Practicing and Practice Techniques for the Saxophone

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 26,615
    Expert Sax player Seth Kibel demonstrates how to properly practice the saxophone.

    Seth Kibel

    Seth Kibel is one of the Mid-Atlantic region's premier saxophonists. His latest release, on Azalea City Recordings, is "The Great Pretender." On his first solo album, The Great Pretender, tenor saxophonist Seth Kibel brings his raucous, blues-drenched sound to 10 songs with support from some of the most skilled artists in the Mid-Atlantic and beyond. Adding their talents to two of Seth’s original tunes and eight of his creative arrangements are European blues star Eugene “Hideaway” Bridges, boogie-woogie pianist Daryl Davis, blues diva Melanie Mason, D.C. guitar legend Dave Chappell, jazz pianist Sean Lane, rocker Billy Coulter, dobro-ist Dave Giegerich, bassist Sam Goodall, and drummers Mark Lucas and Joe Wells. The covers include dramatic re-interpretations of songs by Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, Duke Ellington and The Kinks. '

    The album’s blues and roots rock sounds represent a new approach for the versatile performer and composer, known for his jazz and klezmer music and his leadership of the award-winning “alternative klezmer” band The Alexandria Kleztet. Seth has won 11 Washington Area Music Association Awards (Wammies) including Best Jazz Instrumentalist and Best World Music Instrumentalist.

    Seth began his career as a full-time professional musician in 1996, when he moved to the Washington/Baltimore area following his graduation from Cornell University with a double major in Music and American Studies. Since that time, he has been in demand as a sideman and as a bandleader performing in such diverse genres as jazz, rock, blues, swing, klezmer, dixieland, and classical music.

    Seth began his professional klezmer career in 1993 with Cayuga Klezmer Revival, upstate New York’s premier klezmer band. Their CD, Klezmology, is still sold nationally. Seth is currently the leader, clarinetist, and composer for The Alexandria Kleztet, an “alternative” klezmer band he founded in the Baltimore/Washington area. The band’s three albums, Y2Klezmer (1999), Delusions of Klezmer (2002), and Close Enough for Klezmer (2005) are all available internationally. All three albums received the Washington Area Music Association’s (WAMA) award for Best World Music Recording following their release. The Alexandria Kleztet was named "Best World Music Duo or Group" by WAMA for 2003, 2004, and 2006. Seth also received individual awards for "Best World Music Instrumentalist" in 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006, and was named "Best Jazz Instrumentalist" for 2005.

    In addition to his activities with the Kleztet, Seth has fronted a variety of swing and jazz groups, including Corner Pocket, Air Mail Special, The Bay Jazz Project, and Seth Kibel’s Dixieland All-Stars. In 2002, he was commissioned to write, perform, and record an original score for Dreams in the Golden Country, an original theatrical production at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. In January 2004, he released his first jazz CD, a joint album with violinist Susan Jones entitled Nuts and Bolts. And in late 2004, he produced A Chanukah Feast, an album for the DC-based charity Hungry for Music featuring both regional and national artists. In 2005, he was the recipient of an "ASCAPlus" grant, as well as a Silver Prize (2nd place) winner in the Mid-Atlantic Song Contest, in the "jazz/blues/instrumental" division. In summer 2007, he released The Great Pretender, his first solo record for Azalea City Recordings. On the album, Seth brings his raucous, blues-drenched sound to 10 songs with support from some of the most skilled artists in the Mid-Atlantic and beyond. Seth has performed with such notables as Sam Moore (Sam & Dave), Percy Sledge, The Coasters, and Johnnie Johnson. Additionally, he has appeared with many notable groups in the Baltimore/Washington area, including The Daryl Davis Band, Project Natale, Christian Josi, The Tom Cunningham Orchestra, The VanDangos, and The Hot Kugel Klezmer Band, just to name a few. He has performed at the Kennedy Center, the Carter Barron Amphitheatre, the Lowell Folk Festival in Lowell, Massachusetts, as well as on several European tours.

    Seth can be heard on recent CD releases by the Skyla Burrell Blues Band, the Swing States Road Show, folksinger John Simon, The Civil Air Patrol Band, American Song, The Hot Kugel Klezmer Band, guitarist David Kitchen, boogie-woogie pianist Daryl Davis, blues guitarist Eugene “Hideaway” Bridges, jazz vocalist Esther Haynes, and flamenco guitarist Gerard Moreno. Since 2002, he has been on the faculty of the ElderHostel program at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore. He has also lectured extensively on klezmer, jazz, swing, the big band era, and other related musical topics at Peabody, Goucher College, and elsewhere.

    Seth's primary instruments are the clarinet, saxophone (alto, tenor, and baritone), and flute. He has, however, been known to make some noise on harmonica, recorder, guitar, piano, and accordion. In his eight years as a professional musician, Seth has performed for numerous private affairs, such as receptions, weddings, and Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, all across the country. Whatever your affair, Seth will work with you to put together the right ensemble. References available upon request.

    Okay, before we wrap up our lesson, I want to say just a few words about practicing and practice technique. In many ways, practicing a musical instrument is a from of exercise; you are exercising lots of different muscles; muscles in your lips with the embouchure, muscles in your tongue, muscles in your cheek, muscles in your fingers of course, like those pinkies I was talking about, muscles in your lungs and since it is an easy from of exercise, it is very important that you do it on a regular basis; every day if possible. I always tell my students that I have rather play saxophone five minutes a day; every day, then once a week sit down for three hours, because you are slowly building up strengthening those muscles. So, if you cannot find a regular time to get behind the horn on a daily or almost daily basis that will strongly benefit you. Music teachers like to talk about how you should shoot for a half hour a day or an hour a day; that is great if you can do it. I know everyone does not have that kind of time, but if you can find five or ten minutes a day to play the saxophone, you will notice improvement in your playing within a couple of weeks. A few other words about practice technique; try to practice things you are not good at; things you cannot play easily, that is what practicing is about. Practicing, things that you can play well; songs that you already know, is not really practicing; it is fun and it is time behind the horn, so it certainly helpful, but it is not really practicing; practicing is when you tackle something you cannot do and master it, so you can do it. We do this by practicing things slowly and we do it through repetition; practicing it again and again and again. Your practice environment should be comfortable and relaxing and stress free; do not beat yourself up if you cannot play something, one day, work on it a little bit, move on; the next day you may find you have already made improvement in it. Your practice environment should be secluded, free of distractions and you should always have a couple of things with you; first of all, something to wet your whistle, because you will get thirsty. If you are really concerned about the care of your saxophone, you should probably just drink water while you play. I have to be honest; sometimes I cheat and drink coffee or other liquids instead. You should always have a pencil on your music stand, a metronome and a tuner are also good devices. You should have a chair, so that you can sit down when you want, although you can some of your practice session standing up, if you can. A mirror can often be helpful, especially in the early stages of learning of saxophone, since it gives you a chance to really see what you are doing in terms of finger position and posture and oral cavity shaping; these are all good things to have when you practice. So, happy practicing and I expect you to make lots of lots of progress. We have one more step to go; we are going to go over putting away the care and hygiene and feeding of your saxophone.