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I feel I've been over playing lately. At least I think so. I find myself taking over a song. Example, a few Sundays ago, I played the intro to "Let it Rise" while the soloist and choir joined in. The last half of the song....I took the lead and never let go. The congregation loved it.....and I think everyone else did...but I felt really bad. I felt like a solo hog. Also there are times when I would play-in during the reprise and change the dynamics of the song. I'm not sure if this is a good thing. I am my worst critic when it come to playing. I've had people stop me in the grocery store and tell me, they want to hear more sax. I don't think the sax should be the dominant instrument. My wife also tells me when I play too much during a selection.

Fellow players:

How do you determine when to play, how much, and when to hold back. Do you play every Sunday? Are there set aside solos for the sax or do you improvise at will?
 

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altosaxplayer said:
I feel I've been over playing lately. At least I think so. I find myself taking over a song. Example, a few Sundays ago, I played the intro to "Let it Rise" while the soloist and choir joined in. The last half of the song....I took the lead and never let go. The congregation loved it.....and I think everyone else did...but I felt really bad. I felt like a solo hog. Also there are times when I would play-in during the reprise and change the dynamics of the song. I'm not sure if this is a good thing. I am my worst critic when it come to playing. I've had people stop me in the grocery store and tell me, they want to hear more sax. I don't think the sax should be the dominant instrument. My wife also tells me when I play too much during a selection.

Fellow players:

How do you determine when to play, how much, and when to hold back. Do you play every Sunday? Are there set aside solos for the sax or do you improvise at will?
This topic has been discussed extensively here so I suggest you read up on the old threads.
For what it's worth, based on my experience if you feel you're over playing, you are.
For moderate and fast songs, I normally limit myself to obligatos (fills) between vocal lines during the verse and play the melody line during the chorus. If it's a quiet song I don't play at all.
I don't solo unless asked to.
When you feel the urge to take over just remember it's a worship not a concert. Sometimes to hard to tell the difference but you should be able to.
Hope this helps.

Ben
 

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Saxmusiclover said:
This topic has been discussed extensively here so I suggest you read up on the old threads.
For what it's worth, based on my experience if you feel you're over playing, you are.
For moderate and fast songs, I normally limit myself to obligatos (fills) between vocal lines during the verse and play the melody line during the chorus. If it's a quiet song I don't play at all.
I don't solo unless asked to.
When you feel the urge to take over just remember it's a worship not a concert. Sometimes to hard to tell the difference but you should be able to.
Hope this helps.

Ben
Ben makes excellent points; I'd particularly reinforce his final paragraph. I don't play sax in church, but have been involved in church music for years--choir and music committee--and from where I sit I think it's important to remember that the role of music in a worship service is to enhance and compliment the service and should be carefully chosen with an eye to the theme and spiritual message. The minister is the best advisor here--not that he/she should choose the music, but rather can advise about what kind of worship experience he/she is trying to provide. A good musician will choose music accordingly and perform it always with that end in mind.

Regards, Ruth
 

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How do you determine when to play? How much? And when to hold back?

It depends: 1.) On the song; 2) On how strong the group is; and, 3) what part of the service the selection is being played.

It’s how much you play, but rather what one has to say musically when they do play. On some songs one can play a few whole notes and say more musically, than a bunch of 8th and 16th notes.

In Church, playing as part of a group tends to be more important, because that’s what the people in the pews (PIP’s) hear – the group. They are a captive audience to a certain degree, and that’s a double edge sword. Some are there to worship and some are there to be entertained. Although, all of them will tell you is all about worship. We are there to minister to all of them, without judgment.

None of us want to do is to stick out like a sore thumb, whether it’s volume level or just playing too much. The key is listening to what is going on around you. And compliment it, whether that means backing off completely or stepping up and blowing your eye balls out. If one is blowing a 100%, then the rest of the group should be at 100%, as not to overshadow what everyone else is doing. There are times when it’s time to just let the horn go and just listen. This leaves you somewhere to go in the song. If you start out full blast, where are you going to go from there? Where is the dynamic? It’s always good to keep the GROUP dynamic in mind.

Solos are usually at the direction of the director. Although, there is Carte Blanche, the key is to keep it that way. It is usually when the song isn’t long enough for a particular part of the service. Sometimes, that happens in rehearsal or it can also happen on the spot, when a whole bunch of extra folks show up for communion and the director decides on an instrumental verse. There are also times when just the horn and the keyboard (piano or organ) play the entire song.

It’s not a bad thing that people tell you that they want to hear more of you. But it’s far better to let them imagine how you would sound, rather than playing too much. Their imagination is a good thing. Hero worship always feels good, but it’s Church. I wouldn’t discount what the wife is telling you. Your wife hears you all of the time, including your practice at home.

If you play every week, once the congregation gets used to what you are doing, they will become like your wife. It’s O.K. now because they don’t hear you are home. But after, week after week after week, the same effect will kick in. Things will build up after a while. The first one to notice is usually the wife. On the other hand, if it’s all single women telling you that they need more, well that’s other story.

Do you play every week? The places I play every week are a tougher crowd because they are used to the horn. It’s the same effect as listening to just one artist on the radio or through you home sound system all day.

The places played every other week are a little more enthusiastic. And, of course the first time one plays anywhere is when they really go nuts. Every other weekend, I play in three churches, so it’s interesting to watch the different reactions. If Grover Washington Jr. (when he was alive) played every week in a church, they would get used to him. So, it really doesn’t matter how good one is. The better one is, the longer it will take for them to get tired of you. But eventually.... I used to have the privilege of playing with a flute player that was on the jazz charts every time he cut a CD. He on the local public radio and plays the local clubs. It was the same with him.

Are there set aside solos for the sax or do you improvise at will? There are written parts in our sheet music, mostly for other instruments (which are usually real pedestrian.) The worst was when they told me to play a hand bell part, because it came with the sheet music. That was the worst. Between the time of the rehearsal to the service, something else is worked out that is more for saxophone, and that will compliment the rest of the group, instead of the instrumental part that comes with the music. The instrumental parts are usually for flute, trumpet, clarinet and sometimes oboe. There is one song that is based on “Take Five,” entitled “Sing the Lord’s Goodness.” We usually do it for a closer. That’s one of the few times where it is over the top – on purpose. At my age, it’s nice to know I still have it.

I used to improvise all the time, now I read a lot more. Still improvise, but only on occasion.

The older I get, the more I realize that whatever one doesn’t play – God will fill in the blanks.

It seems like your wife is on one end and the congregation is one the other. Maybe, it’s time for a third opinion from the people you play with? It’s better to get it from all sides now, rather than when you least expect it.

When in doubt, lay out.

Ben brings up a good point about concerts versus "the service." Some groups that I work with do Concerts once or twice a year. That where you can let it all hang out -- at the concert.

Just thinking out loud.
 

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There is a lot of good feedback here. I agree with most of what has been said and reiterative some of it below. From my perspecive:

* You don't want to stick out. So it's very much about "balance" with the rest of the band in two aspects. You simply need to be balanced in your VOLUME and your NOTES selection. Obvious, right? It's not as simple as it sounds, but if you can do that, you're where you want to be! There are some times to be the lead instrument, but you still want balance.

* A good Sound Person is very helpful. They can keep you in line regardless of what you are playing (e.g. they can even turn you off).

* As StraightSax points out, fewer notes are often better, just find the right notes. Listen to Clarence Clemens with Bruce Springsteen. Clarence can play an 8-bar solo using the fewest of notes, but play the tastiest, most emotional, best solo. Think Clarence, not Charlie Parker.

* SaxMusicLover wrote "If it's a quiet song I don't play at all". I would reconsider that. Listen to Kirk Whalum (also a VERY tasty horn player) on songs like "Falling in Love with Jesus". You can add much spiritual emotion in a quiet song. Again, it's about balance.

* Of course, don't step on the vocals. Make sure you have a good monitor and can hear the vocals well. As SaxMusicLover suggests, limit to playing fills. Often just echoing the vocal line is great! Then it's about the words, not the sax line. People can relate to those notes and also be lifted!!

* As AltoRuth states, a good pastor can be a very good judge of your 'overplaying'. Watch his/her reactions as you play.

Finally, I just want to say that I love these quotes:

"...whatever one doesn’t play – God will fill in the blanks" - AMEN

"You know you have mastered the soprano saxophone when the snake stays in the basket" - LOL

God bless!!
 

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I think about this in a little more simplistic ways. The church that I go to wants to hear more saxophone AND they like it it when I am doing the Gerald Albright thing above the ensemble... This is dangerously addictive and I had to come to terms with my Worship before it got out of hand. As it was mentioned before, this is praise to GOD, not a concert.

My approach is this...

I listen to the words, I look them over ahead of time and check out what the message is that the song is trying to convey. IF my playing can add to the congregations worship experience, then I play. IF NOT, I sit back.

I double on the B3 so this makes things easy to do. The WORDS have to get across not just the melody lines... These new worship songs are unfamiliar to most of the congregation unless you belong to a very hip and progressive church. This means that the message has to get to them people FIRST before you can noodle...

I get comment cards all the time from people wanting to hear more saxophone... This is a blessing to me... The alternative is for them to complain and want less... It is a delicate balance but we have to keep our minds on the reason for why we are playing in the first place...
 

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Its not about us

I just want to agree with everyone who has written from their heart on this issue. I am the only sax player on our worship team, and asked to play solos on many of our songs. I improvise most of the time and its easy to get carried away, on fills or solos. I have to catch myself and remember what my worship leader said to me in practice one night, to let the music BREATHE. I have to remember that I am part of a worship team and what we do for the Lord is a team effort.A guitar player once told me that less is more. There will be moments when the Lord will call upon you, in worship, to use the gift He has given you to shine for His glory and those are the moments I look forward to the most. The Holy Spirit will guide and direct your heart, and your playing, if you will turn it all over to Him. JGSAX.
 

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I hesitate to post here because my playing sax in church services has been limited. I did however direct a church choir for several years. My first response is if you think that you might be overplaying in the service, you probably are.

A wise friend once advised me to always "examine my motives". This has worked well in many areas of my life including music. If my true motive is to put myself in the spotlight and feed my ego and need for approval, rather than to be a part of the "whole" then I know I have crossed the line. It's not about me (us) says it all.

John
 

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appreciate that Bruce Springsteen hint. Any reccomendations for listening to?

Didn't how ronchy Bruce was. SOmething a little cleaner would be apprciated too.
 

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I am surprised, it sounds like most of you guys don't have pre-organized parts. You shouldn't have to come up with your own fills spur of the moment, it can be done well but never as effective. Ive have played solo's that way, sure, but in a group I think your asking for chaos.


I recommend writing your sax parts out in advance (paper or in your head).
 

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You can always ask the leader. Let him know you dont want to over play and cant really tell sometimes. Humble yourself a bit with the person in charge and they will know they can open up to you. If in doubt, post here but ask the boss!

If you are ad lib and working with a guitarist, talk with him too and keep eye contact so you work with each other more and be a better team.

If there is any place that showboating is not appropriate, it would be Church. You are feeling it could be, you have read the comments of great people here, now check in with the powers that be and get the input you really need. You could be or wrong. Ask...

My rule is Appropriate and Better. Are you being appropriate to what is going on both musically and spiritually? Are you adding to the overall good of both by what you are doing. Taping a service or 2 might reveal much...

Blessings and thanks for your openness and heart to do a good job!

gv
 

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If you have a horn "section", you should write out parts. If you're the only horn, then take advantage of the opportunity to improvise. Be spontaneous and let the Spirit move you (literally!).
The problem with this is even if you play spontaneous and whats coming out of the horn is great, there is no way to know what the guy next to you is doing at the same time. When everyone gets spontaneous, it can be a wreck for the listeners.

.... To hear the good things players are doing you have to have separation. If one player is going to improvise, the others need to have a set thing they will play together. Other wise it becomes 6 improvisers and will lead to the sound being jumbled as I mentioned.

Remember our job is for the listeners, not us. While its great to feel the spirit and Im all for it, we must think of the congregation first, just like a Pastor. If he stood there and prayed or for some "spoke in tongues " the whole time, while maybe good for him, the listeners would have got 2 hours of nothing from it. If you think about it. Even as the improviser, you have to know what the background will be. If anyone changes the background, what you play might not fit, or sound wrong.
 

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The problem with this is even if you play spontaneous and whats coming out of the horn is great, there is no way to know what the guy next to you is doing at the same time. When everyone gets spontaneous, it can be a wreck for the listeners. .... To hear the good things players are doing you have to have seperation.
This all comes with experience, practicing together, getting to know each other (musically) and listening. I agree that YOU SHOULD NOT HAVE EVERYONE TAKING THE LEAD AT THE SAME TIME. You can work that out through rehearsal or through playing together a lot and knowing what others are going to do.

If one player is going to improvise, the others need to have a set thing they will play together. Other wise it becomes 6 improvisers and will lead to the sound being jumbled as I mentioned. .
Agreed.

Remember our job is for the listeners, not us. While its great to feel the spirit and Im all for it, we must think of the congregation first, just like a Pastor. If he stood there and prayed or for some "spoke in tongues " the whole time, while maybe good for him, the listeners would have got 2 hours of nothing from it. If you think about it. Even as the improviser, you have to know what the background will be. If anyone changes the background, what you play might not fit, or sound wrong.
Right. As you probably know from your years of playing, after awhile, you start to play like a team and almost read the minds of the other musicians. You should likewise listen closely and read the Pastor, the Congregation and most importantly the Holy Spirit!!

You're thinking is on track. You need to find where improvising has the positive emotional and spritual effect on the worship experience (as well as where it doesn't)
 

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I feel I've been over playing lately......
In terms of the question, "how will I know when I'm playing too much"..... you have actually already answered your question.....you already feel this the case.

What is confusing you is the excitement of the moment that you feel while playing, and the positive feedback you have received, in the church and at the grocery store. Keep in mind that no one is going to walk up to you in the frozen foods section, and say "hey, to be as artistic as possible you should play fewer notes".

Keep that good feeling about what you have already played. You enjoyed it, and alot of people in your church did, too. But your self-examination proves that it is time to move to the next level. Embrace the power that is in "less is more" - especially for sax playing in the church. How much spirituality can you share, with a simple unembellished melody or background part? How much can you use silence and waiting to strengthen the message you will send?
 

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Rule #1 - listen to your wife.
Rule #2 - see rule #1. ;)
 
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