We’re now in the middle of summer, so thought I’d bring you two amazing versions of “Summertime” for you to enjoy.
Like starting any other musical instrument, learning to play the saxophone will take some time to get the hang of how it works. With a little time and patience, you will start to enjoy sax music before you know it.
There are a few things to keep in mind before you start learning to play the saxophone. First, ask yourself whether it’s you (assuming you’re an adult) or a child that wants to learn, since there are different saxophone types on the market. Some are better suited to young children because of their size, while others are more preferable for the adults. Some tend to be easier for beginners to learn, while others are an excellent choice for advanced players. Ask your saxophone/music shop to share with you what they think may be your best option.
Most people will either want to learn in a classroom setting or work with a private instructor to begin learning how to play the saxophone. If you have no idea where to start looking for these classes and instructors, check out your local community centers, music shops or local phone directory to start investigating where these classes are held. There are also online saxophone lessons available that utilize Skype video conferencing.
For those adventurous types who are looking to learn on their own, you can buy yourself some good quality instruction books. There are a few beginning saxophone self teaching books available online but almost all of them with play-along CD’s are written for the alto saxophone in e-flat.
Once you are comfortable with this positioning, the next step is to learn how to control your breath, since it is important to allow a steady flow of air as you play. As you blow air into the saxophone, the air will hit the reed and create various sounds depending on which key you were pressing at the moment.
Learning the saxophone is a skill that will take quite some time to master. It is also going to take time to learn how to breathe comfortably while you are playing, so try not to get too frustrated in the beginning if it seems tiring or a slow process. It takes time to master these skills. If it seems tiring in the beginning, you might want to consider some basic breathing exercises to strengthen your stamina.
By practicing every day, you will improve your skills over time. As you are learning the basic techniques, and if you decide to learn on your own, you may want to consider purchasing or borrowing DVDs which will show how the techniques are being performed correctly. This can be a very helpful tool for some beginners.
The saxophone is a great instrument for a child to learn to play music on. It is one of the most widely heard solo instruments, and it is very popular in jazz music. It has an extended range, a commanding lower register and a rich middle register. Musicians can perform in large orchestras, marching bands, jazz bands, and wind ensembles. The study of the instrument usually involves learning the alto or tenor but may also include the baritone and soprano saxophones. Often those who play the saxophone will also play the flute and clarinet to broaden their experience.
When buying saxophone instruments, visit the local music store for advise. Invented in Brussels, Belgium by Adolphe Sax in 1840, the saxophone is the most recent development in the woodwind family. It is actually a hybrid, the fingering system on the keys is based on the Boehm system from around 1832, which is also true of the flute, oboe and clarinet. The instrument has a conical bore similar to the oboe, a reed and a mouthpiece similar to a clarinet, and a brass body like instruments in the brass family. A new chromatic fingering system has recently been developed that uses all ten fingers for faster execution. This new “Schmidt” chromatic system will debut in October 2011 under the “Avatar” brand.
It is a very accommodating instrument to learn, unlike the clarinet and the flute. It is not as prone to sounding airy or squeaky but attention needs to be paid to manual dexterity, articulation, embouchure, or the position of the lips and breathing technique, breathing, hand position, relaxation, support and good posture. It demands a lot of concentration to play. Beginners may have difficulty producing the lower tones and the higher notes and the extended range should not be attempted until the player has a grasp of the proper tone, embouchure and breathing.
The traditional place to start with is the alto, where much of the classical music is written for it. It requires a bit less air to play than a tenor, and the key scale is smaller and is an easier fit for a child’s hand. The angle of the air flow and the embouchure is easily transferred to playing other saxophones.
Ask a music teacher or the local music store for referrals when buying ones first saxophone. There are styles for students, intermediates and professionals. The student horn is both affordable and easy to play. It is a good one to start with and can be traded up when the student is ready. The intermediate horn is also very affordable and has some of the features of the professional horn but not the same tonal quality. The professional horns have the best sound, more handwork is done on them and they can have gold and silver plating and have clear or colored lacquer. They have a more substantial feel and the resale value is higher.
The finishing is clear lacquer, but they can come in colors. This does not affect the sound but the plating can. Silver plating produces a brighter tone than lacquered and gold plating has a warmer sound and are more costly.
A used instrument is an option if money is an issue. Check for dents and repairs and the condition of the pads, they should feel soft. Ask if the horn has been re-lacquered, this is not bad but it could dramatically affect the resale value on some vintage collectable saxophones. For the same money as a used pro instrument, a new intermediate sax could also be purchased.
Beginners often start with a hard rubber or plastic mouthpiece with a low baffle and a small tip opening. A reverse ligature is best with the screws on top. A good quality reed is important as this is where the sound vibrates. A sturdy harness or neck strap is recommended. A reed re-surfacer (300-400 grit sand paper on a flat piece of glass), reed trimmer and reed case are important for reed care. Use a string swab or a bottle brush type “padsaver” (also known as a “stuff-it“) to clean the saxophone body tube. The neck and mouthpiece can be cleaned with a small bottle brush with baking soda (a toothbrush can also be used on the mouthpiece. A music stand, metronome, tuner, and beginning method books complete the package for a beginner. Buying saxophone can be done online fairly risk free if the sax is well reviewed and there is a reasonable length return policy (at least 15-30 days). Your saxophone teacher might also have some good recommendations for a saxophone.
Jim has just finished marking the tonehole locations on the body tube pictured above. This tube and two other identical tubes will be sent back to Houli, Taiwan. The pictured tube willserve as a template for manufacturing while the other two tubes will go on to become production prototypes.
Saxophone.com is in a history making collaboration with the famous new saxophone inventor Jim Schmidt to produce Jim’s chromatic fingered saxophone. This collaboration also includes our contracted factory in Houli, Taiwan as well as our business associates in Taipei. This is the first modernized fingering system change since the the saxophone was invented 163 years ago. Here is a description of the saxophone and new fingering system copied from Jim’s website:
THE NEW SAX DESIGN by JIM SCHMIDTIf you dig common sense, practicality, good technology and comfortable ergonomics, read on.
The logic behind my fingering system is straightforward. One note follows the next chromatic note by closing down the next key with the next finger of your hand, and so on down the line, one after the other in linear sequence; not here and there, helter skelter as on conventional saxes.
This new fingering system is easy to memorize and enables the player to perform passages with ease and rapidity. Chromatic scales sound wonderfully smooth. All scales, regardless of how many sharps or flats are involved, can be easily played. As you know, the conventional fingering is built around the C major scale with the sharps and flats of other scales inserted where they can fit. Because of this, many other key signatures become more difficult to play – especially the key of Db which is very awkward. The JS sax design overcomes this problem because it is based on the chromatic scale which is the only scale to include all twelve notes of the octave. C major (and every other scale) is a sub category of the chromatic scale.
The Schmidt chromatic fingering makes perfect sense and is a pleasure to play. Since the tone holes are generally located directly underneath the fingers being applied, the player understands that he/she is making the sax longer and dropping the pitch by applying more fingers, making it shorter and raising the pitch by lifting fingers, or venting it for altissimo by lifting some fingers and closing others. This direct link of fingers over tone holes enables players to visualize what they are doing to the sax. It encourages them to use more creativity and intelligence in their playing. For example: it is easy to transpose down a third by simply pressing down 4 more fingers on their keys.
When you look at a conventional sax you see a lot of complicated interconnecting linkages, unnecessary weight and redundant keys (side keys, bis key, F#, Bb. G# etc.). I swept away all of this extra key work by starting with a clean slate and designed it to play more efficiently. In the new system, scales and tones are cleaner and quicker because each key is independent (except the low note keys) and is not loaded down by interlinkage mechanisms as are, for instance, mid Bb and F# in the conventional Boehm method. Tones are also clearer because you have the choice of closing only those holes which produce the best sound. This is especially true when playing altissimo (the conventional sax locks you out of some of the best altissimo fingerings). This fingering system allows you to do much more. For example, low note trills and interval tremolos are now available – a big advantantage over conventional horns. A unique technique is employed to achieve this which allows two fingers to operate the low note touchpieces instead of just the pinky. For example – you can hold down low B with the ring finger while trilling low Bb with the pinky. This is easy because spring pressures are about 1/3 as heavy as found on conventional horns. There is also a special right thumb tip key which operates only the neck octave vent – this key facilitates the secure playing of harmonics, upper partials, multiphonics, etc.
Both thumbs are used to operate the keys. The right thumb key is an unusual combination of touch piece and thumb hook. A special guard keeps the sax clear of the players body so that the right thumb is free to operate its key. This guard reduces pressure on the right thumb and improves the stability, comfort and balance of the horn.
The special qualities of this sax can also be heard in the free style with which it plays jazz and classical music. Since the keys are independently operated, you can use alternate or false fingerings to create special effects, multiphonics (chords), super clear altissimo and extremely rapid passages.
Other features include the use of new materials and designs in the key work such as:
Sleek, high strength keys which are formed from stainless steel – a very time consuming and costly process, but the benefits in accuracy are worth it. These keys do not wear and become sloppy like brass keys. They are designed to be much stronger and resist bending which would upset the precise seal of the pads. Conventional key cups and pads are clumsy and heavy by comparison. Lightweight stainless steel keywork offers more control, a better feel, and the lighter, faster action. This is a racing sax with high speed, high performance capabilities. The top keys have been designed to be played with either the undersides of ones knuckles (as with conventional palm keys) or with the fingertips. Using the fingertips improves playability and circumvents the clumsy limitations of palm keys.
Messy looking posts and ribs have been replaced by one piece bridges in order to clean up construction and eliminate solder joints. This enables the sax to project with greater clarity, tone color, and volume on demand. It is much closer to the ideal of a bare resonate horn unencumbered by key work.
More even spring pressures throughout the key system due to the elimination of interlinkage mechanisms (such as the rght hand F# on conventional saxes). The keys require minimum closing pressure to seal the pads. This feature allows the player to play faster and longer without tiring. In contrast – the conventional Boehm system can fight against you by requiring heavy finger pressure and mashing of the keys which wears the player down and can lead to permanent injury or tendinitis. Players find my touchpiece layout to be more ergonomic and considerate to the hands and tendons.
Excellent intonation due to the fact that there are no flattened or shaded notes (which occurs with Boehm interlinkages). This allows for an even graduation of tone hole size and location, allowing correct location at the exact nodes of the scale which in turn provides better response, tone production and intonation.
I always use JS Gold pads in my horns. They are quiet, form an excellent seal and are much longer lasting and superior to conventional pads in every way. Skin deterioration, moisture warpage and all those other headaches are no longer a problem. Gold pads simply reflect more tone than conventional leather pads which act like mufflers by dampening out the sonic qualities of your horn. Leather pads will fit right into my stainless steel cups if you should choose to install them.
The best sounding conventional horns have been carefully studied and measured and then tweaked in the direction of better intonation. Most of the horns on the market are copies of the MK6 or copies of other horns or copies of copies etc. There is value in copying a great horn but I have found room for improvement. The cone taper has been changed to enhance the richness of the tone and to improve the intonation between the lower and upper octaves of the right hand notes. The neck dimensions have been altered to improve the octave spread of the left hand notes. Conventional necks have a dead zone inside the straight cylindrical shaped tenon. My necks have a conical expansion inside the neck tenon just like the rest of the horn body. This difference is very important because it is so close to the mouthpiece and it compliments the tonality and timber of the entire instrument. Years of research went into making these improvements and many experimental bodies and necks were fabricated and tested in the process. Careful attention was made to insure that the tone improved along with the intonation. Its a step in the right direction and it puts the new horn design just a little bit in front of the others.
Young musicians are naturally attracted to this new design. The chromatic layout makes it easy for a beginner to find correct notes just as a child counts on his fingers.
Advanced players find tremendous potential at their fingertips. Tone quality is improved for classical playing, accelerated passages are available for the jazz artist, and a whole new horizon opens up for extended techniques.
Click for more sax images.
HERE ARE SOME QUOTES from professional players and recording artists who either own my instruments or have played them. I have not asked them to endorse my product, so I am not including their names.
“It has acoustical advantages over the Boehm system. The tone is better [than conventional horns] over a wider range of pitch bending [lipping].”
“This fingering system is not key weighted” [it does not favor one key signature over another].
“It has an amazing live sound” “…super rich in harmonics that I dig enormously.”
“Amazing, wonderful, it could be dangerous. Better have it registered with the authorities”
“The musical extension of the number of possible multiphonics is fantastic.”
“Extraodinary qualities …It speaks immediately and has a full and consistent tone, top to bottom.”
Playing one of these horns isn’t going to make you sound like Parker or Coltrane – to do that you must practice as Parker and Coltrane did. What you achieve depends on your own capabilities, ambitions and dedication.
Saxophone.com is proud to announce the release of the new line of soprano and saxello models.
These new horns are crafted from a higher copper content brass, 85% copper and 15% nickel. This gives the horns a more centered tone and evens out the upper and lower registers. Check out all 6 of the new models at www.saxophone.com
Models include the very popular SS85-640BG Black with Gold Trim, the SS85-640U unlaquered, and the SS85-640BS Black with Silver Trim.
Saxophone.com is happy to announce that Garrett Hypes, founder and owner of saxophone.com, will be performing with the one and only Paul Anka at The Orleans Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas December 19th through the 21st. Mr. Hypes has had the privilege of performing with Paul and his fantastic band on several occasions and is excited to be performing with them again this holiday season in “An Evening with Paul Anka”. All three shows are at 8pm in the Orleans Showroom. For tickets go to www.orleanscasino.com
Recently we have been receiving a large number of inquires regarding what people think about Saxophone.com saxophones, and so we thought we would post some recent comments that we’ve gotten from customers. At Saxophone.com we feel that feed back is vital to keeping our customers satisfied and our horns sounding and playing great. If you’ve made purchases from Saxophone.com please feel free to send us your comments. Thank you.
“I Have played in numerous concerts this past summer (weekly) and other gigs this fall. There has always been a short time after we finish where someone comes up to me to check out my horn. I have gotten many comments about how smooth and deep the horn sounds and how it carries over the crowd. They can’t get over the black nickel finish and the gold keys. I hardly have to blow and for the first time, I can play down to a pplevel and up to a fff with no effort at all! I use a rubber Otto Link mouthpiece with Rico Royal reeds or Rico Jazz and have a nice sound.
Today, we did a 4 hour food show gig with the big band and everyone was asking where it came from. I gave them your web site. A friend of mine is going to contact you regarding the altos that are for sale. He is a Berklee grad and, after putting my bari through its paces, wants an alto or tenor for himself. I told him to check with you so you could advise him which one to get.”
“WOW. I recieved my black nickel pro model tenor today from saxophone.com and I can only
offer praise toward Garett Hype and staff. The horn arrived promptly and I am extremely
impressed by the action, responsiveness, and tone of the horn. I cant wait to get my hand
on one of those altos/sopranos. thanks garett”
“These are GREAT horns…outplays my Buescher New Aristocrat and feels just like a Mark VI, only with a different high F# key. Super free-blowing, nice dark sound, fast action…this one is definitely a keeper.”
Phineas Henshaw- “These Saxophone.com horns just made me excited about playing sax again. Now I can have the quality of horns I always wanted, but kept putting off because of the price. What really blows my mind is Garrett can even have his horns customized! This is insane!” I tried one of their tenors today, and I was immediately blown away. I talked to the person who owned it after, and I was like, “yea I’m definately getting me one, or two, or three..” I hope to get a bari from there as well sometime in the future. I’ve played a Selmer Series II before, and played a Mark VII once, and I gotta tell you, they compete. For those who can’t afford a Mark VI, those inexpensive Saxophone.com horns are comparable all around, it’s a done deal.” “I did take a chance on the black nickel alto and i absolutely love it. Everything has worked for me with the horn.” “I took my Saxophone.com to my local tech to check out. He was very impressed with it, and was floored by the cheap price tag! He told me that this horn was better made than the Antigua Winds that he sells. I am very pleased with my sax. The action is smooth and light and I think the tone is just fine. After daily playing for 18 months now, still no problems at all”
Thanks for reading and check out all the amazing saxophone deals at www.saxophone.com
Saxophone.com proudly announces that coming in December, PBS will be airing the highly acclaimed live performance “Hitman: David Foster and Friends”. The CD/DVD was released on Nov. 11th and PBS will be airing the program on Dec. 3rd. What is particularly interesting about this is that owner and founder of Saxophone.com, Mr. Garrett Hypes, is one of the saxophonists in the band featured on the CD/DVD and the upcoming PBS television event. Saxophone.com has been told that the performance will be aired on PBS, Dec. 3rd at 8pm. Be sure to check out all of the amazing performances and fantastic singers and musicians featured in the program. This wonderful opportunity is not only a testament to the skill and talent of Mr. Hypes, but also to the craftsmanship of Saxophone.com horns.
This last month I played two different gigs at the Las Vegas Hilton showroom. The first was with Paul Anka (May 4-5) and the second was with Johnny Mathis (May 11-12). Both gigs were on the baritone sax with just a flute double for the Anka gig and the full complement of bass clarinet, clarinet, and flute for the Mathis gig. The usual routine is to show up at 3pm on the first day of the gig for rehearsal and sound check. The Anka group utilizes a basic big band format of 4 trumpets, 4 trombones, 4 saxophones, and 5 rhythm section members including piano, bass guitar, guitar, drums, and a Latin percussionist. The band is made up of mostly known professional Los Angeles musicians who fly or drive up to Las Vegas for the two days. They filled two of the saxophone positions locally in Las Vegas with Jay Rasmussen on tenor and me on baritone sax. This band knew the music well and with the help of Scott Morin the alto saxophonist next to me I was able to negotiate through the heavily edited charts. Some of the baritone parts were just trombone parts with the key signature modified for Eb baritone sax (add 3 sharps). The overall attitude of the band was a little tense at first but very professional especially considering the high caliber of musicianship of the band members.
When the gig started I became aware of a very loud vocal side-monitor just next to me facing the center of the stage. It was a little difficult to hear myself on the baritone, but I could hear my flute during soft passages. We played arrangements from Paul’s early hits like “Diana”, “Puppy Love”, “Put Your Head On My Shoulder” through the comeback years with his “The Times Of Your Life”, his songs he wrote for Sinatra including “My Way” and all the way to his Rock Swing version of “Jump”. One of the highlights is the conductor Jon Crosse who is an excellent saxophonist with an amazing mastery of the altissimo registry.
Playing for Johnny Mathis is like going to a musician’s reunion for me. I know almost everybody in the 40 piece orchestra because except for the talented rhythm section that tours with Mathis; all of the musicians are local. The piano/conductor/arranger was Scott Lavender who is originally from Las Vegas and is well known and liked by all of us. At break time I got to catch up with all of my musician friends that I have known for most of my life. It is also great to work with strings, french horn, and a harp in addition to the trumpets, trombones, and full 5 piece woodwind section. On this gig I play mostly bass clarinet, then clarinet, followed by baritone sax, and some flute. Marty Radunz sits next to me and has the most exposed oboe and english horn parts in the woodwind section. Marty also sat next to me 6 nights a week for 6 years at the “Lido de Paris” (Stardust Hotel). He is a great guy and always has good things to say. He is also playing flute clarinet and tenor saxophone. We played all of his main hits like “Misty”, Chances Are”, “Gina”, “I’m On The Outside Looking In”, and “Brazil”. This was an enjoyable low stress gig. –Garrett