Vijai_3rd_roundWelcome to the Critique Section. Read the the instructions carefully to get the most out of this section.

The Purpose of The Critique Section

The purpose is straightforward. We take time and much effort to learn and practice the saxophone.  We have played on our own and possibly with groups.  We work on tone, rhythm, phrasing, and all the other dimensions of music.  Not to mention dealing with reeds, mouthpieces, and all that.

We spend a lot of time working on our sound, to try and get it just right.  But then we’re not sure.  It’s difficult to assess yourself and your own playing.  As you play, you’re connected to the horn.  You feel the instrument vibrating and you hear something different than anyone else will.  We also hear music in our heads in different ways than other people may.

So you can’t really critique yourself.  Even if you have spent a lot of time on something and even received feedback and help on it, you can still use a second or third opinion. This section is where you can get that feedback and get suggestions.

The word ‘critique
Implies we’re focusing in on the problems and being critical.  It’s not always easy to handle critique.  Compliments and nice things are a lot more pleasant!  But no one plays saxophone flawlessly.  We ask for feedback on our playing to assess what changes we should make.  You’ll be asked to slow down, really listen, adjust your phrasing, technique, breathing even.

The critical comments may not feel fantastic initially, but they will help you grow.  You’ll improve your sound, rhythm, and more.    Both you and other people will like how you sound better, you’ll become a better musician.

So how does this work?
Generally, the critiques will focus on a few details.  A thorough critique involves finding a number of things to work on and fix, each detail might take hours of practice to really get.   A long list of things to work on is a bit overwhelming and maybe even demoralizing.

It’s more likely that we’ll focus on one or two things and be advised how to work on it.

If you submit anything within Saxophone Tribe to get feedback on, I have the option of using it within Saxophone Tribe or on Sax Station.  Otherwise, you will need to pay me the full price of a private lesson.

Who is involved with the critiques?

I will review the recordings and give suggestions.  Most of the time I will listen to your recording first, then write back with some changes to make.  Part of the time I’ll record myself playing examples.  You’ll then take the feedback and work on the music then submit another recording.  From there you may be ready to move on or I may give you more feedback.  If you repeat the same mistakes, I’ll repeat the feedback.  Part of the time I will make a full video critique, more often when it’s a piece I have not critiqued yet.  If I have already made a critique, you should watch it first before asking for feedback, as I may point out some things to be careful about.

Other members of Saxophone Tribe may also comment, they may have very valuable things to say.  They hear music in their own way and maybe in a way closer to your audience. Different perspectives helps for this process.  The key is to make this about constructive criticism.  We will point out elements that sound good as well as pieces that need some help.  Be encouraging if you leave a comment!

How often can I ask for a critique?

As often as you need (premium for any recording) for assignments outlined in the ‘steps’.  There are a number of recordings to be critiqued though, so it may not happen immediately.

What do you need to do next?
Send me a recording from the steps (including the ‘any music you want’ option within steps 1-4) that you would like feedback on, try to specify which elements of the music you think you need help with and what seems to be difficult.

If you have a microphone connected to your computer or even a built in microphone on your computer, that will be fine.  Don’t worry too much about the quality of the recording.  And if you don’t have a microphone on your computer, you can call and leave a voice message with yourself playing!   (831) 406-1468


First Critique – Kate, Pink Panther Theme by ear on alto

Second Critique – Doug, Careless Whisper

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Michael Sojka September 29, 2012 at 3:37 am

Neal, or anyone that’s reading this I suppose; how do I get my macbook to record me playing? I deleted a bunch of unused programs not long ago to free up some space on the hard drive, but I think I may have deleted whatever program it was that would have allowed me to record. Any suggestions on some freeware?


Neal September 29, 2012 at 10:18 am

Hey Michael, simplest way is probably just with quicktime player, go to file and ‘new audio recording’. You could also download the program audacity. I think Garage Band would work too, but I don’t use that one too much.


Michele Pippen August 21, 2013 at 11:52 pm

Realize this was posted a long time ago about ‘recording’ – but I too little confused on this –
On my iMac – Quicktime Player – there’s no option for ‘new audio recording’ under the file menu. In fact I can’t find any ‘recording’ program except for Garage Band. I have had to use that and choose – New Project – Instrument ‘Voice’ – then just record my playing. I really can’t find other program for just recording from the in-built mic or even if plug in a mic. ?


Neal August 22, 2013 at 12:14 am

It seems like quicktime player should let you record. What version do you have?

Garage Band might work for what you’re trying to do, but I don’t really use it.

You could also download a free program like audacity.

There are other programs out there too.


Michele Pippen August 23, 2013 at 8:19 pm

Ok – I’ll try the audacity program. Thought my quicktime was updated, maybe not! Thanks.

Michele Pippen August 23, 2013 at 9:01 pm

Neal, Loaded down Audacity – looks great – thanks! Michele.

Doug December 10, 2012 at 3:47 pm

I think the changes you made here make a lot of sense and help with the thought process of having critiques done.


Neal December 11, 2012 at 7:51 pm

Thanks Doug.


michele August 27, 2013 at 9:37 pm

I been practicing, heaps (except yesterday was too busy) , and trying to ‘sound’ at least reasonable and slowed down on the Lindeman – sort of sounds ok to my ear whilst playing, then play my practice back, I sound like crap.

I’ll send you another recording, but I’m not very happy with it.

In fact, I also had a practice on a piece I really love, Corcovado, sounds sort of ok to my ear when I’m playing it, but the playback of the recording of it is like, omg, I hear sounds/ stuff I don’t like, my C# to D and back to C# and then D is not a nice sound, so disheartening.

Maybe I’m too close to the mic, these were recorded on my iphone. So I try again at computer and then see if it is just way too much ‘pick-up’ with the iphone. But I fear I’m just sounding/playing like crap. :-/ .

Also practicing the old Summertime melody only. Very hard to not go into my usual ‘add-ons’ and stuff, but I’m disciplining best I can to keep to the simple melody as written notes, reading it for initial practice, then doing by memory only, with no backing track.

Can’t find a slower version backing track, besides I think it is good practice to ‘hear’ it in my head, and try to play without metronome nor backing-track, play-along.

Is that correct/ok to do that?


Neal August 28, 2013 at 4:47 pm

Hey Michele,
If you slowed down the Lindeman for the first part, it should be fine. I’ll check out a recording. Not too much can go wrong except uneven rhythm and that becomes easier if it’s slower.

Keep working on Corcovado, that’s a good tune.

And try not to be so afraid of what you sound like, be aware and listen for how to improve it.

How you’re practicing Summertime is probably okay.


Michele Pippen August 28, 2013 at 5:31 pm

Thanks Neal, it just doesn’t sound nice to play 2 notes without any ‘feeling’ is what I guess it is for me . Finding it difficult to get the breath in, trying either after two bars or even each, but getting that in without any ‘rests’ . would like to try getting the whole thing out in one, optimistic but possible – I’m busy working right now so will send off another recording later, or this evening. THanks again.


Neal August 28, 2013 at 6:10 pm

It’s an exercise, not music. So don’t worry about making it sound pretty. The results of playing the exercise will make your music sound better.

You can breathe whenever you need to, as long as you connect the two notes several times.


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