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Discussion Starter #1
I am wondering how many of us late bloomers are playing with others in a band. This thought occurred to me as the result a question by Rudy on his thread RECITAL.

When I decided I wanted to play saxophone, and even before he agreed to take me on as a student, my teacher quizzed me as to what kind of music I wanted to play and with whom I wanted to play it. I was interested in dance band music and big band jazz, (Ellington, Basie, Kenton, Buddie Rich, Fletcher Henderson etc) I wanted to be a section player not a small-group soloist.

After a while, at my teacher’s suggestion, I asked if I might “sit in” (as a reader, not a player) with a local semi-pro big band. I knew I probably couldn’t have passed an audition, and as they had no vacancies, this seemed a good way to get a foot in the door.

My teacher thought it a good way to save embarrassment also. If it proved to be “a bridge too far” for me, I could simply not go any more, and this would have made no difference to the band. Likewise, if had been playing below their standard, they would not need to show me the door.

I went to every rehearsal, made copies of the pieces they were working on, and took them to my lessons. After about ten weeks or so the leader said “Bring your tenor next week”. So I did.

Then we had six saxes in the section. I played as an extra. There were a few rehearsals, and a couple of gigs were the 1st tenor was absent, and so the proper 2nd tenor took his placed, and I played 2nd tenor.

Then I had an amazing stroke of luck,. The leadership of the band changed, and the 2nd tenor was elected conductor. I slipped into his chair without there being any debate.

Since then, I have also joined a classical wind ensemble, a totally different world, from which I can learn enormously.

I find playing with other better players to be a fantastic experience, which offers amazing opportunity for learning and improvement.

What do the others here think? Please share your experiences.
 

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I guess I qualify - I put down the sax except for the rare recording in 1984. Even before that time I was really a singer - only playing sax about 4-6 songs a night, but with a working full road band, so I did get some real experience. In 2008 I joined a band as a guitarist. Turns out what they needed was a sax player, so I dusted off my old Bundy 2, joined SOTW, and got to work. I liked it so much, I bought a better sax and really dug in. My problem is that I obsess over pretty much anything I do, so now - just a few years later, I'm working as a sax player with three bands (Three distinctly different styles) and also take pick-up gigs anytime I can.

I learned in the 70's and 80's that you get better by doing. PLaying in a band for three hours gives me the same results as 10 hours or more of practice - it's really incalculable but it's a lot. Be advised that just personal experience, but it seems to be true with other players too. Take a practice band and put them on the road and they get much better - fast. There appears to be a lot more focus on getting it right live, but even practicing with a band can make you a better player.

Playing alone doesn't give you the experience to truly understand dynamics, rhythm, working with others, and blending and integrating your sound into a whole. It's also much easier to develop your ear when you are working with a group I think. And finally - There's just the charge you get from the volume, feeding off other players, and even the audience response that encourages you to stick with it.

Playing in bands has also increased my practice time because I'm motivated to learn the songs I'll be playing live - working with no real direction bores the %$$&^@ out of me. I highly reccomend joining a band if you really are intent on improving your skills. The "do or die" factor also helps you step it up a knotch quickly when on a first outing, practice, or audition with a new band.
 

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I hear you guys, I do plan on joinging a band sooner rather than later time permitting and I hope to use it as a stepping stone into something bigger and better. I have only been doing solos and duets so far but I am eager to also try the big band gig, I figure it can only make you a better well rounded player. one last thing, what would or will there be any prerequisites to playing in a big band?
 

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PLaying in a band for three hours gives me the same results as 10 hours or more of practice - it's really incalculable but it's a lot. ... There appears to be a lot more focus on getting it right live, but even practicing with a band can make you a better player.

Playing alone doesn't give you the experience to truly understand dynamics, rhythm, working with others, and blending and integrating your sound into a whole. It's also much easier to develop your ear when you are working with a group I think. And finally - There's just the charge you get from the volume, feeding off other players, and even the audience response that encourages you to stick with it.

Playing in bands has also increased my practice time because I'm motivated to learn the songs I'll be playing live - working with no real direction bores the %$$&^@ out of me. I highly reccomend joining a band if you really are intent on improving your skills. The "do or die" factor also helps you step it up a knotch quickly when on a first outing, practice, or audition with a new band.
Man, is this ever the Truth.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
will there be any prerequisites to playing in a big band?
Hi Rudy.
Try to borrow the folder beforer you actually go and play in the band. This will give you a sporting chance at least. You can go through some of the titles with your teacher. I can't recall if you play alto or tenor, but avoid the first chair for either. The 1st alto leads the whole section, and the 1st tenor is the band's main soloist.:bluewink:
 

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Well I finally played for the first time, in public, a few days ago. I was a guitarist (long time retired) and picked up the sax about 3 years ago (I am well into my 50s) No lessons and play maybe once a week; but a couple of muso friends tolerated my honkings and they finally persuaded me something reasonable was coming out.
I only had a couple of days to think about playing live at a jam and, believe me it took some nerve. I am not a reader - never will be - so I was the frontman playing my own thing. I have never played anything through without a mistake so this was a big deal. Things could not have gone better, though. Played five numbers, improvised in all of them and even had the confidence to noodle around to a number I hadn't played before.
What a complete buzz. We went down so well we were asked to do a gig. Unbelievable. I hadn't the heart to tell them that was my first attempt.

Not sure if there is a point to the above, just had to tell someone about it :)

I guess what I am getting at is that it really isn't too late. The band thing really does focus you. I have tried playing along to recordings and the like but there is no substitute for playing with other musicians to hone your skills. I am now patiently trying to build a set list to see if I can nail this gig. Learning another 15 numbers is going to keep me busy for the foreseeable future.

Anyway, if you are still with me, thanks for reading.
 

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you get better by doing.
"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” – Lao Tzu.

Rock band, funk band, community band, jamming - get out there and play!! 'Play with anyone you can' is my creed.

Last weekend I had a jam with a drummer when I had answered her advertisement on a local website. I thought it was going to be just the two of us but a guitarist and a bassist showed up too. What followed was hours of the best fun music I'd played in years, free improv with moments of brilliance from all four players. The guitarist took my number and I should have taken his as we shared common musical tastes. I should have stuck a disc in the recorder too but I didn't realise they had that facility at the studio.

You will always hear that playing with others improves your playing; that is the truth. Even the first duets I played with my teacher taught me more about dynamics than I could ever learn alone. At my first gig I thought nothing would come out of the horn I was so nervous. As a late bloomer, my 'saxlife' is without a doubt the best journey I've ever undertaken and has taught me more about myself than I could ever learn anywhere else.

I hope this thread recieves many positive, relevant comments.
 

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Dunno if it's the sort of band you're after, Iain, but I play in a community concert band and I love it. A friend of mine plays trumpet in the band and he invited me to come along and sit in one night and ... I just sort of kept coming. I've been a member for about a year and it has made a huge difference to my playing. When I started I was well below the level of the other players (but probably just slightly above the level of the beginners' band run by the same conductor, rehearsing just before the main concert band). Now I'm still well below most of them (and always will be, there are quite a few former professionals in the band) but I've improved heaps. The gap has narrowed a bit. The other night at rehearsal I could play everything for the first hour - barely missed a note. Downhill after that, and we had been playing our easier material, but it was a wonderful feeling.

All the comments above about the benefits of playing with others are true. I'd add that my sight reading has come a long way simply because the band's repertoire is large and I don't have the time to work through and practise the whole book - it's hard enough trying to keep up with whatever we're working with at the time - so I'm always encountering new pieces for the first time.

Most of all, it's just so much fun. The music we play is frankly not the sort of thing I would ever buy in CD form and sit down and listen to. But sitting in a line of altos, with the trombones and other low brass blasting away behind me, the flutes struggling to be heard in front and the clarinets squeaking away off to the left somewhere - just about whatever we do seems wonderful. We could play baa baa black sheep and I'd come out grinning.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
I only had a couple of days to think about playing live at a jam and, believe me it took some nerve. I am not a reader - never will be - so I was the frontman playing my own thing. I have never played anything through without a mistake so this was a big deal. Things could not have gone better, though. Played five numbers, improvised in all of them and even had the confidence to noodle around to a number I hadn't played before.
What a complete buzz. We went down so well we were asked to do a gig. Unbelievable. I hadn't the heart to tell them that was my first attempt.

Not sure if there is a point to the above, just had to tell someone about it :)

I guess what I am getting at is that it really isn't too late. The band thing really does focus you. I have tried playing along to recordings and the like but there is no substitute for playing with other musicians to hone your skills. I am now patiently trying to build a set list to see if I can nail this gig. Learning another 15 numbers is going to keep me busy for the foreseeable future.

Anyway, if you are still with me, thanks for reading.
Great story. I am quite a good reader, but being able to stand up and jam is something I would love to be able to do, but cannot at the moment. In big band music, 2nd tenor doesn't solo much, but if I have to, I work out eight or sixteen bars, and write them down. My plan is to consign these to memory and then gradually start to elaborate upon them.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Dunno if it's the sort of band you're after, Iain, but I play in a community concert band and I love it..
Any kind of band:) It's the experience of playing with others that I feel is so important.

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A friend of mine plays trumpet in the band and he invited me to come along and sit in one night and ... I just sort of kept coming. I've been a member for about a year and it has made a huge difference to my playing. When I started I was well below the level of the other players (but probably just slightly above the level of the beginners' band run by the same conductor, rehearsing just before the main concert band). Now I'm still well below most of them (and always will be, there are quite a few former professionals in the band) but I've improved heaps. The gap has narrowed a bit. The other night at rehearsal I could play everything for the first hour - barely missed a note. Downhill after that, and we had been playing our easier material, but it was a wonderful feeling. .
There is some sort of magic loop here, too. As your technique and reading improves, your confidence does too. And when you are more confident (less nervous) you play better anyway:bluewink:


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All the comments above about the benefits of playing with others are true. I'd add that my sight reading has come a long way simply because the band's repertoire is large and I don't have the time to work through and practise the whole book - it's hard enough trying to keep up with whatever we're working with at the time - so I'm always encountering new pieces for the first time. .
That's precisely the situation I am in. When the band has a dance gig, we pick out 30 titles (two sets of 15 titles each) and work on those. Even when playing a title for the second time, I find I can make a much better job of it. I make a photocopy of my parts, so that I can mark them up, red circles around key sigs and key changes etc, and optional fingerings etc. I usually record the rehearsals to give myself and anyone else in the band who needs them, some tracks to practice with.

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Most of all, it's just so much fun. The music we play is frankly not the sort of thing I would ever buy in CD form and sit down and listen to. But sitting in a line of altos, with the trombones and other low brass blasting away behind me, the flutes struggling to be heard in front and the clarinets squeaking away off to the left somewhere - just about whatever we do seems wonderful. We could play baa baa black sheep and I'd come out grinning.
Yes :bluewink: I can agree with all of that. I come out of rehearsals walking on air,
and feeling I am a better player than when I went in.
 

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Just thought I would ask a quick question - if you could match your playing against a grade - what grade would you be? The reason I ask is that that I have made lots of enquiries around Nottingham (England) about community bands and have found out two things

You need to be grade 5 or above
Nearly all of them require you to do an audition

Maybe in ten years time then, I will be able to join a community band![rolleyes]

Clare
 

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I am in 4-5 different setups.
from rock, blues, jazz, funk, pop to symphonic... ...
I like to play with other musicians, cause there are so much to learn from one another.
there is always an area to work on, an area to explore, an old weakness to improve.

playing in big bands does wonders for my confidence and I look forward to all the different styles. soon, I was given chances to step up to take solos, etc and these chances were great.

Jams - is also a great avenue for improvement, rubbing shoulders with the cats in town, trading solos, chilling out, hanging out, sharing life, sharing music, sharing up and down. :)

I am thankful to be alive, to have an understanding family and to do music!

enjoy the journey!
 

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My story... I joined the community band, hated the music (99% marches) and didnt get along with the snobbish ones so left after about 10 months. The 8-10 gigs we did were enjoyable though.

Next, I answered an ad in the paper looking for brass/wind players to jon a long established swing/dance/big band. I struggled with the music at first but learned to love almost every tune. After about a year I felt I had hit the limit of what that band could help me with, it was a very frustrating time!

So, I started to look for another band. This time I found a bunch of young folk wanting a sax player for their newly formed Pink Floyd tribute. I sat in a couple of times, listening and wondering if I could attain their high standard. Well, for 3-4 months I attended every rehearsal and put in lots and lots of hard work. 10-12 hour days were quite common for me. I got so exhausted and yet, by the time they were ready to gig, I was not. So we parted company and the next day I was back at the dance band where I still am now, about a year later.

Lesson I learned? Pitch yourself at the right level. Not so easy that you atrophy and not so strenuous you can`t reach your goal.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Just thought I would ask a quick question - if you could match your playing against a grade - what grade would you be?
Hello Clare. I am originally from the UK too, so the grading system is familiar. I would put myself after two years at the end of the beginner and going on to the intermediate level. I often sight read from the ABRSM books, and find I can manage Grade IV

The reason I ask is that that I have made lots of enquiries around Nottingham (England) about community bands and have found out two things

You need to be grade 5 or above
Nearly all of them require you to do an audition

Maybe in ten years time then, I will be able to join a community band![rolleyes

Clare
You could try slipping in the back door as I did with the big band. I asked if I could go along as a reader (not a player) and then after about ten weeks, when I had started to become familiar with the material, the leader told me to bring my tenor the next week as one of the regulars would be away. I haven't looked back since.

I did have to play an audition in the classical ensemble, nothing solo, but I sat in with the three other saxophones, and after the rehearsal, they and the leader decided to let me continue.

I think an honest, humble approach is the way to get your foot in the door.
Good luck:bluewink:
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Lesson I learned? Pitch yourself at the right level. Not so easy that you atrophy and not so strenuous you can`t reach your goal.
Hi Mike. How right you are! The best situation is if the other players are a bit better than you, but not so much so that you are holding them back! And even though you have to put the time in to reach their standard, it *must* be fun, not drudgery.
 

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I picked up the sax about 10 years ago, well into middle age and with no prior musical experience besides listening. Started taking lessons, and worked very hard at it. A few years ago, I put ads in Craig's List, and got small jam groups together just for fun. Then last year, I helped form a band with an old friend who's a vocalist and we started playing gigs. I followed up by going out to jams at a few bars in the city nearby, playing with experienced blues guys. That was a blast, a real learning experience, and the seasoned musicians I played with were very kind and gracious.

I, too, found that playing in a group, especially in front of an audience, is a huge skill builder and gives you the confidence to stretch yourself and take risks. And it's invaluable to work with other musicians, which forces you to get your entries right, to stick to arrangements (walk on someone else's solo once, and you don't want to do it again), and to present a song as the product of several players working together on behalf of a common artistic goal. And when you have a responsive audience in front of you, it's a drug like no other!

I'm a pretty good ear player, and though I read also, my sight reading skills are weak. With retirement coming up, I'm thinking of joining a community big band to improve my sight reading, but I'm very nervous about it. I have no problem on a bandstand taking a long solo on a blues tune or a standard, but I'm pretrified of the big band setting and trying to keep up with the written music in a sax section. So I suppose I should head in that direction.
 

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Clare, I'm not sure if the grade system is comparable but I can play grade IV pieces reasonably comfortably. If I put some time in to an individual piece though I can manage harder material.

I think there is a distinction between "being grade V" and "being able to play grade V music". In order to pass the exams at any grade (as I understand it, I haven't done any since I did recorder as a kid) you have to demonstrate a range of skills - including sight reading, playing scales and patterns and so on. It should be possible to play individual pieces at a grade or even two higher than the level at which you could pass an exam.

Also - I'm only 3 years in and started with the community band a year ago; I've come along a fair way in that time. The band I'm with is particularly friendly and laid-back and the nearest I had to an audition was one of the first altos saying "see you next week?" after I sat in that first time - that's probably far from the norm. But also we have a late starters band that's at a much easier level. I guess what I'm saying is that if you look around it's possible you may find places to play right now, and I very much doubt it will take 10 years before you get into something. Go for it!
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Clare, I'm not sure if the grade system is comparable but I can play grade IV pieces reasonably comfortably. If I put some time in to an individual piece though I can manage harder material.

I think there is a distinction between "being grade V" and "being able to play grade V music". In order to pass the exams at any grade (as I understand it, I haven't done any since I did recorder as a kid) you have to demonstrate a range of skills - including sight reading, playing scales and patterns and so on. It should be possible to play individual pieces at a grade or even two higher than the level at which you could pass an exam.

Yes. Sight reading is a good way to find out roughly werre you are on the ladder, but as you say there is a lot more to it than just playing the right notes The list of scales and arpeggios and even the tempi at which these are to be played, is given in the ABRSM book.

Also - I'm only 3 years in and started with the community band a year ago; I've come along a fair way in that time. The band I'm with is particularly friendly and laid-back and the nearest I had to an audition was one of the first altos saying "see you next week?" after I sat in that first time - that's probably far from the norm. But also we have a late starters band that's at a much easier level. I guess what I'm saying is that if you look around it's possible you may find places to play right now, and I very much doubt it will take 10 years before you get into something. Go for it!
Good advice. Getting a foot in the door is the main thing. Keeping up, with the help of a good teacher is not too difficult. Most people thrive on a challenge:bluewink:
 

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As an alto player my teacher says I have a great sound, but I am a little hesitant to joing a big band because I want to make sure I have all my ducks in a row but I have kind of change my thought on that, because like I said it best to join sooner rather than later but Ian I think you have a good idea as far as seeing if I can take some music home to practice.
 
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