Q and A with Garrett Hypes
Where did you grow up? I grew up in Los Angeles California, mainly in the northeast area community of Eagle Rock, right between Glendale and Pasadena by the Rose Bowl. This was an area where many LA studio musicians lived.
At what age did you start playing music? My first instrument was the clarinet which I started in 4th grade. After that, I started playing the alto saxophone in 7th grade upon entering Eagle Rock High School which was a 6 year school (7th -12th grade).
At what age did you begin taking formal lessons? In the 8th grade I started taking formal lessons on saxophone from Don Rafell who was a fairly well known studio jazz saxophonist in Los Angeles. In high school I also studied with sax greats Don Menza, Terry Herrington, and Warne Marsh. I was able to study with such great musicians because our band director, John Rinaldo, made connections for us and these very accomplished musicians lived locally.
What initially inspired you to play? I decided in the 6th grade that I would become a musician. I didn’t know exactly what that meant but I was determined because I liked the way playing music made me feel. I later received further inspiration when our band director, John Rinaldo, would take the jazz band to Dantes Night Club during day rehearsals of the legendary big bands of Louis Bellison and Dee Barton. I was surprised at how the saxophones in the section sounded so much different when played by professionals.
Tell us about your high school playing experience? I went to Eagle Rock High School which was the only 6 year high school in the Los Angeles Unified School District from fall 1968 to summer 1974. This is where I switched my focus from clarinet to alto sax and soon after to the baritone sax. The good thing about high school was that if you were good enough you played in the senior high bands starting in 7th grade. The older students helped to pull you along. You would also be in the same annual high school jazz band festivals for six years. I also continued to play clarinet in the concert band and learned flute in the beginning band while in 10th grade. We had one of the top competing jazz bands in California. We won the Orange Coast Jazz Festival, the Los Angeles County “Battle of the Bands” (at the Hollywood Bowl), and were the winning band at the California State Jazz festival.
What was your musical experience like in college? I went to Los Angeles City College part time while in high school (and played in their jazz band 1973-74 conducted by jazz composer Dave Eschelman). Upon graduating high school in 1974 I went full time to Long Beach State (CSULB). I was a flute performance major there because majoring in jazz saxophone was not available in most colleges at the time (Long Beach State was the first west coast college to offer a commercial music degree). The other reason I majored in flute was that playing clarinet and flute well was required on most good paying gigs and recording sessions.
You also studied sound engineering, why? I studied sound engineering at Long Beach State for two reasons. The first is that I was looking for a back-up career that was part of music production and the other reason is that my dad was in electronics and I liked the related field.
What musicians did you look up to growing up and what style of music did you enjoy? Gerry Mulligan was the first, then Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, as well as my teachers.
Saxophone.com branded instruments are available exclusively on your website. Can you tell us about the quality of the instruments? Our saxophones are built out of high quality brass in a small family owned factory in Houlie, Taiwan. The saxophones are based tried and true high performance design with an ergonomic key layout. We use hardened steel springs with stainless steel ball type pivot screws for the fastest action. Our pads are made with soft kid goatskin and have large riveted nickel plated domed resonators. The combination of these great sealing pads with large resonators, and the interior acoustic dimensions of our saxophones allow for a very free blowing experience very much unlike the “stuffy” feeling of other brands.
What sets saxophone.com apart from other on-line companies that sell woodwind instruments? Our service and personal attention as well as our dedication to the saxophone and saxophone players.
If I have a question about purchasing a sax, can I call you and will you give me some advice? Yes, definitely. We have a toll free number 1-800-COOL-SAX and if a person is questioning what type of horn to buy, we encourage a phone call. We want our customers to be happy with their purchase from us.
What age should my son or daughter start to play sax? The age when they have big enough hands with fingers long enough to wrap around the sax and push the pearl keys without out pushing the side keys at the same time.
What should I look for when buying a sax for my son or daughter? This is a very difficult question since there are so many brands and models in varying playing condition. If you don’t play saxophone yourself you will have to rely on the advice of a sax teacher or professional musician. Look for a sax that plays easy all the way up and down. It is also very important that the sax is relatively in tune with itself (check with a tuner). I feel very comfortable in saying that our student horns are excellent value for the money.
Do I need to buy a very expensive instrument to start with? The only thing that matters is the performance quality of the instrument, not the price. This helps you to learn faster and have more fun. I don’t recommend spending $4000 on a sax for a beginner who would probably damage it right before they quit playing music (I’m a parent too!)
What is the best career path for a young musician these days? Take some chances with music early in your career, but also have a related back-up plan so all of your playing experiences don’t go to waste. If you had to do it all over again, would you still be playing the sax? Yes, without a doubt!