Monday, July 20, 2009

Q & A #4: Saxophone reed strength

Donald wrote:

 I have been playing the Soprano for a number of years. I have always used the #3 or #3½ reed. (I have played Alto, Tenor and Bari at times too.) There was a guy at our church recently and he was playing the Soprano (Jupiter) using a #2 reed. I tried a #2 a couple of weeks ago and that's my reed from now on.

Harri answered:
Dear Donald:
once again these are not very straightforward questions (nor answers). I know some players who think that it is a "manly thing" to play a #4 or #5 reed. And then they keep struggling.

Besides the embouchure of the player, much depends upon the particular characteristics of your mouthpiece such as size of tip opening, design of the chamber and baffle, and the facing curve.

Playing saxophone should not be a distress, but rather an enjoyment. I have been playing #2 - 2½ reeds on my soprano, alto, tenor and baritone, and I am pleased myself with the results.

Did anyone comment your tone after you switched from #3½ reed to #2?

Good luck,

More here....

The reed picture has been released into the public domain

Friday, July 17, 2009

Q & A #3: Saxophone playing and life-long learning

Writes "ten man" in Sax on the Web Forum:

Old people don't have to think ... cuz they don't NEED to
... and because it hurts.

considering this "thinking" thing again, ... I'd like to ask a question, but let me explain 1st...

I've worked In my field (electronic Industry) about 27yrs. when younger, I was ambitious to learn and and acquire knowledge. old folks used to annoy me because they seemed to be mentally stagnant and not concerned - even resistant to learn. now that I'm reaching Into my middle ages, I'm starting to understand the complexity of the reasons behind such attitude and behavior.

I saw a tv special about the brain, and it mentioned that babies have gobs of [brain connections], but many of those are lost as the baby grows, leaving and strengthening only the ones that are used. It mentioned how things slow down In the aged, but mentioned the brain's capability to use the channels it has formed for other uses If trained/forced (given time).

I am not so enthusiastic about my career field anymore. I don't meet many *mature* follks that are. when I have to learn new stuff, my brain (and body) gets noticeably tired faster. however, I can use what I already know very proficiently and competitively - better than the younger folks.

there was a story about a guy that was blind since his youth, then got his sight back at around 40ish. wasn't that simple. he talked about how just being able to see doesn't mean you know what, how to comprehend, or how to respond to what you're seeing. his brain had not been trained to do such. he still used a stick to walk - he couldn't comprehend depth preception by sight (yet). he said the learning was slow and difficult (but he was glad).

also, the brain doesn't have to take time to think about what it already knows, allowing use of such knowledge with little or no effort andd allowing energy/time to use other thought process (or none).

QUESTION: how do you feel about learning new playing skills versus just playing? are you excited about music? how old are you and how long have you been playing? Is it a paying carrier for you? and ... when improvising, how do you think/feel?
 Harri answers: This is a good topic, albeit quite a broad one.

I'd like to approach it from the viewing angle of my personal experiences.

I was in my mid-40s when I first time received individual training in saxophone playing. It was during a 10-day summer music camp, perhaps 30 minutes a day. When I went there next summer, the sax teacher remembered me and said: "It is amazing that one is able to advance at your age." I know he meant well, I am still a good friend with him. But first I felt kind of hurt, I was still under fifty and felt that I still can conquer the whole world.

Many community bands and big bands in which I have played since then have a lot of the players close to retirement age and above above it. It is amusing, and sometimes sad to observe fellow players in amateur band rehearsals. When the conductor is instructing one section, the players in other sections are having idle talk at the same time. Instead they could have been listening the wisdom coming from the mouth of a paid professional, because they are bound phase the same issue later on.

Of cause there are individual differences. Some players feel that they know already everything worthwhile of knowing whereas some others (minority) are open for new ideas. Perhaps the educational background has something to do with this. People who had to participate in "life long learning" in order to cope in their working lives, may have more aptitude for learning more.

That's by two-bits for the moment. 
I'm 58 and my experience with learning may be the opposite of ten man, if I understand what he said. I'm far more motivated to learn and meet challenges now than when I was in my early '20s. Back then I did go to University and earn a Masters degree in geology, etc, etc, but a lot of the time I was 'going through the motions' of learning rather than fully engaged in it. And more interested in, shall we say, extracurricular, less productive activities. Nowadays I find everything more interesting than I did then.

Regarding music, I'm more motivated now than previously, maybe because I have seen some results. I can't say I'm making a career out of music, but I do paying gigs regularly. Do I think when improvising? Sometimes, but probably my best playing is 'beyond thinking' and more intuitive. The thinking goes on more during practice sessions. When I show up for the gig, I just play.

Whether my brain works any better now than when I was younger, I don't know. But I do think the more you use it, the better. There have been studies that show the brain is highly adaptable and new pathways can be forged well into old age. I suspect it's a "use it or lose it" type of thing. And that might be a good argument for continuing to learn and play music right up to the end...

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Saturday, July 11, 2009

First Putin's Dog Steals Treats and now Russian TV channel ....

Russian TV channel cuts Putin scene on 'South Park'
MOSCOW – A Russian TV channel cut a segment of the ribald U.S. cartoon comedy "South Park" that appeared to mock Vladimir Putin, a spokesman said Friday.
The channel "2X2" cut material from the show that aired Tuesday portraying Putin as a greedy and desperate leader, the network's spokesman said. The decision prompted criticism and furious discussion on Russia blogs. (Bolding by the editor)

In  my earlier blog I already predicted that the dogs and their masters will start to resemble each other over time.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Q & A #2: Transposing for Bb for tenor saxophone

If the music is transposed for Bb for tenor sax, then up an octave, do the notes wind up floating way above the staff? Would a middle C turn into a D way above, with a stack of short little lines under it. Would that make it harder to learn to read those notes??
you are correct. If you wanted the tenor saxophone to sound in same pitch, you will write a ninth (octave plus one) higher.

However, often one wants to use the register of tenor that is normally played. Then you transpose only a major second higher. In that case the tenor will sound octave lower than the original music in concert C.


Asker's Rating:

4 out of 5

Asker's Comment:
Thanks for the explanation, and the interesting web link.


Tuesday, July 07, 2009

I love Lucy (and saxophone)

Don't we all?
When Lucy fails her saxophone audition for Ricky's band, she tries to stop him from going on the road by pretending there's another man in her life. Ricky gets back at her by hiring several "lovers," and hiding them in Lucy's closet. But Lucy gets the last laugh in the end!
...more (Season 2, Episode 5 ) ...


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Sunday, July 05, 2009

Happy 4th of July!

I have been enjoying these Dark Side of the Horse comic strips by Samson
Here are a few more:
Enjoy your summer,

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Folk Music, Blues and good times in Sastamala

Dr. Shinichi Suzuki

Hotel Ellivuori was the venue for the 23rd Annual Suzuki music camp organized by the Finnish Suzuki Association in the town of Sastamala (before known as Vammala).

The Suzuki approach was developed in Japan by Dr. Shinichi Suzuki in the mid 20th Century. He believed that every child, if properly taught, was capable of a high level of musical achievement. His philosophy was that if every child has the inborn ability to learn their native language, then they also have the ability to learn and become proficient on a musical instrument. Begin children early and excite their own inborn joy of music, or the mother tongue approach.

In Sastamala were about one hundred young players with their parents and teachers representing violin, cello, flute and vocal as instruments.  (In the picture Ida Rautiainen, flute and teacher Marttiina Ahlström.)The week (June 28 – July 3, 2009) was packed with individual lessons, group practice and ensemble work. Also, a chance to enjoy outside activities and swimming in the pool or in the lake. The weather was warm and sunny the whole week.

Some special highlights:

On Wednesday night was a traditional Teachers’ Concert in the medieval Sastamala Church. The program consisted of fine performances by the Chamber Orchestra, flute, violin, guitar and singing. There was also Mauno Järvelä’s (left in picture) Folk Music Ensemble:

Thursday evening concert consisted of some traditional events and some new and perhaps surprising parts.  Marjukka, the camp Director, asked me to introduce the saxophone which does not belong to the family Suzuki instruments. The sound of saxophone was not heard in these events earlier. I did it by playing the old swing tune “” by Myron C. Bradshaw, Edward Johnson and Bobby Plater. The comp section was Venla, double bass (in the picture) and Pilvi, organ. Thanks to these ladies, the trio was well received by the audience. I also assisted by playing in “Fathers’ Choir” which this time did not sing at all, but produced a very funny act with music and magic tricks.

The big hit was the huge folk music Orchestra directed and rehearsed by Mauno Järvelä and his violinist daughters. I played there also tenor saxophone and Ida sang and played flute. A huge hit with the audience was Mauno’s blues “Pääoma (Das Kapital)”. Ida’s favorite was “Ismon Grilli (Ismo’s Fast Food Diner)” with a catchy melody and fast tempo.

The camp was successfully concluded on Friday afternoon with the Grande Finale Concert where each instrument group performed several pieces.  Leena Mäkilä (above picture, right) was directing the advanced group of flautists. The larger group performed Telemann's Minuet and Suzuki’s Allegro.

Ida Rautiainen and her friend Anna-Liisa (right).

That was a joyous week, thanks to the teachers and organizers. The kids were amazing with their dedication to music and desire to learn more.

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