Technique notebooks – another way to get over the hump

Identify. Isolate. Repeat. – Joe Allard

That very profound quote from Joe Allard contains almost all of the information you need to become a great musician, or a great anything for that matter. For about the last week or so, I have been manifesting this quote by starting up some technique notebooks – one each for flute, clarinet, and saxophone. When I practice, if I have any kind of technical problems while working on scales, patterns, etudes, etc., I first try to pinpoint exactly where I’m having the problem (Identify). Next, I extract the problem area and write it down in my notebook (Isolate). Finally, I work on it daily until I get to a level of speed and ease that I think is acceptable (Repeat).

Here is an example in practice. A few days ago I was going through the Bozza Douze Etudes-Caprices for saxophone just to do a little sight reading. While reading through Etude 11, I come across this little passage:

I was chugging along through the rest of the etude and feeling good about my reading. I got to this section and could not play it. That can only mean one thing – it has to go in the notebook. I did not put the exact, literal passage in the notebook. My overall problem with the passage is jumping between the octaves so I wrote an exercise that would address that problem. It’s number 3 in the picture.

There’s a little note at the end of the exercise that reads “Iso Ab-D.” In working through the exercise, I found that I was having the most problems between Ab and D so I isolate those and spend more time on them that the other parts of the exercise. I don’t have any articulation marked, but have usually only been tonguing the first note of each 4-note group. I do that so I can working on slurring both the ascending and descending octaves. I have also been working on this super, super slow. I’m more worried about doing it well slowly than doing it fast poorly.

There it is. This is a good way to stay focused on improving technical issues with your playing that are giving you trouble.

A weekend of gigs

I’m getting ready to walk out the door for a rehearsal, but wanted to mention the gig I played with Moksha last night. We played at the Beauty Bar in downtown Las Vegas from about 10-2. We had a great, supportive crowd. The Hippie Thugz were there and in full effect. I had a lot of fun. Whenever I play with Moksha, I get to stretch out in a way that I normally can’t in almost all of the musical situations in which I find myself. I love that freedom and I really appreciate all the guys in the band for letting me have that and for going with me on those musical journeys.

The aforementioned rehearsal is with Travis Cloer. Travis is one of the guys who plays the role of Frankie Valli in Jersey Boys here in Las Vegas. Tomorrow (Sunday) afternoon, Travis is playing a show at the Clark County Library Theatre at 2pm. It will be an afternoon of standards performed by Travis and his Little Big Band. Travis sent me some of the charts a few days ago. They are really well done and easy to read. I (and probably every other musician I know) really appreciate that. The Little Big Band is going to be great, too with some of the top musicians in town. I’m really looking forward to it!

Travis Cloer and his little BIG BAND

Transcribed: Wes Montgomery – Au Privave

Yesterday, I put up my transcription of Cannonball Adderley’s solo on “Au Privave” from Cannonball Adderley and the Poll-Winners. During my practice today, I sat down with the recording and my keyboard and transcribed Wes Montgomery’s guitar solo. There are some nice lines and bebop vocabulary in the solo, but I really like the third chorus where Wes is playing in octaves.

A quick note, the transcription is written in concert pitch and transposed up an octave just like it would be for guitar.

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Transcribed: Cannonball Adderley – Au Privave

Here’s a transcription of Cannonball Adderley’s solo on Charlie Parker’s “Au Privave” from 1960’s Cannonball Adderley and the Poll-Winners. I first heard this on a compilation called Cannonball Adderley: Jazz Profile and have always liked the solo he took on this tune. It’s only three choruses and there are some great lines. This solo, like a lot of Cannonball Adderley’s playing, is also a study in articulation. There’s a lot of variety in terms of groupings, length of notes, and accents. Wes Montgomery also takes a really nice solo on this tune and that might be the next solo I cover on the blog.

For anyone unfamiliar with this tune, it is a 12-bar blues in F concert. The transcribed solo is transposed for the alto saxophone.

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A few pictures from last month’s Moksha show

I wrote about the Moksha CD release party almost a month ago and just realized I never wrote a follow up about the show. The show was awesome. Kid Meets Cougar was good and really interesting. They incorporated a lot of electronics and movies/images into their set. I think our sets went really well. It was a lot of fun playing and we couldn’t have asked for a better crowd. There were over 600 people at the show. I am so happy that I get to play with this band! If you want to learn more about Moksha, check out Hope you enjoy the pics! I’m playing baritone saxophone.

Where to find it: A list of music resources

I thought I would share a few of the places where I get reeds, sheet music, and other supplies. I know this is probably information a lot of people already have, but it’s nice to have it all in one place.

Saxophone reeds, accessories, etc.

Prowinds – The store is across the street from the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University in Bloomington, IN. I went to the actual store a couple times when I was a student at Ball State. I’ve always had good experiences with them.
The Woodwind & Brasswind – A huge store in South Bend, IN. I also went there when I was a student. They carry a lot of items, but you might need to make sure the item you order is actually in stock. I’ve ordered items that were listed as being in stock only to get an email the next day that said the items were on back order.
Saxquest – They’re located in St. Louis. I haven’t been there, but have ordered from them several times. They have a monthly saxophone trivia contest and the winner gets a prize. I won the contest last year.
Roberto’s Winds – Roberto’s is close to Times Square in NYC. The shop is small, but they have some items that you can’t get anywhere else in the USA. They gave me some of their house brand reeds to check out when I visited. They were killing. They also have a Mark VI room with 50 or 60 Mark VI and Super Balanced Action horns – soprano through baritone.
Junkdude – They’re located near Columbus, OH. The owner, Dave Hoskins, has a close association with Morgan mouthpieces and has them when no one else does. I’ve also found his prices on Francois Louis ligatures to be the lowest.
Ted Klum Mouthpieces – I play Ted’s mouthpieces on alto and tenor. They are amazing. They are expensive, but I’ve found them to be worth every dollar.

Flutes and flute stuff

Flutacious – They’re located in Glendale, CA. I bought my piccolo there. Cynthia Kelley, the owner, was very gracious and gave me a ton of instruments to try and let me A-B them all until I found the best one for me (It was a Hammig 650/3).
Flute World – It’s located in Farmington, MI. I bought my flute headjoint from them. They have a great trial policy and have a lot of used/consignment instruments available.

Clarinet stuff

Backun Musical Services – I play the Backun barrel and bell on clarinet and really like them. They are quite expensive, but they have studio models available. They have very slight cosmetic imperfections, but are acoustically identical to the more expensive models. I ordered 65 and 66 mm barrels and a bell to try out. They sent me 8 barrels (4 66mm, 4 65 mm) and 4 bells. Best trial policy ever! They were also really great people to deal with.
Clarinet Xpress – This is Walter Grabner’s site. I play his mouthpieces on clarinet and bass clarinet. He was great to deal with and sent me a couple of mouthpieces to try when I ordered from him. Walter also offers barrels and hand-selected clarinets.

Sheet music

Eble Music – They’re located in Iowa City, IA. My high school saxophone teacher, Dr. Tod Kerstetter, turned me on to them. They have a great selection and their shipping has always been super fast.
Van Cott Information Services – Doug Van Cott has a business right here in Las Vegas. He also has a great selection and ships fast. Navigating the website can be a little daunting, but you can usually find what you’re looking for.

Free manuscript paper – Saxophonist Anton Schwartz offers several different blank manuscript paper in .pdf format including one that has blank saxophone fingering charts that are good for using with students or for writing out your own fingerings for difficult passages or altissimo.