Saxophone altissimo books: Raschèr vs. Rousseau

My university saxophone students are anxious to tackle the altissimo register, and it’s not at all uncommon for them to show up to their first lessons clutching the Sigurd Raschèr Top-Tones for the Saxophone book and wearing a hopeful expression. I also see the Raschèr book frequently and glibly recommended on online forums. With the greatest respect for Raschèr, I think this is a mistake.

Don’t get me wrong: the Raschèr book is a classic and contains a great deal of wisdom. It is a must-have for the well-read saxophonist. But I think most saxophonists would do better to start with Eugene Rousseau’s Saxophone High Tones, and have the Raschèr on hand for supplementary exercises and instruction.

Get this one first
Get this one first
Use this one as a supplement
Use this one as a supplement

I’m going to make the following point first, not because I think it’s necessarily the most important, but because it’s the one that will click with those of you who are hoping to “learn altissimo” in an afternoon by looking at a fingering chart: Rousseau’s fingering charts are much better. They are better suited to “modern” (Mark VI and beyond) instruments and more complete (in the sense of providing many more options for each note, though Raschèr’s chart does go a little higher). Rousseau also provides separate fingering charts for soprano, alto, tenor, and baritone, while Raschèr provides only one chart, which he indicates in the first-edition foreword is intended for “E-flat saxophones”—altos, that is. (I do have a few issues with the visual layout of Rousseau’s charts, and Raschèr’s too, but that’s another rant.) Continue reading “Saxophone altissimo books: Raschèr vs. Rousseau”

NASA 2010 Biennial Conference report

NASA logoI had a great time at the 2010 Biennial Conference of the North American Saxophone Alliance. It was held on the campus of the University of Georgia, my alma mater, so I got to see many old friends and colleagues.

A more poignant aspect of this year’s conference was the conspicuous absence of Dr. Kenneth Fischer, my former saxophone teacher and the intended conference host. After Dr. Fischer’s very untimely passing a few months ago, many among the NASA leadership made extra efforts to ensure that the conference went on as planned. Surely not the least among these was Dr. Stephen Fischer, Kenneth Fischer’s son, my old classmate, and a brilliant saxophonist in his own right. I noted that the conference program read:

Hosts
Dr. Kenneth Fischer
Dr. Stephen Fischer

I was in attendance Thursday through Saturday (the conference began on Wednesday). It’s such a big conference that lots of things are going on at once, and there’s no way to get to everything. But here are a few events that I caught that were highlights for me: Continue reading “NASA 2010 Biennial Conference report”

Required recordings, fall 2009

I’m requiring each of my applied students at Delta State to purchase a recording of their instrument this semester as a sort of textbook. A number of them have confessed to me that this will be the first such recording they will own. I plan to require a different recording for each instrument each semester, so that, over the course of several semesters of study, the students will begin to build their personal libraries of great players playing great literature.

The purpose of this, of course, is to help the students develop good aural concepts of tone, phrasing, expression, vibrato, ensemble, and so forth. To try to learn to play an instrument well without a solid aural concept is like trying to learn a foreign language from a textbook. You might pick up a few things, but you’ll be sunk unless you get to really hear—over and over—how the words and phrases sound.

Here are the recordings I’ve selected for this semester. They are recordings of some of the most admired and relatively current performers (all are actively performing except for the late, great Mr. Mack), performing core solo literature. There’s no flute recording because I’m only teaching reeds, but maybe something like this would have been a good choice.

Oboe: John Mack, Oboe

John Mack, Oboe

Repertoire: Schumann Three Romances, Saint-Saëns Sonata, Hindemith Sonata, Poulenc Sonata, short pieces by Murgier, Berghmans, Planel, and Barraud. Continue reading “Required recordings, fall 2009”