IS YOUR CHILD SET-UP FOR SUCCESS? PART 3
For a student to flourish with music making, enjoy the art-form and to excel at their instrument, the saxophone needs to be easy to play. A quality instrument in good working order will ensure ease of playability and lead to a far more enjoyable experience for all. It will also develop confidence and satisfaction within the student, encouraging them to persist with saxophone playing.
At the very beginning stages, investment in a quality student model saxophone is strongly recommended. At the Saxophone Academy Sydney we only recommend Yamaha student model saxophones. A second hand YAS275 or new YAS280 or YAS26 are all excellent models that will produce a great sound, have an even response and accurate intonation. The Yamaha is a tried and tested brand that is made from quality materials and with an excellent design. Another brand that has some reputation are Jupiter saxophones. These saxophones are cheaper and use a lower grade brass that is much easier to ding and bend, however the design is very good and the instrument will be reliable for the student.
Sometimes the financial outlay of a new or second-hand instrument is to great, in this case rental of a Yamaha saxophone is recommended. (This is available through the Saxophone Academy Sydney). In saying that, one of the greatest encouragements a student can receive is owning their own saxophone.
Instruments of unknown brands purchased on ebay should be avoided at all costs, they are the best way to discourage a student from practicing.
Once the student has been playing for 5yrs or achieved 5th Grade AMEB examination (whichever comes first), the student will be ready for a saxophone upgrade. There are many reasons for this. The beginner instruments are made of a very thin brass that results in a lightweight instrument ideal for smaller students, this thinner brass does not have the resonance and tonal complexity required for an advancing student. The keywork on student models is smaller and closer to the body of the instrument, ideal for small hands, but as the student grows these keys become more challenging to reach. The bore (width of the tube) on student model saxophone is smaller. This means that the student instrument requires less air, but will have a smaller sound with less projection. Finally, student instruments have less adjustable screws and mechanisms, this reduces weight and cost, however the instrument is harder to finely regulate and requires bending to make adjustments.
Upgrade options at this stage are the intermediate and semi-professional instruments. At the Saxophone Academy Sydney we recommend sticking to the 3 most reputable and reliable brands: Yamaha, Yanagisawa and Selmer Paris.
Their intermediate/semi-professional models are:
YAS62 – The Australian standard for this level of upgrade. Excellent playability, tonal flexibility and secure intonation
YAS480 – this instrument uses the same keywork as the student model but with the body of the YAS62
AW-01 (A901) – A fantastic saxophone becoming one of the most popular upgrade saxophones. The highest quality brass available with excellent sturdy key-work. A more complex sound than the Yamaha. A favourite of mine.
AW-02 (A902) – The same as a AW-01 but made of bronze rather than brass, this produces a more mellow tone.
Seles Axos – Selmer saxophones have been the industry standard for professionals since the turn of the century. Selmer in fact bought the original tools and machinery from Adolphe Sax. They have recently released their first ever ‘Intermediate’ model, The Seles Axos. A quality instrument with an excellent tone. In my opinion these instruments are expensive compared to the other options listed above and do not necessarily offer any additional quality or character. They are a good option for those particularly enthused with tradition.
TO BE CONTINUED.
IS YOUR CHILD 'SET-UP' FOR SUCCESS? PART 2
The mouthpiece is an integral piece of equipment that will greatly effect the playability of the instrument. A quality mouthpiece will not only improve the tone of a student but will also ensure that the saxophone is reacting correctly to the use of air. A poor-quality mouthpiece will make the production of an even tone almost impossible for the student, leading to students being dissatisfied and at risk of discontinuing.
At the Saxophone Academy Sydney we recommend all beginner students use a Yamaha 4C mouthpiece, no matter what brand of saxophone they are using. The Yamaha 4C is a plastic machine-made mouthpiece of high quality and good design. It enables a strong even tone with great response for clear and light articulation. This mouthpiece is ideal for students in the first series of AMEB examinations (up to grade 4).
Once the student has been playing a few years and has developed a stable and correct embouchure a mouthpiece upgrade is recommended.
To achieve the quality of sound, response of articulation and flexibility of tone colour expected for AMEB grade 5 and above, and for the budding student, A handcrafted ebonite mouthpiece is highly recommended. There is a huge range of these mouthpieces available and the idea of upgrading the mouthpiece can be a daunting one. At this stage of development we at the Saxophone Academy Sydney recommend a traditional/classical style mouthpiece. Even if the student is interested in jazz. These mouthpieces are much easier to control and will allow the student the appropriate sound and consistency expected for any school ensemble, be it concert band or big band.
The two mouthpiece brands we recommend at the Saxophone Academy Sydney are Selmer and Vandoren. These two brands (both French) have been the industry standard in this style of mouthpiece since the early 20th Century. They come in a variety of styles and designs and therefore guidance from your tutor or a Saxophone Academy Sydney staff member is recommend at this stage. Popular options in this category are
Vandoren V5 range (A15, A20, A27, A28)
The french standard. This mouthpiece enables for great tonal flexibility while still maintaining evenness of tone and great response
Vandoren Optimum range (AL3, AL4, AL5)
A darker tonal concept than the V5 mouthpiece but with less tonal flexibility. Incredible ease of playing.
Selmer S80 range (C*, C**, D)
The standard mouthpiece upgrade in Australia since the 1980s. Great tonal variation and sound emission, easy articulation
Selmer S90 range (170, 180, 190)
Very similar to the S80 range but with a slightly brighter and clearer tone.
A mouthpiece that has become very popular over the past few years is the Selmer Concept mouthpiece. This mouthpiece is a laser made ebonite mouthpiece and has become very popular amongst professionals. We at the Saxophone Academy Sydney believe this mouthpiece is excellent for the professional player, but requires a great level of technique and flexibility to achieve great results from, therefore we do not recommend it for students.
If a student is considering a jazz mouthpiece, they should be aware that they require a great deal of control and flexibility and should be practiced on daily to achieve good results. They are also not appropriate for AMEB examinations as they produce a different tonal concept. Students in jazz bands etc at school are encouraged to consult their tutor if a jazz mouthpiece is appropriate.
TO BE CONTINUED
IS YOUR CHILD ‘SET-UP’ FOR SUCCESS!
The reed is the most integral piece of equipment for your saxophone and will have the greatest effect on the quality of sound and response of the instrument. Proper care and maintenance of the reed is essential to ensure that you are getting the best out of your saxophone. The reed should be removed from the mouthpiece after every playing and should be kept flat and dry. The best solution for this is a quality reed case such as the Daddario reed case or other available product.
As a beginner, you will need a reed that will provide a quality sound and response yet will not be too expensive, as any reed that is cracked or chipped should be disposed of.
At the Saxophone Academy Sydney we strongly recommend the Rico Royal reeds for this level. Strength 2 is the ideal reed to start on and once the student begins to play low C and notes above high C they should progress to 2.5 reeds.
Once a student has been playing for a number of years and has completed the first series of AMEB exams (up to Grade 4) we recommend students progress to a higher quality reed which will enable them to produce a warmer richer tone and achieve a faster response. We suggest D’addario Reserve reeds. Vandoren blue box reeds are also a good alternative for this level.
Jazz reeds such as D’addario Jazz Select, Plasticover, Vandoren Java and Vandoren V16 should be reserved for advanced players performing with jazz style mouthpieces. These reeds used on a classical or traditional mouthpieces will create a thin buzzy sound that will not be pleasing or appropriate for AMEB examinations or school bands.
TO BE CONTINUED.
I had an amazing last few days performing both with the North Shore Wind Symphony as Nexas shared a concert with them and performed the Barker Capriccio as well as a recital at the Sydney Conservatorium with the incredible Benjamin Kopp - A French Odyssey.
Performing with likeminded musicians is a true blessing.
No rest for the wicked!
This is perhaps the busiest time of my career and im absolutely loving the diversity that playing the saxophone can bring. Over the next few weeks, aside from my varied teaching, i will be performing with a tango band, a caberat show with opera singer and playing contemporary saxophone music in Australia's tropics as well as lecturing and performing saxophone duos in Porto, one of my home away from homes.
Loving the crazy life of a classical saxophonist right now!!!
Pumped to be recording with my great friend Niels Bijl next week. He's such an inspiring musician and it's a true honour to work on this incredible project with him.I also can't wait to work with Jayson McBride, recording engineer extraordinaire, we've been talking about working together for years and it's finally happening.
Finally a huge thanks to the amazing Frank Madrid, for weaving his magic and facilitating the incredible venue at Fourwinds Bermagui. What a privilege to be able to record in such a stunning room and setting with great friends on a project so close to my heart.
MUSIC SPANNING 300yrs including world premiere recordings of some incredible composers to be announced soon
Jumping into the Eugene Goosens Theatre at ABC studios to record a new album with Nexas Quartet and the amazing Peter Coleman-Wright.
'Composer's in Exile'.
Going to be grand fun.
One of the highlights of the past few months has been recording 'Current' Nexas Quartets debut album with my great mates Duke, Henshaw, and Smiddy. This album has now been recorded, edited, mixed and mastered, soon to be printed.
Its the culmination of years of hard work and dedication and is a reflection of our collaborations with leading Australian composers. Featuring music from national treasures Hindson, Kats-Chernin, Orlovich, Rojas and Skipworth.
Im so excited to be launching 'Current' at the Sydney Opera House on the 29th November.
Book your tickets at
The Sydney Conservatorium is a very special place for me as I began my formal music studies there at the Conservatorium High School in 1998. To complete my music education at the same venue after 7 years abroad and some 16 years later, was truly special.El Asunto del Tango, was 3 and half years of tango research and study, culminating in a performance that included my own adaptations, arrangements by others and new commissions.
I would like to thank all the people who came along to support me in this final performance. It was an emotional experience performing the work that I have researched, arranged, rehearsed and obsessed over for the last three years to over 100 people. Im sad to come to the end of this incredible journey, but incredibly proud of what i have achieved during my final years of study. I've grown not only as a saxophonist, but also as a musician and educator.
There are so many people to thank. I'd like to make a special mention of an incredible group of tango experts that were invaluable to my research. Fernando Muslera, Fernando Lerman, Emiliano Barri, Juan-Maria Solare, Daniel Wallace-Crabbe, Maggie Fergesun, Claude Delangle and a number of others.
A big thanks to Andrew Smith, Nicholas Russoniello, Ben Carey, James Nightingale, Niels Bijl, Fernando Ramos, Henk Van Twillert, Donny McKenzie, Michael Jamieson, Simon Brew and countless others for constantly inspiring me. Being surrounded by such talented musicians has made me the person i am today.
A special thank you must go to two fellow performers Michael Kluger and Isabella Brown. Their passion, dedication and great humour made this project all the more special.
My huge gratitude to Michael Duke and Daniel Rojas, the two most influential people in this study, my two supervisors. My work has developed to the level it has thanks to these two men. I couldnt have done it without you.
The biggest thanks must go to Carmen Nieves, my amazing wife. Her talent, dedication and incredible performance made the practical component of this degree unique and of the highest standard. Her incredible intelligence, language skills and knowledge made the thesis (written component) far more informative, succinct and intelligent. But most importantly, her love, patience, tolerance, friendship, support, and understanding, made the hardest parts of the degree managable and the most enjoyable moments all the more special.
Life will never be the same.
What a year.
2015 was an incredible year of ups and downs: amazing career highlights, great new friendships, seeing long missed friends, operations for family and sad illnesses for friends. Here is an overview of the craziness of 2015.
To bring in the new year I had the pleasure of performing with The Sax Summit alongside my dear friends Andrew Smith, Nic Russoniello, and Damien Mathieson.
January continued to be a month of performing. Niels Bijl joined us for the Saxophone Academy Sydney Summer School and we performed throughout Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne. It was 3 weeks of the most inspiring and exhilarating music making with one of the best musicians I have had the privilege to work with. We also bonded so well and are now the bestest of friends.
Around this time I was also offered my tutoring position at the University of Sydney. An amazing opportunity that would open my eyes to the possibilities of the future.
The following 3 months became a frenzy of rehearsals, arranging, organising and designing. El Asunto del Tango my debut CD encompassed my life. Thanks so much to Niels for planting the idea, Carmen for allowing it to grow and flourish and my amazing team of musos Michael Klugar, Daniel Rojas, Isabella Brown and Carmen. I'm also forever grateful for my amazing engineer David Kim-Boyle and the great work of Jonathan Palmer.
During that 3 months of chaos Nexas launched our 2nd concert series and presented an extremely exciting concert with Frank Celata.
June/July we headed to Europe where El Asunto del tango was launched in Enschede in a quaint pub to a packed crowd. On that trip I also tutored at the Baritone Institute in the Alsace region of France. A week of music making and teaching with Niels Bijl, Jan Manu, Tini Thomsen and the inspiring Joan Marti Frasquier. World Congress awaited and performances with the Baritone Institute, Four Baritones and Nexas Quartet were great fun.
In Amsterdam we spent a beautiful day bbqing in a park with one of the most phenomenal saxophonists, Ties Mellema, we became great friends over this day and he kindly invited Carmen and I to a live broadcast of the amstel quartet. A very special memory of our time in Europe.
One of the biggest highlights of the time in Europe was seeing my dearest friend Donny, his wife Maria and their newborn baby Ethan. It was so special to see my best mate so happy.
When we arrived home Carmen sadly had to go in for another eye surgery. Gratefully Dr Roberts was amazing and Carmen made a full recovery.
We also heard around this time of the sad news of our good friend Ties and his diagnoses of cancer. A tough time for our new friend and our hearts and prayers were with him.
The 2nd half of 2015 included the completion of my DMA thesis a 3 year project that finally came to a close. Carmens citizenship ceremony! And the premiere by Nexas of a new ballet by Matthew Hindson and Cyrus Meurant.
It was an intense year and I pray that 2016 has as many highlights and a lot less lowlights.
the future is bright. Ties is in remission, competition of the DMA is close, exciting performances ahead with Fernando Ramos, Simon Brew, Michael Jamieson, Nexas Quartet. And the continuation of life's journeys with my beautiful wife.