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Saxophone Lessons Learned ::
Learn from Everyone!

Used by permission from GregVail.com :: Written by Greg Vail

You can learn from anyone.

This little Pearl comes from a very unlikely source. Most guys will not have anything good to say about an ex-wife that cleaned there whistle in court, costing them everything.

The humor, or point, of this gem is found, not only in the lesson learned, but also the coincidence of its teacher.

You will see, you can learn from anybody, even when the person is an evil, maniacal witch; but I digress…

Personal History

I am politically incorrect. I don’t have a clue how to be “correct.” I am honest instead. This is a very shallow business and I get in trouble for it on a regular basis.

What do you say to the lame musicians that just walked off the stage? In L.A. we all say, “Yea Man!” “Sounded Great!” “Nice Show!”

What does an oddball that has an honesty dysfunction for the west coast say? Got Lessons? Don’t quit your day gig?

My ex is a club singer and we worked together for years before getting involved, married and quickly divorced.

One night I looked at Diana (she had a name before the ex thing) and asked her how she could say such nice things to a person that had just sucked on stage and passed her leaving the stage area.

I told her that I feel uncomfortable in that situation and just say hi or yeah. She told me I needed to look for something they did do well. She said all people who get on stage probably have one thing they do well and to look for it so I could have something nice to say. She agreed lying was not my style.

She said even their clothes, the way the held the mic, they smiled after their solo, shoes, stage lighting around them; any number of things could be used for a real and honest compliment when someone performed.

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Dang... She was right! (…that time.)

I learned, with some practice, how to find something to compliment performers for, even when they really sucked.

That was a great lesson to have learned.

Let me flash forward a few years now.

I was at a show with a very lame sax player on stage opening for my band. I noticed that he played across the stage, facing the leader most the show. I was really drawn to how cool the sax looks when played from a profile. I thought to myself, I should do that too.

I not only had something to say, personal and positive as this sap walked off the stage that night, but had learned that you can compliment and steal from others too.

Everyone that you see on stage has something to steal.

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I tell students this all the time. They will say, "So and so sucks!" I tell them that this guy or gal did something cool and they should keep an eye out for those qualities or skills and STEAL THE GOOD STUFF!

It could be as simple as a blue jacket that looked great in the stage lights. It could be phrasing, articulation, solo development, performance/stage technique or any number of things. The important thing is to always look for the good stuff and learn to assimilate it.

Most Sax Players just sit back and bag on players much better than themselves, only because it’s not Chris Potter, John Coltrane or Michael Brecker (you fill in the name).

Learn from everyone you see and you will always be learning. Be a Sax Snob and you will miss thousands of opportunities to better your own playing in the name of being a purist.

Every sound you hear or show you see is an opportunity to expand your personal concepts and life experiences.

You can learn from anyone. Anyone on stage does something pretty good or they would not be there.

You should steal from everyone. Never pass up an opportunity for a lesson.

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Thanks to Diana for giving me one good gem worth remembering and all the people I have been stealing from over the past 25 years.

What is the difference between a clone and an original?

A clone sounds just like someone else because their primary influence has been that one person. The player you idolize might be amazing. Problem is, a clone will never be as good as the original.

I remember all the Sanborn clones running around 20 years ago. A few of them still bore me on radio today, but for the most part it was not much of a musical statement and they are all gone.

I heard someone say that the only difference between being an Original and a Copy has to do with using more than 1 resource and not revealing your source.

Bottom Line...

Have 2-3 Musical Mentors, not just 1. Steal from everyone else, and you will be an original and always improving.

A few, kinda random but related Pearls.

PEACE, Greg

(c) Copyright 2004 Greg Vail Music

Greg Vail is an active recording and performing Saxophonist in the Jazz and Gospel Music genres, out spoken writer and webmaster providing help and support to the Saxophone Community.


MORE Saxophone Lessons

How to Play Better :: Lessons

How to Improve your Career :: Lessons

Music Business for Saxophone Players

UPDATE :: APRIL 26, 2005

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