Playing both jazz and classical?

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  1. #1

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    Default Playing both jazz and classical?

    Okay first off I had no idea where to put this, but this seemed like a good place as any.

    So I'm a high school senior who typically centers towards jazz rather than classical. I'm not the best but I enjoy it. I typically play with a Stan Getz, Ben Webster sort of feel. As in you can hear the air in my playing as you can with them. Typically it's through my vibrato, however, we do solo and ensemble every year, and I always struggle with getting my jazz sound to transition to a classical sound whereas instead of my air coming through my playing it should just be a straight centered sound correct? Does anyone know what I can do to work on being able to transition from a warm jazz sort of Getzish sound to a classical full sound? I apologize if this block of writing makes zero sense... I can clarify if needed.

    Thanks

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    Distinguished SOTW Member jaysne's Avatar
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    Default Re: Playing both jazz and classical?

    First step is to get a classical mouthpiece, if you don't already have one.

    Next step is to find a teacher who plays classical sax.

    Along with that, buy recordings of great classical players and listen to them constantly. Then when you play, try to imitate their sound.

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    Default Re: Playing both jazz and classical?

    What jaysne said. Decide on a classical sound you like and devote energy towards it.
    Current setups:
    Yamaha YSS-875EX, Selmer Soloist C**, Ishimori lig,Hemke 3.5
    Yamaha YAS-875EXS, Rousseau RC4 (refaced by Brian Powell), Ishimori lig,Hemke 3.5
    Yamaha YTS-875EX, Rousseau NC4, Ishimori lig, Hemke 3.5
    Kessler Solist Bari, Rousseau NC4, BG Tradition lig, Hemke 3.5

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    Default Re: Playing both jazz and classical?

    Quote Originally Posted by jaysne View Post
    First step is to get a classical mouthpiece, if you don't already have one.

    Next step is to find a teacher who plays classical sax.

    Along with that, buy recordings of great classical players and listen to them constantly. Then when you play, try to imitate their sound.
    Now here is my follow up question. Would learning that classical sound inhibit my jazz sound? Or should a good sax player be able to switch in between those sounds so to speak. Also any classical mouthpiece recommendations? I have a good jazz one, but I'd rather not spend $180 on a Selmer C80 or something like that. I've heard good things about Rosseau though.

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    Default Re: Playing both jazz and classical?

    You should be able to switch back and forth. It's a matter of approach.

    What kind of horn do you have?
    Current setups:
    Yamaha YSS-875EX, Selmer Soloist C**, Ishimori lig,Hemke 3.5
    Yamaha YAS-875EXS, Rousseau RC4 (refaced by Brian Powell), Ishimori lig,Hemke 3.5
    Yamaha YTS-875EX, Rousseau NC4, Ishimori lig, Hemke 3.5
    Kessler Solist Bari, Rousseau NC4, BG Tradition lig, Hemke 3.5

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    Default Re: Playing both jazz and classical?

    Quote Originally Posted by J.Max View Post
    You should be able to switch back and forth. It's a matter of approach.

    What kind of horn do you have?
    I play on a Unison Custom T 2000 with a Mouthpiece Cafe Slant on Hemke 3. Not the most well known brand, but it gets the job done.

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    Default Re: Playing both jazz and classical?

    Listen to classical sax players first. The only way you'll be able to do it is by hearing it done.

    Generally a good excercise to keep a full tone is to play a middle F as a harmonic of Bb (like finger low Bb but play an F) and then play middle F with the regular fingering but try to keep the same tone as you had before. Play the harmonic loudly and try to match the tone by changing your inner embouchure.

    There are a lot of other nuances in classical music that are different than jazz (articulations, vibrato, etc.) which are best learned through listening to classical saxophonists and analyzing how they're performing the piece.

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    Default Re: Playing both jazz and classical?

    Quote Originally Posted by Duncan Man View Post
    I play on a Unison Custom T 2000 with a Mouthpiece Cafe Slant on Hemke 3. Not the most well known brand, but it gets the job done.
    On mouthpieces: (I assume this is a tenor) You should try a Vandoren T20 and a Rousseau NC4. Figure out which sound you like better and try a few of them. I don't usually recommend S80s on tenor because it's a little tricky to get the right facing (usually a D or E) in the right quantities to try more than one. Morgan 3C would also be a good choice (especially since you already play a Mouthpiece Cafe piece) but they're going to be a bit more expensive.
    Current setups:
    Yamaha YSS-875EX, Selmer Soloist C**, Ishimori lig,Hemke 3.5
    Yamaha YAS-875EXS, Rousseau RC4 (refaced by Brian Powell), Ishimori lig,Hemke 3.5
    Yamaha YTS-875EX, Rousseau NC4, Ishimori lig, Hemke 3.5
    Kessler Solist Bari, Rousseau NC4, BG Tradition lig, Hemke 3.5

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    Default Re: Playing both jazz and classical?

    Quote Originally Posted by jaysne View Post
    First step is to get a classical mouthpiece, if you don't already have one.

    Next step is to find a teacher who plays classical sax.

    Along with that, buy recordings of great classical players and listen to them constantly. Then when you play, try to imitate their sound.
    I suggest switching steps 1 & 2. Your teacher should be able to help guide your search for an appropriate mouthpiece.
    After all these years, what do you practice?
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    Default Re: Playing both jazz and classical?

    While I don't disagree about buying a new mouthpiece, a friend of mine was talking to one of the best Toronto area contemporary classical saxophonists, and he asked if he should change his setup when playing classical music, and the response he got was that the goal of playing the saxophone is to sound how you want yourself to sound, and if this means not using a standard classical setup than so be it.

    I do also think there's something in the Brecker quote (I think it's his) "if someone's paying me to sound like King Curtis, I'm gonna sound like King Curtis."

    I'm not saying to not conform to the style that you're playing in, my point is that after listening to other people play the style you'll understand how you want to interpret it, and it may be that you eventually want your classical sound to be you playing your slant with a different attitude. I think everyone can agree that more if your tone comes from you than your mouthpiece, and you can definitely develop classically with your slant.

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    Default Re: Playing both jazz and classical?

    As others have said, a teacher can get you on the right track. Here are a couple things to think about:

    1. Mouthpiece. There are tons of used selmers, vandorens, rousseaus, etc floating around the internet. You can get an ok classical sound on most jazz setups (and if you can accomplish this it certainly will be beneficial to you as a musician), but a smaller tip, smaller chamber, smaller/no baffle, and harder reed (vandoren blue box 3.5 or maybe 3 works well with just about any classical mouthpiece) will make your classical life much easier. I am a jazz player 99% of the time, but when I need a classical sound, I use a selmer s90 on alto and s80 C* on tenor. These mouthpieces are very easy to blow, and they make it easier to sound classically, harder to sound jazzy.

    2. Mouthpiece-into-mouth angle. Many jazz players, especially on tenor, play with the mouthpiece entering the mouth more straight. If you bring the neck strap up higher so that the mouthpiece enters your mouth at a steeper angle (more like a clarinet), this will focus the sound and allow low notes to speak without moving your jaw. This can take a lot of the airiness out of the sound. Look at pictures/videos of classical players to see their mouthpiece angle.

    3. Jaw movement. Many jazz players move their jaw when they play, pushing it forward for higher notes and drawing it in towards the neck for lower notes, collapsing the chin for the bottom subtone notes. This allows for smooth transition from subtone low range to full tone upper register. This practice is a major no-no in classical playing. If the mouthpiece is at the proper (classical) angle, you should be able to play low notes quietly in full tone with the same jaw position you use for the rest of the normal range of the horn. The stationary jaw focuses the sound, and allows for consistent tone quality between registers.

    4. Embouchure pressure. The length of cork on the saxophone allows for a number of different embouchure approaches. Many jazz players push in so that they can play with a very loose embouchure without sounding flat, since they are moving their jaws throughout the range, they can compensate for the subtle tuning issues this may create. For the best classical sound, one must find the amount of pressure (and place on the cork) where the low register in full tone is in tune with the upper register with the minimum change of pressure/voicing. This one is perhaps icing on the cake, and you can only achieve this with a good horn/mouthpiece combo.

    This should help somewhat. I am a jazz player and I have very limited experience playing classical saxophone (I did a jazz major which didn't require much classical work). All of these pieces of advice came to me from true classical players or teachers competent at both, and I wanted to pass them along despite my limited classical experience. Also you asked if playing classical with mess with your jazz playing, and the answer is always that they both only help each other, and you as a musician if you take them seriously.

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    Default Re: Playing both jazz and classical?

    +1 to finding a teacher and doing plenty of listening.

    Before looking for a new mouthpiece try a bit of experimentation with reed placement. Often placing the reed further towards the tip reduces the "airy" quality and produces a more focused sound. If the reed feels too hard in this position then try a slightly softer one.

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    Distinguished SOTW Member/Sax Historian paulwl's Avatar
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    Default Re: Playing both jazz and classical?

    To some extent, good technique in either jazz or classical playing today requires a willingness to ignore the other style - to carry on as if it did not matter, or even exist. The discipline of compartmentalization is somewhat draconian but is actually helpful in developing musicianship, where single-mindedness is often vital to success.
    "80 years passed before we heard the tenor...in the hands of cads with centre partings & co-respondent's shoes. They squeezed syrupy, farting, oleaginous sounds from their cavernous chambers & microscopic tip openings." –Captain Beeflat, 2013

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    Default Re: Playing both jazz and classical?

    Quote Originally Posted by paulwl View Post
    To some extent, good technique in either jazz or classical playing today requires a willingness to ignore the other style - to carry on as if it did not matter, or even exist. The discipline of compartmentalization is somewhat draconian but is actually helpful in developing musicianship, where single-mindedness is often vital to success.
    Wow, I understand where you are coming from but I disagree. Branford Marsalis is an excellent example of someone who has achieved success in both jazz and classical. His approach to classical playing is informed by his prior study of jazz, and he has continued to develop as a jazz player which leads me to believe his jazz has been informed by his classical study. I agree that you have to "ignore the other style" while in the process of playing jazz or classical music, but isn't open-mindedness in study beneficial?

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    Distinguished SOTW Member/Sax Historian paulwl's Avatar
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    Default Re: Playing both jazz and classical?

    It could be argued either way. Branford's classical playing is beautiful (to me) but he still sounds like himself, not one of the classical icons. And to many classical people, if you sound like yourself, you're not serious.
    "80 years passed before we heard the tenor...in the hands of cads with centre partings & co-respondent's shoes. They squeezed syrupy, farting, oleaginous sounds from their cavernous chambers & microscopic tip openings." –Captain Beeflat, 2013

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    Default Re: Playing both jazz and classical?

    Quote Originally Posted by paulwl View Post
    To some extent, good technique in either jazz or classical playing today requires a willingness to ignore the other style - to carry on as if it did not matter, or even exist. The discipline of compartmentalization is somewhat draconian but is actually helpful in developing musicianship, where single-mindedness is often vital to success.
    This is definitely true. I haven't heard a single jazz saxophonist play the Glazunov Concerto as beautifully as Gary Louie, nor have any of the classical players fluent in jazz (Chris Creviston, Joe Lulloff, Kelland Thomas, Trent Kynaston) really pushed the art form the way that Anthony Braxton has. That being said, there are saxophonists like Steve Lehman, Randall Hall and Ulrich Krieger who break the boundaries between contemporary "classical" music and jazz.
    "Some people never go crazy. What truly horrible lives they must lead."
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