I've had this book about two years. As a scientist and didactics-oriented novice player, I thought it would unlock the secrets of voicing and give me a shortcut to beautiful sound, articulation, clean bell tone attacks, overtones, altissimo...
My first skim I was very frustrated because Watkins includes quotes from so many writers who are clearly wrong or misleading with respect to actual laryngeal/oral configuration or acoustics or physics of airflow-I guess out of his desire to present all points of view and perhaps not insult respected teachers. I was simply confused.
Also, Watkins includes long quoted dialogs with various instrument acoustics experts on questions he poses. These are fascinating, but in my opinion more appropriate for author's notes than a finished text.
I took a second look about a year later that was more focused and found some pearls, but mostly AFTER I had mastered a playing element through trial and error and muscle memory, guided by a teacher, and then confirmed I was on track by reviewing the text and videos.
This book to me is like a massive collection of library and lab research notes, loosely organized and assembled into categories. It is NOT a method book. Frankly, it could use a rigorous editing by an academic publisher.
What is required for learners to make faster progress with this fabulous resource is for a teacher skilled in pedagogy to mine it for information of practical utility for developing players and assemble that into a consistent curriculum of conclusive (and effective) recommendations, omitting the extraneous data and contradictions.
I have great hope that just such a volume will soon be published by Dr. Ben Britton who is currently revising his earlier two books Complete Approach to Sound and Complete Approach to Overtones with a thorough understanding of the information presented by Watkins as well as feedback from his students with whom he has explored various approaches to the material.
The great lesson from this book which possibly must be learned through player experience rather than reading is that VOICING is the key to consistent and beautiful sound: controlling the position of the larynx and apposition of the vocal folds, at least two segments of the tongue independently, the soft palate, the lower jaw, labial muscles... as well as audiating ("pre-hearing") the desired pitch and timbre prior to producing the sound. Self-awareness of voicing configuration and discerned listening and tone feedback for accurate self-criticism and correction are not automatic! Those skills also must be learned.
Developed saxophone players sound like themselves because of their voicing and anatomy (as well as texture, articulation, phrasing, note choice…
just as singers also sound uniquely themselves. To some extent, a learner can imitate or emulate, but eventually a sound will evolve that is unique to oneself and partly constrained by one's anatomy and fine motor control.
Seasoned players and pros produce correct configurations autonomously and may have forgotten all the steps they took while developing, or may use personalized descriptive language to describe their maneuvers that is not helpful for others to replicate their success.
The challenge this book presents is whether trial-and-error is the only route to mastery, or a pedagogy of concepts and exercises can be developed from it that will speed progress toward beautiful, controlled sound that more efficiently yields the player's desired concept.