With the NYSSMA Solo Festival quickly approaching, I thought it would be prudent to create some short reference recordings/videos of a few level I-II NYSSMA solos. These will be for the alto saxophone, but I have ideas for soprano, tenor, and baritone, as well. The first three will consist of Sigurd Rascher’s transcriptions of Praetorius’ “From Heaven High”, Fox’s Minuet, and one of J.S. Bach’s Minuets from the Notebook for Anna Magdalena. It is my sincere hope that they can be of use to students and teachers alike to provide high-quality, musical renditions of some basic pedagogical pieces. The first one, Minuet by J. Fox, will be uploaded later this week. I will post the link as soon as it’s live.
Grappling with Choices
Before I get started with this post, let me just say for the record that I’ve been down the mouthpiece rabbit hole before. With each mouthpiece that I played, there was no real change in my tonal concept; however, each one I tried produced slightly different results–some with more effort, others with less. Then I found one that I truly loved, and for many years I played on this particular mouthpiece.
Since that time, the way that I play my saxophone has evolved and changed. The musical situations in which I find myself necessitate deviations from the manner in which I had played for so long. I was finding it difficult to play even simple things without making major changes to my embouchure, reeds, and even my ligature. I had played one way for so long that I believed it to be the only way in which I was supposed to play my instrument. In a way, a felt a sense of disloyalty to the tradition of playing that I follow if I were to change my mouthpiece.
Fast forward to today, and I have been playing on this new mouthpiece for the past several months. I’m very glad that I switched. It’s now possible for me to play with less effort and worry over small details and focus on making music. Isn’t that the goal? To play music with minimal effort? I think so.
Staying Active During the Pandemic
It’s been quite a long time since my last blog post. Since the pandemic hit last March, I’ve tried to stay as busy as possible in my music-making (especially since there are no concerts or other live performance opportunities for the foreseeable future). To that end, I’d like to describe what I’ve been working on since March.
The first thing I began studying was a series of etudes that I purchased a few years ago and never finished. I first heard about Giuseppe Ruggiero’s 16 Finishing Studies for saxophone when I attended The University of Southern Mississippi from my teacher, Dr. Gwozdz. I never had the chance to study them at that point, but I purchased the collection a few years later and began working on them. After studying the first two, I had to put the book back on the shelf for a couple of years and focus on the performances that I was committed to. Once the pandemic started, it was time to pull the book back out and get back to work. I studied and practiced the remaining etudes for a few months—these pieces are great for developing musical and technical skills in a very contemporary (and at times, fluctuating) music language. Due to their level of complexity, I would only recommend these to advanced players.
Next I began making a list of all of the unaccompanied works that I possess in my library. Since playing chamber music will have to wait for the time being, solo works will have to do for now. I rediscovered some gems that I forgot I even had! There are a few works that I’m going to study intently and then make video performances of, including those of Stefan Thomas and Fabian Muller.
I also bought a sopranino saxophone, an instrument that I’ve wanted to own for several years. It is a beautiful Buescher instrument, with an original mouthpiece. Once I become acquainted with it, I’ll also post some videos of myself performing on it.
First Online Clinic!
This past week I gave my first online clinic to students at my alma mater, Hampton Bays High School. It was a great success! Since we were limited on time, I covered only the basics (tone production, articulation, technique, reeds, and a list of mouthpieces and appropriate etude books); but I still feel that the students got a lot out of it. I would like to thank Jennifer Halsey for setting it up and all of her saxophone students who participated. I’m hoping to do some more of these in the near future.
New Resource Available!
Hello everyone! With everything that is currently going on in the world today, with people quarantining themselves and being forced to work at home, it’s amazing that we can still be connected via the Internet and applications like Skype, FaceTime, Zoom, etc. To that end, I’m here to advertise Skype, Zoom, and FaceTime lessons!
If you or your students are interested in taking an online lesson with me, please contact me via e-mail at briandkauth [at] gmail [dot]com. I’d be more than happy to work with you on your playing through this rather difficult time. I do charge for lessons, so if you’re interested, please contact me for my current rates.
Additionally, I have also prepared my personal altissimo fingering charts for soprano, alto, tenor, and baritone. I’m hoping to have these uploaded to my website for purchase in the near future.
Hope everyone is doing well! Stay safe and healthy!
Resources for Students
Lately I’ve been creating my own resources to use with students and others who may be looking for materials. As of now this has been limited to fingering charts for the altissimo register (for soprano, alto, tenor, and baritone), but I’m going to expand it to include quarter-tone fingering charts, overtone exercises, fingering exercises, etc.
Please let me know if anyone is interested in these materials. I’ll make them available to anyone who may benefit from them.
The Benefits of Adaptation
I’ve thought about this a great deal and am now prepared to share some of my thoughts about it.
I’ve conceded to playing more jazz over the past five years and it has proved to be very beneficial to my playing. At first I was hesitant to begin working on this style, having studied classical music for the better part of fifteen years at that point. However, my reluctance was all for nothing. My independent study of jazz has proven to me that there are benefits to my classical playing, and my jazz playing has benefited from my classical studies.
Some of the benefits include: classical technique improves jazz performance, aural skills acquired for jazz benefit classical playing, the more flexible embouchure used in jazz helps to “loosen up” my classical playing to create a more flexible sound palette, my jazz playing has never been “academic” — which I believe has made my playing more personal and expressive.
These are just things that I’ve noticed in my own playing. I’m sure that others out there will notice similar (or perhaps even different) things in their playing.
As I continue on my musical journey, there will be other things that will contribute to my playing and musicianship. Two things that will always influence what I do are: 1) my heavy classical training, and 2) my love for both classical music and jazz.
Some Recent Thoughts about Mouthpieces
Over the past few years, I’ve had numerous thoughts about mouthpieces and reeds–mostly about how my tastes have changed. Following my guest artist recital last month, I was fortunate enough to try a mouthpiece with a very different facing from what I currently use. I must say, I was impressed with the mouthpiece’s response and quality. To that end, I’ve put together some additional thoughts about mouthpieces that I’d like to share.
First of all, my taste in sound has changed over time. Being separated from my university studies and constantly being in an environment of classical saxophone for some time now, I’ve really come to appreciate the various types of saxophone tones that are out there. Don’t misunderstand me, I still have my preferences and I still believe that there are tones out there that are not of the best quality–but I have accepted and even encouraged the exploration of different types of sounds.
Though I prefer a dark, warm, and focused tone, I believe that the tone should be responsive and flexible, capable of adapting to the demands of any type of music. The mouthpieces that I’ve played on over the years were certainly capable of that; however, I now think that some of my mouthpieces are not the most conducive to providing a flexible tone. I’ve noticed a real consistency of tone with these mouthpieces, but not always the ability to change it if the music demanded it. I think that this new perception of mine is possibly due to the amount of jazz playing I’ve done over the past 5 years. It is essential while playing jazz to modify the tone according to the demands of the music (sometimes even within a single phrase or line). Why can’t this also hold true for classical performance?
I’ve also preferred playing on softer reeds over the last few years (again, possibly influenced by my jazz playing). There was a time when I played on very hard reeds (strength 5s) on a mouthpiece that was opened up and already resistant. But at that time, the type of playing I was doing demanded that I do that. Since then, I’ve cut down on the reed strength (no harder than a 4 now), as well as experimenting with different cuts of reeds. Instead of resistance, I’m now looking for a more responsive reed/mouthpiece combination, more “core” in the tone, and a more flexible embouchure.
As I’ve noticed some deficiencies in my playing, I feel that making some slight changes will allow me to focus on correcting those deficiencies. As long as the tone and intonation don’t suffer, I think these alterations will prove to be beneficial to my overall playing.
Guest Artist Recital
It’s been quite some time since I last wrote a blog post. This past Thursday I had the wonderful opportunity to present a guest artist recital at my alma mater, SUNY Fredonia. My incredible teacher, Dr. Wildy Zumwalt, helped organize the event, and I’m so very grateful and pleased that the performance went well and was well-attended.
I also had the privilege of performing with the incredible pianist Amber Shay Nicholson (who was on the piano faculty at USM when I studied there). With her collaboration, we performed three incredible works for alto saxophone and piano: Andrew Martin Smith’s Amalgamation, Brandon Nelson’s Unbecoming, and Paul Creston’s Sonata, op. 19. I’m very pleased with how the performance went and I’m looking forward to hearing the recording!
Two unaccompanied works were also performed: Jamie Leigh Sampson’s With No Name and Everette Minchew’s Figment. These also went well.
Afterwards, I got to reconnect with my teacher, composer Andrew Martin Smith, saxophonist Diane Hunger, and my friends in the Decho Ensemble.
The entire experience was musically fulfilling, and I’m looking forward to some jazz performances in the coming months.
From a research perspective, I was able to finally visit the Sigurd Rascher Archive and do some more research into his relationship with composer Roman Palester. I found some information that I was not privy to back when I began my dissertation, and I’m going to begin writing another article about them this summer.
I have been thinking a lot lately about diversification. I should have begun diversifying myself more while I was still in college. However, it’s never too late.
What drew me to the saxophone in the first place was the pop/rock music of the late 1980s — which was when I started playing the saxophone in the 4th grade. I discovered jazz in middle school, which further cemented the saxophone’s hold on me. Once I entered college and discovered the classical side of the saxophone, I was immediately hooked and I focused all of my energy on that particular style, to the detriment of learning how to play jazz well.
Now that I have been out of school for almost 10 years, the value of playing jazz and doubling has come full circle. I have Oliver Nelson’s “Patterns for Improvisation” and some of Jamey Aebersold’s “Play Along” series on my music stand, in addition to Ruggiero’s etudes. I am doing my best to structure my practice time and divide it evenly between classical and jazz. I also have Klose’s Clarinet Method and Belwin’s “The Flutist’s Companion” to work on my doubling skills.
I encourage all saxophonists to study as much as they can while still in school, because it becomes much more difficult when you’re out of school and have many other things that need your attention: teaching, bills, house, etc.
Let’s get to work!