About a year and a half ago I reviewed Ben Britton’s book A Complete Approach to Sound for the Modern Saxophonist, which is full of excellent information and exercises for development of fundamental tone production technique. Ben has just released a new book, and I was pleased to get a sneak preview.
A Complete Approach to Overtones: Vivid Tone and Extended Range builds on A Complete Approach to Sound’s foundation with 50-some pages of overtone exercises and explanatory text. Overtone exercises are often associated with development of the altissimo register (Eugene Rousseau, for example, uses overtones extensively in his altissimo book), but this book is not specifically altissimo-oriented; it is a more broad-based approach to improving every aspect of tone production (particularly tone, intonation, and response).
The exercises are very thorough and systematic. A number of the exercises are similar to the simple ones I use with my own students, but Ben’s are better thought-out and cover the technique in a much more complete way. Between the book’s thoughtful organization and incisive text, it covers all of the usual frustrations that overtone beginners deal with; any saxophonist with a general command of the instrument’s basics should be able to jump right in and start hearing results. At the same time, the material is enough to keep an advanced saxophonist challenged for quite a while. This is a book that could very well be studied as a high school student, reviewed again at the college level, and re-reviewed throughout a professional playing career.
Rigid saxophone harnesses seem to be popping up from several makers lately. Barry Caudill tries one on for size. (Inclusion here isn’t an endorsement of this particular model; I’m just glad to see a nice thoughtful review of this type of product. I would like to see Vandoren sending some of theirs out for review—hint, hint?)
I currently have over 400 woodwind-related blogs in my feed reader, and try my best at least to skim the new posts. In the past I’ve occasionally passed along recommendations about some of the blogs that I think are especially good. I’m considering moving toward something like a monthly list of some of my favorite individual posts instead.
Here are some from April (a few from late March sneaked in, too).
Stephanie Mortimore (of the Metropolitan Opera orchestra) offers a difference-tone-based approach to improving intonation over at one of the Powell Flutes blogs: Taming the Beast—Revolutionize Your Piccolo Intonation! (Part II). No reason this method couldn’t be used for flute or any other instrument. Part I is the usual boilerplate explanation of equal vs. just temperament.
I was pleased to hear from Ben about his new book, A Complete Approach to Sound for the Modern Saxophonist. It is now available in print from Amazon (currently a very reasonable $14.95) and as a download from Payhip (a steal at $9.95).
The book is around 60 pages long, but it’s not densely packed text. It can easily be skimmed in one sitting. What you get for your money is a highly-concentrated, efficient approach to tone production. I (and probably you) have shelves of much longer and much more expensive books that take a week to read and longer to extract anything useful from. Ben’s book is a straightforward, less-is-more approach that is refreshing and worthwhile.
Barrick Stees is the assistant principal bassoonist in the Cleveland Orchestra, and a professor at the Cleveland Institute of Music and the University of Akron. His blog is fairly new (started earlier this year) but is already full of good stuff. Professor Stees shares some insights on playing excerpts at a level suitable to one of the great American orchestras: