animal. What do I mean by that? Well, you can't take the approach that just because another instrument uses the Boehm fingering system that "you already know it" and that "it will be easy". Far from it! Every instrument has its own character, nuances and history that accompanies it - and its own problems. Even if you double on another saxophone say, alto and tenor, or tenor and soprano - you have to treat them as though they are totally different instruments in order to get the most out of them. The basic essential woodwinds to play besides other saxophones are the clarinet and the flute. Other instruments beyond that would be the oboe and English horn.

How do you go about starting to learn to play another instrument? First of all, you need to allot time to dedicate practicing this new "friend". That's right. You have to get friendly with the instrument and see it as something to help you and not make your life difficult. If you review the first newsletter you've received - "Mastering Basic Skills" - this will help you get clear on how well you should learn how to play this new instrument. You need to develop a good tone, good intonation and a decent technique. You must investigate music composed for the instrument and get some solo recordings of the instrument in order to form an idea of what is possible with the instrument and what sound you may want to acquire. And of course, very good sight-reading skills on all instruments.

Depending on the type of professional situation you may be involved in will more or less dictate how proficient on each instrument you should become. For example, if you're planning to play musicals, most of the time, the saxophone is going to be the least important instrument in your arsenal. The first reed book of the musical "A Chorus Line" demands good flute and piccolo proficiency, a little clarinet and very little saxophone is needed. "West Side Story" needs advanced clarinet proficiency. "Grease" needs mainly saxophone with a good grasp of playing different musical styles and some clarinet good clarinet skills. Musicals like "Bubblin' Brown Sugar", "Eubie", "Ain't Misbehavin'" need good skills in interpretation of sax and clarinet playing styles of the swing era.

What if that's not your goal? Studio musicians need to be proficient in many styles, on cue (!) and be particularly a master of at least one style. Show bands or Club Date bands also need a good grasp of various styles and various instruments. Whatever your genre you have to know in and out.

Some tips:

Sax/Clarinet double - here you need a lot of work on your embouchure and your reading skills. Clarinet is not built in octaves like the sax, so you'll have learn practically a different fingering for every note and you need to drill reading the notes far below and above the staff. Watch that vibrato! If you use it on sax, you need to get rid of it on clarinet (in the meantime).

Sax/Flute double - here you'll also need a lot of embouchure work and reading skills. For flute you'll need to practice overtones often and work on projection (getting heard)!

Sax/Clarinet/Flute double - You need to practice switching between these instruments for quick embouchure adjustments and reading.

Along with doubling on clarinet or flute, you may need to investigate other voices of those instruments such as bass clarinet, basset horn, piccolo and alto flute. If you add oboe to your arsenal, you may also need English horn too. With whatever doubles you have I suggest dedicating one hour (at least) a day (every day!) to practicing the instrument(s). You'll be amazed what you can achieve after 6 months! In that time, you'll also learn to develop a "feel"

for the instrument so that once you touch it, you'll trigger off messages in your brain that will dictate to your fingers, embouchure and ear as to how and what to do. You'll recognize the "new animal" instantly.

Get together with other doublers to play duets, trios or quartets with your doubles. Help and support each other in learning. This is also an important lesson in "networking". Letting others know that you play doubles for future reference. A lucrative gig may come out of it. And don't forget to offer then gigs when you have a chance to also.

Evan Tate is a freelance musician/instructor and the author of "Way to Mastery: Saxophone". He holds a BM of Music from the Manhattan School of Music under the tutelage of Dr. Joe Allard and has over 20 years of professional playing and teaching experience and has performed at various jazz festivals and radio broadcasts. Since 1993, He is an endorser for Julius Keilwerth saxophones.

http://www.evantate.de or mailto:evan@evantate.de



Wow! Did you hear that? Yeah, that high note that Micheal Brecker, David Sanborn, Sigurd Rascher, Vincent Abato, and many others, played? Playing those high notes have become a landmark for many of us as a personal and professional accomplishment on our instrument. For those who haven't started yet, or have been wanting to start, or who right in the middle of learning the altissimo register, this article is for you.

What is the altissimo range?

Simply said, it is the range above which the saxophone is played with "normal" fingering, above the high "f" or "f#", depending on the model of your sax. Theoretically, the saxophone can be played up to another full above the high "f".

What can I do to prepare myself for the study of the altissimo?

I find that the best preparation for the altissimo is regular practice of the overtones (See the SaxTips Newsletter - "Overtones") and then experimenting first with just a couple of altissimo notes.

On the follwing websites you can download some sample charts for altissimo fingering. You may have to use different fingerings depending on which voice you play (alto, tenor, etc.) and which make (Selmer, Yamaha, Keilwerth, etc.). These fingerings will respond differently from horn to horn.



I suggest first trying the altissimo "A". Why? Believe it or not, the hardest note to produce is the altissimo "G". It's comparable to the "break" on the horn (just like middle C# to D). Once you've experience the sense of achievement by producing this tone, you'll may feel more confident in trying to produce G# and G.

Always compare your altissimo tones with the lower octaves for the purpose of intonation. Practice a few simple major arpeggios and scales. Then try simple melodies.

I suggest working on extending your range up to altissimo "A" for a few weeks until you're comfortable before moving on to Bb, B and C. Again, always use simple arpeggios, scales and melodies at first. Once you've got these pretty much under your belt, move on to C#, D, D#, E and F.

Don't expect to master these notes within the next few weeks. Playing altissimo
is a study that takes time, patience, imagination and a willingness to practicing them to keep fit and accurate.

Avoid practicing the overtones too high in order to match the altissimo notes. Due the fact that the upper partials of the overtones series (past the 4th partial) are too flat in comparison to the well-tempered scale, this may lead to you learning to play these high notes out of tune.

So, remember - Practice Patience and Diligence!

Evan Tate is a freelance musician/instructor and the author of "Way to Mastery: Saxophone". He holds a BM of Music from the Manhattan School of Music under the tutelage of Dr. Joe Allard and has over 20 years of professional playing and teaching experience and has performed at various jazz festivals and radio broadcasts. Since 1993, He is an endorser for Julius Keilwerth saxophones.

http://www.evantate.de or mailto:evan@evantate.de

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