[Dixielandjazz] How To Play The Saxophone

Richard Broadie rbroadie at dc.rr.com
Mon Mar 21 19:34:14 PST 2005

The following has been around a while.  Let's give it one more spin!  Dick Broadie

  How To Play The Saxophone:

  First things first: If you're a white guy, you'll need a stupid hat,
  the more stupid the better and preferably a beret. Sunglasses are
  optional, but all the really, really good players wear them, especially
  indoors. You'll also need some "gig shirts"-Hawaiians are good, but in
  a pinch anything with a loud floral pattern is acceptable, as are
  T-shirts from various jazz clubs and festivals. The good thing about
  the latter is that you can get them mail order so you don't have to go
  to all the trouble of actually seeing and hearing live music. And
  sandals are an absolute must, even in winter.

  Once you've assembled the proper attire you can begin practicing. One
  of the most important things about playing is being able to convey
  emotion to the audience. This you do through various facial
  expressions. The two emotions you'll need to convey are (1) rapture /
  ecstasy and (2) soul-wrenching pain and sadness (i.e., the blues).method acting school. So, for example, to convey rapture, try thinking
  of something nice-like puppy dogs or getting a rim job from Uma Thurman
  while Phil Barone feeds you Armour hot dogs with truffle sauce. To
  convey the "blues" try thinking of something really appalling - like
  ulcerative colitis or Alec Baldwin. You should practice your facial
  expressions in front of a mirror at least two hours per day. You may
  feel a tad stupid at first, but you'll never get the chicks if you
  don't jump around on stage like a monkey - with your face screwed up
  like there's a rabid wolverine devouring your pancreas. And, bottom
  line, getting chicks is really what music's all about.

  Next, you'll need the correct ligature. Some people think that the
  ligature is just a stupid old piece of metal that holds the reed on the
  mouthpiece. Well, those people are idiots. ! Besides your beret, the
  ligature is the single most important piece of musical equipment you
  will ever buy. Mine, for example, is 40% platinum and 60% titanium; one
  screw is rubidium and the other plutonium. It makes me sound exactly
  like Booker Ervin would if Booker Ervin wasn't (1) dead and/or (2)
  living on Mars. You may have to spend years and years and thousands of
  dollars finding the proper ligature, but in the end it definitely will
  be worth it.

  Now reeds. Optimally, you'll want to move to Cuba, grow and cure your
  own cane, and carve your own reeds by hand. If you're just a "weekend
  warrior" however, you can get by with store-bought reeds. First, buy
  ten boxes of reeds -100 in all. Next, open all the boxes and throw away
  60 reeds. Those were unplayable. Take the remaining reeds and soak them
  in a mixture of 27.8% rubbing alcohol and 72.2% pituitary gland extract
  for a period of 17 weeks. Throw away 20 more reeds. Those were stuffy.

  Take the remaining 20 reeds and sand each one for exactly 13 seconds
  ith #1200 grade 3M sandpaper. Throw away 14 reeds. Those squeaked.
  Take the remaining 6 reeds and soak them for another 17 weeks, this
  time however in a mixture of 27.8% pituitary gland extract and 72.2%
  rubbing alcohol. Sun dry the 6 remaining reeds for 3 weeks, optimally
  at an equatorial
  latitude, and throw away 3 more just on general principles. You now
  have 3 reeds that will last you several months if you play each one
  only 20 minutes a day in strict rotation.

  Now, you say you just bought a horn. Although you didn't say what kind
  it is I'd sell it immediately and get a different one. The best one to
  get would be a Selmer Mark VI made at 4:27 PM on June 14, 1963, serial
  number 635543. If you can't get that one though, generally speaking
  the older and more expensive the better. The following brands are good:
  Selmer Paris Mark VI. The following! brands suck: any other Selmer,
  Yamaha, Conn, Beuscher, Yanigasawa, Cannonball, LA, Jupiter, Elkhart,
  King, Martin,Keilworth, Boosey and Hawkes, Couf, Silvertone, and
  Holton. On no account should you play the horn before you buy it: go
  strictly on reputation and price.

  You will also need some accoutrements: a flight case capable of
  withstanding atmospheric pressure of dP = - Dg dz where Dand g are,
  respectively, the density of air and the acceleration due to gravity at
  the altitude of the air layer and dz is a horizontal layer of air
  having unit surface area and infinitesimal thickness; a metronome; a
  tuner; a combination alto-tenor-baritone sax stand with pegs for an
  oboe, bass clarinet, flute, english horn and bassoon; Band in a Box;
  every Jamie Abersold play-along record ever created; a reed cutter;
  swabs, cleaners, pad savers, pad dope, pad clamps; a Sennheiser Digital
  1092 Wireless Microphone; an effects rig with digital delay and
  parametric EQ; and a 200 watt (per channel, minimum) amplifier and 18"
  monitor. It will be helpful if you listen to lots of sax players.
  Unfortunately, listening solely to players you like is absolutely the
  worst thing you can do. To really understand the music and its
  traditions you have to go back to the beginning and listen to every bit
  of music ever recorded. I'd start with madrigals and work forward. Once
  you get to the 20th century, pay particular attention to players like
  Jimmy Dorsey, Sidney Bechet, and Al Gallodoro who are the foundations
  of the modern jazz saxophone. In no time at all, or by 2034-whichever
  comes first-you'll be able to understand the unique be-bop stylings of
  players like Ace Cannon, Boots Randolph, and Sam Butera.

  Finally, to play the sax itself, blow in the small end and move your
  fingers around.

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