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10 Things Only Saxophone Players Would Understand

10 Things Only Saxophone Players Would Understand

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Featured photo credit: Flickr (Creative Commons) zoetnet via flickr.com

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Last Updated on November 5, 2019

How to Cultivate Continuous Learning to Stay Competitive

How to Cultivate Continuous Learning to Stay Competitive

Assuming the public school system didn’t crush your soul, learning is a great activity. It expands your viewpoint. It gives you new knowledge you can use to improve your life. It is important for your personal growth. Even if you discount the worldly benefits, the act of learning can be a source of enjoyment.

“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” — Mark Twain

But in a busy world, it can often be hard to fit in time to learn anything that isn’t essential. The only things learned are those that need to be. Everything beyond that is considered frivolous. Even those who do appreciate the practice of lifelong learning, can find it difficult to make the effort.

Here are some tips for installing the habit of continuous learning:

1. Always Have a Book

It doesn’t matter if it takes you a year or a week to read a book. Always strive to have a book that you are reading through, and take it with you so you can read it when you have time.

Just by shaving off a few minutes in-between activities in my day I can read about a book per week. That’s at least fifty each year.

2. Keep a “To-Learn” List

We all have to-do lists. These are the tasks we need to accomplish. Try to also have a “to-learn” list. On it you can write ideas for new areas of study.

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Maybe you would like to take up a new language, learn a skill or read the collective works of Shakespeare. Whatever motivates you, write it down.

3. Get More Intellectual Friends

Start spending more time with people who think. Not just people who are smart, but people who actually invest much of their time in learning new skills. Their habits will rub off on you.

Even better, they will probably share some of their knowledge with you.

4. Guided Thinking

Albert Einstein once said,

“Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking.”

Simply studying the wisdom of others isn’t enough, you have to think through ideas yourself. Spend time journaling, meditating or contemplating over ideas you have learned.

5. Put it Into Practice

Skill based learning is useless if it isn’t applied. Reading a book on C++ isn’t the same thing as writing a program. Studying painting isn’t the same as picking up a brush.

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If your knowledge can be applied, put it into practice.

In this information age, we’re all exposed to a lot of information, it’s important to re-learn how to learn so as to put the knowledge into practice.

6. Teach Others

You learn what you teach. If you have an outlet of communicating ideas to others, you are more likely to solidify that learning.

Start a blog, mentor someone or even discuss ideas with a friend.

7. Clean Your Input

Some forms of learning are easy to digest, but often lack substance.

I make a point of regularly cleaning out my feed reader for blogs I subscribe to. Great blogs can be a powerful source of new ideas. But every few months, I realize I’m collecting posts from blogs that I am simply skimming.

Every few months, purify your input to save time and focus on what counts.

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8. Learn in Groups

Lifelong learning doesn’t mean condemning yourself to a stack of dusty textbooks. Join organizations that teach skills.

Workshops and group learning events can make educating yourself a fun, social experience.

9. Unlearn Assumptions

You can’t add water to a full cup. I always try to maintain a distance away from any idea. Too many convictions simply mean too few paths for new ideas.

Actively seek out information that contradicts your worldview.

Our minds can’t be trusted, but this is what we can do about it to be wiser.

10. Find Jobs that Encourage Learning

Pick a career that encourages continual learning. If you are in a job that doesn’t have much intellectual freedom, consider switching to one that does.

Don’t spend forty hours of your week in a job that doesn’t challenge you.

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11. Start a Project

Set out to do something you don’t know how. Forced learning in this way can be fun and challenging.

If you don’t know anything about computers, try building one. If you consider yourself a horrible artist, try a painting.

12. Follow Your Intuition

Lifelong learning is like wandering through the wilderness. You can’t be sure what to expect and there isn’t always an end goal in mind.

Letting your intuition guide you can make self-education more enjoyable. Most of our lives have been broken down to completely logical decisions, that making choices on a whim has been stamped out.

13. The Morning Fifteen

Productive people always wake up early. Use the first fifteen minutes of your morning as a period for education.

If you find yourself too groggy, you might want to wait a short time. Just don’t put it off later in the day where urgent activities will push it out of the way.

14. Reap the Rewards

Learn information you can use. Understanding the basics of programming allows me to handle projects that other people would require outside help. Meeting a situation that makes use of your educational efforts can be a source of pride.

15. Make Learning a Priority

Few external forces are going to persuade you to learn. The desire has to come from within. Once you decide you want to make lifelong learning a habit, it is up to you to make it a priority in your life.

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Featured photo credit: Paul Schafer via unsplash.com

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