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Lesson 11/12/03

Posted by barb on Nov 12, 2003 in Saxophone

Fred had circled three pieces for me to work on in the duets book last time, but I had only gotten one worked out to any satisfaction. Sarabande by Corelli was one that needed tone, pitch, and phrasing, and it’s also the one I could play with any proficiency.

One of the other pieces was an 18th century piece (#31 in the Voxman book), and I haven’t been able to work up the speed needed to play it. I’m also finding that it feels very long while I’m playing. Fred did mention that one of the next things I need to work on is endurance….

The third piece was one working on syncopation. I knew it would beat me. (#18 in the Voxman book). For some reason, I have a mental block when trying to play pieces where I have to play on the up beat. Rather than continue beating myself up with it, I’m going to work on the bottom part for next week — it’s all played on the down beat, so I should have no trouble with it.

 
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Lesson 10/29/03

Posted by barb on Oct 29, 2003 in Saxophone

Fred and I returned to the duet we tried last Saturday, and I felt much more comfortable with it, so we’ve crossed it off my list. We then tried a couple others by site reading. Hee hee hee. Hee hee hee. Hee hee hee. Actually, it wasn’t that bad. Fred picked one of the “syncopation” pieces, which required me to play on the up beat while Fred played on the down beats. I’m not all that great with syncopation, but managed to muddle through (though the second time through, I had the rhythm down pretty well, but played almost all of the wrong notes).

Oh, and when we started playing the first duet, he stopped and told me to stop riding the horse. “Huh?” I eloquently replied. Then he explained that I was bouncing my whole body along with the notes that I was articulating. Not as bad as some kids he teaches, but enough that it was going to mess me up. (I believe I snorted when he explained what I was doing. So much for my facade of quiet sophistication.)

Fred picked out a few more duets for me to work on for next week. Though I also need to keep working on a few pieces in B-flat major — I hate that key.

 
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Lesson 10/25/03

Posted by barb on Oct 26, 2003 in Saxophone

We worked on a couple duets today. The first was a minuet (I forget who it was by) that I started on Thursday. We made it through, but it was fairly slow. I’m going to continue working on it for Wednesday.

The other minuet I worked on turned out fairly badly. Part of the problem is that my high D and C# are both very out of tune, even with the new mouthpiece. If I could remember to open the high D only a crack, it comes out more in tune, but I’m not yet skilled enough to remember that. I think I’ll move on to a different piece tomorrow.

On my way out of the store, I picked up a new book of movie themes (with an accompaniment CD). One of the pieces is from Raiders of the Lost Ark, which is probably the whole reason I got the book.

 
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Lesson 10/22/03

Posted by barb on Oct 22, 2003 in Saxophone

These past two weeks, I worked on a few of the duets in the new book Fred had be buy last time. I ended up (not entirely on purpose) working on three “seasons” pieces by Bender — Winter, Spring and Autumn.

Winter was the piece that I stumbled on last time trying to sight read it, so I wanted to work it through this week.

Spring was a fun, up-beat piece that I need to work on a bit more. One of my problems is that I tend to cut longer notes off short. So in Spring, I’m supposed to hold a note for a full count (fast 6/8 time), but I cut it short, so Fred has to play catch-up a bit.

Autumn was actually fairly easy — I picked it merely because I was already doing the other two seasonal pieces. When Fred and I played it, I started to notice that we seemed to be slowing the tempo down as the song wore on. By the end, it almost sounded like a dirge.

I’m having a make-up lesson on Saturday to make up for last Wednesday. Goodness! That means I’ll actually have to practice tomorrow and Friday!

 
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Lesson 10/08/03

Posted by barb on Oct 8, 2003 in Saxophone

I hadn’t had much time to practice this past week (migraines Thursday, Friday, and a near one on Sunday, and we spent Saturday at the Renaissance Festival, so I could only practice Monday-Wednesday), so I was just sure this lesson was going to suck.

After I set up my horn, I reminded Fred that I’d gotten the new mouthpiece last week, so rather than starting on new material, I practiced some old stuff to get myself accustomed to it. He had me play a few things — mostly scales — to hear how I was coming along with it. His comment was something like, “You’ve only had that mouthpiece a week?” To which I said yes, but that I really only was able to practice with it since Monday because of migraines.

He seemed quite thoughtful about this, and said that we were at a point where we needed to think about moving into longer pieces or something (I can’t remember exactly what he said, but it was along those general lines). I’ve expressed some interest in doing more classical type pieces, which may take some research, since there isn’t a proliferation of classical music written for saxophone. Then he seemed to get an idea, got up and started out of the room, and turned to say that he knew what we could do, and that I would find it a bit scary. When he returned, he had a book of sax duets. He opened it up to the first page, and said that we’d try a couple right now. And he knew that I found sight reading scary.

After we got ourselves in tune with each other, we started on the first piece. After one false start (I was supposed to be playing lead, but true-to-form, I was playing quietly because I wasn’t sure of myself), we played through the first two lines. And frankly it sounded pretty darn good if I do say so myself.

Fred turned back another couple pages to another piece. This one was a bit more complex, and we weren’t playing the same thing as much as the first piece. Unfortunately I got lost after the first line or so, and had to wait another line to jump back in. But when I jumped back in, I was playing the wrong notes (reading a C as an E for some reason).

This week I’m going to look through the book and pick a couple to try next time. I’m also going to continue through my old book, because I still have several scales to learn, but I’m looking forward to continuing with the duets.

 
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Lesson 10/01/03

Posted by barb on Oct 1, 2003 in Saxophone

For months, Fred has been telling me that I should think about a new mouthpiece for my sax. When I was just starting, I bought the cheapest they had, figuring that when I started getting more serious, I would probably have a teacher to help me decide which of the myriad mouthpieces to buy.

Well, the mouthpieces that Fred had had the store order finally came in today. Fred got one ready for me to try, and put in on my sax. Then he had me just play a G. I played like I always play, with as much air as I usually use and with the same embouchure. Holy crap! With that one note, I could tell a world of difference! Not only was the sound louder (which Fred has been pestering me all along to play), but the note was clearer than I’d ever played, and more in tune.

Fred said that I could try the mouthpiece for a month if I wanted, but I decided to take it then and there. I can hardly wait to try playing some of my old pieces with it to see how they sound.

 
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Lesson 9/24/03

Posted by barb on Sep 24, 2003 in Saxophone

Another great lesson. I started by bitching about the etude (to be played at “machine-gun” speed), so of course we ended up working on it quite a bit. I actually pretty much have the knack, but I just need to gain confidence.

I also played through Gavorette again, without the grace notes. In order to add the grace notes, I need to work on using the “side” C rather than the standard fingering. This will help because one section has a B grace note connected to C. Using the standard fingering would require some finger gymnastics. While playing the piece with the side C will also require some work, it will make the whole thing smoother in the end. (I’m not used to playing the side C, though, and I’m not sure I can remember the correct fingering without looking at the fingering chart.)

I need a new mouthpiece. Fred has asked the store to order some, but they are still waiting. My embouchure apparently looks really good (picture-perfect, Fred said), and a new mouthpiece could make a big difference. Of course, I’ll still have trouble from my old horn, but I’ll take it one step at a time.

 
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Lesson 9/17/03

Posted by barb on Sep 17, 2003 in Saxophone

I pointed out three pieces that I’d been working on this week to Fred at the beginning of the lesson: a chromatic etude, On the Wings of a Song, and Gavorette. I also said that I hated Gavorette, and just couldn’t quite get the feel of it. It has a bunch of grace notes, which are played as sixteenth notes leading into the “real note” (that’s not a great explanation, but the best I can do right now). The object is to land on the real note on the right beat. I actually had to play one when I worked on a short piece from the Nutcracker Suite, but that one was easier (perhaps because I was familiar with the piece).

Anyway, that meant that we spent the whole lesson working on Gavorette, of course. But, we eliminated the grace notes, and I’m currently just working on playing it without them (which is going much, much better).

I still need to work on getting a bigger sound. Fred suggested placing a sock in the bell of my horn when I practice, but still trying to get the same sound I get now. The idea is that when I remove the sock, I’ll be so used to playing with more air that I’ll get a bigger sound.

 
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Lesson 9/10/03

Posted by barb on Sep 10, 2003 in Saxophone

Fred took the month of August off, so I was a lazy bum, and didn’t practice much until the end of August. Today was my first lesson back, and it went surprisingly well (though I hadn’t advanced as far in the book as I would like 🙂

I played a minor etude (the first in my book, since they just introduced minor scales), and actually did a fair job, though I forgot to keep playing the couple times I messed up. I have to get it into my head that it’s like juggling with a partner — you just keep going when someone drops, no matter what, and when someone can pick up the dropped club, they fit it back into the pattern. Except here, I just need to let the bad notes go, and get on with the tune. I suppose since I’m not playing with anyone, I feel like I can just back up instead of forging ahead.

We also talked about transposing cello music to play with the alto sax. Andrew plays cello, so it would be fun to try playing a duet with him (or it may cause a breakup….hmmmm). Anyway, Fred had discovered early that alto sax music can be relatively easily transposed by taking the cello music, which is in concert key, and is written in the bass clef. Pretend that it’s in treble clef (i.e. don’t change where the notes are, but change the bass clef symbol to a treble clef symbol). Finally, actually change the key by either changing the key signature or adding accidentals. Andrew and I are going to try to find a beginning cello duet book that has a few pieces in the right key. The problem with taking music he already has is that I only know four major scales: C, G, F, and D; these translate to concert scales as E-flat, A-flat, B-flat and F major. much of Andrew’s current “easy” music is in sharp scales.

 
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Lesson 7/30/03

Posted by barb on Jul 30, 2003 in Saxophone

I still need to work on this one. I can play something very similar to what’s written, but I want to get the dotted notes down better (I tend to turn the dotted quarter note and the following eighth notes both into quarter notes).

I need to work on making a bigger sound. I seem to play under the impression that if I play quietly, then no one will notice if I play badly. Unfortunately, this means that I can’t do much about playing quieter when the music calls for it.

Fred is taking off the next three weeks, so it’s going to be a struggle for me to make myself practice. I hope I take advantage of the time, though, to make some progress through my book. I should also look for a good “play-along” book at my level.

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