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Okay, so I guess some background is in order. I've played the alto saxophone for 3 years now. I started out when I was 17 and have been taking lessons since then. For the most part, I used to practice for 30-40 minutes, 3-4 times/week, sometimes more sometimes less, depending on how into it I was at the moment. Even the times when I was really into it, I couldn't play for longer than half an hour at a time before I either got bored or too exhausted. I never considered myself to be particularly good, and I never really had any ambition, certainly no high ambition, I just wanted to sound decent enough and keep playing. But whatever it was that kept me playing, I seem to have been slowly losing it since last January.

I guess the problem is that I want to reap without sowing. I never thought I sounded good, and I didn't like having other people around while I practiced. But since the beginning of last year I seem to have gotten more impatient with it, I hate the way I sound, never mind having other people listening, I could barely stand listening to myself, it almost infuriates me. I kept telling myself that it's because I don't practice enough, but it kept feeling like I was going nowhere, like no matter how much I practiced, I couldn't hold a tone for sh*t. So I got more and more annoyed with playing, I had to force myself to practice, even for just 10-15 minutes at a time. So when my lessons took a break for the summer, I stopped playing altogether, to get a break from it, see if I could get back with new energy and give it a new try once the summer was over.

So yesterday I picked it up again and tried to play for a little while, but it feels even worse than it did before. Unsurprisingly, I sound like sh*t, and I can't go on for more than a couple of minutes before I start to feel tired. I guess I should have expected that, but I didn't think it would be this hard just to find the will to practice.

So here I am now, three years after I started playing and I'm back on square one. I really want to play, I love music, I love the saxophone and I want to keep playing. But every time I do I'm just filled with a sense of despair. I sound horrible, I can't listen to myself for long enough to practice. And even if I do, I keep feeling like it's not going to do me any good, I've never had any musical talent so th best I can do is sound less awful. And even if I do, even if it eventually does start to sound better, is it really worth it if I want to punch myself in the face every time I start blowing?

So what do I do? I don't want to quit, but everything tells me I should. Part of me feels like a spoiled brat who wants to see results without working for it, the other feels like a fool who keeps banging his head against a concrete wall thinking that one day it might crack. Does anybody have any advice, kind or unkind, to get me out of this mental block? I realize I'm making myself sound like an idiot here, but if there's even the smallest chance you can help me, I figure I'd rather make myself look bad on the Internet than keep on like this.

Thanks for listening :-/
 

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Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2015-
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Awareness is the first step. It's up to you to have the will to take the next.
 

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Distinguished SOTW Member/Forum Contributor 2011
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A lot of folks experience similar dilemmas, and most quit altogether. The fact that you are here at SOW making this post seems to indicate that you really want to stick with it. The real answer to your question will only come through and from yourself, but you have to remember that playing music well is a discipline. If you decide to stick with it, only dedication and continued regular practice will make you the best player you can be. The discipline will also pay off in other areas of your life, as you learn to dedicate yourself toward quality in the things you do.

Randy
www.randyhunterjazz.com
Online Jazz Lessons and Books
New Lesson: Shaping the Blues Scale
Lessons page: www.beginningsax.com/Jazz Improv Lessons.htm
Podcast Samples: http://www.youtube.com/user/saxtrax
Rhythm Changes Demo: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SrT0Xw_y9d0
 

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Don't give up you will maybe regret it someday I almost did but I continued and now I am happy
with my progress . i have only been playing for 6 months
Good luck to you !
 

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I am alway inspired when I see live musicians play. On Sunday evening I invited Sotw member "Legitalto" to join me during my one-man sax gig and I had a blast, but I also realized that I need to woodshed more. He inspired me to be better!

B
 

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Don't quit! When I had only played a few years I would feel like that sometimes, one thing you'll want to do is make sure your horn works right. Seriously, one small leak can make you feel like you suck worse than you do, as can a bad reed. Set some short term goals that are attainable, and meet them! What kind if music do you like to listen to or play, who is your favorite sax player? Try to play along with some music you enjoy.
 

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Forum Contributor 2011, SOTW's pedantic pet rodent
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If at all possible try to play with other people who are at a similar stage to you or maybe a bit better. Find a guitarist who can play some chords (almost no guitarists like singing so they need melody unless they are good). Jam some blues and songs you both like together. Music is meant to be shared. IMO.
 

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if at you most intense stage of your playing you could only bring yourself to play for 30 minutes and now you are down to 15 ........how does that go with "....... I really want to play, I love music, I love the saxophone and I want to keep playing ......"..........I play in a community band where all sorts of players : some good, some very much less good, play alongside each other. In the 6 years that I have been playing there some stink as much now as they ever did and yet they like what they do to the point that the rest are listening to their solos and we almost like them ..........even when they stink! Because a lot of them, even if they are not very good, they put their soul into it and go for it.

Sibe is a 75 year old man, he is deaf , has an hearing aid and plays..........the soprano! Can you imagine what that means? And yet he plays with great soul and energy.............but out of tune and in a tempo of his own![rolleyes]

So if you " really want to play, love music, love the saxophone and want to keep playing......" then do it and don't do it for the results but for the love of this things but if you love them, you should be putting more work in this!

30 minutes practice a day is not going to build up much, you need to put more in it if you have got what you are talking about .......The more you put in it, you more you'll get out .
 

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Forum Contributor 2011, SOTW's pedantic pet rodent
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Sibe is a 75 year old man, he is deaf , has an hearing aid and plays..........the soprano! Can you imagine what that means?
Possibly custom earplugs?

(i jest :))
 

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Man if the thrill is gone don't prolong the anguish, move on and fine something you really enjoy doing.
 

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Put on some of your favorite CDs and play along. Have fun with it and stop worrying so much about what you sound like.
 

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Don't quit! When I had only played a few years I would feel like that sometimes, one thing you'll want to do is make sure your horn works right. Seriously, one small leak can make you feel like you suck worse than you do, as can a bad reed. Set some short term goals that are attainable, and meet them! What kind if music do you like to listen to or play, who is your favorite sax player? Try to play along with some music you enjoy.
I agree w/musiciscool. Take small bites, set attainable goals. Master small ideas, work on your tone. The big picture will start to come together.
 

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Also, get the right teacher if you can afford private lessons. I think it's important to study with someone who can communicate with YOU effectively,is willing to work w/ you even if you progress slowly but will inspire you to study, learn and improve as a sax player and as a musician.
 

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Pretty inspiring post, Milandro!

To the OP: I sometimes (maybe even more often) also feel as if I never will get something accmplished (on the sax). I know that I do not have much musical talent, but I enjoy practicing for my own (in a soundproof cabin, unheard by others). It's like a physical need to blow the horn, and so I do not have any difficulties to practice long hours (if I find the time). But why bother if you don't enjoy practicing? I love the sound of my own playing, and if I wouldn't, I'd quit the whole thing and find something enjoyable instead. Thers no "sax-playing" law to follow here.

Maybe your goals are set to high? I actually wasted a lot of time trying to play (or learn) tunes that I am not yet up to, and this is really frustrating. Persuade yourself that not everything is a matter of talent (or find a teacher that helps you in doing so). Eventually and over time, even our ears might become half-decent so that we are able to get something cool done :)

Regards,

Thomas
 

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If at all possible try to play with other people who are at a similar stage to you or maybe a bit better. Find a guitarist who can play some chords (almost no guitarists like singing so they need melody unless they are good). Jam some blues and songs you both like together. Music is meant to be shared. IMO.
This worked for me. I couldn't play at all now if I didn't have friends to enjoy playing with, which motivates me to practice.
 

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If you are still taking lessons and it isn't working, then maybe it really isn't the instrument for you, or maybe you are destined to play only CDs & MP3s. :D

Lessons are important, especially when beginning, so you don't learn the wrong habits. It's hard to help much on-line because we can't actually see & hear what you are doing. Hard to diagnose anything that way.

So, if you stopped taking lessons a while back, try them again... maybe with a different instructor. :dontknow:
 

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Evveryone here has gone through a 'suck' stage. It's all part of learning.
Shoot I've been playing for 40 years and I still think I suck, BUT, I have never given up.
We all progress at different rates. Some get 'good' in a matter of months, some don't get 'good' for YEARS.
It all depends on how badly you want it and how hard you are willing to work.

From reading your post I would have to say that you don't REALLY want to get any better. I could be wrong, but that is my first impression.
Practicing for only 45 minutes or less a few times a week just isn't going to do it. For some of us that's how long we take just getting warmed up.
I'm old, cranky, and sometimes not very nice so take this with a grain of salt.... Sell the repulsive instrument and take up basket weaving or raising tropical fish, OR, quit being a complainer and get your *A* in the shed and start using some of this depressing negative energy to improve.
That's the only way to NOT SUCK.
 

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You can ALWAYS quit... It's easy!

I took up golf at 53. Heck, pro golfers move to the senior tour at 50 because their games going downhill by that age. By all rights I should think that I was starting at the point where I was as good as I could get already. I was afraid to go out on the course and embarrass myself when a friend pointed out to me that 85-90 percent of the people out on the public courses had never broken 100!

The short and sweet point I'm trying to make is I don't play golf to be good, I play to be as good as I can, because I enjoy the game, the camaraderie, and I enjoy the "toys." I enjoy at differing levels for different reasons every once in a while I surprise myself and it's the surprises that keep me coming back... Sort of like hitting G3 on purpose for the first, second, and 100th time.
 

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Someguy, there is some good advice here. I had somewhat similar feelings at times after I started playing as a late bloomer. I learned how to play the notes fairly quickly, but it took awhile for the music to come. There is truth to the saying "the saxophone is an easy instrument to learn to play poorly, and a hard one to learn to play well." I'm 4 and a half years in, and just now getting to where I think I can really play.
Put your horn down for awhile, a couple of weeks or so. If you want to pick it back up, get it checked by a shop to make sure it's in good order. Get a teacher if you can, or get a good learning book like Tipbook Saxophone by Hugo Pinksterboer. Review the basics-make sure you are putting it together well, that your embouchure is good, that you are tongueing properly, etc.
Then practice, practice, practice.
 

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I know this is gonna sound cheesy and all new age touchy-feely but...

First of all, forgive yourself for not being good or in your words having a horrible sound! The saxophone is a very easy instrument to play badly. It does take a lot of dedication and time to attain a beautiful and expressive tone and the technique to say what you need to say through your instrument. There is no free lunch...

Secondly remember that time spent working at it = progress. Period. So if you don't practice you're not going to get better. But I suggest PRACTICE SMART, NOT LONG! Organize your practice time into manageable chunks of time that are attainable, maybe like this (let's take your 30 minute example):

10 mins tonal exercises, long tones, overtones etc.

5 min break

10 mins technical studies; scales, arpeggios, chord studies.

5 min break

10 mins playing along with music you like or want to learn.

THIS IS IMPORTANT!!: set a timer for yourself. At the end of ten minutes you take a 5 minute break and move to the next segment of your routine, set the timer and continue. I have used this throughout my life and have found it an effective way to stay focused and moving forward in my practicing.

Don't be surprised if after a couple weeks you find yourself extending your practice sessions and covering more ground. Progress is addictive!

Keep a daily journal of your practice. Write down what you do EVERY day, EVERY practice session. Record yourself at the beginning and the end of every week but DO NOT LISTEN TO THE RECORDINGS! These will be archived and you can listen to them in a month or two. That way you'll have a gauge of your progress and an audio record to prove to yourself you're getting better (or not).

You'll be amazed at how much you CAN get done in 30 mins. It's better to focus really hard for 30mins than to be distracted for two hours!

I am a working professional saxophone player. I HATE to practice. There, I said it. Frankly, I'd rather play golf. Like you, I want the results without the effort. Reality says that isn't going to happen, so I've spent 1000's of hours in a practice room because I love music and I love the saxophone. And I love making music with my friends (and getting paid for it doesn't hurt!)

If at the end of the day, you can't find the joy in it, then please find something that DOES bring you happiness. Music should always be joyful in the end, even when you're slogging through the pain of figuring out how to play this instrument.

Good luck. Hope this helps.

Peace,
John






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