Friday, December 14, 2012

Why Dubstep is Music

Addressing the Naysayers

     I've been playing the saxophone for over a decade. I'm, in fact, classically trained, with a current focus on jam-band style jazz playing. My point is that I am very much a musician, with a fair amount of natural talent and an extremely good ear.
     So you can take it seriously from me when I tell you that dubstep is a form of music. Some of you will read this and say "well, of course it is", but others will say "it is definitely NOT music". Both of these are opinions, and are fair to hold. However, it is when an opinion is so outrageously magnified and externalized that things get 'hairy'. I just mean that it is one thing to have an opinion, and it is a far different thing to force that opinion on others. It is for this reason that I will give you some of my opinions and some musical facts in the paragraphs to follow.
     First off, I'll briefly talk about what kinds of music I listen to. You could guess correctly that I listen to jazz. That's a given. I often tell musicians that it is important towards improvement that a musician listen to other musicians in the similar field/genre. Besides jazz, I listen to classic rock and modern rock: it's what I grew up on. What surprises most people is that I listen to, and very much enjoy, metal, some electronica, and dubstep. I personally don't like most pop music out today, but that's my opinion. Now here's why I like dubstep and some of the other unconventional genre:
     To me, these styles represent a culture. And it's not just me- dubstep actually originated recently in England in the lower-class youth currently struggling in that area of the world. The country isn't doing very well, with a double recession and a divide between the youth and the adults of the people. This is a common story in more countries other than just England.
     Like any new form of music, the culture and the music itself are scrutinized by the pre-established norms. Look at jazz in 1910-1920's Harlem, New York. Whites actually turned against the music violently  because the style was created by Black culture. Now, however, jazz is a greatly popular form of music in the entire world.
     Dubstep isn't generally well received. While people aren't generally killing each other over it, the music is being belittled as "not at all music", simply because it isn't in accordance to the norm. In fact, the genre is supposed to challenge societal norms. It's a style that is widely used by Occupy movements around the world as well as youth protests in an attempt to break from the conventional.
     I could go on about social justice and the meaning of life all day, but instead I want to now tell you, musically, why dubstep is music and why I enjoy it. Dubstep is like hip-hop and hip-hop culture. By this I mean that it is heavily centered on rhythm and beats. Generally, dubstep is like an ensemble of mostly, if not only, rhythm instruments, electric instruments, that collaborate to form, let's say, a really high tech drum circle. But that's not all, like how jazz has instrumental solos, dubstep has a sort of "bass-drop" solo. The wobble bass effect so synonymous with dubstep is used as a focal bridge. 
     With that sad attempt to describe dubstep (for which I'll likely get lots of hate mail), I'll tell you why I like it. Simply, the scope of frequencies and rhythms sounds really good. My sensitive musician's ear picks up on all of those detailed lines of wobble and dirty bass effects, as well as the sub harmonies and melodies. It's not only a form of music, but a complex form of music. 
     Dubstep isn't for everyone, and I definitely get that. Nobody has to like a form of music, but they do have to let others enjoy what they will. It isn't anyone's place to tell another person how to listen to music, or what music to listen to. 
     By this time, you may still completely disagree with me, which is fine. I'll include at least one link to a dubstep song I like, take it or leave it, but I'd like to encourage you to keep an open mind. The only thing, through all of this that I insist, in fact I am telling you, is that dubstep is music. To pose my own counter argument  consider this: the amount of musical work that goes into forming a dubstep single as opposed to the work that goes into a standard pop single, with auto tuning taking out most of that work, is it fair to single out one genre over another? 
     Ultimately, listen to whatever you want: that's the beauty of music- freedom. Enjoy it all. 
This song is pretty intense. A pretty good example of raw dubstep.
This official track-video has over 114 million views.

Monday, December 10, 2012

An Ocarina of Time

A New Sound

     I just received the ocarina I ordered last week. I got a 'replica' of the ocarina featured in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and I have to say- I'm quite satisfied! 
     I've played recorders and penny whistles, which are fun and very similar to the concept behind the ocarina. The big difference between, say, penny whistles and ocarinas is that the whistles are straight in shape, with linear hole styling, while ocarinas are wide and have multiple holes of different sizes on the top and bottom of the instrument. On top of this, the ocarina has a large chamber, giving the sound it produces a deeper warmth than a penny whistle or recorder.
     I got a cheap version, relatively anyhow, and wasn't expecting too much from it. However, I'm quite pleased with the performance of the piece. It plays very well and sounds much like the one in the video game from where it is themed. 
     In fact, I've been learning many of the songs made popular by The Ocarina of Time. It not only makes for a good basis for learning the instrument, but is also very fun to do.
     Ten years of saxophone experience has made wind instruments such as the ocarina very easy for me to learn, but the instrument is relatively easy for anybody to learn. I'd say that it's harder than a recorder, but only due to the variances in hole patterns. Such wind instruments which are easy enough to learn are always a joy to do so. They offer new sounds and recording potential. Ultimately, though, they're just a lot of fun to learn.
     I recommend learning to play an ocarina wholeheartedly. Mine is a twelve hole model, but they make nine  hole or fewer, and many more. Pick one up simply by looking around on the internet, or a music shop near you.

Monday, December 3, 2012

It's Cold!

Taking Indoor Practice for Granted

     I'm in a rather unique situation, where I can give you some advice that might come in handy. I like to think I'm a pretty good musician, particularly with the alto saxophone. I wasn't always. It took me a long time and a lot of practicing to get as competent as I am now. I practiced at school a lot, but I also practiced a fair amount at home. 
     Recently, I've downsized, into a sort of apartment where, for obvious reasons, I can't practice my saxophone. Not that my sound and the music I make is bad or anything, it's just loud and I practice a lot
     So, if I can't play in my residence, what can I do? Well, the answer lay outside my walls- it was time to play outside! This was a good idea, at the time, and perhaps the only thing I could do. In fact it is the only thing I can do, even on campus at my college, there are no practice rooms, so it's outside for me. When I first decided to practice this way, it was late summer, and there was nothing wrong with this plan. I have a couple nice secluded parking lots, the lower field of the high school I live right next to, and similar locations nearby. However, now that it's winter, it's a bit harder.
     I obviously don't go out while it's snowing. While my favorite location is in a covered dugout, I still won't risk getting my saxophone pads wet, as I can't afford to replace them at this time. Rain is, of course, also out of the question, but if there are clear skies, even if it's bitter cold, I'm out there practicing, and the only reason I have been surviving it is for one big reason: gloves.
     I got lucky. On my recent vacation to farm country in Pennsylvania  I got a cheap pair of leather gloves that fit nicely. When I got back and started practicing again, I found that I could wear them while I played- they were warm, yet not overly chunky as to get in the way of my key work. In fact, I've gotten quite adept at playing with my gloves on.
     As for the rest of me, while a coat and warm clothes help, a few minutes of playing the saxophone warms you up. All the vibrations and sound coming from the horn warms both horn and player up nicely. 
     All of these things fell together, and I've found that I can practice outside in most any weather (if I wanted  to, I could bring an umbrella and make it to the dugout in rain or snow). So even though I cannot play in my place, I can still practice most anytime I need or want to.
     In fact, I'd say it's a good way to practice my 'outdoor voice' for any future live jam venues in my town or elsewhere. You never know what you'll learn, in dire situations.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Understanding Your Sound

Strive for Unique

     Part of the challenge of playing saxophone, or any wind for that matter (though my experience lies nearly exclusively within saxophone work), includes that of not being able to hear yourself. You may read this and think, "well, I can hear myself, as I make sound when I play", but that's not exactly what I'm talking about.
     I'm talking about timbre, or the quality, or color, of tone with which you play. Think of a very young student with a saxophone, and the sound that they make as they produce their first notes. Does this sound differ from that of a seasoned  veteran of the saxophone, like those of the professional realm? Of course it does, as this is a pretty harsh example. More subtly, a player who is quite good in, perhaps, a high school ensemble might have a good sound, but the sound will probably be fairly standard- by this, I mean that the individual plays sax well, but does not have a unique sound. Then, there are people like Kenny G and Eric Marienthal. The two pros are incredible players, and yet their timbre is so very different. They sound so different from each other. Is one better than the other? Maybe not. Nonetheless, their sounds are different.
     How can you account for these differences? How can you get a unique sound? And how can you hear yourself play?
     These are all very good questions, which I hear often. Unfortunately, they're some of the hardest to answer. First off, difference in tone, often subtle, can arise from most anything. I was told from a relatively young age that I had a unique sound (which is the best compliment a saxophonist can receive), which I tend to credit my classical training for. I worked desperately hard for most of my musical life to achieve perfect pitch while playing concert and classical music. To do this, I endured years of subtle embouchure changes which amounted, in the end, to a great timbre. The specifics of classical training made an odd and unique transition to the improvisational jam blues I tend to play now. This is my reason, or at least part of the reason, why my sound is so unique. The reasons, from person to person, vary.
     Real quick, I want to tell you a bit about what it means to have a unique sound. As a saxophonist, you might reach a truly great sound quality. This is a great thing, and is common among most adept players. You'll hear recordings or buskers, people playing that 'buzzy' sax sound. We all know it- it's classic sax. However, to have a unique sound is to have a great quality that differs slightly from everybody else. I've known, personally, a few skilled individuals with this gift. I can tell each one of them apart purely based on hearing them play one note. This is having a unique sound.
     But how can you get a unique timbre? I can't really say. By that I mean, who am I to say? It's a lot of things, again. There's natural talent, hard work, listening to other musicians- really everything that goes to being a good musician. Inevitably, I have to say that experimentation, with your sound, is very important to this end.
     The last point, how can you hear your own sound, is another toughy. Any saxophonist, or most musicians for that matter, will tell you: it's hard to hear yourself truthfully. You might easily be able identify another player's sound, but you won't easily be able to hear your own specific quality. This makes understanding certain aspects of your own growth as a musician extremely difficult and irritating. One instructor of mine suggested playing facing/against a wall, so that my sound bounces right back at me, and I hear my tone a bit more true towards how it really sounds. This works for a lot of things, like practicing vibrato, but to hear your sound quality, and to hear your unique quality, if you have it, is very difficult. The only sure-fire way is to record yourself, but you'd need some pretty expensive recording gear for that. 
     In the end, it really doesn't matter how you hear yourself. I mean, sure, it matters that you can hear and control your sound, but what matters most is the response to your sound of those you play to or for. If you get lots of positive feedback, then keep on doing what you're doing- it clearly works for you!

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Darkest of Fridays

Deals for You 

(in the U.S Market)

     You need gear. More over, you need your gear cheap. If you're in the market now for musical gear, well, you're in luck: November is the month of savings. Today is Black Friday and a lot of people will be hitting the stores early for impressive deals, mostly on electronic items. You might choose to be included in this, which is fine, but I'd advise against it if you're going for musical equipment. Unless you have a great music store near to where you live which is offering Black Friday sales, you won't really find what you're looking for. Instead, Cyber Monday is your best bet. And here's why...
     Cyber Monday is the Monday after Black Friday, just after Thanksgiving in America. Cyber Monday is pretty much what it sounds like: Black Friday, only internet sales and on a Monday. This works well for buying music gear because there are some really great music websites that sell well below the MSRP, and, as they're online, more often than not, offer Cyber Monday deals. 
     With Cyber Monday, it's important to note that you'll rarely find exactly what you're searching for at a specific site. Instead, I'll recommend you search general websites such as or even These sites are collectives of many individuals and companies alike offering Cyber Monday discounts. in particular offers an interesting service. If you look up a specific good you're searching for, they give you websites which are offering sales on that item, or similar items. 
     This is really all I have to write on this, as anything further should be discovered for yourself. I highly recommend checking this out before and during Cyber Monday, especially if you're in the market for new gear. 
     Happy hunting!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Plugged In

Online Jam Sessions


     Ever since I saw a piece of an ad for an online jam session, I've been looking around for further information. The concept that one such as myself might plug in a mic and jam with strangers in other countries intrigues me greatly. In my 'research' into this subject, I found one website which has been building a reputation among music enthusiasts and amateurs alike. The site is called Online Jam Sessions, and it has been working independently towards uniting musicians worldwide.
     If you visit their site, you can read up on their mission statement and FAQ's. With these, and some browsing, you'll start to piece together, as I did, what it is OJS is all about. OJS (short for Online Jam Sessions) offers ways to spread recordings through the internet, and to play live with other musicians worldwide, with potentially any instrument(s). They suggest that you can use any mic to do this, but I would suggest getting a better mic (see my post on music tech) so that, if you have any issues, you can be pretty sure your sound quality isn't one of them. I'm sure it takes a fair amount of fiddling and tweeking to get your audio settings as well as your internet settings optimally set for live streaming, but it al makes good practice for later recordings.
     However, what gives me the greatest hope is a small experiment I tried somewhat recently where I played music over Skype, on my phone no less, for a friend and fellow musician in Tunisia. Even though I was playing into a small phone mic and was connected across an ocean, the sound quality was fine (not great, but pretty good, considering). Given these aspects, if I were to have a Yeti Blue and a good internet connection, and probably a set of over-ear monitors, OJS could provide a pretty good platform for me, and any of you interested, to jam with others worldwide.
     But don't take my word for it: if you're interested, click the link above, or below, and check out their page. They offer a free membership, with a few paid membership options with further features.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Live Jams

When Your Jam Really

Comes Alive

     I realised recently that I've mentioned 'live jams' a lot lately, both in my blog and to people in conversation, and in both cases I recalled afterwords that some people might not know exactly what live jams are. You might know what a jam is, or a jam session, in the realm of music. Simply, it is an informal get-together where musicians play (usually improvised jazz).
     Jam sessions are what I do most of the time. In fact, I like to do them often, and I usually like to play in minor blues keys. Every time I'm playing in these jam sessions, I'm always trying to play new riffs and licks, and change my styling slightly, as these sessions are usually good places to learn. I jam sometimes just with one other saxophonist, or sometimes I jam with a whole bunch of musicians. The other day I had a drummer, two other saxophonists, a bassist, and myself all collaborating in an informal session. Generally the rule is, or so I say, that you can do just about anything in a jam session if it's only you and a drummer (which I say to people besides drummers, obviously). By this I mean that, as a saxophonist, I can play in any key, in any mode, and as crazy as I want, because there isn't anyone else to intonate with or to play to, other than the rhythm laid out by the drummer.
I'm sorry, I had to...
     Jam sessions are good places to learn, as I said, but more simply, they're loads of fun. If you're really feeling the music, you might find yourself doing some wild lines. For these reasons and more, I'm sure, I really enjoy holding jam sessions as often as I do. On the other hand though, I do them so often that I find I may not have a knowledge of many other pre-established songs (for covers), or opportunity for composition of my own. Therefore, when I'm faced with a potential gig, be it paid or not, I find it easiest to say that I'll perform a live jam, which generally is pretty exciting, as there aren't a terrible many who still do this (most common are blues guitarists and other blues artists).
     Now for the meaning of it all: a live jam is a jam session done- wait for it... ...! Yes, a live jam is a rather informal improvisation group that plays for an audience. It may sound pretty unorganized, but trust me- the musicians know what they're doing. Even if they make a comparatively big 'mistake', nobody in the audience would even know, and if they did, any jazz musician would call such a 'mistake' part of their line. I've done this sort of thing, formally and not, dozens of time. In many ways, it's more fun than a normal jam session, because- after all -music is meant to be shared.
     So do be on the look out for live jams, either at festivals or on the internet: they're a lot of fun to watch as well as participate in, and if you ever have the opportunity to participate in one, take it! Live jams will make you a much better musician.

Monday, November 12, 2012


A Need for New Rhythm

     What little I've been able to play of music lately has been out in the cold with my very competent musician brother. Between the two of us, we play soprano, alto, and tenor saxophone. It's surprisingly difficult to play something with drive and a solid rhythm with just two saxophones and no drummer or even pianist. We practice so much though, so we've grown the ability to carry on some really funky jams and beats without a drummer. While we are very good with a drummer, we can play to some good degree without. 
     Lately, the two of us have been reading each other's 'moves' so well, that people passing by tend to think that we're playing arranged pieces, while, in truth, we're just improving our way through a rough jam/practice. The rhythms we have been doing have started to all blend, unfortunately. We seem to be stuck in a rather interesting one, in fact. We do a lot of tenor/soprano and alto/alto jams, and most every time, we have played to a sort of shuffle beat. By this I mean that we do a lot of double tonguing, grace and ghost notes, and other articulation techniques to keep this sort of shuffle. It makes for a really funky jam, and is always fun, but we run into the common problem of not venturing to other different sounding riffs, lines, and melodies. Knowing us, we probably wont change much in these particular sessions, as it's mostly our form of nonchalant practice, but given that we may have a live-jam show opportunity coming up, we may want to learn five to ten different styles for such an occasion. 
     I suppose, as I'm learning through this, there's a lesson as well for you to take from this: simply put, don't do the same things every time you play. The real challenge is to try and do something new every time you play (as, of course, a really good form of practice). I do this a lot. Even when I do live-jams, I try and challenge myself, because if I do, and I get really into the playing, I get very good, and so will you if you try this. The thing I need to do now is to try to do rhythms other than a straight shuffle.

Friday, November 9, 2012


A Bad Situation

     I wanted to get a quick word in, through this post, to be sure that everyone who is keeping with Musician's Road knows that I haven't forgotten about the blog; I've been unable to write posts for nearly two weeks due to hurricane Sandy and some early winter storms that have been knocking out power all over the east coast of the United States. I do have power now, but I have been working a lot to help clear many of the downed trees in the area, leaving me with little time to play music, let alone blog about it. 
     I wanted to assure everybody that I do intend to continue writing, probably starting this coming Monday, and that, given the situation, it may be time to bring in a guest writer next week. Please, be patient as I get my  page back up and running.

I would also like to thank the Red Cross and all other organizations  groups, and individuals helping in these devastated areas. I would like, as well, to give my best wishes to all affected by these storms. I hope that this disaster won't silence all the wonderful musicians, both young and old, in the east here in the United States. 

Stay safe, everyone, and I'll see you next time!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Rainy Days: They're a-Comin'

Saxophones Don't Rely on Electricity

     As I write this post, hurricane Sandy is chewing up the east cost, from the south up towards the tri-state area. This one's going to be bad here in New Jersey, as we never really get full hurricanes this far inland- generally, we get the dregs of the tropical storms. With Sandy, however, the eye of the storm will be passing slowly over the state. I imagine, knowing this state's horrible infrastructure, that power will be out- widespread -for over a week, and that life will get pretty dull. This is why I'm deciding to get out and play music every second I have the chance.
    I have the chance now. Well, in a few minutes. The wind is pretty crazy out there, but there's no rain as of yet, so my saxophone will be fine. I often play outdoors, in a dugout of the high school to which I live next door. The acoustics are decent, and it's safe from the elements. Playing there today, as Sandy crawls up the coast, I'll be able to see just how affected the saxophone's sound is by heavy wind. 
     Ultimately, there is no lesson here, not for this post. The Queen Mother of all rainy days is coming, so I'm writing casually about some thoughts before all power is lost and I become one of many living in the stone age. In fact, the only thing I can say to you all (especially you younger musicians reading) is that you should not go out in a hurricane to play music or do anything, as it's dangerous.
     The next two days will be miserable. Trees will fall, windows will break, and power will be out for some time. I can only look forward to the day after the storm, after the rain has finished falling, when the skies are crisp and I consider one spectacular fact: saxophones don't rely on electricity.

Friday, October 26, 2012

A Blog About Music

Musician's Blog

     I've received a lot of comments recently which, for a brand new blog, is pretty nice. Many of them included questions particularly about blogging itself. A lot of people seem to want my thoughts on blogging about music, or just setting up a blog in general, so I thought it would be a good idea to simply blog about it.
     I'll be frank: going into this I knew literally nothing about blogs. In fact, I was pretty unsure what exactly constituted a blog. Somewhat ironically, I ended up doing some research through other people's blogs in order to answer some of my questions: what is a blog? What makes a blog function? What are the good and the bad of blogging? What's right? What's wrong?
     After finding out what not to do, I figured out what I wanted out of blogging. There were two big aspects to this for me: I wanted to explore this type of media/literature as I see myself as an amateur writer as well as a musician, and then there's the fact that I wanted, in some small way other than tutoring, to spread ideas, facts, and passions about music. I never wanted money, fame, or anything along those lines. In fact, I didn't really want anything. I was looking to write casually about something I love in the off chance that at least one person might find it helpful. Also, I needed something free, as this is my first time blogging. With all of these things, Blogger really helped me out.
     A lot of those questions I mentioned earlier asked me about platforms, namely which I thought were good and which I thought were bad. Well, as I said before, up to about a couple months ago, I knew nothing about this sort of thing. Now, however, I can say that Blogger, the site I currently use (thus the "" part of my site address), is extremely good- it's user friendly, free, and very insightful. I got some good ideas just from the easy-to-use layout templates. The website also gives me a lot of ways to customize my page as I go, which is good. There is, also, an option to have my own domain (no longer having ".blogspot" in my URL). This I would need to pay for, and while it isn't much, it's still something I won't do unless I ever find I need to.
     I hear a lot about WordPress as well, which I gather to be a popular blogging site like Blogger is. The only thing I know about WordPress is that there is a .com and a .org version of the service. The .com is apparently the free and more popular version. As to it's quality, I really cannot say.
     Blogging about music is harder than you might think. I find that I must speak as generally about subjects as I can (though I usually fail at this, especially as I show my bias towards sax players) and must avoid my own preferences to certain types of music. I see a lot of blogs where people fail to do these things and end up falling into a blog where they discuss only their own hate. Hate blogs, as I call them, are, in my opinion, massive failures- especially when they're about music. If you have a hate blog about music, it isn't fair to those people who like the music that you're publicly hating. There needs to be more respect of other people's preferences, even if they aren't your own.
     To that extent, I'm usually pretty good. I like a lot of different kinds of music, and those which I do not like, I keep my negative opinions to myself. Inevitably, though, liking a wide variety of music, and playing an equal amount of it, really helps with writing about it. Even when I'm super busy, which is more and more often these days, I still enjoy writing about music, even if what I have to write about isn't quite as thought provoking as some of my other posts.
     Finally, I have a couple points I'd like to make, in which case I hope many of you who have read my previous posts or were some of the ones to comment on I've Got You Covered are reading this. If you want to ask me a question, I've always said that you may in the comments below, or on the Facebook or even Twitter pages given (on web version only, I believe. I can't fix this problem, sorry), or even my email, which I provide occasionally (again, web version, sorry, sorry). To this extent, the comments you leave are generally anonymous, which is, of course, perfectly fine. However, this means  you probably don't get a notification if I respond to your questions (which I always do). That's why I urge you to email me with anything important you need or click "web version" at the bottom of the mobile version page for links to my contacts. If you provide any information for contact in your comment, make sure it's valid, as I've had some emails provided which were incorrect addresses.
     Anyhow, these are my thoughts on blogging and options for anyone interested. I'll continue Musician's Road for quite a while: I'm really just getting started. At this point, I have 1,171 page views. I'm very excited to have that many, as it far exceeds any of my previous expectations. Thank you all, and I'll be keeping in touch!

My email is, for those of you who need it.
My line is always open for questions or comments.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Losing Your Roots

Lack of Concert

     Today, I'm pretty much going to complain at you a bit. Well, there will be a bit of a lesson of course, but regardless, I have something I want to feel sorry about myself for- publicly. It has to do with my origins as a musician and my greatest musical love: concert genre music. 
     Classical and other concert pieces have always been my absolute favorite thing in the world to learn and play, and I've always excelled at them. Throughout high school, I grew on such pieces, performing for four years with an enthusiastic excellence. Such are my roots, excluding junior high.
     After high school, there is college, but as I've explained before, I'm not in school for music. Therefor, my only way of playing my favorite music was through the newly founded community band, run by my beloved high school instructors, two very talented individuals. 
     Last year was the first year of this band, and we played some exciting concert pieces. I played along side some high school attendees, some eighty year olds, and some teachers from the school. The group was new and full of different people, but we all played together wonderfully. It was fun and exciting.
     Unfortunately, this year, the band has been cancelled for reasons which are beyond me. This is a sad thing, as the band, had it continued, could have grown quite large, enabling us to perform some truly intense pieces.
     It is sad, too, because now I have no concert type venue in which to play. Most frightening, is the fact that I have no concert type venue from which to learn. I pride myself, musically, primarily on my sweet tone and near perfect pitch- that which I have achieved through talent, but mostly years of hard work. 
     I suppose, I can only hope that new venues come up for me, as I wish very much to be able to play along side some talented musicians once again.

     I'd like to say that all of you out there should stick with the parts of music that you love most. While it is, of course, great for you to experience other aspects of music, keeping near your roots is also very important. If you ever lose sight of why you fell in love with music in the first place, you may end up lost, or even giving up music- which is a mistake. 
     While I'm very saddened by my current situation, I'm still alright as I look optimistically towards new opportunities. I know that I'll one day join a new and impressive band of musicians. It's just a matter of time.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Beat Down


     Today I'd like to talk a little bit about something that includes somewhat of a misconception: that anyone can play drums (by "drums", I mean a kit). This isn't true- well, maybe not to a degree.
     Anyone can do a really simple beat with about ten minutes of practice- maybe not well, but they can. Given this, there are few who can play complex beats to moving music. When it comes to already active musicians, this doesn't change: there aren't many who can play a drum kit, mostly because they have never tried.
     But why haven't they...?
     There really is no reason for this. I mean, sure, you can say you don't have a kit available to you- I'll accept that, but I think you should really look around to see if there is one which you can use, because percussion is a good skill to have, as any type of musician.
     I'm a woodwind player; I play the saxophone (soprano, alto, tenor), and I'm quite good (if I do say so myself...which I do). Despite this, I'm truly horrible at percussion- I don't know why, but I can't get my hands and feet to do separate things reliably. With this, I did what any normal person would do: I gave up.
     But not for long.
     Eventually (recently), I really put in some practice at the local high school band room (as there's a kit there). I actually got a lot better through this practice: I can do some basic rock, swing, blues and bossa beats. I put in this effort, even though I'm a saxophonist, for some very good, yet simple, reasons.

     I put forth that every musician should learn at least some basic drumming. It builds up the sense of rhythm and gives you some insight into keeping time. Also, being able to have that experience under your belt allows you to understand the beat to which you're playing along- identifying greatly with the music. Understanding all parts of the music you play is very important.
    Now, of course, and as an aside, I'm talking about drum kits, so I'm talking about jazz, pop, rock, or any of the like. A concert setting (concert band, symphony etc.) won't really have a kit in the way that I mean.
    So with this short message, take with you my advice: pick up a pair of sticks and learn some rhythms- it'll truly further your playing ability and style.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Musician's Road: Thank You

Here's to Over a Thousand Page Views!

     Just over two months with this blog, posting (overall) twice a week, I've reached- as I write now -1,067 page views. As I may have written before, I don't do this for money. Instead I do it for this- the fun of it and all the support- as well as the sharing of ideas. I never dreamed I'd get so many views by now. Honestly, I imagined I'd only get a couple per each post via Facebook references or such.
     Actually, that was (mostly) the case, up until I've Got You Covered was posted. For some reason, you readers out there really seemed to like it, as it now has over half of my total views on that one post alone!
     Anyhow, I just wanted to use today's post to say thank you, so I won't write too much. I'll simply leave you with this: I plan to write, every Monday and Friday, for as long as I possibly can. Keep checking in, or subscribe via email; find on Facebook; be sure to comment with questions or anything you need from me. I'll keep the posts coming, and I'm always open to suggestions for post.
     Thanks again!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Testing the Waters

Feelings on Change

     To generalize, there are two types of people in this world: those who embrace change, looking for new things in their life daily; accepting challenges with ease -- and then there are those who fear change and everything it represents. In my case, I am so clearly the latter of the two. I'm afraid of change, almost always. To be honest, my stage fright issues probably have a lot to do with this, but that's not my point here.
     My point is this: as someone who has a deep-rooted fear of change, I can yet say that change is sometimes good- important even -and that there are certain things of which you should move past.
     I'll relate of course to my latest musical venture: the purchase of a trumpet. Now my point about change applies here, as I've always been extremely partial to woodwinds as apposed to brasswinds, in an almost ism kind of way (like raceism, only in this case, instruments). It may have something to do with the kinds of people I've encountered who play trumpet and the like. In my experience, I've met some truly self-centered and pompous individuals on the horns.
     But then it probably has a lot to do with many other things; regardless, I have always almost disdained brass instruments.
     Now that I'm getting older though, I see that this is pretty silly. Instead of wallowing in this childish stubbornness, I've decided to spread my musical know-how; to add a brasswind to my woodwind collection.
     This kind of change is great change, as it makes you better at what you do; smarter; wiser. Okay, maybe not wiser, but it's good for you to consider broadening your abilities. In my case, a trumpet is a good idea, as it's very cheap (just past a hundred dollars), and, if I'm at all decent at it, I'll be one step closer to a mariachi band (which is one step closer to godliness).
     Will I be terrible at the trumpet?
     Well, I like to think I won't for two musical reasons- one: I've played the didgeridoo, quite well, so that gives me an edge on the embouchure work, and two: I've about mastered altissimo- fluently -which means I'm good at harmonics and the like.
     So I've decided to take up a new kind of instrument (not counting the tenor saxophone I recently picked up), which is a good step towards healthy musical change. It's simply what I'm doing, and blogging about (not because I have nothing else to write about), but I suppose what I'm meaning to say is this: You should try new things too. It's a thrilling ride, be it pertaining to music, or not- it doesn't matter. There's no harm in trying.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Featuring: GXSCC by Gashisoft - Japan

A Unique MIDI Player

     I'm going to talk briefly today about something that I came across recently that I, as a child of the '90s, a gamer, and a lover of music, found to be quite exciting: it's called GXSCC, by Gashisoft- a Japanese company, and it converts standard MIDI (if you don't know what it is, click here for some explanation) into 8 bit music (if you don't know what that is, click here)!
     I'm going to let the sample speak for itself, but I want to share a bit of what I thought about this. Mostly, I thought up millions of fun ideas using this software to make game play videos of Pokemon, or something similar, using well-known classic rock songs instead of the classic 8 bit music of the old games.
     Whether it be to make a video, or just have fun with it, GXSCC is cool to try out, and is a lot of fun to play with! Give it a try- the links are listed below (but remember that this is a Japanese beta, so it wont look pretty, but it's safe, I promise):
See bottom of the linked
screen for "I Agree"

An example

     Keep in mind, that to use it, you need to save a MIDI file, drag, and drop that saved file right into the opened program. This isn't all as complicated as it sounds. Here's a good website to find some popular songs:

Just search for a song
and save it to your
computer, then drag
and drop into the opened
program! Have fun!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Heads, or Tails?

The Literal/Figurative Theory

     You know you've got a good jam session going when, by the end, you feel like you've just run a marathon with truck horns blaring at you all the while. The other day I had such a session- it lasted three hours, and we had a drummer, bassist, soprano, alto, tenor, and baritone saxophonists. Am I going to use this situation to explain how you should bring earplugs with you (or not to forget them at home) to such a jam session? While this is a valid point, I'm actually going to express an opinion of mine, as I usually do in these sorts of things, about something I considered while playing for those few hours.
     This session, like most that I have, took place in my brother's high school, the one from which I graduated a couple years back. I occasionally play with a handful of competent young musicians, as I generally believe that jamming is an excellent way for everyone to learn. And indeed, I did learn something, or rather, realised something.
     Let's call music a coin, for now. Like any coin, this one has two sides. These sides include the literal players and the figurative players. Literal players are those who excel at theory, sight reading, and mechanics- just to name a few. Figurative players are those who excel at playing by ear, improvising, and interpretation (of music), again, just to name a few. It is in my experience that musicians (generally) ten to identify more with one of these sides than the other. In addition, the more to one of the sides a musician is, the less they identify, perhaps, with the other. For example, I identify greatly with the figurative side of the coin. I'm great at embellishing, jamming, and I play many songs quite easily by ear. And yet, given this, I am quite poor when it comes to the literal side's qualities and skills. Sight reading is my greatest musical weakness, and my theory is lacking. Therefor, I am a god example of an extremely figurative bias.
There are a lot of words goin' on, so as a break, here's
a picture of a horse playing a saxophone
(that I totally did not steal from the Internet. . .)
      However, I want to submit that, while you are either one or the other, there is some middle ground- coins aren't paper thin, after all. One might identify with the literal style more than the figurative and be able to play by ear. this example combines playing-by-ear with theory. On the other side, a figurative player might be great with chord arrangements and composition. To re-put it, each side may be mostly in the skill set of one, yet have some abilities of the other (and I'll offer this very brief note of some, professionals really, who rise above and show excellent abilities from both of the sides of the coin. These people are exceptional for a reason).
     To digress, this literal versus figurative player bias theory of mine is evident during an intensive jam session like the one I recently experienced. Members of the figurative side of the coin will take control during a solo, flourishing openly at every turn, and trying new things often, while literal players will keep to certain licks, tricks, and paralleling chord changes more literally than their counterparts. The two are identical in 'jamability' (copyrighted word [...not really...]) -that is that one is not necessarily better than the other in a jam session. In fact, I'd say that a balance of both sides of this coin creates a more dynamic session: figuratives explode while literals stabilize, creating expansion.
     This is simply an opinionated theory of mine, and, as I've said before, I'm speaking pretty generally. This said, it is something I personally hold true and, furthermore, use to identify and work with many players. I think, also, that it is a theory that you should test the next time you're jamming. 

Monday, October 1, 2012


Contents are Delicious

     I haven't much to write about today: I usually get my inspiration from music I've played recent to blogging. Unfortunately, I haven't been playing much lately- only a bit of messing around earlier yesterday. What little I have to say here has to do with that fateful day. . .
     I was playing my curved Opus soprano saxophone in the afternoon as it was getting colder (autumn is starting). Saxophones, and most brass-made instruments, get very cold very quickly. It usually makes the instrument pretty flat, but in this case it didn't matter- I was just being silly (and probably sounding pretty shrill and terrible, A.K.A  fun). Prior to this, however, I had about three or four Coca-Colas (I know, I have a problem). With the mildly cold weather, and the Cokes, you might not see a problem here, other than my dieting, but I assure you there is a problem: my keys were starting to stick- bad.
     As it turns out, the combination of sticky coke and the cold worked together to glue my keys shut. With a pretty new horn (and being in the babying stage of owning it), I was shocked, and immediately cleaned my little Opus thoroughly (weighted-rag and 'pad saver'). I also *folded a dollar bill and closed it in the Ab/G# key (the most common key to stick).
     Luckily, I was casually playing my saxophone just for kicks, and wasn't practicing before a concert. Heed my warning: Sticky keys can be bad in an official setting, so it's always good to know what to avoid eating/drinking before such events.

*The mentioned tip is described at the
bottom of the page- it's a good one!

Friday, September 28, 2012

I've Got You Covered


     Music offers the unique ability to replicate another person's work and not have it be considered illegal or immoral. With the proper permissions, a musician can cover another band or artist's work. There are right and wrong ways to do this, as I'll try to explain briefly:
     The wrong way is to follow identically what a previous artist has already produced. Commonly, this includes most amateur pop/rock guitarists or vocalists- that is, many of the people who play only well-known and pre-established works. I've tried jamming with such people and, while they may sometimes provide good alternatives to the original in a cover band, they (let me express that I'm talking generally) cannot follow a jam session. This musicality leads to bad covering. Simply, it is being able to do nothing other than look up tabs and replicate.
     So let me explain the good cover bands/artists/pieces, so as not to simply sound arrogant and biased. To cover a piece well, you should dissect said piece. You should take it apart, identify all moving parts, and put it back together. Given this, you shouldn't put the music back together the same way you took it apart: you should piece each part together slightly different than how you originally found it. To cover isn't to copy. To cover is to take an already established piece of music and make it your own (but with obvious credit, where credit is due).
     My point overall, is that it takes far more musicality to cover correctly than it does to simply duplicate someone else's work. It's hard work, and it's so for a reason- because when you finish, the result is unique and amazing.
     I've personally worked on a few covers. That said, I never finished a project, for lots of reasons, but I don't mind- the process is fun. In my case, I generally take a unique piece from something, say Doctor Who or The Legend of Zelda, and replace certain leads (vocals, flute, etc) with a saxophone (what I play). After this, I play around with rhythms and dynamics. The product turns out delightfully different.
     Others have done things drastically different: I heard a metal song be turned into old school blues, and one of my favorite artists took a classical piece and flipped it into smooth jazz.
     Covering is an art- fitting, that it thrives in music. It is no place for narrow mindedness. I don't mean this to sound mean, rather to get people to understand that there's more to musical covers.
     Let the below works be an example (mp3/4 examples):

Monday, September 24, 2012

Big Gigantic

There's More than One Way


Use a Saxophone

     Today I'd like to feature Big Gigantic, a livetronica musical duet featuring a saxophone. While there's a lot of electronic DJ'ing, there isn't a whole lot of groups out there live-jamming it out with a saxophone, drums and DJ electronics. While I generally don't mind electrica type music, I still prefer musical groups capable of live performances: on this point, Big Gigantic wins me over on the one fact. However, the additional fact that they feature live drums and even a live saxophone intrigues me greatly.
     I was told about the group by a peer of mine from my class on campus. If I wasn't already into some pretty harsh stuff, I wouldn't have seriously looked into it, but since I have a lot of free time after said class, I gave it a look.
     And I'm glad I did.
Big Gigantic doesn't require a lot of explanation- you should simply follow the link below and hit "play" on their page, and listen. What makes them so great is, simply, that they're a lot of fun to listen to! It's high energy because they perform much like a live jam session you might see from big name jazz artists, while using the DJ modernization.
     I haven't much more to say on it, other than you should listen to some of the stuff. Sure, it's not for everyone, but you should at least try. It's a good example of thinking outside of the box, in terms of music making.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Foley Artistry

Picking Up Sounds

     I've written, before, about music technology, which touches on elements of both music and sound in different types of media. While I almost exclusively talk about music, for obvious reasons, there is another topic that has to do with music tech I'd like to write a bit about.
     Foley artists are those who create, or recreate, sounds for use in film. Foley is, of course, the sound effects used in the art. If you take a music tech course either in high school or college, you'll likely learn about the history of foley artistry. I won't go into too much detail now (as you should research on your own), but I will say that foley artists thrived in the 1930's. Anytime, now, that you look up a sound for a film you might be doing, from a YouTube video just for kicks, to a final for a film class in college, you've likely used some amount of foley that exists already on the Internet. While the Internet today gives us seemingly endless amounts of usable sound effects, it pays to look back in time and see that things weren't always so easy. Back in the early twentieth century, foley artists had to create all-new sounds themselves- from scratch. Some of the most recognisable sounds, those which first appeared in Star Wars, for example, were created by doing such things as plucking a tightly, vertically pulled slinky (this example gave us some of the laser blast sounds). From The Jazz Singer to the movie advancements of today, foley continues to be an important part of film making.
     But is it as popular now as it was then?
While there may have been a gap between the mid previous century and today, I feel strongly that there is an uprising of amateur foley artists. While pro foley artists have always been around simply due to their necessity in film making, the art of foley has become less known- an unfortunate fact, given that the art is most enjoyable.
     If you have even a decent recording mic and some software to manipulate audio files, you can try collecting and creating some of your own foley. If you're anything like me, you've been out in the world, and have heard a sound and wished you had been able to record it. It doesn't matter if you use them for anything, maybe not right away, but they're good to have and especially fun to create.
     In my case, I'd love to get recording some foley for my friends' videos that they create periodically. Like adding music to film, the right foley goes a long way to deepening the media. Most of what you watch on TV, be it a show or a film, has added foley. An example could be that, while shooting, everything was done perfect and went to final cut, however it was decided that a certain door opening wasn't loud enough. This is where foley recording might kick in.
     Probably the best part about recording foley is that you can be as creative as you want. It's an art for this reason. If you need to get the recording of a door opening, you don't have to record doors. You can find something else that has nothing to do with doors, yet produces the desired sound.
     I've only scratched the surface on foley artistry, especially for those who have never previously heard of it. I didn't go into details for two reasons: so that I wouldn't drag on and become a history professor, and that you might go research what it means to be a foley artist. Even if you don't look into the rich history, you can at least do some research into how you can get recording your own sounds today.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Have More One-On-One's

The Double Embouchure

     I played in (at least) concert band for four years of middle school, four years of high school, and a year of community band- that's nine years. I'm actually working on my tenth, making it my first decade of concert band. Anyway, for seven of those years on the alto saxophone, playing lots of music- and well -, I was apparently playing the instrument 'wrong'. On my last year of high school, senior year, just before my last concert ever in the public school district, I had a one-on-one with an instructor of mine. We were going over The Inferno, a piece in which I was doing an incredible solo/duet. As it happens, Mr. D, the instructor at hand, was one of the last people to do the very same solo/duet in the same school, so it was a good learning experience.
     It was after school hours and I wanted to work on some of the seriously finer details in my sound work. In concert band, and this song in particular, pitch is extremely important, especially when you're in a duet. By the end of the session, Mr. D realised something aloud: that I had a "double embouchure". He exclaimed this just as my other mentor, Mr. T (not from The A Team) came in.
     Anyhow, a conversation between the two teachers broke out, including stuff like "he always had such a great sound, who knew?", and "you had him for four years and you never saw it" - "well, he must have hid it well". However, the question that came into my mind as I sat there being talked about right to my face might be the one you're thinking right now- what is a double embouchure?
     Well, if we think about what an embouchure is, it makes a bit of sense. An embouchure is what you do with your mouth to produce the desired sound from a wind instrument, be it a woodwind or a brasswind. On the saxophone, you place your upper teeth directly on the mouthpiece, as you put your lower lip between your likewise teeth and the reed (so as not to bite directly on the reed). This is the dirt basics of a saxophone embouchure. Now what I did was the same thing, but instead of my upper set of teeth on the mouthpiece itself, I copies the lower set and had my upper lip between my teeth and mouthpiece, making it a double embouchure.
    Imagine being me: by this time a confident player- a player with such a near perfect sound, and then learning you've been "doing it wrong" your whole life thus far. I was worried. My final "good-bye" concert was in about a week. What could I do?
     As it turns out, there's nothing wrong with having a double embouchure. You can play just fine with one. However, I did end up switching- I practiced hours with a single embouchure and finally got used to it, and now, having played the 'correct' way for over two years, I can't even imagine how I got by with the double. If you play a woodwind with a mouthpiece, and have the start of two holes on the top of your mouthpiece where your teeth go, you know what I mean: that would be my lip.
     Ultimately, it payed for me to switch. Now I can play altissimo, and hit some funky multiphonics and semitones. There are a lot of fine details I can put into my playing that I probably wouldn't be able to with a double embouchure. So to you I give this advice: Have more one-on-one's with your instructors, because you might just catch something big that you never knew before.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Future Saxophone

The Role of the Saxophone

in Space Exploration

     The past few months have restocked the minds of many people on this planet with excitement over space exploration and what the future holds for us in the vast universe. It makes sense- what, with the Mars Rover, and the International Space Station experiments. In the U.S.A, if you're like me, you wish we- as a nation -had money to spend once again on going up to space regularly, because the fact is that our future as a race is out there.
     Fast forward a couple hundred years and, if we haven't caused our own extinction, we'll likely be 'among the stars'. We'll have put some of those rapid space travel theories to the test and founded colonies far, far off in our galaxy. We, as a species, will exist happily and (finally) have our practical jet-packs. Life or death, though, the important factor in this scenario is this: that saxophones still exist, and closely to how they do today. Mankind can discover some amazing things, but most importantly, we need zero gravity jazz clubs- where the musicians will literally be bouncing off the walls.
     But I digress- I'm getting far ahead of myself.
     First we have to get that far. We need to explore, and so far that means being in a ship for a very long time.
Stargate's "Asgard" Alien
Playing a Saxophone

     Sci-Fi, of which I am an avid fan, suggests things such as cryostasis, by which one is put to sleep, or 'frozen', for the duration of the trip.
     However, I find that to be pretty dull and impractical, for many reasons I won't go into in this music blog. But I do think that filling a ship with music for a million year journey is a great idea. By the time we reach that far off star, a ship would land containing hundreds off (possibly a bit inbred) musicians- and well learned ones at that. The first building to be set up- a jazz club or overall music hall. After that, sure, all of the facilities and homes. But first, a club in which everyone could jam, with their million year old saxophones.
    Unless, of course, they can make new saxophones using some sort of futuristic technology, in which case I hope that they are made with the same quality as they are today. However, given that the now vintage Selmer Mark VI is still considered the greatest saxophone of all time and they don't even make it anymore, I don't have much hope for the future. On the other hand, though, there could be an advancement that makes saxophones more cheap to make, but with the sound quality of some of the old horns- and, yes, new horns -available today.

Cantina Band from Star Wars
     Space age saxophones, people, that's why the world needs to come together and get out of the 'house', or so to speak. We need to explore new planets, and boldly play our saxophones where no one has played before.
                                                      Intergalactic jam session? Play it!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Sounds Around Town

Mass Busking

     In the town I live in, there's a biannual musical event which takes place to promote business. Bands, or other musical groups, register to play in several of the best spots in town- the square, large parking lots, and so on -while some more minor buskers, such as myself, take the opportunity to nomadically wander the area, playing music in several different smaller spots. The day is called Sounds Around Town and is a great opportunity for musicians to get out and play publicly.
     The event just took place yesterday, and went pretty well considering it was during the rain date, which lands on a Sunday afternoon. There was some good local talent including a few bands from the nearby high school. I played a duet in various places with my brother: me on the soprano saxophone and my brother on the tenor. We saw some of the bands and played some blues funk during the breaks.
     Sounds Around Town is a good example of a town hosted event which you can use to further your skills with public playing. As I mention in my bio, I have a stage fright issue. This event, if you're like me, is perfect to help remedy the problem. It's a venue which is good for playing for small to medium sized audiences without feeling uncomfortable. In fact, during the event I felt at home playing- I was in my element. We actually tried to jam with a drummer friend of ours, but the area was booked for another group, which was unfortunate because that's even better practice for playing in front of an audience- playing with new people.
     Busking is a good way to fine tune your public playing. While the United States socially accepts busking a bit less than many European countries such as Belgium or France, there are still  many opportunities to play. I live in the shadow of New York City, so as someone who frequents the place, I can say that there are a lot of buskers. In Central Park there are a lot, many of them being saxophonists.
     However, you don't need to be in a major city to play out on the street. While you don't want to get in the way of business, you should still try and get out to play. Events such as Sounds Around Town are good, but not every town has it. You can always play in public parks or the such. You'll often see people doing so, especially acoustic guitarists. You can get the permission of a certain business and play near there, where there are passers by (just be respectful).
     Playing in a public setting like these spots is a good form of practice. It helps with any stage fright problems you might have, and is a good way to share your love of music. Perhaps try starting by going to a park and inviting several friends of yours to join. The most important thing is that you have fun doing it so that those who listen also do. Music is, after all, meant to be shared.

Friday, September 7, 2012

All of My Favorite Things

Three of the Best

     Today I'm simply writing about three of my particularly favorite instruments, just 'cause. There is some insight in what follows, of course, but that's for you to take from it. People who don't play an instrument have a favorite instrument, even if they don't really think about it, but people who play an instrument also have a favorite- which may not be just the one that they play. I am no exception to this. In my case, I have three favorite instruments. I'll go into a little about what each one is and why they are my favorite (not in any order).
A Cello
     Firstly to mention, there is one instrument that, hands down, is one of my favorite instruments. I feel that any person must appreciate the simplicity and genesis of the string instruments. They are what the master classic arrangements are comprised of, and have been instrumental in musical development going back hundreds of years. They have constructed what it is to have music- what music is. However, to choose one of all the strings, well that isn't as hard for me as you might think. The first instrument I want to bring up is the cello. While I do have a love affair with the violin, the cello hits me deep. Probably the first time a cello really 'spoke' to me was when I heard some old Gothic arrangements where the instrument is truly master. I don't even remember what pieces they were that I heard, but the deep timbre of the cello stuck with me. The instrument is beautiful, and those who play it to potential are also beautiful. It defines what it means to posses musicianship. The way it speaks, to the way the vibrato sings, the cello is and always will be one of my favorite musical instruments, even if I was never really good at playing it.
A Saxophone

     Strings are classically beautiful instruments, but the next instrument is another kind of classic and is probably not surprising to anybody. The saxophone is just as much one of my favorite instruments as the cello. The king of jazz, the saxophone has been used by some of the most giant individuals, in terms of raw talent, to construct pure masterpieces in the world of jazz. Even today, we have new and aspiring pros who rise up to produce great jazz for everybody's listening pleasure. I myself play jazz, mostly focusing on bluesy smooth jazz and a lot of improvisation. Anybody who plays saxophone passionately has to at least try some type of jazz, as it's in the nature of the instrument. That said, there is another function of the saxophone that makes it my favorite instrument. The saxophone's ability to play in concert- to produce a classical sound -this makes it a truly wonderful instrument. With just the right control, the right horn, and a masterful sense of pitch, the saxophone may be transformed into a gentle wind, able to produce seductive solos, mimicking the ever classic oboe. The versatility of the saxophone, in all of its forms, makes it, in my opinion, one of the greatest instruments ever devised.
An Oboe

     And yet another wind that deserves to be called the greatest is the before mentioned oboe. I have actually played the oboe, admittedly not too well or for too long, but it was an extremely enjoyable double reeded woodwind to learn (as I hope to continue in the future). The oboe is like a mix between the cello and the saxophone, a string and a wind, in that it has the flawless classicallity (a new word of mine) of the cello and the diversity and almost personality of the saxophone. As a great many sax solos in concert band are transposed from the oboe solo part (when there isn't an oboist), you can imagine just how incredible the parts sound when played by a competent oboist. It is used in concert, in symphony, in movie and show scores, and is in huge demand, as many are needed, but few play. Anyone who does play, well, I love them. Automatically, I love them. They do something which I find simply wholesome. Oh, and the snake charmer's song sounds cool on the oboe.
     While those are my top three favorite instruments, I'll be honest: I love all instruments, as they all enable us to produce music- which is a pretty wonderful thing, right? And yes, that includes the human voice, all except mine, of course.

Monday, September 3, 2012

In Tune with the Old Ways

Vintage Saxophones

     I'm sure at one point or another anyone who has heard of a saxophone has heard about vintage saxophones, at least a little bit. These are simply old saxophones- those that have made it through the test of time. For vintage saxophones, there are a few large periods of time that are most notable: the late 1800's, the 1920's, 1930-40's and 1950-60's. If you do your research, you'll see a clear path through time, where changes were made constantly between the 1800's and today.
     In today's modern age we have some pretty responsive saxophones due to advanced metals used in springs, and clear sounding tone thanks to the brass work done in the body. Today's top saxophones are made with blue steel springs enabling faster key work, as well as a ridged two-part brass body for durability and decreased air resistance. Yamaha and Selmer brands in particular are the front runners for today's modern sax.
     However, the old saxophones that are still able to be played have a rather unique sound to them. They're often described as darker, or warmer sounding. This sound is popular among jazz artists- some of whom actually have vintage horns which they got themselves when the horn premiered. They also have that vintage 'look' to them: they're worn and beat up simply from being 'alive' for so long. You might feel all of the experience that the saxophone has as you play it.
     The combined uniqueness of the sound and appearance of these vintage saxophones makes them more and more desirable to buyers today. There are a number of vendors who sell such horns, including some on the Internet. If you want a good place on the Internet to buy a vintage saxophone, go to Junk Dude- a family business that finds, restores and sells old saxophones. Some of them aren't in full working condition, so there's the option to fix them up yourself, if that's what you like. At the very least, the site is a great place to start your search for a vintage saxophone.

Selmer Mark VI

     While, for me, older is better, simply because I love the history that comes with a super old horn, there is a vintage horn that has been referred to by many as the "greatest saxophone ever made" yet is on the newer side of vintage. This is the Selmer Mark VI. A horn of the 60's, it plays beautifully. Many of the greats play this horn, such as one of my favorites: Eric Marienthal. The horn isn't produced anymore (which I don't understand), but you can still buy it as a vintage in places like the before mentioned website. Like any professional saxophone, though, it costs quite a lot to buy, so don't go thinking you can pick it up that easily.
P.Mauriat PMXA-67R
    With the old and the new, there are a lot of saxophone options: it makes one wish for a cross between the two. Well, as it happens, there is a modern-vintage hybrid, and it's called the P.Mauriat PMXA-67R. I've recently come across this horn, as it's a rather upstart piece. The price is fair and the dark lacquered version looks incredible. The horn, besides looking dark, sounds dark- it has the vintage quality of sound that many love, but has the playability and response of a modern pro horn. It isn't one of the major brands selling today (Yamaha, Selmer, Yanigisawa and so on), but this fact simply makes it more unique. This horn is usually shy of three thousand dollars, making it one grand less expensive than the YAS-82z, and two grand cheaper than the upper Selmer Paris Series. The 67R is beautiful to look at and to listen to- just look at the pearls! It's a wonderful horn, and I plan on adding it to my collection soon. It is simply a modern classic.