KT’s Path



Here are some conversations I have had with KT within Saxophone Tribe. She had been teaching herself for about 6 months before joining, but ran into some obstacles. KT has worked through all the steps for the red and orange statue #1. Will update this page more.


(June 26, 2012)

Hey there,
I’m new to your Tribe. I got an alto sax for myself on Christmas Eve. The holidays were a good time to buy but not to practice. I just want to play. I had a good book and a dependable music store, so I taught myself. That may not be the wisest approach. I hit a wall. I love blues, and ballads, and won’t every forget my week at a lighthouse across from the Newport Jazz Festival. I am anxious to polish up reading music and move on or work simultaneously on playing by ear. My tastes in music is eclectic…rock, blues, folk, jazz, country, and big ballads.


(July 19, 2012)

Forgot, that having taught myself, vocab for sax is deficient. I am also teaching myself piano, so I am counting on the SaxTribe to move me along in sax. You all sound experienced and on your way already.


(July 20, 2012)

Hey Kate,
I think you learn a lot of vocabulary from tunes and solos, and generally by ear. Figure out some things you want to learn and let me know if you need some help.


(July 22, 2012)

I am focusing for now on fingering better and breathe control. Slowing down has helped.

I need to listen to you playing the first four altissimo. I can finger them, but the sound from one to the next is not as different as I thought/think it should be. LISTENING TO YOU IN DIFFERENT TEMPOS HELPS?

I like blues, jazz, and Setzer….I like sax in other genres, too. It is such an emotional instrument, I would like to hear sax outside traditional genres for sax.

QUESTION: how important is reed choice?

I often play without tongue on some phrases. I am just feeling when and where to do let it flow. Is there a way other than sound and gut to know when to do that?

I am happy with the variety of exercises and songs. MY EAR TRAINING is my worst aspect of playing. I spend some time listening every day.

(July 25, 2012)

Hey Kate,
Slowing down will continue to help, you may even want to slow down more than seems necessary.

At this point, I would say you shouldn’t worry about altissimo yet.

Reed choice is pretty important. Sometimes it’s good to change things. But reeds are also inconsistent, so you want to just keep practicing and you’ll be able to play on more reeds.

Phrasing and tonguing…… depends a lot on the style, so listening helps figure all that out.

I’ll add more ear training to Saxophone Tribe.



(July 23, 2012)

Motivating is key for me:
1. Play the music not the instrument; my mantra

2. Spend some of each practice session just freelancing and experimenting

3. Keep the instrument in sight and ready to pick up in a minute…I then play longer and beyond my pre-scheduled practice…ingot a great wall mount and find I just reach for the sax. I got it when I bought my sax…I think it was Locoprassro? It is attractive and artistic adding to decor.

4. I listen to songs that are not focused on sax but incorporate it as well as music that is saxophone based.


(October 26, 2012)

Such a simple song, yet so easy to wander off the music. I listened to Neal”s, Louis Armstrong’s, Van Morrison on sax, and later Clapton’s. practiced so many times my neighbors probably think it is all I can play…only to find I rarely played it the same way twice .   This song really makes you want to improvise.

This critique helps me see where I was off. Thanks, Gil and Neal.




(December 30, 2012)


It’s getting better. You got the first three notes. C, C, G for you. D#, D#, A# on the tuner.

Don’t worry about going past that for now.

The point of harmonics is that it gives us a richer sound. If you can do this things without changing the fingering, all the notes you play will be stronger.

When you play the low note, it contains all of the harmonics, you’re just focusing in on particular ones in this exercise.

Harmonics are an interesting effect.

The bigger reason to practice them is to develop your tone and then to move towards being able to play the altissimo range.

Check out this video to see harmonics being used



Oh! I actually looked in the mirror and only saw a blowfish like change in my checks and upper lip. His neck puffs, too.
His tone stays great. I lose tone. Okay. I have the reason, the goal, and some technique,



Jamaica Farewell Comparison:


{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

KT January 5, 2013 at 12:51 am

Hi Neal,
Well, looking back, I am very appy with my decision to join SaxTribe. I was amazed to be able to teach myself for the first 6 months, yet, I doubted I was ready for SaxTribe.
Now I do the assignments and venture off to other songs for fun. A long way from holding a clarinet in middle school so I could get into the high school football games!

So glad I found SaxTribe and an instructor with patience and dedication.


Neal January 15, 2013 at 8:09 pm

Thanks Kate, keep it up.


KT February 17, 2013 at 7:36 pm

18 Feb 2013 Path update:
I practice regularly and even record and later listen…later so I can be more realistic in my expectations. I felt steady progress until the last few weeks. I took two days off in one week, to see if I just needed to be re-energized. I know having completed steps 8 to 12 except the short part of Jamaica is discouraging and illogical. After the short break, everything that was good remained good and improved…the stuck area is still stuck! I feel like that has to me conquered because altissimo is next. I stop songs I know when they go higher than high C. Wimpy me! Suggestions??????


Neal February 17, 2013 at 7:50 pm

Hey Kate,
For Jamaica, it seems like you’re only playing four notes where I’m playing five notes.

The first three are actually pretty good.

You basically just need to turn your last note into two eighth notes.

And above C isn’t called altissimo, you have to go above F# to get to altissimo. I didn’t worry about playing altissimo until I had been playing for nine years probably.


KT February 17, 2013 at 10:50 pm

Huh? The D above high C doesn’t use a side key? I thought D, E, F above high C were altissimo because they used the side keys. What is above F#?

RE Jamaica, I was playing the last three notes as a slurred B.


Neal February 17, 2013 at 11:33 pm

I think you’re talking about palm keys, those are the three keys pressed with the side of the left hand. Usually the ‘side keys’ are the ones pressed with the side of the right hand.

D above C does use a palm key.

Above F# is G, G#, A, Bb, B, C, C#, D, …….. it keeps going. I can play those notes that I just listed chromatically up, haven’t worked a lot on what is above that, I can get a few of the notes above there, but not chromatically up.

Not all altissimo uses the palm keys.

For Jamaica, I don’t think I slurred any of the first five notes. It’s the same note, right?


KT February 18, 2013 at 10:58 am

Same 5 notes. I slurred the last 3…I will play it just 5 notes separate. Usually, knowing the song helps.


Neal February 18, 2013 at 12:15 pm

Hey Kate, just had a thought. Since you write lyrics, maybe think of the lyrics for that part.

At the start

“down the way where the”


“but I’m sad to say”

later on

Five words, separate, not slurred.


KT February 20, 2013 at 5:27 pm

Those are the first lyrics? I had “Down in Ja maic a where the…” In my head. I have chosen familiar songs to help me grab the rhythm, especially songs to which I know the lyrics.


KT February 25, 2013 at 12:25 am

The song I am writing now is best in the charts I wrote with sax! Catchier. More in touch with appropriate once for these lyrics. The software I mentioned shows when I play a note or phrase that is not the way I heard it. It s good for writing, recording, and using to test accuracy of your playing. Price went up! Missed the sale!


KT February 27, 2013 at 3:44 am

Question…if piano is played in Gmaj. sax would be played in ? Would a run of GFED GFEDG on piano have to be in different key? That is the run that got the melody started for me. It fits lyrics like a glove. Sax Tribe is helping more than sax…my music theory has been limited and based on gut/sound too often.


Neal February 28, 2013 at 1:13 pm

Hey Kate,
You may have heard that the alto sax is called an ‘Eb alto sax’ and a tenor sax called a ‘Bb tenor sax’?

That means an Eb on piano is a C on alto, a Bb on piano is a C on tenor. The distance between the notes on piano and the notes on saxophones is that same relative distance. A minor third away for alto/bari, and a whole step away for tenor/soprano.

If the piano is in G major, alto sax will be in E major, which is a minor third below. It would be A major on tenor. You can lower each piano note by a minor third.

I can write more about intervals. Let me know what questions you have.


Gil March 1, 2013 at 2:15 pm

I think this goes back to my question about being able to transpose, like I am playing Eb Alto and say I wanted to play with Tenor and playing in the same key, to learn this it would be under the topic of Music Theory, what is the best way to learn this and are there recommended books you would use, to learn this?????


Neal March 1, 2013 at 2:23 pm

Hey Gil,
It’s slightly more simple to go from piano to either sax, but between the saxophones isn’t too hard either.

If you learn the major scales and know what the intervals are, that will help you with transposition.

After that you need a couple of simple rules and use basic addition/subtraction. Sometimes I’ll go back to concert pitch and use more than one step.

If you’re in the key of C for alto sax, that’s Eb concert. Eb concert is F on tenor. From alto to tenor, you go up a fourth.

From tenor to alto you go up a fifth.

C up a fourth is F
D up a fourth is G
E up a fourth is A

C up a fifth is G
D up a fifth is A
E up a fifth is B


KT March 2, 2013 at 9:55 pm

I have books and friends who teach music including some theory. One told me it amazes ER that I write songs when she knows despite majoring in music, playing in symphonies, and teaching 200plus kids a year from intro to jazz band, she cannot write. After watching, listening, to both friends with academic trainin and two who play only by ear, I feel too much theory at once makes me shy away. I am trying t get the big picture from Neal and apply it in smaller increments. I even bought music theory for dummies….only the need to know gets theory through my thick skull.

Hang in their!


KT March 1, 2013 at 3:27 pm

Thank you, Neal,
I am writing by ear and feeling of music and lyrics. I liked the GF#E on piano , so I wrote it in Gmaj on piano and was ready to record sax section when I thought about transposing issue.

I clearly need more theory.


Neal March 1, 2013 at 3:56 pm
Donny Piela March 3, 2013 at 6:04 am

Hi KT, I grew up near Newport…spent my teens and my first three years in the Navy there. I can understand your blissful feeling by the lighthouse and the jazz festival. I spent the first six years teaching myself and developed so many bad habits,especially in the area of timing. I recommend you stick with Neal, he’s really an outstanding teacher…having the benefit of the Saxtribe is really helpful too!


KT March 3, 2013 at 7:35 pm

Hey Donny,
I am from the greater Boston area…the Newport Jazz festival is always fun, but just sitting atop that Rose Island Lighthouse sure was a unique way to listen and feel the music.

I stopped teaching myself after 6 months. I am a SaxTribe lover. Learn a lot at my pace, and Neal is great at fielding my strange questions.

Where are you now?


Bengt December 17, 2013 at 10:03 am

Dear KT. I miss you. What happened?
Best, Bengt


Neal March 4, 2013 at 2:11 am

Thanks for saying so Donny.


KT December 18, 2013 at 9:49 pm


I fell and broke my arm and have not been able yo to hold a sax much less play since June! Luckily, I had stopped teaching myself and joined sax tribe before, so I feel like I will be able to cone back. I started yesterday.

I missed sax tribe! Sax! And the conversations. Thanks for asking about my disappearance.

Hope you are progressing and enjoying sax tribe.


KT December 18, 2013 at 9:53 pm


While sax was impossible I kept writing songs. Must have music everyday!


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