This article is dedicated to my fellow musicians who play saxophone, and more specifically to those who view it as their life. The reasons why we started playing saxophone are endless, ranging from because we loved the sound that it created, to just because we admired how shiny it was. Whether you started playing saxophone 50 years ago or yesterday, you are a part of this exclusive group.
Here are ten common things that saxophone players can relate to:
1. You Have Attempted To Play ‘Careless Whisper’
This song is most commonly recognized more by its tune than its title. Every single one of us has either tried to play it or has listened to the song and thought to ourselves that that is what we sound like when we play. We are used to people asking us to play it for them. We are also used to people asking us if we have watched the Sexy Sax Man play ‘Careless Whisper’ as a prank on YouTube. The answer is: yes, and I never want to watch that video again.
2. You Have a Hard Time Standing Still While Playing
When I play saxophone for performances, I never sit. Standing is more professional-looking, but it also gives me the freedom to really get into my music. Saxophone players never stand still while playing. We move from side to side, and sometimes bend forward if it’s a really high note or we want to emphasize a note. We are entranced by the music we play, and our passion for those moments shine through when we perform.
3. You Have Nightmares About Playing Six Flats
Saxophone players don’t play flats very often. I mean, we mostly never play flats unless we are playing in F major or B flat major keys. We are most comfortable playing sharps. Since we don’t have much experience playing in those wasteland keys, when we look at a key signature and spot more than two flats, we get a most uneasy feeling in our gut. But since we usually don’t play flats, most commonly that scenario only occurs during a nightmare.
4. You Need Space
When I played the baritone sax, I had a story to tell for every dent I had punctured in that thing. Although I tell the stories in a humorous light, every time I have bumped my saxophone on something I have died a little inside. For those of you who play the smaller saxophones (soprano and alto), you understand that when I say you need space, I mean that you need space so that nothing ever touches a key on your precious saxophone. But for those of you who play the beast saxophones (tenor and specifically baritone) you understand that as meaning, “If I don’t have space, I can’t move.” Fellow band members who don’t take you seriously when you say this, will probably take you seriously after you have died a little inside.
5. You Have a Large Lung Capacity
Depending on how high of a number your reed is, the air that you blow into your saxophone varies. Even if you are still on a Rico two and a half, you are still going to have to give it a generous amount of your carbon dioxide. To make it through a song, musicians learn how to breathe from their diaphragm. Although that helps, the song ‘Pomp and Circumstance’ is going to be the death of me (the saxophone holds tied whole notes for the majority of the song)!
6. Your Cork Grease Gets Mistaken for Chap Stick
Does this scenario sound familiar? You say, “Mom, I need chap stick.” Mom says, “I just saw some in your room.” You reply saying, “Uh, that’s cork grease.” Or how about when you reach your hand back behind you for your chap stick during band practice, and accidentally grab the cork grease and carelessly rub it all over your lips. It’s OK; they look a lot alike.
7. Your Reed Defines Your Day
Having a reed crack ruins your day. Reeds are expensive, plus it takes time to break another one in. The taste of a new reed is not appealing either. To be honest, reeds are the main reason I have trust issues. When a reed squeaks, that means it basically just gave me permission to hate it. Also, saying, “No, I don’t have any reeds left,” to a reed-less saxophone player is the biggest lie ever.
8. Your Relationship Status With Your Neck Strap Is Complicated
Your neck strap doesn’t always have your back. We all have been punched in the chin while adjusting our neck strap. Plus your next strap really does leave a mark on you. After playing, we all feel self-conscious about how red our neck looks- not to mention that neck strap tan line from marching band practice. But at the end of the day, your neck strap sometimes manages to stay with you. Like when you put your saxophone away and realize that you never took the neck strap off. If you don’t admit to doing that, you are lying.
9. You Are Louder Than Everyone Else
Your band director is always reminding you to play quieter so everyone can hear the clarinets. That doesn’t make any sense to us, because we always claim that we have the melody. Since high numbered reeds take more air, it is really difficult to balance your air input and volume. Maybe the reason why saxophones cannot participate in orchestras is because playing soft is not our forte.
10. Your Own Spit Drips on You
Walking out of the bathroom with toilet paper attached to your shoe may actually not be as embarrassing as walking around school with a wet spot on your pants. Although usually the spit drains out of the bell of the saxophone (spit valve for baritone sax), unfortunately it sometimes manages to leak through the lower key buttons. This phenomenon happens unexpectedly, and cannot be prevented.
Featured photo credit: Flickr (Creative Commons) zoetnet via flickr.com