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Thread: Stories about the HEAVY teachers

  1. #1

    Default Stories about the HEAVY teachers

    All this talk about equipment is getting ridiculous. Players are getting buried in chambers, baffles, reeds and elusive gear. What about serious ears and study? Tell the new guys where it's at!

    Have any of you had long term or short term experience studying with guys like Joe Viola, Buddy Collette, Bill Green, Joe Henderson, George Garzone, Jerry Bergonzi, Dick Oattes, Bunky Green, Joe Lovano etc.

    A lot of younger players (and older ones too) would likely benefit from hearing a story, teaching practice, or situation that you guys benefited from. Something that really impacted how you approach the horn or life.

    Did they help break a bad habit on the horn for you and what made the light turn on?

    Years later? Humour? Harsh words? Demonstrations of the seemingly impossible? What made the experience with these guys influential?

    I know Tim Price puts a ton of stories and experiences on this forum that are truly helpful. Who else carries these experiences?!

  2. #2
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    A great teacher is the best "gear" your money will buy. Period. I'm both humbled and recharged every lesson. It's the best decision I've ever made when it comes to wanting to improve my tone and overall playing.

  3. #3

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    Whoa, I read that one wrong for a second...

    Had to self edit. More coffee to be imbibed.
    Last edited by OttoVanFrankenLink; 06-21-2006 at 01:51 AM.

  4. #4

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    I took my first lesson with Tim Price in November of 04. After on and off playing the clarinet for 30+ years, I wanted to learn the tenor sax. I had dabbled with it for about a year before I found Tim.

    First lesson, I was nervous as he--, thought that I would embarass myself. Tim made me feel right at home, and had such an easy way about him.

    To make a long story short, he taught me how to breathe right, taught me how to place more mouthpiece in my mouth, (I still have to force this), and what to practice. He confirmed that I was also spending a good deal of time LISTENING to old and new sax players as well. This was very important. He introduced me to some of my favorites I hadn't heard before.

    Above all, he has been an inspiration, whether with his demonstrations, the shows where I have witnessed his awesome playing, as well as with the fact that he is, without a doubt, MY biggest fan. When I get down on my playing or progress, he picks me back up, tells me not to be so hard on myself, that I am improving.

    Short story, I was up at USA Horn awhile back, trying out a horn. I had been there before I took my first lesson from Tim, trying out a horn, back in 04. (I WILL buy one from him one day soon, I'm saving up for one of his tenors right now!). On this recent visit, after hearing me play around with the sax, Mark said, "whatever you have been doing this last year or so, make sure you keep it up, cause you sound remarkably better than you did the first time I heard you." I told him it was Tim Price, and he said, "Keep seeing him, its working". Thanks Tim.

    I am now getting compliments on my playing regularly at my rock and roll gigs, so I KNOW that I am learning from Tim.

    He has also become a great friend. I am not sure what he is better at, playing the sax, or being a friend. Hope it takes me many more years to find out.

    Love to hear more stories from more of you about your teachers, please.

  5. #5
    dshook's Avatar
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    My now teacher is a pretty heavy guy (Stan Karp in Vancouver). He studeid with Bill Green, Buddy Collete (i think) AND Joe Henderson. He's got a lot of great stories and man, the thing I notice about him, is we don't move on from something until I REALLY have it down. Like upside down backwards while drunk in the dark, down. I remember spending our first 4 or so lessons (2 months!) purely on air support and control. Amazing teacher. A good number of the pros in town still come to Stan for lessons.

  6. #6

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    I AGREE! Someone needs to tell the newbies that the equipment doesn't matter. The most dissapointing...try asking every person who has joined in the last year if they know who Lester Young or Dexter Gordon is, you will be amazed (not in a good way)!

    I am about to start lessons with a teacher in L.A. who has bee around long enough to learn from nearly all of those guys. I am also in a student big band that used to be run by Buddy Collette. (Ever since the stroke he has been the "Artistic Director") he has shared some great stories with us all when he drops in on rehearsals everyonce and a while. His perseverence is inspirational, as are his words.
    Last edited by saxymanzach; 06-21-2006 at 04:26 AM.

  7. #7
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    My teacher was an all-round professional. I would say he was a heavy in terms of his experience. He basically took me from a zero late bloomer wanting to play just sax as a hobby, to playing semi-pro jazz gigs on sax, clarinet, and flute a few years later.

    His belief was that unless you are a virtuoso and have the luxury of playing just one instrument, the more strings you have to your bow the better. His method of teaching improvisation was to develop the ear via arranging.

    He had his fair share of stories, like playing in a Dutch Jazz club the week after Stan Getz, doing a studio session with the Ellington Orchestra, leading a big band recording session with Maynard Ferguson on trumpet, touring the UK hiring a drummer from the Ellington band, auditioning for a Mafioso boss in NY to get a musicians card.

    I also admired his handling of the business end. He was able to put bands together for a tour, sell it to a promoter, and get the band professional rates. If he didn't get pro rates, he wouldn't do it.

    I went to see him at a quartet gig once. He also played trumpet. You could tell he didn't really have the chops for it, his face would turn red even in the middle range of the instrument, but his musicianship still came through, playing in the old New Orleans style. He also had his cheap electric keyboard and he would play these great voicings every now and then over the acoustic pianist. He smoked a cigar and when he solo'd he put it in between his middle fingers on the right hand . He had sheet music in front of him that he would glance at before each song and then play it by ear. He wasn't a gig merchant, but he had a way with people that I think helped him get good jobs.

    I was playing a gig in a cafe with Aebersolds once, subbing for another guy, when my teacher came in with his wife. I remember they clapped and cheered enthusiastically after I played a ballad. Then I played a med-fast number, playing a lot of notes, you know, eighth note city, after which I looked up, to see no response from them, just a ambivalent look on their faces. I got the message!
    Ken

  8. #8
    The most prolific Distinguished SOTW poster, Forum Contributor 2014 gary's Avatar
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    I don't think he's known as a teacher but he's got 121 recordings presently listed on amazon, so I suppose that would qualify him as a heavy hitter. I took lessons from Sadao Watanabe. He was my first teacher and we worked out of the Joe Viola books, the Ferling and Yardbird transcriptions.

    His basic approach was to make assignments from each, tell you at the next lesson to play them, as you played through them he'd keep increasing the tempos in increments until you started clamming, and then, as you're still playing, start yelling at you, "You're fu**ing up! You're fu**ing up!"

    The most astute teacher I've had was Dick Oats who could listen to you for about a minute and a half and send you packing with a few exercises that were exactly what you need. Dick tells some great stories. To really apreciate them, you have to see him and also imagine that when he was young he must've looked a bit like a hay seed.

    One describes his first night with Thad and Mel's band. He arrived at the club so early, that no one was there, just some old guy who he assumed was the janitor. They sat at a table and the guy asked him who he was and where he was from; asked him what he was doing there and he told him he was the new tenor player for Thad and Mels' band, to which the old guy said "The hell you are!" and went into a rage about how no hick right off of some midwestern farm was gonna be playing with the band, and just as Dick was about to lose it Thad came into the room and said to the old guy, "Hey Mel. I see you've met our new tenor player."

    He also told about how he was sent as a sub for one of the most working Latin bands in NY and as he was still in the hallway at the bandleaders place, the guy refused to talk to him and said how no honkey like him could possibly play their music. Somehow Dick survived the bandleader's prejudice later and he wound up working for the guy for years.

    Ya gotta love the stereotyping.
    Last edited by gary; 06-21-2006 at 11:56 PM.
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  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by gary
    One describes his first night with Thad and Mel's band. He arrived at the club so early, that no one was there, just some old guy who he assumed was the janitor. They sat at a table and the guy asked him who he was and where he was from; asked him what he was doing there and he told him he was the new tenor player for Thad and Mels' band, to which the old guy said "The hell you are!" and went into a rage about how no hick right off of some midwestern farm was gonna be playing with the band, and just as Dick was about to lose it Thad came into the room and said to the old guy, "Hey Mel. I see you've met our new tenor player."
    Nice!

  10. #10
    Distinguished SOTW Member/Sax Historian paulwl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gary
    [Dick Oatts] also told about how he was sent as a sub for one of the most working Latin bands in NY and as he was still in the hallway at the bandleaders place, the guy refused to talk to him and said how no honkey like him could possibly play their music. Somehow Dick survived the bandleader's prejudice later and he wound up working for the guy for years.

    Ya gotta love the stereotyping.
    Ironically, it probably would have been no big deal if he could've passed for Italian or Jewish. At least until he opened his mouth.
    Disclaimer: Fellow Iowan of obvious part-Italian heritage speaking. Worst I ever get in NY is "You talk Southern." (I don't.)

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    Quote Originally Posted by tjontheroad
    A great teacher is the best "gear" your money will buy. Period. I'm both humbled and recharged every lesson. It's the best decision I've ever made when it comes to wanting to improve my tone and overall playing.
    Very well put! I agree, 100%! I had the pleasure of studying with Randy Misamore, (a student of Don Sinta),in the late 60's-early 70's! Talk about"humbled and recharged"- this is the perfect description! Later, we worked a little on doubling, and played a little jazz, with him on ORGAN!! What I'm trying to say: You can learn more with a GOOD teacher in six months, than you learn on your own in six years!!! PS Can anyone tell me how to get in touch with Randy, it would be great to talk to him. The last time I saw him, was in 1974,at a clinic, at Michigan.Jean-Marie Londeix , hosted by Don Sinta, played, and several students, one of them, Randy's,who was then ,teaching at Nothern Ill.
    Last edited by asaxman; 06-22-2006 at 04:43 AM.

  12. #12

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    Branford Marsalis got me onto Lester Young, transcribing Lester and looking beyond the usual Brecker, Coltrane, Rollins, Parker clique's.....I once heard an interview with Brecker when been asked about the number of Brecker clones and he said that you sould look to who your fave players listend to then you become a contempory of them rather than a poor imitation....lets face it there are ALOT of poor Brecker imitators out there ....me included...........

    Another great piece of advice from Branford was to work on Classical material instead of shedding pattern books..........ie patterns in patterns out you get a more rounded musical shape to your music.......it has really helped me

    Also I've been very fortunate to have lessons with Mike Haughton this year although I guy more well known in Pop / Rock circles he is a phenomenal player and took lessons with Joe Allard and we just spent hours upon hours working on overtones and harmonic series which has moved my tone on to another level.....

    Hope this helps
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  13. #13

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    sorry that was Mike who took the lessons with Joe not me!
    Learn saxophone the Cambridge way - Innovative and interesting video saxophone lessons from the heart of Cambridge

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  14. #14

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    I studied with Joe Allard from 1976-1980. He was a great proponent of the idea of using the least possible amount of muscular tension necessary when playing the saxophone. His suggestions were often conceptually very simple and obvious. Putting them into practice, however, has been a lifelong lesson. 30 years later, I am still working on ideas he gave me.

    Here's two of my favorites.

    1) This very simple exercise has done more to show how little tension is necessary in a saxophone embouchure (and understanding why it is important to get rid of it) than anything else I've ever practiced. The basic idea of this exercise is that you want your saxophone embouchure to be as relaxed and natural as the way that you hold your mouth, lips, throat, tounge etc. when you speak. Any tension beyond that will decrease your expressiveness and facility.

    First Joe would demonstrate how this was true. You can try it yourself. Try to talk while tensing various parts of your face, lips, jaw, tounge, throat, etc. Notice how stiff , unexpressive and unnatural your voice sounds when you do this. Notice how hard it is to talk. Which way do you want your saxophone "voice" to feel and sound? Obviously, one would want it to be as fluid and expressive as one's speech!

    Secondly, he would ask me to put my saxophone in my mouth, as if I was ready to play. (If necessary, he would manually adjust the sax in my mouth this is the part where an experienced teacher is essential for getting the "feel" of that sweet, relaxed embouchure position.)

    Third, while staying in this position, say your name (for instance I would say "My name is Tom Hall").

    Now play a note. Be aware of all the places that tense up when you play - (often even when THINKING about playing). Do it again, and again, and again, going more and more toward the relaxation that you have in your normal speech, and away from the unnatural habits of tension and stiffness that you think you need in order to make a sound on the saxophone. Watching in the mirror sometimes can help - sometimes you'll see things tense up that you weren't even aware of.

    Well - I ran out of time! I guess that's just one of my favorites

    I'll post the other story I was thinking of another time...

  15. #15

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    Let me come at this one from another direction.
    I am largely self taught. I had one teacher for about 3 months when I was starting out and he wasn't, frankly, much good.
    After I'd been playing for about 7 years I got another teacher who did push me on. I bought my first pro horn about then and consequently was too broke for lessons for a bit and never got back to him. I had a one off lesson with a local pro about three years ago who gave me some very good pointers.
    I've now been playing for 16 years and I rue the fact that I did not get myself a good teacher early on and stick with them. I've been trying to get some lessons recently but can't find anyone with the space in their schedule to take me on. I'm relocating in a few weeks anyway so I'll start my search again after that. I might try to get a 'phone lesson with Mr Price at some point
    The point is that I have managed, by being pretty hard on myself, to acheive a fairly mediocre level of proficiency. I have had to learn the hard way mith most things and my practicing has been pretty meandering for long periods of time.
    If I had had a good teacher I could probably have gotten to the stage I'm at now in 5-6 years or so. Hell - by now I would be one Bad Cat!
    Beginners - do not waste your time worrying about gear. Get a decent, playable sax, keep it regularly serviced, get a sensible mouthpiece like an ebonite link, don't read the threads about how great X sax is, but mostly get a good teacher and do what they tell you.
    (this post is looking like a kind of 'House of the Rising Sun' type message!)
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  16. #16
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    I don't know if I can add more on what people here already know about Tim Price my current teacher. He's a great guy and I'm lucky to know him. So... I'll say a few words about my first sax teacher Wendell Hobbs. I studied with him for almost a year. A former journeyman player, he teaches now morning to night. He gives instruction on sax, clarinet and flute to students of all ages, but mostly to younger kids through the Settlement Music School. I think he has the patients of a saint. Many of his kids would be taking lessons at the insistence of overbearing parents. Only a few with just a passing interest in music as a part school life. Even less would be trying to practice to become good players. This, he would tell me, would wear on him. I would see him later in the day. I was his last lesson for the day. He would always still have smile even though he was tired.

    Sometimes we would just talk about playing. The insight was just as important as scales and long tones. He'd give me ideas on what to listen to. Wendell is a bop traditionalist. His style of playing is as pure as one can get. I couldn't really understand at that time some of the things he was trying to show me. It was only when I went to see him play that I began to grasp where he was coming from. His sound is as even and focused as I've ever heard. He would tell me I was playing to loud. I wanted a BIG sound. When I heard him play a set, I was immediately schooled on how to play at a constant level and tone. I still strive for this. It changed me forever.

    Teaching is an under appreciated profession. That old saying, "people that can do. people that can't teach", does not apply to music education. Thanks to all the teachers out there.
    Last edited by tjontheroad; 06-23-2006 at 12:18 AM.

  17. #17

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    Great stories guys!

    Tom Hall:

    I hope that you have the time to write more about your experiences with Joe Allard or the other teachers that made an impact on your playing. The embouchure exercises that Joe Allard gave you sound very interesting.

    Thanks again to everyone who's posted.

  18. #18

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    Did you ever find Randy? I also studied with him, in the earluy 1980s, before he moved from Michigan to Tennessee. A great guy. I was just thinking about him and came across this post while also doing a search.
    jhshannon AT mac DOT com

  19. #19

    Default Finding Randy Misamore

    Did you ever find Randy? I also studied with him, in the earluy 1980s, before he moved from Michigan to Tennessee. A great guy. I was just thinking about him and came across this post while also doing a search.
    jhshannon AT mac DOT com

  20. #20

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    ....i'd like to chime in and about equipment and just say this...
    I'm SICK to death of seeing young high school students playing HUGE mouthpieces when their chops aren't ready yet....teachers need to encourage them to aim for a focused sound on whatever student piece they have first(provided the piece isn't totally screwy on the inside...all abnormally assymetrical and stuff). These kids have that wilted ebouchure because they're little faces and muscles aren't ready to have to work that hard to get a tone at all yet. most of these kids who play like 8* links and stuff at age 15 get a terrible tubby sound and they have that slap tounge sounding articulation because their 2.5 reed feels like a 5 because they have no muscle development. its our repsonsibility as teachers to help them get a focused sound first, then when they've matured (and aged a little bit)..go mouthpiece shopping. the kids look up to us, they want to play what we play. my mouthpiece is huge and i play hard reeds but thats what works for me at age 25, i'm not workin hard, it just feels right. If a 5* mpc and #1 reed felt good and gave me the sound i'm after, i'd play on that.

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