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Thread: is it really better though?

  1. #1

    Default is it really better though?

    Okay. Just because it's different, let's not assume it's better. Besides, how can you know if you haven't tried. Let's put our thinking caps on for a moment. In my mind, the current sax is very similar to a piano in the way it's laid out. On th piano, if you play a c scale, you don't touch a black key (same thing on the sax) . The arrangement of the keys are even the same. Throughout the entire C scale on both the sax and piano, you go from white key to whte key. On sax, this means you don't touch a side key to make a sharp or flat which is necessary in every other scale. When you go from B to C on piano, you go from white key to black key. On the sax, you hit a side key by fingering B and hitting the sharp key with you right palm.

    The point is, the sax followed a standard fingering system that is seen on piano's and all other instruments. Question? Would you be able to play piano faster if the keys were arranged where the white keys were half steps away from eachother instead of whole steps? You'd be able to play the chromatic scale faster, but whole tones would be two keys away instead of one. Therefore, you probably wouldn't be able to play the c scale faster. On sax, the side keys have to be used for something. Just because one can play chromatic runs faster doesn't mean they'd be able to play every pattern faster. This isn't the qwerty computer keyboard problem. I still haven't been convnced there would be a significant difference or faster learning curve.

    However, I'd still absolutely love to play one of his saxes.

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    Forum Contributor 2007 Distinguished SOTW Member spiderjames's Avatar
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    Default

    you are correct in relating the setup of the sax (and most other wind instruments) to the piano. but is this the best method os design? the 12 tone chromatic scale is really the basis for all western music.

    The layout of the piano is as flawed as the sax because it makes the C scale the "easiest" key and all the others are derived from the C scale by altering notes, adding sharps or flats. In reality the scales are a series of whole steps and half steps which are built on the 12 tone scale. So having the instrument setup around the chromatic scale is the most logical approach. every scale would then be on an even playing field

    The whole system of notation is incorrect as well because again it is revolves around C with the addition of sharps and flats to indicate the other keys. Written music should likewise be built around the 12 tone scale.
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  3. #3

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    why not just learn the instrument fluently? i just think that people have a "hard time" with keys like C# and F# just because they rarely play in those keys and don't have the right amount of practice into those keys. in my mind, there are no easy/hard keys. there are just different keys. if you learn then all well enough, then what's the problem?

    however, the same case i just presented can go both ways. i would love to try out the new horn, but as everyone else has said, it's just too expensive to try out the horn.
    Andrew Francisco
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  4. #4
    Distinguished SOTW Member/Saxus Envious Curmudgeonum Randall's Avatar
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    why not just learn the instrument fluently? i just think that people have a "hard time" with keys like C# and F# just because they rarely play in those keys and don't have the right amount of practice into those keys
    Andrew, AMEN and AMEN!

    This is exactly my philosophy when I teach beginners sax. I do the "hard keys" intermittently with the "easy" ones, and don't make a big deal over the "hard" ones.

    "How is C any easier to play than F#?" This is what I ask my students.
    They cannot answer, simply because it is flawed logic to think that one key is inherently more difficult than another.

    It is just not logical.
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    Forum Contributor 2007 Rick Adams's Avatar
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Randall
    Andrew, AMEN and AMEN!

    This is exactly my philosophy when I teach beginners sax. I do the "hard keys" intermittently with the "easy" ones, and don't make a big deal over the "hard" ones.

    "How is C any easier to play than F#?" This is what I ask my students.
    They cannot answer, simply because it is flawed logic to think that one key is inherently more difficult than another.

    It is just not logical.
    I can answer that. It comes down to the fingering. For example the fingering between low Db and Eb is harder for beginners to master than the fingering between low C and D. Another example is F# to G# to Bb is harder for a beginner to manage than F to G to A.

    I'm not offering this as an excuse for not learning scales in all 12 keys, but some keys are definitely harder than others for beginners (assuming we're talking about learning say something like the Major, Major7 and Blues scales of course; if we're discussing the learning of all modes in all keys then I would agree that they're definitely all the same difficulty)
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    Forum Contributor 2007 Distinguished SOTW Member spiderjames's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Randall
    "How is C any easier to play than F#?" This is what I ask my students.
    Because the Primary upper and lower stacks are obviously based around C major.

    I agree that from a teaching and performance standpoint all the keys should be viewed equally and practised until all are fluent.

    F# and C# Were the hardest keys for me personally to learn as a beginner because of the movement from E# to F#. It was irregular and out of character compared with with the primarilly vertical order of the other scales. A lot of the problems I think come from our minds view of the instrument.

    For example, for years I had this mental image of the octave key as some sort of imaginary dividing line. So in my improvisations I tended to play above the line or cross over and play below the line. Playing patterns that weaved back and forth felt uncomfortable for no real reason. It wasn't until I noticed what was happenning that I was able to overcome it.

    I believe the Jim Schmidt design and the theory behind it could eliminate some of these mental obstacles as well. I also believe that it is too radical a departure to replace the original design. Think of the computer keyboard. There are much better layouts for the keyboard yet it is basically the same inferior typewriter layout of old. Why? Because it is already in wide use and a radical change would be a long and hard uphill battle. What it would take is a famous player to emerge from the fold playing this type of horn exclusively.
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    I play equally bad in all keys.

    When I was teaching privately, I taught keys in the order that I felt my students needed them.

    If it was a person that wanted to play concert band, I'd go C, G, F, D, etc.

    If they wanted to learn blues, rock, or jazz, for alto I'd go E, A, B, F#, C# or tenor A, D, E, F# etc. This is so they could play in common keys with their buddies that play guitar.

    I never told them that one or another key was 'hard'. They didn't know the difference--but they sure enjoyed jamming more.
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    Distinguished SOTW Member/Saxus Envious Curmudgeonum Randall's Avatar
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    I think you all get my point and miss it totally, which is the center of the problem, isn't it?

    "Difficult" is indeed all in the mind. First, I say this with the idea that the sax is what it is (I am excluding Jim Schmidts horn, here), and, if you are going to learn it then there is no difference in difficulty with the keys.
    How is playing a C# any harder than playing an F#?
    Do you calculate finger motion? How many fingers are used? How is "difficulty" measured? Where and when were these standards of difficulty devised?

    I am sure that if I had been started with C# or F# on my first day of band back in the 3rd grade, and my teacher hadn't made any big deal over "lots of #'s and b's" keys, I would have taken it all in stride and wouldn't have considered them so difficult. Using the palm, side keys or pinky keys would have been the norm and not something to be dreaded or thought of as "hard".

    I never ever say "hard" or "difficult" when I start with absolute beginners, but unfortunately, the fallacy of "difficult" keys is already well in place in many students minds before I get them.

    I too have long wanted to try Jim's design; and it may actually be an improvement and more "logical", but I dare say as long as there is the mind set that some keys are "difficult" and others are "easy" based on the larger number of #'s or b's, the benefits will most likely be easily negated.

    In other words, the same mindset will make those keys "hard" on Jim's horns too, despite what may be a superior design.
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  9. #9

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    I don't ever tell my students (especially beginner students) that anything is hard on the saxophone. I just keep plugging away at their brain teaching them the next key/scale. I never put anything in their head mentioning that anything is hard. I never want to put that into them...I think that is a mental block that many players have and can't get over...thinking something is hard can actually hinder you from learning it well. I teach my students altissimo by just explaining that it is the "next note in the chromatic scale." It rocks to have a kid who has only been playing for 3 years playing 3 octave scales over scales like E and F#. It's amazing what kids will think if you just tell them it's "easy."
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    A scale that requires more complex fingering i.e physical effort will take longer to learn or at least become fluent at and therefore be ' less easy ' than Cmajor, right?
    Dave


    As Billie Holiday put it, "Lester sings in his horn; you listen to him and can almost hear the words"

  11. #11

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    I just realized that he lives quite close to me. I live in fresno. Maybe I could ask if i could try one out.

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    Interesting discussion...
    in my view, an "easy key" to play on the sax is one where finger movement is easier -- it has only something to do with the number of flats or sharps.
    F# major, if you use the Bis key and the F#trill key is not the hardest in my opinion.

    I would argue that on the sax the easiest major key to play from the root up is D (no pinkies involved). Below low D it's admittedly another story.
    My teacher used to say that it was A major (but here: LH pinky involved, although linked to the LH ring finger, ie they operate together to produce a G# -- note that it's C concert on an alto).

    Well, after having read Curt Atarac's report on the Jim Schmidt design in the other thread, I doubt very much that Jim's sax would be easier to play to me than the one Adolph designed...
    ...because Schmidt's premise is chromatic and western music is not, historically. (might be easier to play some Schoenberg, Arnold I mean, not Claude Michel).

    This would in my view render all main western modes (major and minor) equally difficult, but I agree that playing an inverted diminished scale (or a fully diminished scale) might be easier if you think in terms of half steps & whole steps (ie the way the scale is constructed). But to continue on this example, if you consider that an inverted diminished is but a modified myxolydian (a more global approach than a succession of half & whole steps) it makes it easier to learn it on the basis of one's knowledge of a major scale. At least it was easier to me, I prefer to think more globally than in terms of what interval comes before or after that note (but that's only me).

    And, it is clear to me that at least a few very much used keys (see above the excellent post of haku) seem easier to play on a conventional sax. All the more since Jim wants our RH thumb to work (like some old low A saxes).
    Also, someone please explain to me how he could use a "more logical" chromatic based system (base 12) with the 10 fingers that we have. There must be some "unbalance" somewhere, ie a finger that works more than the others to complete the octave.
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  13. #13

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    While I agree that the need to execute all 12 keys is critical the physical moves involved are different for different keys.

    A proper hand setup is to have your fingers touching the keys. When playing a D scale there really is not much movement other than lifting and pushing the fingers. (OK more than that but it is subtle and fluid)

    To get to side keys we have to use more of the wrist movement to execute. Sorry, but extra movement is extra time and difficultly. It takes more training to learn this move than the simple D scale movements.

    The fact that we have side c and f# proves all executions of fingerings are not equal. If there were we wouldn't need those to help us.

    Also, each finger has its own limits in strength and dexterity. Please don't tell me playing low C# B Bb in passages with each other is equally easy as d e f.

    Whether this is a better design I don't know. But not all movements are equal therefore they are also not as easy as each other.

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    Default Re: is it really better though?

    One thing we are forgetting is the ease of transposition Schmidt's design gives.
    Last edited by soybean; 01-23-2009 at 06:50 PM.
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    Default Re: is it really better though?

    Quote Originally Posted by hakukani View Post
    I play equally bad in all keys.

    When I was teaching privately, I taught keys in the order that I felt my students needed them.

    If it was a person that wanted to play concert band, I'd go C, G, F, D, etc.

    If they wanted to learn blues, rock, or jazz, for alto I'd go E, A, B, F#, C# or tenor A, D, E, F# etc. This is so they could play in common keys with their buddies that play guitar.

    I never told them that one or another key was 'hard'. They didn't know the difference--but they sure enjoyed jamming more.

    I wish I had been taught that way. I was trained for concerts (over and over the same pieces not learning MUSIC). This was until I figured out that I wasn't getting any better and took to my own stuff. Naturally I agree with the "its just how much you play the key" theory, because since i started playing in other keys they are no problem now.

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    Default Re: is it really better though?

    I have to say, having started on brass, moving then to strings, then drums, now sax...sax is not a particularly user-friendly instrument...regardless of all of this balance-action-ergo-mumbo-jumbo-flumbo stuff....I mean, seriously (and I know I am gonna get sh#t for this, but)...IMHO....despite all the talk of this ergonomic innovations, there ain't a hecka lotta difference between how a 1920's horn is set up and how and a 2000's horn is set up. A century of tweak, tweak, tweak....

    So, I applaud anyone who has come up with a design which addresses some of those issues of playability and learnability.

    Obviously, initial reaction to changing the sexy, beloved sax as dramatically as his design, is going to meet with a lot of strong.... opinion...

    So rarely do the music and technical design fields really overlap...I am talking to the degree where a fresh designer's eye approaches a problem, not necessarily that of just a very good sax technician or repair person (because they are already steeped in the tradition, whether they like it or not).... but someone who can step back and really take a more objective look....minus all of the heavy tradition.

    Saxismyaxe gave Jim's user name the Architect moniker...but more appropriately, he is from the field of study called Industrial Design (although I dunno if he calls himself that or even has that degree). It is the field of observing how things work, and creating new and possibly better and easier ways for things to work...as such, the possibilities are endless. A lot of invention.

    To innovate, you have to take history as the starting point....not necessarily as the dogma. I think Jim's stuff is cool.

    Of course, keep in mind these are prototypes, really, so obviously the pricetags are gonna be high....

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