Sunday, April 12, 2009

David Valdez - serious resources for serious players

Pro player insights into the world of sax playing, jazz and the bigger picture. Food for your sax-o-playing souls. Recommended.

Casa Valdez

Gracias amigo.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Gerald Albright @ Home

Part 1 of 3-part vid featuring Gerald Albright at his place, performin for Jack & Jill Society members. Plays 'Bluesette', 'So Amazing' and in later parts, 'Georgia on my mind'.

Gerald Albright @ Home, Colorado

David Sanborn @ Selmer Paris, France

Part 1 of an 8-part (at times) gallic 'yawn-fest' compounded by amateur video technique, featuring Dave Sanborn and his peculiarities re reeds. Part 2 on he actually plays. Accompanied by Gil Goldstein (pn), who according to the subbie, looks only slightly more animated than the ceiling tiles featured in this clip.

David Sanborn @ Selmer Paris, France

Saturday, December 15, 2007

tenor saxophonists to check out

James Carter vs Joshua Redman ~ Straight No Chaser

Michael Brecker ~ Naima

Lester Young ~ Jitterbug Jam

Bob Berg ~ Friday Night At The Cadillac Club

Ben Castle ~ Beautiful Tomorrow

alto saxophonists to check out

Gerald Albright ~ Georgia

David Sanborn ~ Senor Blues

Grover Washington Jr ~ Winelight

Candy Dulfer ~ Lily Was Here

Peter King ~ Bird Tribute

Sunday, November 18, 2007

playing the blues...

If you're new to playing sax, the Blues is an ideal place to start. But first...

Rules For The Blues

1) Most blues begin "woke up this mornin'."

2) You can't use "Got a good woman" to start a blues unless you insert something nasty in the next line.

Got a good woman
with the meanest dog in town

3) Blues are simple. After you have that first line, repeat it. Then find something that rhymes. Sort of.

Got a good woman
with the meanest dog in town
Got a good woman
with the meanest dog in town
He got teeth like Maggie Thatcher
and he weighs 'bout 500 pounds.

4) The blues are NOT about limitless choice.

5) Appropriate blues transportation includes Chevvies, Cadillacs, Greyhound buses and southbound trains.

6) Walkin' is a major part of the blues lifestyle, as is fixin' to die.

7) You can have the blues in New York City, but not in Brooklyn or Queens. Hard times in Vermont or North Dakota are just a depression. Chicago, Saint Louis, and Kansas City are still the best places to have the blues.

8) The following colors do not belong in the blues:


9) You can't have the blues in an office or a shopping mall. The lighting is wrong.

10) Good locations for the blues:

The highway
The jailhouse
The empty bed

10a) Bad locations for the blues:

The Gap
Gallery openings
Weekends at the beach

11) No one will believe it's the blues if you wear a suit unless you are an old black man.

12) You have a right to sing the blues if:

Your first name is a southern state (Georgia)
You're blind
You shot a man in Memphis
You can't be satisfied

12a) You DON'T have a right to sing the blues if:

You were once blind but now can see
You're deaf
You have a trust fund

13) If you ask for water and baby gives you gasoline, it's the blues. Other blues beverages are:

Irish whiskey
Muddy water

13a) Blues beverages are NOT:

Any mixed drink
Any wine kosher for Passover
Yoo Hoo

14) Appropriate blues deaths include:

Cheap motels
Shotgun shacks
Stabbed in the back
Electric chair
Substance abuse

14a) Death during liposuction treatments is NOT an acceptable blues death.

15) Creating a blues name:

Name of physical infirmity (Blind, Cripple, Asthmatic)
First name or name of fruit (Willie, Bessie, Lemon, Lime, Kiwi, Melon)
Last name of a US President

Example - Cripple Lemon Clinton

15a) People with names like Sequoia or Sierra will not be permitted to sing the blues no matter how many men they shoot in Memphis.

16) Teenagers can't sing the blues. Adults sing the blues. Blues adulthood means you're old enough to get the electric chair for shooting a man in Memphis.
Didn't write it, full credit to the author. And now those links:

12-bar Blues according to Cardiff University
5 lessons on the 12-bar blues form again, but with specific activities for all you 'structured types', plus midi audio tracks to put it into context.

A road-map for the 12-bar blues. Scales, how to build tension, telling a story.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

ear training gold online

TGO is all about the best stuff available online, so it stands to reason that the following online ear training sites must be included. Check these out - they're brilliant (and free):

Practise intervals, triads, 4 note chords, melodies, rhythms and modes. Snazzy lookin' site with easy to use controls and even can keep yer score for you.

I Was Doing All Right
Very cool online ear training progs (based around intervals, chords and melodies (including 'call n response workouts') written by a webtechie who plays jazz trumpet. Also features interesting and thought-provoking articles all bout playing music. AAAAA+++++++

Eartraining according to Vocalists
Some useful theory for those new and disbelieving in the whole point of train d'ear.

Friday, October 27, 2006

free saxophone fingering chart

free saxophone fingering charts for alto and tenor saxophones
These charts are ones I created for Jazzwise. They're pretty good and easier to read than most, and importantly... free! They cover notes from Low Bb (Bb4) up to High Bb 3 octaves up (Bb7), particularly for alto and tenor saxes. You now need to sign-up to the Jazzwise Saxophone Newsletter to get these, but it's worth it. Click the pic to go to the page.

Monday, October 23, 2006

saxophone reed strength comparison chart

saxophone reed strength comparison chart

Here's my take on sax reed strengths. I haven't tried all these brands but of the ones I have, they stack up pretty well. I find the Vandoren Traditionals are the most consistent and so the chart is drawn up relative to them. Click on the pic to get the full chart. Reeds are variable in every sense, but it gives you a rough idea...

Saturday, October 14, 2006

playing saxophone and other wind instruments

Art of Saxophone Playing by Larry Teal
Switching to saxophone from other wind instruments can be tricky. There is a good outline in the book 'Art of Saxophone Playing' by Larry Teal (pic right) that outlines some of the challenges.

My opinion: If you're a clarinet player, you'll tend to bite on the saxophone mouthpiece, due to the 45 degree angle you hold the clarinet on and the strong embouchure used, especially the compression of the top and bottom lips. So you get a thin, sharp tone.
If you're a flautist, it's really a completely different embouchure. You'll be great at a fast airstream but the volume of air needed on sax is completely different. And there's the reed. There's very little resistance on flute to the air. As a sax player I find playing flute a real challenge - you've got to play every day to keep that little 'o' embouchure in check and if I don't I get a weak, airy tone that goes nowhere. Flute's hard. Big ups to those who can yak sax and toot floot.

Saxophone to Flute
A good article about changing from saxophone to flute
Flute to Saxophone
Larry Krantz on flutists transferring to saxophone. Enter->Various Flute Items->Comments on Doubling. A brilliant site for flute players btw

saxophone mouthpieces & reeds

It's difficult to find impartial information about saxophone mouthpieces and reeds without having to wade through alot of ads for why you should buy this mouthpiece or these reeds etc. BUT amongst the ads, there's the good oil...

Mouthpiece discussion from SOTW
Categorized into saxophone type
Reed discussion from SOTW
5 pages of archived record of reed discussions
Mouthpiece facing chart
An explanation of what those numbers on the mouthpiece mean in comparison to other makes
Mouthpiece and Reed description #3
Great pics and explanation of the hows and whys of reeds and mouthpieces. Go to the respective links on left
Reed advice #2
How to break in a new reed
Reeds & Mouthpiece advice #1
General advice about reeds and mouthpieces (makes, strengths). Click on the respective categories left
Which mouthpieces the Pro's use
A dated run-down of who's using which mouthpiece

Monday, October 09, 2006

free saxophone sheet music

Check these sites for free transcriptions of famous saxophonists.

Kelly Bucheger
Great tenor transcriptions by Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, Dexter Gordon
Michael Brecker Transcriptions
Fantastic site put together by Louis Gerrits of this legendary saxophonist's solos
Charles McNeal
A terrific collection of transcriptions from this pro player. Go to 'Transcriptions' and check out the solos of Dexter Gordon, Harold Land, Sonny Rollins, Lester Young, Lou Donaldson, Bob Mintzer, Stanley Turrentine, Stan Getz, Ralph Moore, Sonny Stitt, Wardell Gray, Bob Berg, Jackie McLean, Tina Brooks, Michael Brecker, Vincent Herring, Phil Woods, Paul Desmond, Charlie Rouse, Gerry Bergonzi, Rick Margitza, Jesse Davis, George Coleman, Phil Woods, Charlie Parker, Kenny Garrett, Rosario Giuliani, Joe Frahm, Gene Ammons, Coleman Hawkins, Eric Alexander, Wayne Shorter, David 'Fathead' Newman, Keith Oxman, Fred Jackson, Johnny Griffith, Illinois Jacquet, Ralph Bowen, James Moody, Jimmy Heath, Joe Henderson, Sonny Red, Junior Cook, Tim Warfield, Gary Thomas, Andy Snitzer, Brad Leali, Eric Crystal, Bob Kenmotsu, Kenny Brooks, Dave Ellis, Joe Cohen, Jed Levy, Larry Schneider, Lucky Thompson, David Sanborn, Nigel Hitchcock, Steve Heckman, Stefano di Battista, Rickey Woodard
Steve Khan
Jazz guitarist with some saxophone sheet music transcriptions, analysis plus mp3 recordings, including Paul Desmond 'Emily' and 'Where Is Love?', Michael Brecker 'Oran', 'Cape Verdean Blues', 'Some Punk Funk', 'If Ever I Should Leave You', 'Rojo y Negro', 'Chief', 'Rainsville' and George Coleman 'Maiden Voyage'
Brent Stuntzner
Mostly jazz guitar but scroll down for a few John Coltrane, Bird, Johnny Griffiths and Paul Desmond transcriptions
Some free transcriptions under 'Samples' -> 'Samples', including Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Stan Getz, Gerry Mulligan, Stanley Turrentine, Don Aliquo, Matt Otto, Dexter Gordon, Bob Amram, Junior Walker and Cannonball Adderley
Art Bouton
Solos by Ernie Watts, Bob Mintzer, Cannonball Adderley, Stan Getz and Michael Brecker
Kenny Brooks
A few transcriptions of solos from Joe Henderson, Ralph Moore, Stan Getz, Sonny Stitt, Jerry Bergonzi, John Coltrane, Harold Land, Donny McCashlin, James Moody and altoist Kenny Garrett

free software, playalongs

There is some useful stuff about available free for saxophone players.

A dozen or so great sounding progressions in various styles with concert chords. Many are downloadable for free. MP3 format.
Plenty of audio work-out material here - go to 'Practice Loops' top left for 2-5-1 major n minor loops, major n minor scales plus modes, a few standards (including All Blues and Impressions) and some modal patterns too.
Handy transcribing software, recommended by Michael Brecker - easy to use, get a 30-day free trial of Transcribe from Jazzwise and then either buy it as a download or as a CD-Rom. Available for Windows and Mac.
Jammer Pro
Go to 'Downloads' -> 'Demos'. Jammer is useful for hearing chord changes in various styles and creating your own playalongs. Like Band in a Box. This is a demo version with saving and looping disabled
Basic drum machine programme - easy to use

music theory for saxophonists

Music theory is an important tool for understanding patterns and symbols used to express musical ideas. There are several really good sites that cover alot.

Jazz Improv Primer
Scroll down for the most complete, indexed outline of jazz theory online, written by Marc Sabatella.
Online chord/scale reference - lots of scales/chords written out, with suggested substitutions
Aebersold Jazz Handbook
A free download, either in parts or in total. Jazz theory a la Mr Aebersold
Jazz Piano
Go to 'Jazz Lessons' and scroll down for 'The Basics' if you want an introduction to ii-V7-Is
Ricci Adam's
Comprehensive site - learn all about chords, scales and music symbols, plus various easy-to-use ear training programs on intervals, chords, triads etc. Even a manuscript (staff paper) generator which can be customized and printed out. Brilliant!

practice saxophone

Here are some great ideas for creating your own personalized practice routines. The examples from these sites may not be right for you as written, but the topics included give you good ideas as to what you should try and include.

Kelly Bucheger's site
'The Daily Grind' - a whole approach to developing solid technique on saxophone.
Home of the famous 'Daniel Zinn Practice Regime Versions 1&2'. Requires registration to access downloads.
New ideas on practising for all musicians

scales, licks, patterns and exercises

There are many sites out there with scale / chord and pattern exercises for you to print out. Here are some of the best.

Randy Hunter

Good advice, especially re embouchure development, hearing the sounds and 2-5-1 practice. With free downloadable goodness.
Pete Thomas (UK)
Excellent site packed full of free offers from top UK player and educator Pete Thomas. Check 'Fingering Exercises 1 & 2', diminished and whole tone patterns, cycle of fourths and more.
Excellent FREE site of audio lessons by pro saxophonists - many different exercises and approaches. Register free !
Sax on the Web
Technique-building ideas from a range of contributors including Tim Price, downloadable pdfs
Tim Price Online
Great exercises, ii-v7 studies and more from top sax educator Tim Price. Click on 'Lessons' for more details.
The Sax Shed
Scroll down to 'Tools in the Shed' for plenty of exercises on major and minor scales, modes, pentatonics, diminished, augmented scales
Farrell Vernon
Go to 'For IPFW Students'. A range of nice exercises including overtones, major and minor triad work, bebop scales, chords
Ward Baxter
Great 12 key scales, low/high exercises
Exercises using major, minor, pentatonics
Ryan Fraser
Some good technique-builders
Sax Lessons
Useful technique-builders, including many Klose etudes as pdfs. Including scale exercises - eg diminished scales and patterns.
Miles Osland
Heavy duty synthetic scale stuff. Deep

Sunday, October 08, 2006

saxophone forums on the net

One of the best sources of information for saxophonists is from several of the 'saxophone forums' that exist on the Web. You can ask any questions you have about the instrument and they are categorized so that searching the archives of previous posts is made easier. You'll need to register to post to them.

The biggest and in many ways the best. Veritable cornucopia of sax-related FAQs on many topics.
Saxophone Forum
New, uncrowded site - share 'n learn!
Cafe Saxophone
Friendly, useful forum for all ages and abilities of saxophonists - ring the doorbell and welcome!
Bob K's FAQ about sax
Bob has taken all of those SOTW postings and reduced them again to key answers. A huge compendium of FAQ about saxophone playing and the instrument in general.
Greg Vail's Pearls of Wisdom
Useful advice from a range of Greg's experiences as a pro saxophonist and clinician.

saxophone sound

For me, the sound of the saxophone is the most exciting part of playing the sax. Apparently it shares similarities with the voice, in the way that it is produced and the range of tonal qualities that you can get (eg bright, mellow, edgy). It makes sense to work on this aspect of saxophone playing and there's good advice on the Web to help.

My opinion: your embouchure, throat and tongue position are what really control the sound you make

Air makes the saxophone work. Ideally, there should be a direct flow of air from your stomach / lower lungs through to the saxophone. On the way however, there are a few curves and obstacles, which all collectively influence the sound produced.

The 'shape' of the inside of your throat affects the sound. Tighten up your throat into saying 'eeee' and expect the pitch to rise and volume to drop (your blocking off the airstream, right?). So you want to keep your throat as 'open' as you can, think of yawning and how that feels in your throat. Say 'ahhh' and expect more air to pass through (a good thing). Try to avoid opening and closing your throat to control breathing - keep it open the whole time and use diaphragm / stomach muscles to control airflow.

The position you hold your tongue also affects the sound you make. Keep it arched toward the roof of your mouth. This helps the airstream to 'speed up', giving the sound better projection and necessary for some mouthpieces to actually work properly.

Your embouchure (ie what your doing with your lips and jaw) will affect the sound you make on saxophone. Too tight an embouchure will produce a sharp, pinched sound. Too weak an embouchure, with puffed out cheeks will give a flat, weak sound.

How to form the correct embouchure on saxophone
Mouthpiece placement, tuning
Interesting article about the importance of checking mouthpiece placement and tone control
Mouthpiece Exercises
Shoosie's famous advice about mouthpiece exercises
How to practise Vibrato, with video clip
Advice from Brian Utley about practising vibrato
More mouthpiece advice, with video clip
Brian Utley's good advice on this important concept
Embouchure training
Mr Utley again on embouchure basics
Developing a great sound
Ryan Fraser's advice, under 'Lessons' and 'Getting Started'

Saturday, October 07, 2006

beginner saxophone players

If you're just starting out on saxophone then there are several things to learn up on first, including the notes (what you do with your fingers), developing a stable embouchure, building breath capacity and control, plus what makes a good tone on saxophone. Get a saxophone teacher if you want to progress faster than teaching yourself. Also, s/he can help you avoid forming 'bad habits' that can take a long time to correct later.

Breathing #1 Breathing #2 Breathing #3 Breathing #4
Ryan Fraser ('Getting Started'), Snake Davis ('Practical Exercises') and Breathing Exercises for Singers, plus a thought provoking 'you can't control the diaphragm really' angle - all have advice on how to get your breathing right to play saxophone
Pete Thomas (UK)
Practise scales and learn from a teacher!
Features FREE audio lessons and pdfs covering all aspects of playing saxophone.
Go to 'Lessons & Exercises'

Tim Price Jazz
Go to 'Lessons' and discover a wealth of scale and chord workouts, blues progressions, long tones, basic skills... excellent !
Saxman beginner advice
General advice for newbies
Zac Johnson
Useful resources, tips and exercises for beginners
Charles Socci Sax FAQs
Useful answers to beginner questions
Mindworkshop Saxophone
A humourous take on learning to play saxophone as an adult