How to clean well Your saxophone?

We often see in the shops various materials for cleaning woodwind instruments. But the trueth is, that all these instruments are very very different and what is suitable for flute, DO NOT suit for saxophone unfortunately. We can find swabs that are meant to be in multipurpose.
I have given some tips on this video, how to clean and what I have been using last 20+ years.

The right care taking of your saxophone hygiene is better for your health and for maintaining your saxophone in a good manner, to last it longer, to serve you and audience really well.
I point out some important things: wash your mouthpiece after every other playing if you don’ t want to do it every time. Also after that desinfect with the sterisol liquid specially made for mouthpieces. Keeps your immunitary system under the control!

Materials: brushes are not useful, because it doesn ‘t dry out the condence of salive that remains inside after we finish playing saxophone! I recommend only Yamaha cleaning swab and also Vandoren, Selmer, Buffet swabs. Yamaha swabs are easy to find in any shops, others harder to find. Why do I recommend this? Because first we need to dry out well inside of the saxophone and the tissue/material should not leave fibers inside of the saxophone body!!!!!!!

Maintenance of saxophone includes this: every year you change the oil (flasks, screws etc), Reparation “master” will wash ALL, that has left from salive and of course regulation of pads and cocks. After that your saxophone is fantastic to play, no noise around your playing. It is a real pleasure, like after the SPA care!

Hope you found it useful, please feel free to comment your experiences, i would be happy to know about.

Double tonguing

In music studies we are one moment THERE, where you have to study faster tonguing, because normal tonguing is never fast enough! And therefore we use effectively this technic.

After a “panic attack” we realize that we need a “quick course” in double tonguing. Unfortunately there are no “miracle” exercises, becuse new things take time to establish. And you can not learn to double tongue overnight! Focus every day a little bit of concentrated practice time and you will be impressing your friends and family with your ability to double tongue soon enough.

FIRST-It’s impossible to develop good double tonguing skills without stabilizing REGULAR SINGLE tonguing. The following simple exercises will improve single tongue accuracy and speed UP developing your double tonguing.

It is important to understand the different feeling on your throat-tongue movement with following syllabes: Dah-gah versus Tah-kah! the last syllabe is cutting more the sound and is not helping really!
These syllables are used in double tonguing. Most students prefer dah-gah, since it is smoother in different registers and duration of the notes sounds equal-which is the ULTIMATE GOAL! It is less “out pomping/cutting” (the sound flow) and easier to keep the steady air column of flowing with Dah-gah syllabes than with tah-kah. Tah-kah can be used better in accented style when needed. Usually you need to start with dah-gah and eventually we practice after Tah-Kah syllabes also. Very important is the STEADY AIR SUPPORT, otherwise you will have wholes between the notes.

Preliminary exercises: make exercises without instrument first, to get used to the FEELING on your throat. sAY the syllabes.

Whispering loudly “gaa or I do Guh” over and over , please notice where the postition of your tongue inside the mouth. Try to bring the point of tongue to contact with the roof of your mouth as far forward as possible. In woodwind instrument playing we often do notpay attention to the position of the tongue inside of the mouth, but I do assure, that once you start to analyse it, You will get tricks done quickly on your instrument!

Whisper “gaa or guh” into your instrument, or mouthpiece-neck and keep embouchure normally and support with air REALLY WELL Gah-syllabes. Eventually bite the lips together and let the sound to come. Do not worry about tone quality at first. This may take several attempts before you are comfortable and using the “gah” syllabe at the same time with Dah.
Say “I dug-a-hole” quickly several times. Then extend to “I dug-a-dug-a-hole,” and “I dug-a-dug-a-dug-a-hole”. Practice many times singing in good legato singing, especially not chopped singing way and start on a note G, A or B or C – combine different rhythm patterns and go on to improve the speed.

Gradually increase the speed and go as fast as you can. In order to reach a tempo that is necessary to achieve, you must constantly try to move forward on tempo. Practice this exercise at least several weeks.

I LOVE TO SAY THAT: It is crucial to practice the following exercises with a metronome.

Duh-Duh-Duh-Duh/Duh-Guh-Duh-Guh/the aim is not to change the sound of Duh and Guh, it must not be different!
First in one note these syllabes and in tempo 60, 68, 72 etc, keep rising the tempo. And then in to different notes, then in chronatic scale and in a piece where you need to use it.
Also use in triples: Duh-Guh-Duh, Duh-Guh-Duh and of course work together with metronome.
As the music is the art of sound, listen always please your sound and articulations carefully and record yourself. This is the best method to work and to improve.

And you need just download application: Mobile metronome and choose “high sound” click – electronic beat, it is best to hear over saxophone timber.

Here is a video!

After becoming familiar with the exercise on one note, move to 2 notes and go on. After increase the register and practice all major and minor scales double tongued with four notes per pitch, two notes per pitch, and then one note per pitch. Many books contain exercises and etudes for double tonguing. Triple tonguing is really just a variation of double tonguing.
SO LET’S GET TO WORK!

Grab a book and audio here, to get familiar with different sound effects!

What about the posture?

The NATURAL posture of a human being!

When we put to SEARH GOOGLE the word “POSTURE” – we get a lot of pictures about good and bad postures!
It is not about playing on a musical instrument, where the posture is really important. Ergonomic posture is necessary to follow also in everydays life. And of course when we teach a child, we need to correct the posture behind the instrument ALL THE TIME, CONSTANTLY!

I repeat often, playing the instrument should not “disable your posture” – it is crucial to look after it by yourself alos, not only a teacher.
So different saxophone straps are need to be used on different ages, on a different body type and it is fantastic, that we have a lot of choice! I should post the videos about them. I promise i will load them soon on Youtube Channel.

What about your surrounding crew?
We as TOP musicians are often compared to sportsmen/women, because music teacher/coach is 5 in one! what do I mean? When I coach and make individual lessons, I have found myself quite often in a position of being psychologue (where is your focus, how strong is your self esteem, how you develop your mindset skills), making training program (instrumental as well keeping up sports activity) per day to per hour or even longer period, choosing different level of tasks/repertory, analysing the results of my program, making adjustments on instrumental develop or psychological development and stretching out the stressful muscles, what do you eat to keep fit. This is different about top sportsmen, they have team around them, everyone has their role: mindset is TOO important (psychologue or other?)-without mental toughness all is lost quite soon (sorry, but this is absolutely true), masseur for stretching, coach makes the program and controls how everything goes. They are always under professional supervision and it is very detailed! Coaches are very well educated on bodies ergonomical movements and they are so competent to teach it!

But in music teacher’s life – we do ALL OF THAT! Haven’t you thought about it?
Finally coming back to posture, which is only one parameter of many many things to follow on your pupils or students, in order to be able to form/grow top musician from little child or a young person that comes to study. In instrumental playing we work mentally and physically at the same time, there is a lot of pressure when we go on stage AND on that period where we prepare for that performance. We FEEL more that we can explain! The experience gives me a lot of data to recognise when something is hindering development! That is why there are already doctors specialised for musicians and their problems!

The posture affects positively or negatively, will you be the virtuose on your instrument or not?????!!!! There are teachers who say, you have not worked enough hours to be able to become virtuose. But I can share other, in my experience and I do encourage you to think and pay attention to your posture, then your hands become more relaxed and your tehcnic skills are improveing really fast!

The pupil is your camrade (to teacher), a friend, the relationship is horizontal and cooperation through music is established of course through music, there are no vertical relationship, at least NOT GOOD ONES, I don’t buy it. Take a time to go and visite physiotherapist and look together some typical posture problems while you are playing YOUR instrument. Ergonomic means – change the environment (the position of instrument), do not change the body!!!! Body stands straight and free, do not fit it!

1. Overload muscles – problem of soft tissues, muscles give information to nerves, bad blood circulation, skin overload (the jaw on violin players!) and so on.
2. Overcrowding – after practicing you are too tired, or in pain. This is first thing to notice, that you need water or to do stretching in order to avoid overcrowding.
3. Misuse of posture – Injuries and the consequences, that we are dealing after years and years of playing and with the result of misusing the posture.

Who teaches who? – Constantly learning and transmiting what you know and how you got there!

The idea of talking on this subject has a good point on existential point of view. Do we need music teachers or mentors and are they needed? Would be Google enough good place for a knowledge? Different applications should help us providing this and that: metronomes, tuners, iReal for jazzplayers, piano in one octave etc.

Other thing is that young people are/shall not choosing/choose to be a music teachers:
1. Probably one main reason is responsability of the children/adults you are guiding. You grow together form year to year and you become ONE in a moment or another.
2. Probably young teachers feel the difficulties to explain and how they achieved actual instrumental level they are on that moment and feeling incapable to explain and analyse how they arrived here- is a crucial point on teaching process.
3. Not as highly paid, when we talk about different schools and countries. The salary mentality is more and more project based. Contracts might be short term and music teacher situation finds itself: having 4 different jobs in 4 little towns around – in little children music schools. Other thing is to teach in Music College or in a Facutly of music – but those kind of jobs are well taken.
4. The music education needs a long path: developing instrumental skills to a professional level is often 15 years minimum, developing personality, developing temper, to achieve to play freely under the pressure situations (on the stage) – this is called: performing art (not quite the same on painting art-form!), developing emotional balance on yourself and transmitting it through your instrument – interpretation, developing to differentiate all the heritage of music – centuries of traditions and culture – through that magical music we are trying to make live again and again all these momments! This ia a LONG study process – and to transmit all – takes a courage and a lot of responsability!

So, I can share, why did I choose to be a music teacher?

First, I concentrated to be a soloist. i just love to play instrument, in my case the saxophones! Although i finished children music school on piano and I do play occasionally piano, but not in a professional level. But as it is in a life, the possibilities to play in a group of jazz/popo/classic whatever, are not usually longlasting. They keep changing or people don’t get much around any more, people travel etc.
Being on the stage I started to have admireres, you know those eyes that look on you and say “I would like to play like you” or “I like to learn quickly Henri Mancini piece “Panther Rose”….. or Poirot’s film theme – whatever the reason is, the soloist they have heard has INSPIRED! This I noticed and I kept in my mind. Never stop playing, even when you lack of a time!!!! Unfortuantely many many teachers do not actively play their instrument in a good level, even after graduating school.

One main reason I choosed to be a music teacher – IS – my passion is music and all the heritage that comes with all that wonderful field!
Can we live without music? Everywhere I go, I hear people listen to music. And thank you for you guys, we share the love about music. This is principle value for all of our lives!

Légère Reeds

Are You Ready to Go Synthetic?

Légère Reeds LTD, has become one of the most popular synthetic reeds on the market nowadays.
More and more saxophonists have made the switch to Légère due to the many common problems and inconsistencies they have faced while dealing with traditional cane reeds. I have tried various Forestone and FiberReed and few other synthetic reed brands in the past but have actually not had the chance to test the Légère Signature Series reeds so far. I will be providing a product overview on the Légère Signature Series reeds for all type of saxophones as well as my overall thoughts.

Product Overview
Many players who play Légère, tend to prefer the Signature Series reeds, which produce a warm and rich tone across all registers. The Signature Series reeds are made from a stiffer material and are cut thinner than the Classic reeds. “These attributes make the Signature Series reeds more flexible across the tip which results in a full spectrum of overtones and a beautiful sound with minimal effort.” Regardless of which cut you choose, you will always receive the same Légère quality and the durability that Légère has come to be known for. All Légère reeds are offered also in quarter strengths and are available for soprano, alto, tenor and baritone saxophone.

Légère Signature Series – What I noticed!!!
Tenor & Alto & Soprano & Bariton: I typically play between a 2.5 to 3.5 strength cane reed across various brands (Vandoren, D’Addario, Gonzales etc.). I found when test playing the 2, 2.1/4, 2.5, 2.3/4, and 3 strength Légère Signature Series reeds, that number 2 strength played the best with jazz mouthpieces on tenor Vandoren T35 or Jody Jazz Giant (8 and 7), number 3 and 3,5 reeds played best with Classical mouthpieces like Selmer S90/180, SelmerSD20, Selmer Conceptand on tenor. For classical alto saxophone mouthpieces like Vandoren AL 3, AL4 and Selmer Concept was best number 3 or 3,5 strength and Selmer S90/180 number 3,5 strength and Jody jazz HR 8* with number 3 strentgh.

In terms of responsiveness, I found Légère Signature Series reeds were very free-blowing from top to bottom and incredibly easy to play in the altissimo register even more, that I have found on traditional cane reeds. Sonically, I liked the sound of the Légère Signature Series reeds played a little bit brighter in the low, mid and high register compared to my traditional cane reeds!!! And the sound was more spread rather than focused and although the Légère Signature Series reeds sounded very close to traditional cane, there were various timbres and high overtones on my sound throughout all register that were not as present compared to traditional cane – and I did like it! The Légère Signature Series reeds did not feel like cane when first playing, but after playing for a few minutes, it felt comfortable on all 4 different type of saxophones.

Final Conclusion
I highly recommend trying synthetic reeds in general even if traditional cane is your preference because it’s valuable to understand how these reeds play in comparison. When testing the Légère Signature Series reeds, I strongly recommend that you play one for a whole practice session and over a few days so you can make a decision whether the synthetic reeds work for you or if traditional cane is still your preference. Personally, I am not a traditional cane purists, I PREFER NOW Légère Signature Series reeds amongst other synthetic reeds being offered on the market nowadays. I would still recommend TRYING out various synthetic reeds BUT in case of an emergency, this reed will save you.

What is your experience with Légère and other synthetic reeds?

How to choose the strength of a plastic reed?

Légère Reeds have the same strength value as you were using the canned or wooden reeds. But you have a variety of quarters and threequarters! Which are always close to: Canned to corresponds to Legere 2 and 2 quarters. Canned 2,5 corresponds Legere 2,5 and 2 treequarters.

Here is Amazon link for Legere Reeds

ALTISSIMO REGISTER – HOW TO ACHIEVE?

Altissimo Register – how to achieve?

What is the Altissimo Register?

The altissimo register on the saxophone is above F#3 (the palm key F#). There is no real limit to how high the altissimo range goes, although D8 is the highest I’ve seen any fingering chart go up to. There are plenty of fingerings to altissimo register for different type of saxophones. First look up always, eitrher you are looking them to alto, tenor, soprano or bariton saxophone!!!

Altissimo register is a capricous one! You do need a lot of patience to develop and persistance to maintain it! Just keep working and working and develop the throat to be flexible, because it is all about mastering vocal tract!

How to improve the control of this challenging register?

Altissimo register requires a great control of allover the instrument before you start to deal with. When you are being able to “eek” out an altissimo note – it is quite a bit more difficult than playing a single note within the saxophone’s normal range. If you haven’t got a solid basic skills necessary to obtain good tone on the notes below altissimo, especially on the sidekeys THEN forget about it, it’s too soon for altissimo.

The reed and mouthpiece combination is also important. With soft reed it ain’t gonna happen! Unfortunately there is no one-size-fits-all setup that guarantees high notes, so this is one of those things you might need to be EXTREMELY PATIENT, especially if you find yourself struggling and having smallest amount of progress. Please keep going, be persistant! this register needs vocal tract work muscles development and therefore it is necessary you keep “EEEKING” those strange sounds!!!ok! the work of vocal tract is entirely important, because note is high and you need muscles to keep it in a high register, like singing a really high note! And at the same time you need to give it the “throat space” to resonate and to maintain the note! So the good book to start overtonesz and developing vocal tract work is Eugene Rousseau HIGHTONES, it is very efficient and just keep doing exercises!

Importance of OVERTONES

You will not find a single book or tutorial videos on the subject of studying altissimo register that doesn’t cover the practice of OVERTONES. In fact, the altissimo register is nothing more than upper partials (like overtones) of lower notes, so there really is no distinction. Altissimo simply refers to the very top overtones on the saxophone. Altissimo register requires also very subtle control of the embouchure, shape of the inner: mouth, tongue, and throat (and with a throat muscles we are holding them on a necessary height, therefore is highly essential the flexibility of a vocal tract work). Add the fact that each altissimo note has several different fingerings SO there is no set-up fingering like in a lower register, that’ll get you to those high notes. The correct manipulation of those hard-to-control throat muscles must be guided by your EAR, so blindly fingering and blowing is not an option here – HEAR NOTES BEFORE you play it!

AIR

Support all altissimo register notes with a solid stream of air. Especially in the case of altissimo it really isn’t optional, it is MUST DO! Make sure that you’re supporting your sound with the muscles in your diaphragm, which is located right below your ribcage. Increasing the speed of the air is important as well. On the sax, if you “yawn” – then position of your tongue back and high creating yawning effect and lifting up the soft palette (which is the upper part of a vocal tract), creating suc conditions – the air will move faster and cause the reed to pop into altssimo mode of vibrations.

Grab one of the great books on the topic of altissimo.

Excellent practice books always make for a great shortcut in musical improvement as we’re pushed into playing things completely out of our self-defined comfort zones. Here are 3 classics you may want to check out by yourself:

1) “Top Tones for Saxophone” – Sigurd Rascher, published by Carl Fischer
2) Eugene Rousseau “Saxophone High Tones”: A Systematic Approach to the Extension of the Range of All the Saxophones: Soprano, Alto, Tenor, and Baritone
3) Ted Nash’s Studies in High Harmonics

Saxophone Ligature – how to choose?

Different Ligatures

Classical style of saxophone ligatures:
BG Ligature, Silverstone Ligature, JLV Ligature, Selmer Standard Ligature, Vandoren Optimum Ligature, François Louis Ultimate Ligature, Eddie Daniels Rovner Ligature
Jazz Style of saxophone:Pure Brass Ligature of François Louis, Vandoren Optimum, Eddie Daniels Versa Ligature, Selmer Brass Ligatures, Rhino Ligatures EVO HD, Rico Ligatures.

Sometimes we need some changes: to make improvement in your playing just by taking a little time to try out some DIFFERENT EQUIPMENT such as reeds, ligature and mouthpieces!

How to figure pit which one is BEST for you?
Tuning is correct! Playing on different registers come easily in any dynamics! And you like the sound playing loudly and softly! Basicly we are looking for colours!

You have to control the mixture: mouthpiece-reed-ligature , when you have all these named components I told above, then it is Best for you!

Always helps and I do recommend highly recording or take the teacher with you or a good saxophone friend to have an opinion from outside! Because our inside EAR is hearing things DIFFERENTLY!

Bon courage!

Beginners first saxophone and mouthpiece!

The children are often using in my class of saxophone Yamaha 4C, Yamaha 5C is too open for a beginner. One reason is because when they buy instrument Yamaha 280 (student model) or 480 (semiprofessional model) and the mouthpiece is coming with the instrument.

Why I recommend to buy Yamaha instrument, because I do have long experince about: Beginners first instrument is ALTO SAXOPHONE (not plastic!)
1) saxophone resistance in time – quality of material, every year washing, regulation and new oil – you keep it like a new instrument!
2) what is saying Master of reparation, I mean, how often he needs to do the reparation work on Yamaha? Answer is SELDOMLY! It means good value for money!
3)tuning is correct,
4)the mouthpiece that comes – 4C- is good for several years and if you break it, you can buy the new one for 25 Euros,
5)the position for the little hands is good, although the 5-7 years they can play untill F(Fa) or E(Mi) and I let the play on the CHAIR, not on the neck or shoulders!
6)Easy to blow, actually all student instruments are easy to blow. Professional models have a thicker metal body, so you could develop more personalized sound. Personal sound is not easy with student models instrument, although saxophone as instrument herself has a capacity to cooperate with everybody’s individual physics and CAN OFFER the possibility of YOUR SOUND. All is possible.
7) Please buy a saxophone STRAP, NEVER EVER NECKSTRAP (bad for vertebral column – do not brake it with saxophone), BG or Lemark or Jazzlab (jazzlab is not suitable for bony children!!!).

INSTRUMENT FOR 5-7 YEARS OLD

As being Teacher of many many years, I have noticed and thought about LITTLE INSTRUMENT for the 5-7 years old children. Yanagisawa Curved Soprano Saxophone has been one possible version for so little ones. Saxophone teacher needs to transpose many repertory, but it could be also a good experience. i do not recommend Plastic Saxophone and neither Nuvo JSax – and the reason is simple, the touch of saxophone buttons is NOT THE SAME as the REAL SAXOPHONE INSTRUMENT HAS. There is a big even HUGE difference, so I know a lot of inventors try to solve the problem for the little ones, but the change is too much.

So I do like more next solution in my saxophone class:
1) Yanagisawa Curved Saxophonne S-991 or S-992
2) Yanagisawa or Yamaha Alto Saxophone and we are playing on the chair of the piano. I repeat, children do not carry on the shoulders. you place it on the chair you can move up and down, because children do grow fast!!!

Wooden or Plastic REEDS?

I often play with Vandoren Blue Reeds, beginner from number 1-2. Also Gonzales Reeds and D’Addario.
Plastic Reeds: Légère. I have tried others (fibre, half fibre etc) and they became so quickly soft and impossible to play longtime like I do with Légère Reeds (the sound is the same like canned or wooden reeds!!!!), especially when the price is between 25 – 30 Euros! Wooden reed is between 2,5-3 Euros!!!!
When I especially need a plastic reed, is when I need to change saxophones and I will not have time to wet the reed again! Or I play outside or in other difficult situations – then I always play with plastic reed.

Wooden Reeds need to be wet before you can start to play!

Advanced students from number 2,5. Of course playing on the hard reeds does not make you an advanced saxophone player!
Jazz Students on Rico Reserved and Vandoren Jazz reeds.

DO I NEED A REEDCASE?

Probably you need a reedcase when You live in a dry climat, where you constatnly need to wet the reed! But you need to be aware of that the moisturising material in reedcase needs to be UPDATED, otherwise it is just a plastic reed case with no longer extra quality. Rico has a REED VITALISER, which makes reeds last longer because they have kept your reeds in good and stable consitions.

About saxophone playing for beginners!

The position of the mouthpiece on your mouth

How important is the position of the teeth on your saxophone mouthpiece? Yes, it is very important! Music is the ART OF THE SOUND, so as you bite the mouthpiece, it is crucial to understand, that we produce the sound with REEDS! How far is important and how strong you NEED to bite? In my practice I have seen a lot of overbiting at first and then about a year when I have been really demanding, the ebouchure has established. The lip work is most important and not the jaw as on the clarinet playing!!!! Let me clarify the difference! Clarinet is placed mostly on the jaw on your mouth 45 degrees and saxophone is placed straight, 90 degrees and using lips muscles. In order to obtain light and not overbiting sound we need only lip muscles. How do you know when you are biting too much? We hear the narrow sound, tuning is awful and in different registers that you play!!!! To obtain good and light sound with good intonation we need to hold up the upper lip soft and upwards and the jaw straight down. Mosttuning work is done by the corners of the lip which in saxophone embouchure makes the most of the work. I do find difficult to write about a thing that we merely FEEL more than understand intellectually!You nedd to blow, make the sound in order to be able to correct the embouchure!

Dosation of the air and importance of breathing

Yes, wind instrument need air. Different phrases need different dosation of air. Breathing is also important for producing the sound. Right breathing is similar to singers, where vocal tract is working along in palying different registers, because it is all about SOUND. The saxophone is only your extension – I do repeat it often, we tend to manage always just on the moment of playing, but your work is with YOURSELF, your body. How you breath – next…..what sound comes out from your extension/saxophone? We need to practice the muscles that are between the open ribs, they create the space for DOWN part of the lungs – this kind of breathing leads to long phrases and you have big dynamic range as well very colourful sound. If you breathe with upper part of the lungs where the ribs are closed – the dynamic range is mostly just half loud, tuning is bad and you have a so called “tiny” sound colour, tiny sound in upper register and forced sound in low register. Music is the art of sound!

Be familiar with common articulation technics

In reading differents partitions, we need to have the articulation automatic habits. When slur start we should use soft attack, when we have not, the articulation is really concrete. Of course we have different publishing habits! In jazz and in barock music – they hardly note and we need to be aware of oral traditions and a lot of recordings help us with articulation use/traditions. In classical music we tend to note everything to the tinyest details and for classical saxophone we take a lot of articulations from violin and flute music. As saxophone is the youngest acoustic instrument and the last one before the electrical instruments came – we need to be the BRIDGE between both centuries!!!! Détaché=DU-DU-DU and Staccato and Staccatissimo (equal to violins pizzicato technic). The most difficult to obtain is Legato and to play slow notes in a beautiful sound and have a maximum use of air (using down-part of lungs) – all is under YOUR control!

Why the long notes?

Importance of long notes remains the same as for the beginners and for advanced saxophone players. So what is there so important, what is hidden inside? It is actually quite logic and simple. Our muscles and lungs need to operate every day, but the use of them in wind instrument as well as in sports remain the same – are we ingood shape or in bad shape? Is it 12 seconds or 42 seconds – who is in better shape? As well in breathing development we also train lips embouchure muscles to have a good dynamic range and perfect intonation. These tree basic and yet extremely important features in saxophone playing are so delicate to develop to obtain the steady sound, dynamic colours – all to serve rich variety of musical styles.

How to improve your sight-reading skills?

On a WIND instrument, sight-reading depends on the relationship between visual, mental, aural, and physical skills. The repertory may not provide a person with adequate fingering knowledge and general musicianship. In addition, EYE movements are REALLY seldom trained to recognise and to have the habit to read quickly notes and therefore to transfer through musical notation ALL you SEE through your instrumental skills. When I observe students during a sight-reading session, the most notable problem is their FIXED glance on the sheet music. Therefore I have included exercises strictly for developing fluid eye movements.

Scan the page to observe as many difficulties as possible

One approach is to glance from the upper left to the lower right of the page diagonally through the middle of the page. For a useful exercise, tap a pulse at the speed of crotchet = 60. Why 60? In my opinion, it is most common pulse or a tempo used in music and also the clock is ticking on the same pulsation, so we have a lot of touch in everyday life about this tempo 60. What do you SEE first? Does the tempo remains the same or does it changes? Next step is to look across the same line on beats one and two and name the highest note on that line on beat three-this is helpgul for phrasing. Repeat this procedure for each line to have an overview of phrase flowing structure. Identifying the highest note on each line will help one choose enough air to be able to play correctly and musically. The dose of AIR is the most important and crucial to understand. It is also helpful to locate visually any complex rhythms on the musical line which can then be of course carefully analysed more deeply. There are always 2 lines you need to practice 200 times more and that’s all!!! Easy!

Identify sequences and intervals

In fast movements the fluidity of sight-reading and eye movements and of course the brain needs to be very active! We need to recognise the sequences and intervals visually BEFORE you play them and follow the contour/structure of the note heads. The process is like that: READING AHEAD by looking towards the first note of each group and MEMORISING at least one beat of fast notes. DON’T STOP whatever happens, keep going! This visual skill can be practised actually WITHOUT the instrument. WHY? The control over the fingers is so essential while you are playing fast music, there in my practice the most effective has been working without blowing the saxophone. It needs some RETHINKING but it is so rewarding!!!! Hold a small sheet of paper in your hand and cover a group of notes after looking at them. Solfege (NAME the notes by heart) this group of notes without looking from the partition!!!!

Know all key signatures and be familiar with all diatonic scales

How important would be your theoretical knowledge about music you are about to play? Would be of course perfect to understand the backround of the music and style and how to achieve to play it correctly! It is helpful to practise scales without blowing the instrument, it is important to understand, that you need to divide the work between blowing, fingers, tonging, throat or vocal chord functioning…oh etc. So tehcnical skills like scales is all about finger work! In my practise I have got very good results working ONLY by saying notes AT THE SAME TIME moving my fingers exactly syncronised. So the work is essentially through the BRAIN, it is not only muscle of the hands! You NEED to understand the difference between that! More you practise like that more you are HOME one scales and in all keys. Also be able to start a chromatic scale from any note!

Be familiar with common metres and rhythms

This is again at first theoretical knowledge, but let’s take one of the most difficult mesures: triple metres of 6/8, 9/8 and 12/8 along with asymmetrical metres are particularly challenging to read in quick tempo. Why? We need to read eights ALL THE TIME! Because as the metre indicates, not quarter notes (like 2/4 or 3/4 etc), but eight notes, I like to think about it as a inside pulsation of these metres! Keeping the pulsation of eights during different syncopations and rests is very important sight-reading game. Again I do recommend to read without blowing, because we need to divide the brainwork, we do not need to be overloaded from stress to do 5 things right a way! So the work of rhythm doesn’t need blowing, because I do not need to practice blowing!!!!! So divide the work and you HAVE LESS STRESS. Again, NAME the notes and touch the fingers on your instrument AT THE SAME TIME! You need to develop the connection between brain (sight-reading) and fingerwork on your saxophone.

Choose a tempo in which you can play the most difficult passages

How to choose the tempo to achieve the right tempo on difficult passages? First, don’t stress on a high tempos, everybody can achieve them. Because the most important factor X is TIME that you pass on that passage! Of course we professionals, start from the low tempo and we are working on “forward-backforwar”d method. It is the same principle when we practice the scales, I mean UP and DOWN – so I DO THE SAME with difficult passages! I reduce and increase the tempos, every day during one year I do practice also different scales and that particualr difficult passage. When you arrive on your GENERAL TECNICAL tempo on 100 or more, then when you see on that tempo difficult passages, I can garantie you – they are no longer difficult. So very important is also to increase your work on everyday scales also the average of your scales tempo! There is no problem, if it stays 5 months on quarter note=60, because the most important is to be stable at this tempo and feeling good, the rest follows and you will enjoy all fast tempos!

Recognise and be familiar with all the intervals, both visually and aurally

In order to memorise the notes on fast sight-reading, we train our eyes to move really fast forward. The eyes have fabulous power to be 0,3 seconds ahead of what we actually do at the moment. So this is visually the most important to start to use and to start to TRUST! Well, we need to go once more time into the thoery of music. Intervals of perfect fourth, tritones, and sevenths, both major and minor, are particularly important in sight-reading. Be on the look-out for intervals which can be notated with enharmonic notes (Ab=G#, or Db=C#, Bb=A# etc) that make the original interval look different. But as we are saxophonists, we tend to think more in # than on bemoll/flat scales. I do react quicker when I see G#, C# and Bb, I know why. in the beginning of the studies we play C major, D major, G major, F major, Bb major! So we have already practiced more C# and Bb than Db or A#!!!! But nevertheless, it depends on a person’s backround and knowledge in music.

Listen to the other parts of the ensemble

Quite often we play in diferent groups or ensembles and we need to be very certain about our own written part, certain about our line, our contribution to make alltogther sound recogniseable piece of music. As well following the style, character and whole conception of the COMPOSER. While playing focus visually at the samet ime on your own individual part, really really really in focus. Music or composition consists often of the layers: rhythm, melody, middle voices, Dynamics, tempos, metress. LISTEN to the underlying rhythm of the composition and UNJDERSTAND HOW your part fits in the ensemble. It helps to visualise mentally the score from the parts that you hear. Listen a lot of music and analyse like Mozart did in live concerts, this is also developing your perception in music. General musical knowledge of music theory will help improve the sight-reading.