Something that I’ve been asked by students on many occasions, and a topic that frequently comes up in conversation with colleagues, is the old debate of vintage vs. new instruments. Before I continue, let me just say that I am not an expert on musical instrument acoustics. I leave those kinds of debates to those who are more knowledgeable in that area. That being said, I have played on a few modern saxophones, and I do notice a difference between them and their vintage counterparts.
Just to clarify, I perform on vintage Buescher and Conn saxophones: a curved soprano from the early 1920s, an alto from the early 1930s, and a tenor from the mid-1930s. I love the sound that I get on each of these instruments, and their mechanisms are logical and easy to play on (for me). For me, these instruments work best and I achieve the desired musical results that I am looking for.
However, there are many saxophonists who prefer modern instruments, and that is absolutely fine. If a modern mechanism and enhancements help those players achieve their desired musical results, then by all means they should play on those instruments. I’ve tried several of these instruments, and for my personal tastes, I didn’t find them acceptable. But that is just my opinion.
There is no “best” saxophone out there — there is, however, a “best” saxophone for you. So much depends upon the player’s desires and wishes. I encourage those that are interested in purchasing an instrument to play-test as many different saxophones as possible. Only through playing experiences and trial and error can one find an instrument that truly works for them.
Having goals or projects in mind is a wonderful way to stay focused and develop as a person/musician. The musical projects and goals that I wish to undertake this year are ambitious; however, the benefits are worth the effort. I’ll list each below and provide a brief description.
- Learn circular breathing — This is a technique I haven’t had the opportunity to study and implement until now. Gregory Wanamaker’s new saxophone sonata, of Light & Shadows, utilizes this technique in the second movement, which has a perpetual motion idea.
- Re-learn Ferling’s 48 etudes, as well as Rascher’s 24 Intermezzi — I haven’t studied them or performed them to a great extent since I was an undergraduate student at SUNY Fredonia. The musical and technical benefits of these studies cannot be overemphasized, as they are standard developmental literature for saxophonists.
- Perform multiple recitals — I’d like to perform the same set of repertoire a few times and really attempt to promote the music by younger composers. The works of Andrew Martin Smith, Jamie Leigh Sampson, Brandon Nelson, Marek Jasinski, and Gregory Wanamaker will be balanced with older works by Karel Husa, G.F. Handel, Robert Muczynski, and Roman Palester.
- Produce a recording of new works for the saxophone — Over the past few years, I’ve had the wonderful fortune to collaborate with some composers and foster the creation of new music for the saxophone. It’s a goal of mine to now professionally record these works so that there may be available for other saxophonists and new music connoisseurs.
- Form a strong saxophone/piano duo with a collaborative pianist — I’ve collaborated with several pianists over the years and had some wonderful performances with them. I know and teach with some very talented pianists, so I’m hoping to form a strong chamber music duo with one of them.
This is a rather lengthy list of activities, but if the desire is strong enough and the will to complete them is there, then there is no reason why I shouldn’t be successful.