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Distinguished SOTW Member/Forum Contributor 2009
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Discussion Starter #1
Maybe you've read that book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother? One of the tenets of the Tiger Mom was that her daughters were to only participate in activities where they could be #1. Fortunately, my mom wasn't like that, but as an adult sax player, I did feel that I should not play out or lead a band if I couldn't be the best (why would folks come out to see me play if I wasn't the best?) For me, the being the best sax player meant being an altissimo master and being able to flutter tongue convincingly (as I always felt defeated at jams when other sax players pulled out these skills.)

Is anyone else burdened with this issue? Sometimes I struggle to promote my shows because I know I'm not the best and I fear the audience might feel like they are wasting their time (though I try to hedge this by using great players to round out the group.)

Have you ever enjoyed listening to a sax player that isn't the best?
 

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I'm an avid amateur sax player. Only in recent months have I had the time to practice more and play more than ever before, this due to being essentially retired. I very much enjoy listening to musicians on all levels, from grade school kids grinding it out to the slickest pros on CDs and MP3s. I've been paid to play and/or do vocals, but I certainly have no illusions about being "the best." The whole idea of needing to be "the best" can motivate great labor and sacrifice and can lead to notable expertise and amazing skill. In my career as a speaker/teacher I was often driven to "be the best", both for personal fulfillment and for professional advancement in my field. But that same drive to "be the best" can also take a terrible toll on the human mind and heart. Men and women can neglect their health, the quality of their lives, and the needs of those who love them, all in the name of being "the best". There is sometimes a fine line between a healthy drive for expertise and an obsession that leaves no room for anything else.

Sorry, didn't mean to lecture. I have my own history of burning myself to the ground with irrational expectations for myself. To answer your question, YES, I can and do enjoy the music of all sorts of musicians. Each one brings his or her own sound and soul to the music and each individual or group has something unique to offer. I derive as much pleasure from knowing someone loves the music and enjoys playing it as I do from the technical expertise of the players. In fact, I much prefer someone who is having a good time with their music than someone who is mechanically precise but seems to lack heart or joy in what they are doing. So I'd say keep playing, love what you do, and be kind to yourself in the bargain. You don't have to be "the best" to entertain and make music that people will love to hear.
 

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"Best" is very subjective. A player can be musical, tasteful, and enjoyable without being the best. I dont want to sit and listen to someone who is a miserable player and out of tune ever fifth note but I also dont necessarily think that exhibitionists of technique make automatically make better music. I think the essence of the matter is making music. After that everything else is secondary.
 

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Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2011
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In my young age I was extremely critical, and not many players met the standards I set. I've since learned that these standards are always shifting. I now appreciate players that I wouldn't take a second look at in the old days, and it is not because they are bad and that I have lowered my standards, but because I've gotten a different perception. Flutter tongue and altissimo are definitely not the nec plus ultra for a player that can be a joy to listen to.

Reine
 

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Yeah, it's about music not chops. I've heard people on the street that I would rather listen to then some really slick professionals. I personally can only describe it as a "feel" for music. Some people with great chops have it and some people with almost no chops have it.
 

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Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2013
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Yeah, it's about music not chops. I've heard people on the street that I would rather listen to then some really slick professionals. I personally can only describe it as a "feel" for music. Some people with great chops have it and some people with almost no chops have it.
Yep. +1
 

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Forum Contributor 2010-2016
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Just because a dog can walk on its hind legs doesn't make it the best dog. Players with incredible technique can often make the saxophone do extraordinary things without adding anything particularly enjoyable or useful to the music at hand.

I love to listen to Count Basie on the piano. His timing was always exquisite. Now THAT'S virtuosity.
 

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I've grown up lacking confidence. It always confused my parents that up until my Sophomore year I could wail at home on the horn- but at school I couldn't get notes out.

It's hard to say where it roots from- perhaps it could be cause my parents were always content with me- and I wasn't raised to be the absolute best. Perhaps it was because I was picked on so hard up until around 8th Grade? Perhaps it was cause my first two years on the saxophone was spent on a broken Conn, and if we had known it, I wouldn't have been told by everyone around me I should just quit.

Things hurt our confidence. Somewhere at some point however I stopped letting stuff get to me. As I grew and became a Solid Player- what did I have to fear? I think the greatest thing that helps me as a teenager (with all the pressure and fear of playing bad in front of peers... it can be nerve racking) who plays Saxophone is I realized- no one is the best. Everyone has weaknesses... and strengths, so why live in fear because I'm not the No. 1 in the world? It's obviously not real to think I am, and my audience obviously didn't come here expecting a group of High Schoolers to be the best.

It always helps me when I think of that. Also that if I make a mistake the majority of the audience won't know it :twisted: But yeah- confidence seems to be a deal breaker.

While I'm obviously I'm a pissant on the scales of things as a HS Student, but hell, it really does make a difference. I've seen kids from other schools go up to solo and sound like ****- but they're so cocky and confident they go with it, and it doesn't seem to both them. (It's VERY bad to be unaware, but they got guts which is something I wish I was filled with.)
 

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Not the best? Hah!

I'm not even close to being the best at anything musical. And that's not even part of my journey. As a gospel player, my path has always been to fill a roll that needs filling.

I know that entertainment and sports are full of stories about those reaching success through their search for excellence and perfection. But what I have seen in my life is that the vast majority of successful people are successful because they are willing to "do" and not because they are perfect at what they do. I am willing to get up and play the sax and lead our orchestra. That willingness is more important than than my ability. And the same is true in my work. I will tackle any problem and any issue that I choose. I may never be the best or most qualified to handle it, but I am the one willing to take it on. That makes me a success while others with more skill and talent are not.

I admire those on the musical path to perfection. But I am not that guy. Instead I hope to keep learning, but never put off performing right now with whatever talent and skill I can muster today. I urge you to have confidence and just "do". Life is to short not to blow that sax in front of an audience ever chance you get.
 

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Yeah, almost aways. Relax, man. It is music - not a fr*gging sport.
If there's anything I learned during my short time of taking guitar lessons it's that it's music not a contest. (unless you actually are in a contest ie American Idol)
 

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I'd rather listen to beginners than listen to some players who are said to be "The Best".
 

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Yeah, haha, if you wanna be the best sax player, you may as well give up now. I don't even think about that stuff, man. I just wanna be better than I was yesterday.
What I'm sayin! The only person you should be better than is yourself hehe. My friend who was an exceptional drummer (and a few years older than me) told me that once.
 
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