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Depends on how much you want to spend. Minimum, about $300 for an EWI-USB. You would probably want to beef that up with at least a good audio interface for your computer and headphones.

Maximally, an EWI4000s or yamaha WX5, a VL70 tone generator, a rack mount mixer, an effects box, a monitor, a powered speaker, an EQ, a midi foot controller, ...., and stop when your wallet gets empty.
 

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When I bought my EWI 4000s I thought it was gonna be the end all for practicing. That I would be able to practice every night and love it bla bla bla bla. Now the thing just sits in the corner never getting played. It feels nothing like a sax being the buttons are not buttons rather touch sensors.

I have not played the Yamaha WX5 but it seems as though it probably the better route to take. Maybe get a soprano.. you can play pretty quietly on one.
 

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I prefer the WX5 myself. The entry point is higher, about $600 for a WX5, and maybe $250 for a suitable hardware tone generator like a nanosynth, including patches suitable for wind. Not so different in price from the EWI4000s.
 

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You can use your computer so easily for free to power it and play good sounds that its maybe not worth it even getting the tone generator. When it comes to a point where you start to play gigs with it then it will be important.
 

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The computer to generate tones is certainly a good route to take, but it's not all that approachable for free. Plenty of folks use only softsynths these days, but there's usually some sort of cash outlay to get there-- at the very least $30-$40 to get your MIDI into your computer, and I'd even add about $100 to that for a reliable wind-friendly soft synth that you won't be tweaking right during the height of the learning curve. If you don't like dorking around with computers it might be a very frustrating way to go.
 

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I would NOT recommend a synth set up for practice purposes. I would recommend an EWI for a ton of other purposes, but not for the reasons described in the original post. You are essentially doubling on a second instrument, same as if you picked up flute/clarinet/etc.

I can empathize with the need to practice yet not disturb others. My recommendation is to either do a Sonny Rollins and walk to the middle of a long bridge (I used to practice in the center of a sports park with loads of soccer fields), or build a sound proof chamber (can be the size of a broom cupboard, but isn't portable) or practice scales on a small keyboard until you can get out your sax. As sad as it sounds, I've also 'stuck a sock in it' which allowed the sound from my alto to be deadened enough to practice passages and scales, but obviously your tone is gone.:cry:
 

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Didn't Coletrane travel around with a "stick" so he could practice his finger work anywhere he went? Why not grab a cheap soprano and do the same thing. You can even put it in your mouth while working on these practice sessions without making any audible noise. I think that would be far better than something electronic.
 

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I would NOT recommend a synth set up for practice purposes. I would recommend an EWI for a ton of other purposes
Are you using "EWI" generically or do you mean the Akai? The better cross-over synth is a WX-n - although I still wouldn't recommend one to the OP for practicing.
 

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Depends on what you're trying to achieve. There's "how to play" and there's "what to play". If you're focusing on the latter, which has always been the more difficult aspect for me, a wind instrument seems pretty good. It's my mind that's trying to put the right notes in the right places, not the sax, so I think this sort of exercise helps me. Keyboards don't-- after starting on a tenor 35 years ago, keyboards just aren't how I think about making music.

Wind in an electronic instrument is pretty removed from tone generation, so give up hope that working out on the WX will help your tone, or your skill with the reed and mouthpiece. Fingering is somewhere in between. I find the WX5 feels like keys to me, and it seems to help me on sax. At the very least, I don't find the fingering between the sax modes on the WX and the sax is different enough to screw me up swapping between the instruments. It feels an awful lot like a soprano to me.

I think most would agree, to get the most out of an instrument, you need to practice on that instrument. For compositional skills and improv though, there's much more standing between me and great music (unfortunately) than the interactions between my mouth, my fingers, and my axe, and the more of any instrument I play, the better the music feels to me.
 

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Dr G- I used 'EWI' generically. I obtained a WX-5 this summer and am still learning terms etc. Is EWI exclusively for the Akai? I guess I wrote that because I'm used to talking to non-sax players, and WX-5 doesn't mean anything to most of 'em, whereas people seem to understand 'EWI'.

I like scott's comment about 'how to play' and 'what to play'. The WX-5 is great for 'what to play'- for example, tonight I'm trying to play along with Eric Johnson's Cliffs of Dover to see how close to a guitar I can actually make the thing sound (not very! but I'm just starting). I wouldn't have thought to play that tune on my brass because, well, I just didn't think of it.

And although I don't find the fingering on the WX-5 to be different enough to screw me up when swapping between instruments either, it doesn't add anything to my horn playing. , Every key and lever on a sax is there for a good reason (usually to add efficiency of movement between notes?). The WX-5 lacks so many bis keys/palm keys/etc that it's really a different beast. And those 4 octave keys are something else!
 

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Susan, I had the problem that you have for so long, I really for your pain. I think I may have a non-synth solution for you...

I turn 40 in a few weeks, and after 30 years of driving family and neighbors nuts (off and on, took lots of time away), I finally found a solution, and it was fairly inexpensive:

You need a small mixing deck (mine's a Mackie 402-VLZ3). You also need a mike, boom stand, a pair of decent over the ear headphones, and the appropriate wires. Guitar Center will hook you up for less than $200.

What you do is play into the mike, which is run into the mixer. You can plug your ipod directly into mixer too so you can practice to play alongs/albums/whatever. Your horn and the music from the ipod come out through the headphones, so you can jam along to whatever but the only sound to others is your horn.

Then you have to mute the horn... this is from another thread:

Get a cardboard box that's just about the length of your horn. (I'm assuming a tenor or an alto).

Line it with 1/2" or 1" foam rubber from a cloth goods store. Modify the shape and dimensions of the box so that it will accommodate the horn comfortably as well as your hands. Strategically-placed pieces of foam rubber will keep the horn properly centered in the box.

The back end will be open, but your body will absorb much of the sound coming from the back of the box. It won't silence the horn but it'll kill about 50% of the sound.

For support, you can velcro the box to a mic stand. CONNECT YOUR HORN TO YOUR NECK STRAP!

After you build your first crude practice box, you'll want something that looks a little better. Just take the first box apart and use the pieces as a pattern to make the new practice box from fome-core art board. Glue it all together with hot glue and reinforce it with duct tape.

Cost (without the mic stand) is about $12.00.

To finish it all off, chose a bathroom or closet where the noise to others is further reduced.

The whole set up kind of sucks, but the fact that you can practice whenever you chose makes up for it. Besides, it's just for when you have to be quiet! Like scotts wrote: to get the most out of an instrument, you need to practice on that instrument. This set up doesn't involve a synth, or keyboard, or fingered reedless horn. It's the real deal, just muted and miked up into headphones.

Good luck!:mrgreen:
 

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I had to practice really softly for a few years when I first had kids and lived in a small apartment in Boston. I used my soprano with a soft reed and played has quietly as possible in another room. Barely a whisper, not great for tone production but I have to say I improved a ton in technique during those years!
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Hey everybody,

Thanks for the replies. Ever since I posted, I've been thinking how different the synth would be from actually blowing a horn. Maybe the soprano is the best compromise for me ... and I've already got that. I'm not sure I'd have the patience either to make or use a practice box ... but it's a good idea.

Susan
 
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