Believe me when I tell you that this is a seriously cool instrument.
Even after hearing and reading a number of rave reviews of the Akai EWI 4000S, I was pleasantly surprised by its playability, responsiveness, and capacity for expression. In my opinion, this is a real instrument, and a viable option for serious music-making.
EDIT: I originally had an embedded video here, of a CBS news interview with Broadway woodwind doubler Dan Willis. It appears the video is no longer available. You can read a text summary here, at least for the time being. Below is a picture I stole from their website.
The New York Times’s “Lens” blog did a nice piece on Steve Gorn, a woodwind doubler who has turned his primary focus to the bansuri (Indian bamboo flute). Surf on over to see a nice photo and hear audio of an interview/performance. (Both photo and audio feature Gorn’s soprano saxophone playing.)
Steve Gorn on his beginnings as a woodwind player:
I advanced relatively quickly with the clarinet. When I got into eighth or ninth grade I got into a lot of jazz, and I started playing saxophone at that point. Jazz became much more of a focus. I played clarinet in the school orchestra.
I’m not sure I can recall the last time I walked into a music store and bought something.
I hear every so often that I should support local businesses and mom-and-pop shops, and I have to admit that this sounds vaguely like a responsible and virtuous thing to do. But here’s why I don’t—and can’t.
It costs too much. Prices are inevitably higher in local stores. I understand that so-called “full-service” establishments have overhead, but so do I. If they can justify charging higher prices, it seems fair that I can justify shopping around.
They don’t stock what I need. Other than a few scattered specialty shops, local music stores stock what they can sell in volume, and that’s inexpensive instruments and accessories for the beginning band market. I live in a small town, but even in the fairly large cities where I have lived, I have, more frequently than not, been unable to get what I like. A few months ago I made a two-and-a-half hour drive to go saxophone shopping with a student at a large music store in a large city. The store was large enough to have a saxophone specialist on staff. The store regularly stocks one brand of (arguably) professional-quality saxophone (and it’s not Selmer, Yamaha, Yanagisawa, or Keilwerth), and had exactly two major-brand instruments available, used. We also contacted a small saxophone specialty shop that was a little farther away, one that actually has “saxophone” in the store’s name. They had zero pro-line horns in stock.
As far as I can tell, the “superior customer service” factor is largely a myth. I think most woodwind players have experienced the frustration of going into a music store and being “helped” by the heavy-metal guitarist behind the counter. And even in specialty shops, I’ve rarely found a salesperson who can answer serious questions with much more than regurgitated advertising copy or a personal opinion. And, while I don’t doubt that specialty retailers are passionate about what they do, it’s important to keep in mind that they are businesspeople and subject to motivations other than getting you the best possible product for the smallest possible price. Continue reading “Confessions of a mail-order shopper”→