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Concepts we work with and practice time and time again continue to broaden our sense of freedom, whether we immediately see it or not. There is a point in the path of artistic growth when the mind transcends the craft. In the literal sense, I play the saxophone. But in the same way that I do not think about my vocal chords when I speak, I try not to think about the instrument I am using as I am using it. Otherwise, the directness I conceptualize in my mind will be strained by the natural habit of inappropriate attention. This mindset enhances your ability to think more clearly, pushing away that feeling of being pressured to release ideas. You are more relaxed.

Every now and then fellow instrumentalists will tell me that there have been times when they have felt controlled by their instrument. However, as I thought about it, I realized that it should be spoken of differently. When you are "in the zone", you are not being controlled by the instrument, but have taken complete control over the instrument. It sometimes only lasts a brief moment in time, but it is a long-lasting feeling. The thing is, you can tap into this mental state if you become more aware of what triggers it. What do you notice when you reach that state? What are you thinking about, or not thinking about? You have risen above the instrument, expressed yourself, mind over matter. It's purity. Once you can turn it into a more natural state, anything is possible.
 

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BlueNote said:
Every now and then fellow instrumentalists will tell me that there have been times when they have felt controlled by their instrument. However, as I thought about it, I realized that it should be spoken of differently. When you are "in the zone", you are not being controlled by the instrument, but have taken complete control over the instrument. It sometimes only lasts a brief moment in time, but it is a long-lasting feeling. The thing is, you can tap into this mental state if you become more aware of what triggers it. What do you notice when you reach that state? What are you thinking about, or not thinking about? You have risen above the instrument, expressed yourself, mind over matter. It's purity. Once you can turn it into a more natural state, anything is possible.
I think you are right, but this is an ideal. I think to a certain degree, we are all controlled by our instruments. That's why we spend so much time messing with reeds and stuff like that. And I even think sometimes an instrument can have a personality that may not be so helpful for the player, even if they find it desirable. I think my tenor sax was haunted, I had to quit playing it. I did believe that and felt better when I put it down. But yes, the ideal is freedom from the instrument, no saxophone at all, just pure expression, like from thought directly to sound, something we can achieve better mainly through practice and playing experience. A good setup that we like can help make that possible. I think even Coltrane was struggling with his instrument quite a bit, that is why he spent so much time practicing.
 

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namenotfound06 said:
As a teacher of mine said when we were working on tone... "The saxophones just a f**ckin piece of metal. The tone comes from you."
Prez once said something like how all he needed to do was "pick up that mo'fer and play it" and that he was not to fond of practicing. His tone was unique but he cites Frankie Trumbauer, the C-melody sax player as one of his musical influences, so I guess he was hearing that sound in his head when conceiving his own in the beginning. And Coltrane was quoted as saying, "you can play a shoe string if you are sincere." So yea, the tone does come from you, but then again, who is "you" if you are in some way influenced by the others you are drawing inspiration from? We are hopefully always hearing new things that we naturally integrate into our own tone all the time...
 

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The other side of this argument is that the saxophone is a mechanical instrument and has inherent strengths and weaknesses which inevitably steer the player in certain directions.

Coltrane may have said 'you can play a shoestring if you are sincere' but in actual fact most of his tunes are written in horn friendly keys so he was obviously aware of the mechanics of the instrument.
 

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I understand from a reliable source, that Getz use to practice without his horn, as he felt it got in the way. A friend of mine said he use to go over Stans house, and Stan would be there lying down on the sofa with his eyes closed, moving his fingers and breathing like he was playing...and he didnt like to be bothered while he was practicing. My friend asked Stans wife what he was doing the first time he saw this, and she said thats how he likes to practice...the horn gets in the way so he doesnt need to practice with it.
He would be lying there and breathing like he was blowing into a horn and moving his fingers all around, and when it came time to play the actual sax, he was mentally already there. He had perfect pitch so he knew when he was making a mistake.
Visualization is key in many sports, and Getz was onto this concept.
...and as you notice, the horn never seemed to get in his way----- ever! :)
 

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A sax repair guy based in London had once worked on Paul Desmond's horn. He told me that he'd asked Paul what he was thinking about when he was soloing and inventing those beautiful melodies. Paul's answer.... "pussy man, pussy".

This story has provided me with more inspiration to practice than any other advice I've ever been given.
 

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docformat said:
The other side of this argument is that the saxophone is a mechanical instrument and has inherent strengths and weaknesses which inevitably steer the player in certain directions.

Coltrane may have said 'you can play a shoestring if you are sincere' but in actual fact most of his tunes are written in horn friendly keys so he was obviously aware of the mechanics of the instrument.
Excellent point. Likewise Parker, likewise etc etc - a *very* long list. The way I see it, there's more freedom if you do set yourself *some* limits and/or acknowledge the reality of your instrument. Then you might try to transcend it, as Coltrane did.

[edit: Sid, thank you for reminding me of Mr Desmond's fondness for his favourite moggy, Mr Tiddles. A most inspiring tale, that, especially for us animal lovers.]
 

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10mfan said:
I understand from a reliable source, that Getz use to practice without his horn, as he felt it got in the way. A friend of mine said he use to go over Stans house, and Stan would be there lying down on the sofa with his eyes closed, moving his fingers and breathing like he was playing...and he didnt like to be bothered while he was practicing. My friend asked Stans wife what he was doing the first time he saw this, and she said thats how he likes to practice...the horn gets in the way so he doesnt need to practice with it.
He would be lying there and breathing like he was blowing into a horn and moving his fingers all around, and when it came time to play the actual sax, he was mentally already there. He had perfect pitch so he knew when he was making a mistake.
Visualization is key in many sports, and Getz was onto this concept.
...and as you notice, the horn never seemed to get in his way----- ever! :)
One of my old sax teachers, Jack, once said masturbation is one of the greatest things, because you are using visualization as a tool and it is something (generally) only humans do. He applied this concept to practicing while not playing, like while stuck in traffic. I didn't find usefulness in this at the time, but I thought it was a funny analogy. I prefer to sing when I'm stuck in traffic, but sometimes when I am listening to a great song I just get the urge to stand up and play air tenor! Playing air tenor is different because I'm only singing the type of stuff I would play on my horn. It just feels right, like if I'm listening to Keely Smith with her big band and I'm thinking about how Sam Butera would play it.
 

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coolsax2k7 said:
One of my old sax teachers, Jack, once said masturbation is one of the greatest things, because you are using visualization and it is something only humans can do. He applied this concept to practicing while not playing, like while stuck in traffic. I never found usefulness in it, but I thought the masturbation analogy was pretty funny. I prefer to sing when I'm stuck in traffic, but sometimes when I am listening to a great song I just get the urge to stand up and play air tenor! Playing air tenor is different because I'm only singing the type of stuff I would play on my horn. It just feels right, like if I'm listening to Keely Smith with her big band and I'm thinking about Sam Butera...

Uhhhh -- dude, go to the zoo and watch the monkey cage for awhile. At least one illusion will be quickly shattered.
 

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Reedsplinter said:
Uhhhh -- dude, go to the zoo and watch the monkey cage for awhile. At least one illusion will be quickly shattered.
Yes but can the monkeys play air sax Sam Butera style?
 

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Reedsplinter said:
There's one who can. He got started on air banana.:monkey:
I've never played a banana before, let alone one made of air, what's that like? Is there a site called Bananas On The Web somewhere that I don't know about??
 

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coolsax2k7 said:
I've never played a banana before, let alone one made of air, what's that like? Is there a site called Bananas On The Web somewhere that I don't know about??
I don't know for sure, but the one the monkey was playing had 46% of its original lacquer.
 

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Reedsplinter said:
I don't know for sure, but the one the monkey was playing had 46% of its original lacquer.
half-naked bananas? that aren't even really there? This is getting too metaphysical for me. I'm out...
 

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Reedsplinter said:
Uhhhh -- dude, go to the zoo and watch the monkey cage for awhile. At least one illusion will be quickly shattered.
Or observe dogs and cats, and most other mammals.
 

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coolsax2k7 said:
One of my old sax teachers, Jack, once said masturbation is one of the greatest things, because you are using visualization as a tool and it is something (generally) only humans do. He applied this concept...while stuck in traffic.
Uh, better run that by me again. He does what while stuck in traffic? :shock:
 

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In my life the instrument/no instrument issue, (borrowing from BlueNote's thread title), is a cycle, call it a yin and yang thing. I don't think you get anywhere with music forgetting about the instrument, but ultimately, the goal is to "forget about all that @#$% and just play", to quote Bird.
My emphasis on the horn comes in cycles--other than maintenance work, and whatever I'm studying at the time--very often in regard to upcoming gigs. It is kind of funny that you work your @#$ off on the horn intending to forget about it later.....
 

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wersax said:
In my life the instrument/no instrument issue, (borrowing from BlueNote's thread title), is a cycle, call it a yin and yang thing. I don't think you get anywhere with music forgetting about the instrument, but ultimately, the goal is to "forget about all that @#$% and just play", to quote Bird.
My emphasis on the horn comes in cycles--other than maintenance work, and whatever I'm studying at the time--very often in regard to upcoming gigs. It is kind of funny that you work your @#$ off on the horn intending to forget about it later.....
Yes, like the Taoists priests had some of the greatest libraries in ancient Asia, but taught that the point of attaining knowledge was to leave it behind. Music, like the entire universe and everything in it, is nothing special (except for half-naked bananas! Those are awesome! covered in chocolate and dipped in nuts!) It's something the tune "Out of Nowhere" makes me think about, like how Bird used to play it.
 

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Good thread BlueNote. I thought you were going to tell how to get in the zone.

I saw McCoy Tyner play a solo concert at the Stanford Jazz Workshop. At the time, I was thinking about how to get into the Zone for a whole solo in my playing. After watching him for a solid 70 minutes, I realized that he wasn't even there on the stage at all, but somewhere else for the whole set. He was just channeling from his version of the Zone. I think he was just as surprised and we were at the stuff that was coming out.

A couple of years ago I got in a car wreck and broke ribs. I couldn't play for months. I used to sit up in bed or chair and work the keys of my alto. I would move my fingers slowly and deliberately, working patterns and stuff. I would watch TV for hours and pop my fingers down slowly and positively on altissimo fingerings. Usually, I blow my chops out trying to practice to long on stuff up there.

When I was able to start playing again, my hands were stronger than they had ever been and I could focus on building chops again. All the altissimo stuff was just there like magic. Well you know, it wasn't magic but it worked for me.

Saw this thing on PBS called great performances or something. They had a couple of child prodigies that played classical piano. Unreal kids. The host did a little interview with each of them. The one kid comes out with a banana. The host says he is not sure he wants to know wasup with the banana. The kid says he always eats one or two before he plays concerts because the potassium or something calms him down. I tried it and I think it works.
 
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