Lesson 7/23/03

Posted by barb on Jul 23, 2003 in Saxophone

The last two weeks of lessons were cancelled, so I wasn’t expecting much this week. (I tend not to practice much without the fear of humiliating myself at an upcoming lesson.) However, I really surprised myself! Not only did I finally get that Mozart Minuet out decently (on my second try), but I also was able to play Sailing, Sailing (yes, the cheesy song I remember humming as a kid whenever I was in a boat) quite well, even though I’d only played it through a couple times at home.

In fact, Sailing, Sailing was a bit of a triumph for other reasons. It’s written in G major, which has F#. Unfortunately, the first F I came to, I played it natural, and I could hear that it was wrong. Instead of going with my first instinct of stopping, uttering an expletive, and going back a couple measures, I played it as if I hadn’t done anything wrong, continued the song, but the next F I came to, I played F#. Cool! (This might not sound like a triumph, but my first instinct of stopping is not the right thing…playing through is.)

Fred also mentioned that of his adult students, I seem to be getting the best sound. That, despite my old, notoriously out-of-tune horn.


Lesson 7/02/03

Posted by barb on Jul 2, 2003 in Saxophone

Horrible lesson. We moved my lesson up an hour, to 7:30pm, because I’m usually quite tired by 8:30. Well, it backfired tonight. I needed to stay at work an extra couple hours, and then it was raining, so it took an extra 40 minutes to get home. All in all, I was about 2.5 hours behind schedule. That meant that I could either have dinner or practice/warm-up before my lesson. I chose dinner. It was the wrong choice. Since my acid reflux isn’t under control yet, dinner just made me feel barfy and belchy. And, because I didn’t warm-up first, I played like crap during my lesson.

Still working on the Mozart Minuet for next week, but moving on to work on 6/8 time and some slower pieces (to work on tone).


Lesson 6/04/03

Posted by barb on Jun 4, 2003 in Saxophone

Not a bad lesson, considering I didn’t feel up to practicing all last week. In fact, I wasn’t able to pick up my horn until yesterday.

I was surprised that I was able to get the rhythm of Country Garden down on my own. I figured I was doing something wrong with the dotted eighth-notes, but when Fred played the tune for me, it sounded much like it did in my practice sessions! Yay! I’m getting better at this.

Working on high D, E, and F, Fred said that I had the embouchure down and the air and that I was getting a pretty good sound. I find the fingering to be horribly awkward, but at least when I get that right, the notes sound good. Fred seems continually amazed that I’m able to get a decent sound out of my old horn (1930s) — they play notoriously out of tune, but I’m apparently able to compensate well enough. That’s not to say that I’m completely in tune, but I at least sound in tune with myself.


Lesson 5/28/03 — Cancelled

Posted by barb on May 28, 2003 in Saxophone

My back went out this weekend. I can’t possibly even think about playing the sax right now — I can hardly pick up a bottle of water without cringing in pain.


Lesson 5/21/03 — Cancelled

Posted by barb on May 21, 2003 in Saxophone

Fred hurt his foot, and so my lesson was cancelled. I hope he’s okay.

This will give me a chance to work more on the Dance from The Nutcracker Suite and Country Garden. I had a heck of a time figuring out the tune for Country Garden, but I think I’ve finally gotten it. Now I can work on playing smoothly.

The other night while practicing, I started to hear the improvement in my playing over the past few months. Yay!


Lesson 5/14/03

Posted by barb on May 14, 2003 in Saxophone

Wiped the Little Brown Jug off of my list — the original tune isn’t hard, but the variation in the book is a bit of a challenge. I’m still not so good with my tonguing and fingers that I can play sixteenth notes as fast as they should be played — thereby slowing down the entire song.

Fred and I ended up talking most of the time about tuning. I was trying to play the G/B/D/high G/high B arpeggio, when my high B started sounding horribly out of tune. I messed around a bit, and then Fred had a try with my horn. Finally he took out his tuner (he hates tuners, but they do serve a purpose now and then), and had me move my mouthpiece in and out until we got the right sound. At least I now know that at least some of the notes can be played in tune.

I’m going to continue working on the Dance from the Nutcracker Suite. Also he introduced the high D, E, and F. Those are played with the ball of the hand, which seems quite awkward right now. Fred says it’s not as awkward as it seems, but that’s easy for someone to say who’s been playing for as long as he has.


Lesson 5/07/03

Posted by barb on May 7, 2003 in Saxophone

I’m quite liking the new book. In some ways it’s much more of a challenge than the old one. For the most part, I’m unfamiliar with the pieces in the new book, which might make it sound less fun, but that means that I have the challenge of figuring out how a piece is supposed to sound based on the written music. And it can be a challenge, but I feel so good when I figure it out, and it sounds good. The Emperor’s Waltz Theme was a good example of that. I’m still going to be working on Hornpipe — trying to play a bit faster and slur the right notes, but I’m also moving on to the next lesson, which involves The Nutcracker Suite Dance.

I still play a few pieces here and there out of the old one, and I have a book of 50’s songs that I’m trying to play out of. It gives me a chance to practice reading the notes without having to figure out the rhythm at the same time.

Two things: 1) Remember that an accidental (a note that gets changed (sharped, flatted or naturalled) from how it should be played in the given key) is only held through the measure that it is “changed” in. This holds unless it is tied to a note in the next measure. 2) I’ve been hearing a weird kind of resonance or something when I play low C and C#. When I asked about it, Fred said that my embouchure looked beautiful, so it probably wasn’t that, but to also think about pulling back on the mouth piece, or watching to make sure that my fingers aren’t accidentally touching extra keys.


Lesson 4/30/03

Posted by barb on Apr 30, 2003 in Saxophone

This was my second lesson out of the new book, Alto Saxophone Student by Fred Weber in collaboration with Willis Coggins. I must say I quite like the book. It’s very structured — each page can be divided up into a warm up, a quick lesson and a piece or two that use the new information/notes/scale/etc. The pieces are more classical than the other book I was using (The Complete Saxophone Player). I liked the other book, but it was structured more for self-teaching.

Before my lesson, Andrew and I looked at the sheet music, because I had a coupon for 20% off. I found a great book of 50’s songs, so I’ll probably pick one or two out of that book to work on this week. We also got me a spiffy new, soft-sided case for my sax. Yay! I hated the old one it came with — it was original, and the sax was made in the 1920’s, so you can imagine how stylish it was.

One other interesting thing. Fred expressed some amazement that Rudy (the adult student with a lesson right before mine) and I were doing so well. I thought maybe he was trying to say that we just didn’t look like we could do it, so I was prepared to be offended. But he went on to explain that he’s had many adult students, and most of them stick with it for about a month before deciding that they just don’t have the time or patience for it. So the amazement is more that Rudy and I have been at it now for four months.


Lesson 4/23/03

Posted by barb on Apr 23, 2003 in Saxophone

Pretty good lesson tonight. I asked Fred about the difference in playing staccato, legato and accented notes. While I probably don’t need to worry about this much, since I’m really only playing for myself, the book I started two weeks ago has the notation defined on the first lesson. Staccato is basically what I thought — there’s a distinct pause heard between notes (though when Fred played staccato, I could still hear air coming through). When playing legato, the goal is to tongue between notes without actually making it sound like you’re tonguing. And accented notes have a definite “boom” at the beginning of the played note.

We talked more about breathing, too. I think my problem seems to be that I just don’t take enough time when I breathe. I know that it needs to be done fairly quickly so as not to interfere with the rhythm of the piece. But that means that I just don’t get a good breath. And maybe down the road I can get the same amount of breath in a shorter amount of time, but for now I just need to concentrate on getting enough air. (Yes, I know about breathing from the diaphragm from theater classes and choir, I’m just not good at it anymore.)

I played The Emperor’s Waltz Theme, that I’ve been working on, and did just fine with the breathing (though Fred kind of breathed with me, to give me a clue how to get it right). I didn’t end up playing Morning Has Broken, but that’s just as well. It’s a fairly easy song, but I need to work on getting my low C to come out consistently.


Lesson 4/16/03 — Cancelled

Posted by barb on Apr 16, 2003 in Saxophone

I was kind of hoping for an excuse not to go to my lesson tonight, but I certainly didn’t want a migraine. Ugh. Obviously no lesson tonight. I’ll still be working on The Emperor’s Waltz for the next week, which needs more work anyway.

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