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Discussion Starter #1
Hey guys,

I've been playing the guitar for two years and recently picked up the saxophone. I've heard from several sources that learning to play a bit of piano can be very beneficial to ones sax playing, but I'm already fluent (more or less) on the guitar (theory-wise as well) and am wondering, whether or not I can use this instead of having to try and play three instruments as I wanna dive pretty deep into both guitar and saxophone. Practicing with a guitar is obviously quite a different matter due to how it is designed (it's very geometric and more visual than the piano, can't be played while holding the saxophone etc.), so would this be a good idea? Has anybody tried both and what has been your experience?

Thank you very much in advance and happy new year!

Cheers,

meltphace
 

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I played guitar for around 40 years before taking saxophone and trumpet more seriously than playing simple melodies on them. I believe anyone advising piano lessons as a means to improve on sax is just saying to study a chord instrument to better understand note relationships and harmonization. That is more difficult when hearing only one note at a time.

If you already play guitar proficiently enough to sight read through fake books, and know how to form the most used 4 and 5 note chords in all keys (M7, M6, m7, m6, 9th, flat5, aug, dim, 1/2dim, and the like) by note, not by rote memorization of bar chords at 5th and 6th string fret position, I see no advantage to taking up piano; at least not for improving on saxophone.

But with just two years playing guitar, you'd be a rare student to be at that level. My advice at this point is to try piano. Get yourself an inexpensive Yamaha keyboard with its built-in tutorials. See how you like it. The piano is the more versatile instrument. If it works out for you, I doubt that you would ever regret the switch from guitar.
 

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Actually as OP states he is 'fluent' (enough) on guitar already...and it is sax he wants to learn now, I do not particularly see how also taking up piano is gonna help anything.

If what is inspiring you (OP) is learning sax, then concentrate on sax, and keep playing guitar. Don't try to learn piano and sax simultaneously.

Again, as noted, the point isn't so much PIANO as it is the belief that a chordal instrument also aids in your overall understanding/absorption of music and musicianship.
 

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I've been playing guitar for 35 years. Someone playing for only two years, and then saying they are fluent is ridiculous. The fact that the OP asks the question he does while claiming to be "fluent", show he/she is really clueless. Extadarcafe is right on point.

Guitar players tend to think in patterns and shapes. Most guitar players I know don't read at all. The advantage to playing piano is the visual relationships between chords and notes. I certainly would learn piano if I could go back in time.
 

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Hey guys,

I've been playing the guitar for two years and recently picked up the saxophone. I've heard from several sources that learning to play a bit of piano can be very beneficial to ones sax playing,
I woulod disagree in tyat playing piano has no bearing whatsoever on saxophone technique. It's useful of course in regard to learning music theory so maybe that is what they mean... but as far as I can see, otherwise there is no direct correlation.

But in regard to learning general music theory, I would say piano (or other keyboard) may be a bit more useful than guitar.

Guitar is good though, I found it helped me a lot in my composing career.
 

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It is really a question of what you are trying to accomplish. Piano is great but it also separates the notes into black and white and visual patterns, which is really great in a way but it also very hard to "unlearn" them and treat music more like an analog scale. There is no harm in getting an inexpensive keyboard from a pawn shop but be aware that for everything you learn, you forget ten other things in terms of creativity and every hour you dabble on the keys will be taken away from your guitar or sax time.

If you do go down this road, try to play blindfolded (same on your guitar), it'll help a lot eliminating the above mentioned constraints
 

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I agree with saxcop. The visual aspect of a keyboard in terms of conceptualizing harmonic relationships is what's valuable in gaining a deep understanding of music theory. I don't think it's a waste of time at all, especially if you intend to improvise or arrange or compose. I don't see why you'd ever have to "unlearn" visual musical patterns. In fact, Phil Woods has said that he visualizes a keyboard as he improvises. Based on that alone, I'd say it works pretty well.

Guitar is a different animal. I'm "fluent enough" on the ukelele, but I really only know the corresponding finger shapes for the chords I play and don't even think about the individual notes in the chords. This doesn't help my understanding of harmony or improve my sax playing in the least. Keyboard on the other hand, puts all the notes in a chord right in front of you in an instant, so you can see intervals and relationships to the key you're playing in as well as all the extensions and alterations. That's priceless to an improviser or arranger.

But I do agree that when learning an instrument as an absolute beginner, there's no more direct route than actually playing that instrument, not another instrument. So learn the sax first, and only the sax,. Then learn the piano later if you want to improve your conception of harmony that can then be applied to other aspects of your musical life.

Now if knowing how to play guitar taught you how to read music (which I doubt), then you could apply your reading skills to the sax as far as knowing the names of the notes on the staff and understanding key signatures and rhythms.
 

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I agree with those who say learning a little piano will help with understanding chords and music theory, in general. It gives a visual reinforcement to the brain as to how the notes relate to each other. It also helps when using different don't see any value to it as far as playing saxophone. They two instruments that are so different from each other that there is no carry-over. Well, maybe a little when it comes to finger dexterity. I've found that playing woodwinds most of my life has helped me to be a faster typist and faster on a calculator than I would have been otherwise. At least that's been my impression; that learning to operate the fingers quickly and precisely in conjunction with deciphering symbols on a written page is a skill that's transferable from one thing to another. The major difference with music is that you have to operate in the proper rhythm while on a typewriter keyboard or adding machine rhythm doesn't make any difference.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Thanks to everyone so far your insights, it has been very helpful.

I've been playing guitar for 35 years. Someone playing for only two years, and then saying they are fluent is ridiculous. The fact that the OP asks the question he does while claiming to be "fluent", show he/she is really clueless. Extadarcafe is right on point.
I actually said "more or less" fluent, but I forgot to mention it was in relation to the piano on which I am even slower than on guitar. That was my mistake, but it still doesn't justify such a harsh tone, imo (even though I don't completely disagree with your characterization). I fully agree with the rest.

@extradarcafe: I am a little bit more advanced than those kind of barre chords at this point and when it comes to chords I try to think more in terms of voice-leading and counter-point (chord melody) as an attempt to sound more like a piano player. But after only two years, it can't help but only be basic so far, but this approach has helped me develop a better sense of harmony in general that I can apply to the piano, even if I am very slow on that. It just seems to interfere a little bit to play all three instruments as they're all such different takes on similar musical principles with a totally different technique. I still take the guitar quite seriously and see it as my main instrument, which is why I wouldn't wanna favour the piano over it right now.

Has anybody here almost no experience with the piano and focussed solely on the saxophone even when it came to applying deeper harmonic ideas? As a player of a polyphonic instrument, it's so convenient to just accompany yourself or at least give yourself some harmonic context. With a single-note instrument, one has to imply this. So "feeling" the harmony or "imagining" it without the use of a piano, record or drone must be quite a challenge, but I'm sure this has been approached that way before (I doubt Sonny Rollins had a piano player with him when he was practicing on the bridge). This is what fascinates me as I'd like to simplify my practicing routine and not have to switch between so many instruments (as my resources are fairly limited, unfortunately).
 

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As for the piano helping to visualize the relationships among notes, the traditional piano keyboard is absolutely horrible!

Much better is the Jankó arrangement - a brilliant creation by a fellow Hungarian:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jankó_keyboard

"Each vertical column of three keys is a semitone away from the neighboring ones, which are in the alternate rows. Thus within each row the interval from one note to the next is a whole step..."

"... This key layout results in each chord and scale having the same shape on the keyboard with the same fingerings regardless of key, so there is no change in geometry when transposing music. Furthermore, the use of multiple rows allows the pianist to more naturally follow the contour of their hand and accounts for the different lengths of the fingers... "
 

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Saxophone players are really not as dumb as some members think they are. Many can and do concurrently learn to play more than the single instrument. It's like anyone taking five subjects at school; or a child learning to speak a central language like Italian or Mandarin, home dialect, and English. Multiple things are normally learned concurrently, not consecutively. Remember, life is short.

Learning to play a chord instrument along with a single-note one would not be a setback, but an assist. The advisors to the OP are correct in that. As a guitarist, I still vote piano.
 

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Started playing guitar in 1970 and have tons of stage, studio and teaching experience. Picked up a sax in 1976 but let it go a couple of years later. 3 years ago picked up the sax again with a vengeance. Learning theory and chord formation and voice leading on the guitar has been crucial in speeding up learning the sax. My reading chops are not great but I have a pretty substantial grasp on harmony. I can see a chord chart and spell any chord voicing very quickly. Makes the whole "learning the sax" process very enjoyable...... https://photos.app.goo.gl/cgSGZEmmtYnGG4cF6
 

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A few thoughts:

When I was a boy, I simultaneously learned flute and piano.

As a rudimentary guitarist and a fairly well-trained pianist, I find it tremendously easier to visualize chords and scales on a keyboard. Don't forget, too, that there are certain chords and chord shapes that are well-nigh impossible to play on guitar. And some things simply can't be done - for example, let's stack up chord tones starting at the bottom. Root, third, fifth, seventh, ninth, eleventh, thirteenth - on a guitar you've definitely run out of possibilities at the eleventh, but being able to stack them in 1st 2nd 3rd 4th etc. inversions will be simply impossible. On a piano it's almost a trivial matter.

I was taught piano in the traditional way, where the priority is to be able to play piano with skill and musicality. If, on the other hand, your primary objective were to learn "arranger's piano" rather than to develop finger technique and follow along behind with theory, the pedagogy would probably be different. I have no specific suggestions but a course like "jazz piano for beginners" might be better for this as it would (I would think) be more focused on keyboard knowledge and its relation to theory.
 
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