Sax School Live Season 2 #8 10th September 2018

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Show Notes

Nigel shares his favourite tone-building exercise – great if you’re coming back to playing sax after a break! Plus news from Sax School, and your questions answered.

How did you get on with our quiz question? Who played the tenor sax for Zoots in the Muppets?


News from Sax School

We had a great live masterclass earlier this week in the Members’ Area – lots of members have been using the tips in their own practice.

Coming soon – Introduction to Classical Saxophone mini course. Even if classical saxophone is not your thing, it can teach you a lot about intonation, technique, and musicality. Watch out for it in the Member’s Area in a couple of weeks.

Also – sneak preview – the Blues Mastery Course will be open in a few weeks’ time! This is great course for developing your improvising and really understanding the blues. The course is only open for a limited number of students so look out for more news in the coming weeks.

Chris has been out playing some live gigs this week. Being prepared (doing your homework) and listening to other players are key to playing live, especially with a new band.

In the Facebook group, lots of people have been sharing videos of them playing duets from the recent Duets mini course. It’s been really popular!


Nigel’s Tone-Building Warm-up

Scales are a great way to work on your intonation. Nigel shares a way of making them more fun by playing the scales in intervals of a fifth. Play the scale up and down. Go slow and use a tuner to check intonation.

Nigel has been using TE Tuner – an app which also includes a metronome – so you check your timing and tuning at the same time!

This is a really simple exercise but 5 minutes a day will really improve your tone, your intonation, and the strength of your embouchure.

Don’t forget to get the free download for this exercise.

For more great tips, get our free Saxophone Toolkit with loads of Nigel’s favourite exercises, including backtracks and worksheets.


Your Questions:


Can you recommend any Play-along Books?

These are books that come with a CD with backing tracks to play along with, to have some fun and learn some new tunes. Nigel recommended a series by Jim Snidero called “The Essence of the Blues” (published by Advanced Music). Jim Snidero is a great American Jazz educator. Jim has written songs in the style of famous Jazz tunes, and the backing tracks include some really great musicians.

Playalong books are a great way to supplement your learning. The Jamey Aebersold series are also great for improvising.


Performance Nerves 

I can play fine in my room on my own but if friends and family ask me to play for them I get really nervous and make loads of mistakes, then I feel really silly! Any tips on getting over this?

Everyone gets nervous – even seasoned professionals! Firstly, do your homework so you feel confident with what you are playing. Remember that whether you are playing for friends, or for a room full of people they want to enjoy listening to you playing great. Try to focus on your own playing, and shut out the negative thoughts. It’s a mental game. You need to show the audience how much you love the music you are playing. Focus on this – then the audience will love it too. And just keep doing it! Community bands, jam sessions, playing with friends, uploading a video to our Facebook group are all performances, and experience will help you overcome your nerves.


Synthetic Reeds

I’ve been having trouble getting a good seal with my synthetic reed and my mouthpiece. What am I doing wrong?

Getting a good seal is really important when setting up your mouthpiece. Are you having problems getting a vacuum seal with the synthetic reeds on a different mouthpiece? Synthetic reeds are usually more stable because they are flatter on the back so seal better, where cane reeds can warp. If you are having a consistent problem getting a seal on your mouthpiece, it might be an issue with the mouthpiece itself – it’s not an uncommon problem. When you buy a mouthpiece it’s always a good idea to try more than one to make sure you can get a good seal.

The “pop” test is a great way to test whether you have a good seal.  First, put the reed onto the mouthpiece. Put the bottom of the mouthpiece against your palm, and suck all the air out of the mouthpiece so that the reed closes in and seals to the mouthpiece. Then pull your hand away – you should hear a “pop”. The pop is the sound of the reed coming away from the mouthpiece. If it holds for a few seconds then comes off, you have a good seal. A softer reed will take longer to pop.


Emergency Fixes

Could you use a tenor reed on an alto in an emergency?

You could try but a tenor reed is a lot bigger! You would probably struggle to get it onto the mouthpiece. It’s probably better to carry lots of spare reeds.


Quiz Answer:

The saxophone player who recorded the tenor parts for Zoots on the Muppets was Frank Reidy. He was a session player who played with Benny Goodman and Ted Heath and recorded on the Beatles “Sergeant Pepper” album.



Get the worksheet from this lesson: Nigels favourite tone builder warmup

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