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General Discussion

Ask Neal

Favorite Music Online

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

J April 5, 2013 at 6:18 pm

Hi all,

A good resource for those not willing to buy bundles of sheet music:


search under your sax type and a list of samples will come up. They are not the full thing, but usually enough to get some practice in…

also, they have a recording, but it is not the best…. Ok to get the rythem if, like me, you cant read music properly…

good luck with it.


Neal April 5, 2013 at 7:16 pm

Thanks Jay,
Not a bad idea. I have gone to sites like that before to check out the first part of the sheet music.

Sometimes they’ll have the music in strange keys by default (not the original).

It’s better to learn the music by ear, but if you’re having trouble getting started, this can help. Just realize that you don’t want to sound like a synthesizer, listening is really important.


Bengt November 29, 2013 at 10:27 am

Hi all!
Now it is about one year since I joined the Tribe. First, I did the practices each day. It took me quite a while until I mastered St James to the satisfaction of Neal. The next hurdle offered by Neal was the Farewell Jamaica. May be I sent Neal a sample. However, it was not to his satisfaction. So, I quit satisfying him. Too much training like being a GI. Playing should be fun!! So, now I leave you. (By the way, why only communicate with Neal? Why do we not communicate within the Group? I have challenged you a couple of times, with no effect. I think we can learn a lot by being more personal and not referring to our master (Neal) all the time. I am not sure, Neal, that you really know where you want to lead us.
Sisters and Brothers, have fun!!!


Neal November 29, 2013 at 1:04 pm

Thanks for your feedback Bengt.

If you want to play the instrument well, you need to master certain things, including rhythm. You didn’t get the rhythm for Jamaica Farewell right, so I didn’t want you to move on to harder things.

Sometimes playing music is fun, other times it involves work. The trick is to enjoy practice whether it’s the most fun thing or some smaller detail that is still going to make you sound better.

You can communicate with the rest of the group if you would like, I try to make that easy to do with discussion pages and you can see all the latest discussion from the side of the website from any page. You have spoken with a few people I have seen.

However, most people here are not professional musicians, they have careers and families, so other things can get in the way.

Let me know if you have an idea of how to communicate more effectively throughout the group, might be good.

Possibility of forming a smaller group of people (maybe 6 people or so) who want to discuss a certain topic and talk more often, something like that.

In terms of knowing where you want to go musically, that’s up to you. I’ll help you with technique and becoming a better musician. In ‘The Music Lesson’ Michael says that he cannot teach anything if you may remember.




Bengt November 30, 2013 at 11:31 am

Hi all!
Yes, Neal is right about the reality. Practice is the alpha and Omega! I may spend more than one training lesson on a single chord. That happens more and more often. So, I agree, some parts of a song takes quite a lot of time to get OK, but still not good enough. Another part that Neal adresses. Rythm! It is a real challenge to find the rythm while struggling to be able to play the song by heart. Still, why put such so much emphasis on the performance on a few bars in a single song when there is so much music?
Neal, you may be right, but try to press us less on a few bars? You took me down, It was not inspiring to to go on based on your comments.
I go to a teacher once a week since about three years, and those lessons are invaluable as the teacher is supportive , nice and never critical.
Best, Bengt


Neal December 1, 2013 at 9:02 pm

For me, rhythm is a major part of the song, it’s not secondary to notes. Someone doesn’t play a song and also get the rhythm right, the rhythm is part of the song.

The reason to emphasize getting a few measures right is to make it more manageable to work on. A smaller section of the music.

It should take less time to get a few bars than an entire page, no? If you cannot play a few measures correctly, it’s unlikely you’ll play the rest of the song.

Playing half notes, quarter notes and eighth notes (and corresponding rests) in time is fundamental to playing music, mastering that will make you a much better musician. Someone who does not master them, other musicians will not want to play with.

Does the teacher you go to also expect you to play rhythm correctly?

I have had seven private teachers as I have learned to play. Jim Cook, Gary Stotz, Todd Clickard, Stu Reynolds, Kristen Strom, George Young, and Gary Meek. Todd Clickard and Kristen Strom both studied with Joe Henderson. Gary Meek studied with Phil Sobel (Phil Sobel studied with Henry Lindeman).

The teachers I have learned the most from expected the most out of me and were the most demanding. A few others were more laid back in their approach. I learned much more when more was demanded. Gary Meek requires the highest level of saxophone playing among all of the teachers I have had, and he has helped me improve the most. Lessons with him are involved, they are demanding.

With St. James, you had said,

“I had no idea that it could be that difficult to play a song. You are putting
me on a serious track.
I am happy that you are a such serious teacher.”

You put work into that song and with practice you got it.

For Jamaica Farewell, you did not put as much time into it. If you practiced it more, I’m sure you could get it.

The point is not so much to be able to play Jamaica Farewell, the point is to develop your rhythm so you can play all music better.



Michele Pippen December 6, 2013 at 9:12 pm

I’ve been off the radar for a few months due to considerable dental work, preventing me from playing at all! – and other commitments.
I understand what Bengt is getting at I think – nothing worse than feeling like all the efforts are only criticised and perhaps strengths of the attempt not highlighted and recognised. Many of us don’t like the ‘discipline’ of the more ‘classic’ formal keeping to exactly as it is written – however, makes it really hard to play with others if, until you know the piece intimately, you don’t stick to the original to start – With the St James piece – when I listened and watched performances of the piece, by so many different musicians, on Youtube, I detected, well it was obvious, an incredible array of ‘interpretations’ in ‘rhythm’ / phrasing – they all ‘kept’ to the final timing of it otherwise it won’t work with the rest of the musicians accompanying – but the phrasing and emphasis on certain notes differed considerably.
Anyway, I’m back to practicing – I’m shy to put any recorded pieces to you Neal – I seem to get them ok when I’m not recording, then I am all nervous when I know I’m recording to submit it for critique, so it’s never the same as the practice that I do – I seem to get too nervous about making any mistakes, and it takes the pleasure out of it for me unfortunately. But I’ll press on – just slow at the moment. Thanks. M


Neal December 8, 2013 at 4:05 pm

Hey Michele,
I will comment on things I think are good as well, but I will not ignore things that should be worked on.

Music becomes a lot more fun as you get good enough that other musicians really like to have you play with them. Sometimes we’ll have subs with bands I play in, and it will be fine most of the time. Other times, you really want the usual musician who can hold things down and you can depend on to play things the right way.

As far as interpretation goes, for a solo performer, there is a bit of freedom. The leader of a band gets freedom.

In a five piece saxophone section, there is very little freedom. The lead alto sax leads the phrasing and you follow him or her. If people don’t, the sound becomes muddy.

It depends on the context.

Try not to be shy about playing recordings for me, I will be supportive and help you know what things to work on. I would expect the recordings to not be quite as good as when you’re completely relaxed. The same thing happens to me in certain situations, like when I need to record something on video. I understand that.



KT December 18, 2013 at 11:40 pm

I hope one day to be able to play along with you or a cd so that listeners only hear unison almost like one sax is playing. This is easier on guitar than on sax.


Neal December 20, 2013 at 12:41 pm

Hey KT,
Much of that has to do with the tone. The tone is also affected by the fingers and the motion of the body. It’s interesting that two saxophones can sound like one even if they are very different instruments. One time I was playing with Gary Meek and he was on a Cannonball (modern), I was on a Buescher from 1920, but we got the sound to blend.


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