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From the Inside Out Book Review

3566 Views 13 Replies 4 Participants Last post by  Serafino
Posted a new review of an amazing book by Dr. Mark Watkins entitled "From the Inside Out". "From the Inside Out" is a revolutionary in-depth comprehensive 309 page resource book for the development of saxophone sound. When this book is described as "in-depth", Dr. Watkins is not joking! It is 309 pages of descriptions, scientific data, scientific and medical terms, a plethora of fluoroscopy and endoscopy photos (photos and scans of the inside of the mouth and vocal tract) as well as countless diagrams, charts, illustrations and a variety of quotes from saxophone players, teachers, doctors and scientists. (In fact, 92 subjects participated in a variety of vocal tract and saxophone tone production projects). It even has links to a number of videos showing the inside of the mouth and vocal tract while playing! An amazing resource that will you will find fascinating and illuminating as a saxophone player and/or teacher! Check out the full review:
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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.
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Steve, I hear you.
I write and understand from the perspective of a lifetime learner and practitioner and teacher of science and medicine who first got within 20 feet of a saxophone at age 60. And fell in love.
I'm not the same kind of student as a middle-schooler with flexible vacuum brain and quick nimble fingers and bands and band directors and peers and the motivation of honors and university and maybe a musical career and most importantly TIME and a long future ahead.
In addition to curating gear and teaching resources that I think will help me, and practicing while learning to practice efficiently, and--as a teacher--observing myself learning with curiosity and amusement, I seek the holy grails--the reference materials that accurately at least describe the anatomy and physics of what is going on with sound production.
I decided pretty early that my time would be better spent practicing with the horn than dissecting and rebuilding the Watkins book into a tool that would be practical for me. But the information IS in there!
Bless and praise the teachers, their calling and their quest and their labor, and the achievements of the students they gift to us.
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