Category Archives: Articles

General Saxophone related articles, opinions, questions, etc, etc

RIP Jazz Font

Since it first came out, I was an advocate for the Jazz Font. I still have the 3.5″ floppy that I bought to use with Finale 3 something. The disc has 1995 written on it. Anyhow, now I see it all over the place. The Jazz text font people use with other fonts. Yikes! And the music produced using the Jazz font is hit and miss. Sometimes it looks good, sometimes not (except like Warner Bros professional scores, those look great). And then there is a variation called Swing Font from the same author, and we won’t go into that goofy looking Sibelius “jazz” font….all these “hand written” fonts don’t look hand written to me anymore. I hate coming into a rehearsal and having to deal with a bad font and poor formatting. I had a rehearsal about 2 weeks ago where someone brought in a Sibelius chart that could have been 2 pages in Finale, but was 4 in that goofy Sibelius jazz font. Looked like crap.

Having been exposed to a “better way”, I’m am leaving the world of the Jazz Font. Too many people use it, and, honestly, it isn’t as cool or as good looking as it once was.

I’ve rewritten my venerable “Zinn Practice Regimen” for sax using Bill Duncan’s Finale Productivity stuff. Amazing. There is no comparison. This new version is easier to read, looks better. Hell, it’s better than some books I have bought. Mr. Duncan is currently working on some Jazz Articulations to include in his package. Scoops, falls, bends and whatnot. Looking forward to it!

It’s been a good run Jazz Font, but, alas, time for you to be retired.

James Newton Howard On Scoring For King Kong

KongisKing.net has a couple of interesting videos about the post production of the new King Kong movie. Of interest are the post production movies of weeks 4 and 5.

Amazing that he does about 2 minutes of music a day, and then the copyists come in at like 4am to write out parts for the orchestra to play in the morning. Also amazing the amount of Macintoshes used 😉 Also of note is that it appears that Finale is used, by the look of a couple of the pieces of music in the videos, specifically in the Week 4 video, about 4:21 into it. Looks like Finale using Bill Duncan’s Finale Fonts

Sax Amplifiers??

Pimsoul writes “I play in a band, on alto sax. The think is, because the drums are loud the bass and guitar is loud, so i have to play loud too. But I can’t always keep up with loudness, so we thought about amplifieing my sax. Because it isn’t good for a normal guitar amplifier to use it for saxophone i’m looking for an alternative. I thinking about an amplifier for sax, but do they even exist? So yes, are these things expensive (when you compare it with the quality)? If they don’t exist, what are the other alternatives?
I would appreciate replies very much, thank you!
Kind regards, Pim
(excuse me for my bad English)”

There is not a “sax amplifier” per say. What you can use is pretty much any type of amp you want. Or a self powered speaker. Keyboard amps work great, something like Rolands KC350. Really depends on how much money you want to spend. And you would need a microphone as well, something like a Sennheiser 421.

But you might consider asking the other guys to play down at 11 rather than 13. If you can’t hear yourself play in a band, you have to wonder what the long term effects on your hearing (not to mention sanity). Is it worth losing your hearing to play really, really, really loud?

Boycott Sony Music

If you haven’t heard, Sony is installing DRM on its CDs. This DRM has also been exploited.
In fact, there is even a lawsuit over it.

Now, it seems even Mac OS X gets some sort of DRM with a Sony CD.

It’s time to boycott Sony Music.

Update: 11/13 20:27 GMT by E :There is an interesting discussion about Sony’s End User License Agreement on Slashdot.org. Amazing how this company is protecting it’s profits.

Xmas Guide 2005

Yes, it is only November. But there is no time like the present to start thinking of presents for people (woohoo, good play on words there E).

To start things off, iLounge has a very good, free, Holiday buyers’ guide available. Of course the guide is for people who own an iPod. And if they don’t own an iPod, that would be the #1 thing to get people. An iPod nano is only $199. Amongst the things they recommend are AKG’s new K 701 headphones. I own a pair of AKG 271 headphones, and they rock. The 701s are around $399.

Other things to consider getting a musician are:

This is just a start…..I’m sure there are other potential presents out there.

Metal Mouthpieces and Spoilers

pika writes “What do people think about the metal mouthpieces with spoilers? How much louder do they make you sound(tener sax) because i was thinking about getting one for marching band. Email me if you know anything.”

First off, we don’t “email me if you know anything”. That also goes for people who “please email your XXXX arrangement”. You won’t believe how many times a week I get that. It is so Middle School.

Back to your question. A baffle indeed makes your mouthpiece louder. I think that is what you mean by “spoiler”. It would make a metal mouthpiece louder obviously. However, it does change the quality of the tone you get out of the mouthpiece. I tried Power Tone Baffles briefly on alto, and did not care for them. I got more volume, but the tone just didn’t sound good.

There is another thing you could try. If you put some paper underneath the reed (where the reed and mouthpiece contact), that will give you a little more buzz and power.

EM Reviews Field Recorders

Electronic Musician reviewed a bunch of field recorders, including the the Marantz 671, Marantz 660 and the Edirol R1 among others.

Basically, they panned the Marantz 671 (successor to the 670, which I love) for having firmware issues causing the mic preamps to be noisy. The Edirol R1 came out on top of the two Marantz units. Though I would really call the article a “introduction” to field recording. They do not list exactly what they tried to record, and with what. We all know that the microphone is key to getting a good recording.

I would totally recommend the Marantz 670. I used it this weekend and got some great recordings putting it about 6 feet infront and 7 feet above the band. Of course using my Rode NT4 mic (awesome piece that it is).

I imagine the issues with the 671 have been fixed. I would take the EM article with some grains of salt. The reviewer used these units to record a snare drum (why??), the “ambience in a suburban neighborhood” (um, ok), and dialog. Ok, great tests there. NOT.

Oh, and EM was reporting, like it was news, that Sony introduced a new format called MiHD. Um, guys, these things have been out for OVER A YEAR. Get with the program!

Palm Keys on Tenor Sax

ladyzutano writes “Okay. I use a Selmer Tenor series III, and every time I play one of those chic little passages where versatility in the palm keys is required, I can reach the keys only by bending my wrist at an awkard angle. It’s almost a perfect 90 degrees! I tried moving the horn away from my body for a less cumbersome reach, yet by doing so I move the mouthpiece too far away. Any suggestions?”

Palm key risers. You can get Runyon Palm Key Risers or Oleg ones. I think the Oleg ones are also available individually. I used the Runyon ones for a long time, but switched to the Oleg ones because the Runyon ones tend to move after they have been on there a while.

Another solution would be to go to your local sax shop and see if they could build up the palm keys for you. That would be the best solution, and custom fitted to your palm.

Oodles Of Saxophones

I just received the latest Woodwind/Brasswind catalog. Have you seen the number of companies that make saxophones. Here is the list (in no particular order):

  • BandNow
  • Barrington (advertised heavily in the catalog)
  • Yamaha
  • Amati
  • C.F. Conn
  • Keilwerth
  • Blessing
  • Allora
  • Selmer
  • LA Sax
  • Jupiter
  • Chicago Jazz Series (LA Sax?)
  • Woodwind Brand
  • Yanagisawa
  • Unison (not in the catalog though)
  • Buescher (not in the catalog)
  • Selmer USA (not in the catalog)

Whew. And then there are different models from these guys. Selmer has at least 9 different alto saxophone models. Wow. Is there really a market for all these brands? Are any of them to be avoided? Did I forget any?

Politically Correct Musicals

With all the bad stuff going on in the world, here is a little humor.

You may know that Rosie O’Donnell suggested that they change the
lyrics “I can shoot a partridge with a single cartridge” in the
revival of “Annie Get Your Gun”, to make them less violent. This
inspired writer Susan Brady Konig to suggest even more politically
correct changes in her article “A Rosie View Of Broadway Classics”:

WEST SIDE STORY: The Sharks and the Jets rumble. They’re
subsequently arrested by Officer Krupke and sentenced to a low-
security juvenile rehabilitation facility, where they are all
diagnosed with attention-deficit disorder and put on Ritalin and Prozac.

MY FAIR LADY: Professor Higgins attempts to transform street
urchin Eliza Doolittle into a society maiden. With the help of an
ACLU lawyer, Doolittle sues Higgins for violating her constitutional
right to live on the street. Perplexed, Higgins sings the gender-
neutral ‘Why Can’t A Person Be More Like A Person?”

GYPSY: Mama Rose pushes her daughter Gypsy Rose Lee into
vaudeville. Gypsy grows up and becomes a burlesque stripper. Show
ends abruptly, shortly into the second act, as all the strip clubs
have been shut down by the mayor. Gypsy takes a job as a clerk in the
Disney store on 42nd Street.

PORGY AND BESS: Songs include “Bess, You Is My Significant Other
Now” and “It Ain’t Necessarily So” (with all biblical references
deleted).

HARVEY: Everywhere he goes, Elwood C. Dobbs sees a giant,
invisible rabbit. He undergoes therapy, is diagnosed with attention-
deficit disorder and is put on Ritalin and Prozac.

THE KING AND I: The king of Siam is unhappy with the plummeting
reading scores of his many children since the arrival of Anna,
teacher from the West. He tries to fire her. Unfortunately, she is
protected by a strong union and there’s nothing he can do about it.
She whistles a happy tune.

PETER PAN: Never-never land is forced to admit Lost Girls as
well as Lost Boys. Tiger Lily sues the government to recover tribal
lands and opens a casino. Mr. and Mrs. Darling are visited by Family
Services after leaving their children in the care of a dog.

WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF?: George and Martha join a 12-
step recovery program and quit drinking. They calmly discuss their
relationship ‘issues.” Some colleagues stop by for a pleasant visit.
(Ok so not a Musical, yet….)

THE SOUND OF MUSIC: All references to Catholicism deleted.
Sister Maria is now a member of an order of the Sisters of the Non-
Denominational Multicultural Non-Judgmental ‘Church” of What’s
Happening Now.

OLIVER! The conniving but lovable Fagin is arrested on several
counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. He agrees to a
plea bargain and, with the help of a court-appointed therapist, is
diagnosed with attention-deficit disorder and put on Ritalin and Prozac.

And, of course: ANNIE GET YOUR GUN gets properly registered,
after submitting to the required background checks and mandatory five-
day waiting period.

Articulation At Fast Tempos

harry63 writes “In slow and medium swing tempos I understand that “off-beat” articulation is used most often (I know there are times of course, that you don’t use this articulation, but I am generalizing on purpose). With fast tempos this articulation can really make your playing sound heavy and tend to drag. I am curious to know what sort of articulation patterns you all use at break-neck tempos?”

Valgon Rings

The latest issue of Flute Talk had an Ad on page 37 for Valgon Rings. No no, this is not a strange Star Trek device, nor is it related to the Vogon’s, whom destroyed Earth in Douglas Adam’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. These rings seem to be a serious thing. To quote the ad:

"The Valgon Rings control and stabilize the oscillating air column on the outside of your instrument, resulting in significant improvement in your instruments response."

The website has a mere two endorsements, one from a Doctor at the University of Florida (flute), and some saxophonist named Colleen Allen who, they say, plays with Molly Johnson (?).

Anyhow, the saxophone version seems to be two “rings”, one that goes around the bell, and one that goes around the neck. Not sure the physics of this. Could it be that these rings are converting a saxophone’s sound to be more direct, and hence a “better” sound?

I think if you wanted to do it right, someone should invent some sort of scoup that runs the length of the saxophone. Something that would take the reflected soundwaves from the pads, and focus them forward. But hey, the easiest solution is to put on a reed and/or a mouthpiece that has more bite to it 😉

Resurrecting Performers Via Computer Performance

The NYT has an article entitled ‘Play It Again, Vladimir (via Computer)’ that discusses efforts to transform old recordings into new, computer played performances, by determining how the previous performer made the sounds and redoing it. Further efforts attempt to distill the ‘style’ of a performer and play other scores with the same style. As can be expected, musicologists argue over whether or not the new musical artifact is really ‘a performance’.

Next up, using the genes of dead artists to make current performers, like NSYNC and all those American Idol persons better.

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The Best Neck Strap

I don’t think this has been brought up here. What exactly is the best neck strap? There are a ton out there. I personally use a Ray Hyman strap. But it tends to hurt after a while if I’m not wearing a shirt with a collar 😉 I sometimes also use BG harness instead. Especially if I have to stand.

Oleg has some straps and harnesses. I’m sure there are a lot of others out there as well.

For me, I basically like how I can really adjust the horn level on the Hyman strap. And the hook has yet to fail me. Plus it makes a great weapon (whipping students and fellow musicians). Just someone needs to put some padding on it.