Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Saxophone Journal and Keyboard Companion

Saxophone Journal
"The Baritone Saxophone: Playing Techniques and Recommended Repertoire"
By: Jay C. Easton

The baritone saxophone is the larger relative of the tenor and alto saxophones. There are many important techniques and tips on learning how to play the baritone saxophone.

The differences between playing the baritone versus tenor and alto saxophones is addressed right away. On the baritone, low notes are more responsive and a softer reed is often needed. The issue of using sufficient air flow and support is a pertinent concern as well. These characteristics are critical to a good tone. Advice on how to improve a player’s support is suggested through exercises to stay relaxed among a variety of other tips. It is also important to be physically comfortable while playing and the article advises a player on the type of strap support that produces the best effect.

Finally, transposition and solo pieces for the baritone saxophone are introduced. How to transpose and which instruments work best as well as a list of over fifteen recommended solos is given. Each piece is graded on a scale of three to six with levels ranging from the advanced high school to first year college student material to very difficult pieces. There is also a one sentence summary of each of the pieces. In addition, a web address is provided to give the curious player even more suggestions in solo repertoire.

Keyboard Companion
"Let’s get Physical: Technique"
By: Stephen Cook, Christy Dolan, and Peter Mack

This article compiles the advice from three separate authors so that the reader can experience a variety of styles on how to teach technique in a fun way. The first author addresses the repetitiveness of practicing technique. This is related specially to scales and how changing the way they are practiced and performed makes it more interesting. Hanon exercises are also useful in developing quick fingers. These exercises can explore rhythmic variation, chromatic elements, key changes, etc. Finally, Schmitt exercises are suggested for developing “independence in the fingers.” It might make the exercises more interesting if the student must transpose the exercise to a different key or register.

The next author takes the reader through a chronological view of teaching technique. It begins with addressing technique at the very first lesson with how the piano works and the names of the keys. This teacher requires all technical exercises to be memorized so that the students can watch their own hands. Then, the teacher explores learning major keys and the circle of fifths. Finally, the issue of technique books and the pros and cons each possesses is addressed.

The final author covers how to use rewards or incentives, attitudes, and other devices to get the student excited about technique. Technical exercises must be performed at every lesson and the teacher’s attitude can determine how a student will respond. Another helpful tip is to relate the exercises to the repertoire being studied. Finally, a teacher must remember that it is ok to use “gifts” as incentives to improve. Oftentimes, metaphors about certain technique make it more fun to practice. Keep in mind, however, that what succeeds with one student doesn’t guarantee it will succeed with another.