Sax School Facebook Live #7 16th July 2018

Want more? CLICK HERE to watch all previous episodes.

Show Notes

This week we talk about the perfect practice schedule, mouthpiece positioning, and ligatures – as well as answering your questions!

Plus – did you know the answer to our “Average White Band” quiz?

News from Sax School:

Nigel has been working on a new course coming out later in the year in Sax SchoolAn Introduction to Classical Saxophone. Whatever type of music you are into playing, getting to grips with classical repertoire will really enhance your tone and technique. Look out for the new course!

Over on our YouTube ChannelNigel recorded a new lesson with mouthpiece master Theo Wanne, on how to choose between a rubber and a metal mouthpiece. Click here to watch Nigel’s Interview with Theo Wanne.

Nigel went to see Average White Band play live this week – they are currently touring the UK. Afterwards he chatted to Freddy Vigdor and Cliff Lyons on sax about the band and their super-tight horn section playing. Catch them live if you can! Tour dates here. Nigel interviewed Freddy Vigdor a couple of years ago about his saxophone career – Read the Freddy Vigdor interview here.

How much time should I spend on paper studies versus time spent playing my sax?

If you are a beginner player you might not be thinking about learning music theory just yet. But as you progress with your playing it’s a good idea to learn about scales and jazz modes for instance. There are some lessons and mini courses available in Sax School on this.

In England you can buy music theory books published by the music exam boards, which give you a great grounding in the topic. Writing out scales is also a good way to learn.

Nigel suggests putting aside time for learning music theory which is separate to your saxophone practice time. It’s really important to plan your practice schedule, so break it down into the different elements:

  • Warm Up
  • Technique
  • New Pieces
  • Something fun

This will help you to get the most benefit from your playing time.

How to fix tuning issues:

I’ve been using a tuner to find the right position for my mouthpiece on my sax, and marking the position on the cork. But when I come back the next day, it’s gone out of tune! What’s going wrong?

This is a common frustration especially for beginner players. Pushing the mouthpiece further onto the instrument will make the sound sharper (higher); pulling it away will make the sound flatter (lower).

However, temperature has a big part to play in tuning because the instrument is made of metal and expands with heat. It’s a good idea to blow through your instrument to warm it up before you check your tuning. Hot weather will also affect the tuning of your sax. So, to get your sax in tune:

  1. Warm up your instrument by blowing through it.
  2. Using a tuner, start with a note in the middle of your range such as a C or G or octave D. Check it against the tuner and adjust the mouthpiece to get the note in tune.
  3. Then try a note at the bottom of your range, and the top of your range, and check these with the tuner.
  4. Find a mouthpiece position where on average you are in tune across your range, and mark this position on your cork.
  5. Remember you will need to get the sax up to temperature the next time you practice, before you check it with your tuner.

Long tone practice will also help you to stay in tune, as it will help to develop your embouchure. It’s a great idea to check your tuning with a tuner throughout your practice.

Low note problems? It may be a quick fix!

I’m struggling to hold a continuous note on a low C, the pitch oscillates. The notes above and below are okay, so what is happening?

Most commonly this is a problem with the sealing of the saxophone mechanism. You can try relaxing your embouchure, and checking how much mouthpiece you are using but if that doesn’t help, the problem is most likely to be caused by a leak. This is often a really quick fix, so it’s worth taking your sax to a repairer to get it checked.

There are some things you might be able to fix yourself. Check out Nigel’s other videos with sax repairer Steve Crow on our blog.

Nigel, can you give me your opinion on Legere Reeds?

Nigel explained that he previously had not liked synthetic reeds, finding that they didn’t last well, or the sound was too bright.

However he started experimenting and found he really liked the Legere Signature reeds because they respond and feel like a cane reed. Nigel uses them on all his saxes now. Nigel is now a Legere Artist. Lots of pro players use them too so worth checking out.

Does the ligature affect the sound?

I was watching a sax player whilst on holiday in Ibiza and she kept adjusting her ligature. Does this make a difference to the sound?

Nigel explained that this player probably wasn’t adjusting the ligature for a specific reason, but it’s a good idea to understand how to fit your ligature.

There are lots of different ligatures on the market and they all do the same job which is to hold the reed on the mouthpiece, whilst allowing it to vibrate. When you are fitting your ligature you only need to tighten it so that the reed won’t move.

When it comes to choosing a ligature, it’s mostly about personal preference. The ligature will make a difference to how the reed performs and how it vibrates and feels for you, so it can affect the notes at the top and bottom of your range.

There’s always lots of discussion about which ligatures are best. Nigel has reviewed lots of different ligatures. Watch Nigel’s YouTube video on ligatures here. Read Nigel’s review of the Silverstein Works Ligature here.

How do you get started with improvisation?

This is a big topic to cover here! When you are learning to improvise you need to have a structure and a game plan. This will make it easier to get started. Without a structure it’s easy to get frustrated.

In Sax School there are lots of courses to guide you through the process of learning to improvise, starting with playing on one or two notes over a single chord, and working up from there, as well as trying different styles.

Over on YouTube we have some useful lessons:

One Chord Improv Warm-Up

How to Improvise on Saxophone in Three Minutes

Sax School T-Shirts!

Some of you watching the Live session were asking about our Sax School T-shirts – Here’s the link to buy one: Get Your Sax School T-Shirt

This is the last live session in this season. We’ll be back in September.

Nigel’s Practice Challenge:

Over the break, why not try our 30 Day Practice Challenge? If you are a member, check out the practice chart in the Member’s Area. If you are not a member, why not commit to practising every day for 30 days – it will give you such a boost to your playing!

Nigel McGill

After 25 years touring, performing all over the world, I setup Sax School to share what I have learned. Today thousands of players in more than 70 countries use the huge library of online saxophone lessons in Sax School. Find out how it can help you too!
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