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Thread: "Schools" of playing

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    Default "Schools" of playing

    This is really for the newer people here, but I thought I would take it upon myself to explain what is meant by the different schools of playing. I was trained primarily in the French tradition, so if you are a Rascher or Teal person, please feel free to add your comments. I'm not trying to cause debate or contention, but since people have been asking, I thought I'd expalin it a bit better. Let's not talk about why there are feuds or anything else, please.

    French School- Can be traced back to Marcel Mule. Prominent players include Frederick Hemke, Eugene Rousseau, Daniel Deffayet, Jean-Marie Londeix and Claude Delangle. Equipment is exclusively modern. (And normally Selmer or Yamaha) Mouthpieces ususally have "shaped" chambers, such as the S-80, Rousseau NC, or Vandoren. Methods include linear etudes, some scale work, articulation work, and repertoire. Tone tends to be brighter and articulations tend to be lighter than the other two schools. There is quite a bit of crossover in training with the American school.

    Rascher (German) School-Can be traced back, obviously, to Sigurd Rascher. Prominent players include Carina Rascher, David Bilger, and Paul Cohen. Equipment is usually vintage, especially Buescher. (Many Rascher people feel that modern horns have gone away from Adolphe Sax's original design). Mouthpieces are exclusively round chambered and resistant, such as Caravan and Buescher. The most important feature that differentiates Rascher training is the use of overtone exercises. Tone tends to be darker, articulations heavier, and vibrato is slower than the other two schools. (although this varies.) There is very little crossover training with the other two schools.

    American school-Can be traced back to Larry Teal, although there are very few "pure" American school players. Prominent players include Donald Sinta, Michael Hester (who has had a lot of French training also), and Steven Mauk. Equipment is usually modern (Mark VI or newer). Mouthpieces vary, although many American school players use Selmer LTs for obvious reasons. Tone is somewhere between the German and French schools, and the vibrato is usually terminal in imitation of flute or voice. Most American school players will have French training as well.


    There is one other school of playing, which I hesitate to mention, but in my studies of this subject I think it's worth explaining. I will NOT give anyone specific names on this:

    "Lunatic Fringe"-This is my name for teachers who have created cults of personality around themselves and do not acknowledge any other influence. Equipment is usually EXACTLY what said teacher uses and all tone, etc. is in imitation of that teacher. I will leave you to your own conclusions on this one.
    Last edited by J.Max; 03-10-2006 at 05:09 PM.

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    Forum Contributor 2011 TMadness1013's Avatar
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    The Rascher school's vibrato is faster?

    I thought it was considerably slower

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    Quote Originally Posted by TMadness1013
    The Rascher school's vibrato is faster?

    I thought it was considerably slower

    I thought about that after I said it...I was thinking of a particular player, but now that I think of it, Rascher himself has a slow vibrato, and a slower vibrato fits that aesthetic a bit better. I fixed that in the initial post.

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    Thanks J. Max, that's a good summary in general.

    Can we start the mud-slinging now?

    Seriously, my slight quibble is with the list of prominent "Rascher school" players. You just gave two names, so obviously you didn't intend it to be inclusive. However, I think Paul Cohen would not characterize himself as a "Rascher school" player. He drops in here occasionally so maybe he will address this himself. In the meantime, there's this interview of Cohen which I read as indicating that Joe Allard had a much stronger influence on his playing than Rascher.

    If Cohen drops off the list, I'd "nominate" John-Edward Kelly to add as the second example.

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    I'd add Cecil Leeson to the American school – altho he's more important as a recitalist and an influence on composers than as part of a continuing pedagogy.

    To the Rascher school, one ought to add the interest in sax orchestras and the rather tight geographic sphere of influence: mostly the eastern and southern US, and southern Germany since the Rascher Quartet relocated there.

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    Let's not forget the considerable influence of Rascher on Lawrence Gwozdz and Patrick Meighan, both of whom, by the way, are very open-minded teachers and players.
    Brian Kauth

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    Default Different Schools

    J. Max - very informative post. Appreciated - however, I believe that along with the "Lunatic Fringe" School, you had forgotten about another school of playing - one that I belong to.

    Dangerfield School - Can be traced back to the philosophy of "Rodney". There is no classical "setup" per say, one could play far too much sax than one can handle... or it could be a Buescher with more dings than a Golden Gloves Tournament and a spit-stained low D pad, or a Bundy who's neck is more wobbly than that of a cold criminal (post hangman's noose, of course).

    This particular school of playing is known for the inconsistency of practice schedules. Direct Influences - 150 mile round-trip to work, taking kids to swim practice, tee-ball, dance and friend's house. Cooking dinner because wife is working, bathing & reading to children, putting them to bed. When trying to become more regimented, and hopefully graduate from this school of hard knocks, wife states - "can't you wait until the kids go to sleep?" After kids go to sleep, "do you have to do that now, the kid are sleeping?"

    Let me tell you, my playing gets no respect .

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    Quote Originally Posted by WillieB
    J. Max - very informative post. Appreciated - however, I believe that along with the "Lunatic Fringe" School, you had forgotten about another school of playing - one that I belong to.

    Dangerfield School - Can be traced back to the philosophy of "Rodney". There is no classical "setup" per say, one could play far too much sax than one can handle... or it could be a Buescher with more dings than a Golden Gloves Tournament and a spit-stained low D pad, or a Bundy who's neck is more wobbly than that of a cold criminal (post hangman's noose, of course).

    This particular school of playing is known for the inconsistency of practice schedules. Direct Influences - 150 mile round-trip to work, taking kids to swim practice, tee-ball, dance and friend's house. Cooking dinner because wife is working, bathing & reading to children, putting them to bed. When trying to become more regimented, and hopefully graduate from this school of hard knocks, wife states - "can't you wait until the kids go to sleep?" After kids go to sleep, "do you have to do that now, the kid are sleeping?"

    Let me tell you, my playing gets no respect .

    Heh. Practicing usually involves angry neighbors and ersatz soundproofed rooms...

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    Chitown, I agree about Paul Cohen... though from hearing him play, I'd say he definitely belongs on that list.
    My quintet album - Released June 2013. Please enjoy.
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    Quote Originally Posted by BKauth
    Let's not forget the considerable influence of Rascher on Lawrence Gwozdz and Patrick Meighan, both of whom, by the way, are very open-minded teachers and players.

    I would agree with that...Gwozdz in particular.

    BTW, the reason that Rascher students don't usually cross-train with French or American school teachers isn't because of close-mindedness (although there are people with "bunker" mentalities in all three major camps), it's because Rascher methods are not as compatible with the other two.

    Comparing it to computers, it's like someone with a Macintosh trying to take it to a Wintel PC repair shop. Sure, they roughly work the same way, but you need to go to a Mac specialty shop to get a Mac fixed! (Now, you could be running a Linux PC and take it to a Windows shop and they would be able to fix it more than likely...)

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    Quote Originally Posted by J.Max
    BTW, the reason that Rascher students don't usually cross-train with French or American school teachers isn't because of close-mindedness (although there are people with "bunker" mentalities in all three major camps), it's because Rascher methods are not as compatible with the other two.
    I completely disagree with that. Any lack of compatibility is a result of the individual. Any "school's" aim is for better music making on the saxophone. If that is not the goal they probably belong to the "Lunatic Fringe".

    Lawrence Gwozdz took a sabbatical in the late 90's to study with Jean-Marie Londeix. I was studying with him at the time, and he spoke very highly of the experience with no mention of any compatibility issues. My experience with the "Rascher" teaching method has always been to make music first and foremost, not just doing overtones so one can play high.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeremy
    I completely disagree with that. Any lack of compatibility is a result of the individual. Any "school's" aim is for better music making on the saxophone. If that is not the goal they probably belong to the "Lunatic Fringe".

    Lawrence Gwozdz took a sabbatical in the late 90's to study with Jean-Marie Londeix. I was studying with him at the time, and he spoke very highly of the experience with no mention of any compatibility issues. My experience with the "Rascher" teaching method has always been to make music first and foremost, not just doing overtones so one can play high.

    Keep in mind, I'm speaking of generalities. There is an exception to every rule.

    The overtone exercises are not just designed for altissimo, they are designed to make the student aware of different throat positions for different sound qualities, which in turn makes for better sound and better music. I'll say it again: each method has it's own pros and cons, none of them are necessarily "better". I've had experience with all of these methods, including the "Lunatic Fringe", and I took stuff from all of them. When I studied French methods, were there some people that thought I was crazy for practicing overtones? Yes. Did the Rascher teacher I had in high school think I was silly for playing on a Yamaha? Yes. But they were all useful to me.

    Now, the "Lunatic Fringe" guy I studied with...the only thing I took away from him was the knowledge that not all people that play well can teach well.

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    Someone mentioned Joe Allard but they didn't indicate that I can see what school he may have belonged to? French? American? He was my grand-teacher so I was curious.

    Thanks
    Chuck
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    Quote Originally Posted by saxophrenic
    He was my grand-teacher
    Mine too! And my great-grandteacher!

    Like my new-found cousin Chuck, I'm having a hard time placing Allard.

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    J. Max, interesting post. You left off two other schools though!

    The UK School. I see a new wave of saxophone performance from the UK that is based on a blend of influences. It's different, it's bold and is growing very fast.

    The NEW school. We now live in a time where information is a click away. Students all around the world have access to literature and recordings from all styles of saxophone playing. Also, many students are becoming well versed in jazz AND classical music. These available influences are creating saxophonist who are more of a blend of the past and present performers.

    If you consider that in Mule and Raschers time there was not this influence. You got what you heard when you went to your lesson. There were very few recordings. Shoot, i remember in the early 80's sharing a copy of a Houlik LP and Sinta's LP with about 20 others. They were rare gems!

    Viva Das Nouve Scuola!!!

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    Quote Originally Posted by saxophrenic
    Someone mentioned Joe Allard but they didn't indicate that I can see what school he may have belonged to? French? American? He was my grand-teacher so I was curious.

    Thanks
    He wasn't so much known as a saxophone player, though evidently he was an excellent player. I think his main professional axe was bass clarinet. But most of all he was known as a great teacher. And if you consider the variations in the people who studied with him - Paul Winter, Harvey Pittel, Paul Cohen, David Demsey, Ken Radnofsky, Dave Liebman, Victor Morosco, many more - I don't think there's really an identiable style that emerges.

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    Lets just say it is the school opposite of the American school. Allard disagreed with many things Teal taught, especially the embouchure.

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    I'm a mutt!!

    From personal experience, I can tell you that the three major schools mentioned each have significant pedagogical holes. The great part is that the aspects of playing that one school does not address, another will address them expertly.

    If you make a habit of only accepting open-minded master saxophonists as teachers, then these schools will rarely conflict. The master teacher will address the weaknesses and challenge the strengths of the student so so as to help him grow into his own artistry.

    I very highly recommend spending some serious time learning from master teachers of different schools of playing.

    Angel
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    J.Max- nice summary. I would like to add something for consideration though. While it is possible to trace the beginnings of these schools back to Mule and Rascher, I think it speaks more of the reasons for these stylistic differences to trace them back one step further. Both the Rascher and French schools have legitimate reason to trace their widely differing approaches back to Adolphe Sax. (Not just the Rascherites). The stereotype goes that only the Rascherites are playing the instrument today as it was originally intended, but I wonder.
    Mule came out of the French Military Band tradition which had a much stronger thread back to the time of Adolphe Sax than did the orchestral tradition (that championed by Rascher). As most of us know, Adolphe's struggle to get his saxophone to take off in his life time found more success in the military bands than in the opera house. Adolphe taught these military band musicians himself and the saxophone tradition in the French military was nearly continuous up until the time of Mule. Is it possible to see Adolphe's hand in the style that is now considered the "French school?" Adolphe knew his instrument could operate a variety of settings...do you think he could have endorsed the brassier, militaristic approach that Mule and French school grew out of even if it meant abandoning the darker, orchestral approach later championed by Rascher? I don't think we can know for sure what Sax thought of this militaristic appropriation of his instrument, but it is eye-opening (to me at least) that perhaps Adolphe Sax witnessed these divisive approaches to the saxophone in his own time.
    I'm at a school with many Rascher students, though I personally play a Selmer with an AL3. I think the standard "Rascher school" thinking on this is that the large chamber/parabolic cone which yields that dark smooth "metallic cello" sound is the most accurate to Adolphe's intent. But I still wonder. Certainly, original "design," but "intent?" Adolphe personally set in motion the military tradition which ultimately produced Mule. Perhaps with Adolphe the whole mouthpiece design issue was not as critical as we make it today. Clearly a smaller chamber mouthpiece would be more appropriate for outdoor military performance. Is it possible that as Adolphe saw this trend in the use of his instrument that he would have approved of design changes to suit the venue? Hmmm...
    Anybody know when we first began to see smaller chamber mouthpieces?

    Maybe history could teach us all to loosen up about these supposed schools and accept the fact that different sounds are appropriate in different settings.

    Still...any other ideas (other than mouthpiece design changes) on how to determine what sounds Adolphe determined appropriate or inappropriate for his saxophone? Any French guys what to argue for why their approach is more historical accurate?

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    Great post J.Max. I just have two small things.

    1) Maybe you had a reason not to include Tim McAllister into the American school, but I feel he belongs. He studied with Sinta from the time he was at Interlochen all the way through his doctoral training.

    2) I find, especially now, that over in France, there are more than just 1 school of thought. As Rascher has his own school, I feel Delangle has one as well. I guess I could see this as a sub-category, but it doesn't hurt to state it.

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