Monday, August 6, 2012


Things Happen

     Music is in no way strictly black and white. Things will happen to surprise you. In fact, this is perhaps the only certain thing about music. I've seen a fellow in the marching band I used to play with drop his saxophone and crush it, and later I was hardly able to play out of shock (and sadness for a fallen saxophone). I've cut myself to the point of bleeding on my saxophone, needing to play through the shock. This, as a young person, is not a fun thing to do- even if you can brag about it later. Sneezing, coughing or laughing into an instrument can easily throw you off with the squeals to follow, and a band in the entirety not playing, all but you, as the conductor waves on measure one can cause some flustered feelings. My point here is simply that shocking things do indeed happen, and you can never fully be ready for them. This said, you should be sure to discipline yourself enough so that when the unexpected happens, you can play on. In practice, the previously stated silly mishaps are whimsical and passing with little consequence. On the stage however, every single micro-event that occurs does so under a magnifying glass- a microscope between you and the eye of the crowd bellow. This is, at least, how you should feel as you sit- or stand -on stage. Babies will cry, cell phones will go off, and people will sneeze way louder than they should, but the show, as they say, must go on. A band that can play unwavering through a separate spectacle is a great band indeed and commands the respect of the audience: if the band ignores it, they'll ignore it.

Check Your Bell

     It is extremely likely that most if not all young saxophonists (or other wind and brass players with large enough bells) will continue putting things in their instruments out of habit. The bell of a saxophone is a tempting place to store all sorts of things. In mine, at a much younger age, I- for whatever reason -found a potato in my saxophone which continued to flatten all of my low notes. To spare the embarrassment of going through a practice with a potato in your lap, I encourage all players to check your bell just in case. However, in a more reasonable example of why you should check the airway of your instrument, I played through an entire concert containing a defining solo for me with a bottle's cork in the bell of my alto saxophone. I found that, during my playing, I had to tighten my embouchure more than I usually need to. I played well, but I also played far too hard than I should have, finding out exactly why only after I was putting my saxophone away. The music I was playing was of a classical genre- meaning that my playing and embouchure had to be extremely focused, as in the genre, pitch must be perfect (the reason I usually maintain that, in ways, classical is more challenging- at least physically -than jazz, given exceptions of course). You may be surprised at just how much your pitch can be affected by objects in your bell. In fact, try placing different objects (NONE that will become stuck, or break the horn!) inside the bell and play, listening to the difference, particularly in the lower register. Doing this may just let you know when something's wrong in the future and let you know what to listen for, but in practice and before concerts, be sure to check your bell for potatoes.

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