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5. Listen to Music

Discussion in 'General Information' started by pete, Dec 1, 2009.

  1. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

    I mention elsewhere that if you want to sound like, say, Paul Desmond, you need to practice -- A LOT -- and practice the right way, under direction from a good instructor. However, one thing that a lot of people miss is that you need to listen to the folks you want to emulate AND listen to the people that they emulate.

    Then ask your instructor questions.

    As a "for instance", I am a baritone sax player that plays mainly classical music. When it came for the time to start picking solo music for All-State bands and college placement, I gravitated toward playing cello transpositions, as the bari sax fits in that range. While there aren't too many classical baritone sax players out there, I did listen to some bari players in quartets.

    I also listened to cello music. I found out that Yo-Yo Ma is good, but Pablo Casals is better -- well, at least on the Bach cello suites, which is what I was practicing.

    I "lucked out", in one respect: I already had a teacher who played in the classical style, so I was already being trained to play classical sax. However, if I wasn't already being trained that way, I would have been asking how to make my tone more cello-like and how to emulate bowing. (Which is kewl, I must say.)

    Now, I can't say that I played my solos anywhere near as good as Pablo Casals or Yo-Yo Ma, but the gentleman that graded me for All-State did complement me on my tone. And he happened to be a bari player in one of those quartets I listened to ....


    Clarinet and other woodwinds have it easy: you can just find music specifically written for your instrument in practically any genre and can get good recordings of that piece.

    However, on clarinet, I couldn't find a player I wanted to emulate, exactly. While I liked the recordings of several classical players, I wanted a fat, rich sound like Pete Fountain and the warmth of a little vibrato -- not as much as Mr. Fountain, but a lot more than most classical folks use (which is generally none). That meant I listened to a lot of folks and said, "This is what I like about what they do, this is what I don't like" and created a sound that's wholly mine.


    Finally, you should just listen to music in a variety of genres, both for your instrument and not. At the very least, it will help you later in your music career if you write for other instruments -- or just give you an appreciation of their ranges and capabilities. Hey, did you know a French horn can play two notes at once? I didn't, until I heard Schickele's "Pentangle for Horn" (the player "hums" a note while playing another). D'ya know what "col legno" is? I learned that after listening to Schickele's string quartets.
  2. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

    Patience's piano post and all replies were moved to the general discussion forum.
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