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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My ultimate dream is to become a professional musician. I know that there is a lot of hard, hard work involved with this, but music is the one thing that I enjoy more than anything else. I know money can be an issue. I don't care. I want to do play my saxophone at a very high level. I'd love to write my own songs, put albums together, record, perform.

The problem is, I'm feeling stuck. I know that I need to practice, and practice a lot - although sometimes I struggle to find stuff to do. I'm not saying that I know it all - very, very far from it - I just need a good starting point so I can improve my playing.

So, please, if it's not too much to ask, could you give me a heap of stuff to study and learn - as I've said earlier, I want to do it. Also, if there are any pros out there reading this, how did you make it to where you are today?

Thanks in advance.
 

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You'd be surprised. Professionalism often has less to do with practice, and more to do with working well with others. The truth is that you'll never be happy with your own playing, and this is a good thing. Keep working hard at your craft. As long as people are hiring you, you're on the right track. Just be flexible. Being a professional musician is never quite what you expect, but the rewards are many as long as you keep an open mind.

Oh, and you will never please every single saxophonist that you meet. We all have different concepts in tone, style, and gear. Learn what you can from the best of us, but take it with a grain of salt. Who you're really trying to impress are drummers, bassists, guitarists, vocalists, and anyone else who hires saxophonists. If you're working with multiple saxophonists, learn how to work with them. There's always someone better, but this isn't a contest. We're entertainers, and what we do is never THAT serious. Figure out how to do what YOU do best.
 

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I'm no pro player, but I was just caught by your thread. It is great to read such a conviction and attitude.

SA80's reply makes a lot of sense. Like in the rest of the professional world, networking is key. Be the one who comes to mind when someone is needed. You will probably need the top technical skills though to audition for a position in an orchestra or teaching chair.

I do play regularly for paid gigs, and therefore go along with pro musicians (they hire me...). My biggest shortcomings when I compare my "deliverable" with pros: sight reading and "itchy" keys (more than 4 bs or #s). They would be my obsession if I'd want to go professional. Besides lots of scales just to make the mechanics run faster and safer.
 

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You'd be surprised. Professionalism often has less to do with practice, and more to do with working well with others.
This is the truth. Plus a bit of luck. I've always got my biggest breaks from just being out there and beeing seen/heard at gigs, jams or just socalising, clubbing etc. Note I said "seen/heard" - It's as much about image as it is about talent. Practising is imporatnt, but you don't become more professional by practising more. Unles you intend to be that very rare animal - a professional jazz (or classical) musician, then being a virtuoso on your instrument can often take second fiddle in professionalism compared to:
  • Being a team player
  • Looking good
  • Turning up on time, sticking to contracts and being reliable. If you are ill, make it your business to supply or recommend a sub/dep.
  • Be well rounded. Not just a good reader, but also good at learning arrangements and picking things up by ear
  • Work on tone and versatility of genre as much as technical dexterity.
  • Market yourself: website, blog, facebook, telephone, business cards etc.

I switched musical careers about 25 years ago from a professional session/touring musician to being a commercial composer. That still involves me in playinga bit and I still do sessions for other people from time to time, but my emphasis is on composing and production which I now find more rewarding (artistcally and financially) and practical - having a family now it is great to not be schlepping up and down motorways and waiting in airport lounges.

I would defibitely recommend that as a parallel or alternative career path.
 

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"could you give me a heap of stuff to study and learn" My easy answer is everything business connected with the industry and how to work it.

Along what Pete told you, years ago it was easier to get established that it is now. The people with "drive and conviction and chops" could keep hitting the better groups, big bands, record labels and studios, etc.
In a way all the so called social media young people have today has eroded and diluted the chance of making it.

About once or twice a year I'll come across a player from a college work shop or seminar situation that I'll encourage to go for it and it's always because or their attitude and conviction more than their playing skills (which because of the previous are very high anyway).

Only you know if you really have that drive to do all and anything that's necessary to succeed.

JR
 

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I'm a non-pro who gigs, but love to give advice that should definitely be taken with a grain of salt. In this case several of the above pros who I respect have mentioned some key points that I'd like to reiterate more specifically. If you have been learning just one form of music such as mainstream or classical, this isn't going get you much work, especially if you're trying to break into those two fields that are swamped with very talented players and precious few opportunities. I'm sure the advice about working the people and business side are correct, but if you wish to stand out further, then being creative (like Pete) can give you that extra dimension. It's one thing to just be a guy who gets calls and work, it's another to be part of a group that is creative and can get regular gigs. If you're just a good reader, or know how to play changes, then you're an ordinary minnow in a big pond. If you're creative and have something different/special to give then you've (potentially) got something that can create a success not only for you but others who will seek you out. Open your ears to all types of music and see if you can play within those styles with integrity. Challenge yourself to making each and every note mean something with the intent of communicating the story and emotions of the music. Even if you are just backing, having that deep well of feeling and meaning can shine through and inspire others. Be humble, if you've got all those things going for you and have made yourself available, let others put you on top. Make those around you look/sound good.
 

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study piano
study drums
study bass
study guitar
take voice lessons

If you want to be a professional musician, pick as many from the above list as you can manage.

In addition,to get work on sax you need to master flute and clarinet at a minimum, with double reeds a good idea and as much percussion as you can manage.

Sax isn't involved in everything on a gig generally, so learn to contribute on other things at a professional level. Once you have made it, do whatever moves you at the moment, as long as you are willing to do your signature songs at EVERY performance.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Thanks everyone for the help and support. Could I have an idea on some theory/technical stuff to do as well? I'm going to ask my music teacher to give me a lot of stuff to learn (homework, really), so I can get as far as I can, and because I've never done much theory.

rzzzzz: I don't use keyboards at this point in time aside from mucking around, and I also use Ableton Suite 8 and Adobe Audition. Ableton is really good software.
 

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You'd be surprised. Professionalism often has less to do with practice, and more to do with working well with others. The truth is that you'll never be happy with your own playing, and this is a good thing. Keep working hard at your craft. As long as people are hiring you, you're on the right track. Just be flexible. Being a professional musician is never quite what you expect, but the rewards are many as long as you keep an open mind.

Oh, and you will never please every single saxophonist that you meet. We all have different concepts in tone, style, and gear. Learn what you can from the best of us, but take it with a grain of salt. Who you're really trying to impress are drummers, bassists, guitarists, vocalists, and anyone else who hires saxophonists. If you're working with multiple saxophonists, learn how to work with them. There's always someone better, but this isn't a contest. We're entertainers, and what we do is never THAT serious. Figure out how to do what YOU do best.
I agree with much of what you said except I ain't no entertainer.

Artist here.

There is a difference. Not disparaging entertainers it's just that some of us don't consider ourselves to be that.

I also disagree when you say it has less to do with practice.

It has everything to do with practice.
 

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Thanks everyone for the help and support. Could I have an idea on some theory/technical stuff to do as well? I'm going to ask my music teacher to give me a lot of stuff to learn (homework, really), so I can get as far as I can, and because I've never done much theory.

rzzzzz: I don't use keyboards at this point in time aside from mucking around, and I also use Ableton Suite 8 and Adobe Audition. Ableton is really good software.
I'm not a pro, but if you're looking technical, a short list of standard books for most sax players with enough pages to keep you busy for years:
Deville (know this one front to back)
Fehrling - 48 etudes
Klose - 25 daily exercises
Parker Omnibook
Jerry Coker - Patterns for Jazz
Lennie Neihaus - Jazz conception series
Rascher - Top Tones
Oliver Nelson - Patterns for Improvisation

Tim Price's website has a list of essential saxophone skills:
http://timpricejazz.com/lessons/saxnecessities.pdf

Go to your local music store and look through the books. Buy what is at your level and master that. Also look on the internet at College programs. A lot of programs list required audition materials. Also, the back of Teal's The Art of Saxophone Playing has a list of material 2 or 3 pages long.

But again, as the Pros here have said. There is far more required than just technical competence on your horn.
 

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I didn't want to start a new thread for this question because i'm on " Lay Back " status :p. But for someone to become big as a saxophone player do you need to dedicate all your time to it? I want saxophone playing to be my second job, but do I need to dedicate 100% of my time to it in the future..? Also what about travel.. wife and kids... etc.. Anyone got first hand experiences?

My teacher said he knows some doctors who are saxophone players but I don't think they are getting anywhere big.
 

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I didn't want to start a new thread for this question because i'm on " Lay Back " status :p.
Too bad. This question could have started an excellent thread in its own right.

But for someone to become big as a saxophone player do you need to dedicate all your time to it? I want saxophone playing to be my second job, but do I need to dedicate 100% of my time to it in the future..? Also what about travel.. wife and kids... etc.. Anyone got first hand experiences?

My teacher said he knows some doctors who are saxophone players but I don't think they are getting anywhere big.
My $0.02: I did a job last night with an above-average corporate band. Membership in the band consists of a couple of guys in sales, a full-time singer, an undertaker, a photographer, and me. No one in the audience should know that most of these guys don't do music for a full-time career. They want a show. You're still expected to play at a high standard regardless of whether or not you have a real job.

Travel/wife/kids: Guys juggle this successfully but from the point of view of being a touring musician (before) who is married (now), I think it can be a real hardship on everyone. I play all over the state, but usually one night over is the max. Last year I did a 6-week run of a show, several hours away, and was home only when the theater was dark (Mondays/Tuesdays) and it was tough. The paychecks were pretty good, though.

Some of the best sax players I've met are doctors (as in physicians). Don't know if I'd have them do my annual checkup, though... :mrgreen:
 

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Haha, hey South what's your real name if you don't mind me asking. Just your first name.
My real name is Scott Ankrom. So my first name is "Scott."

How 'bout your first name, Acid?
 

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I think I found some Youtube videos of your playing:

Nice playing dude, i'm not sure about Tenor tone but it sounds good. Also what's up with the music? :p >.<
 

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I think I found some Youtube videos of your playing:

Nice playing dude, i'm not sure about Tenor tone but it sounds good. Also what's up with the music? :p >.<
Thanks. That video wouldn't be Exhibit A in my portfolio. Unfortunately I was at the mercy of the sound guy who decided to "tweak" my sound into what you just heard.
 
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