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Saxophone Lessons Learned
Blame The Reed

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

Stop Blaming the Reed!

I studied with Leo Potts during my Long Beach State Years. Leo was an amazing teacher and beautiful person. Leo had a teacher/mentor, that lead a sax quartet he played with and it was here I meet this Old Guru dude and started studying with Mr. Sobel after Graduation.

Phil Sobel was a total trip. He was a great teacher and different from anyone I had ever encountered. Phil was a little guy but really strong and tough. He would just grab my arm and yell at me if I was blowing it. He was strong, loud, clear, direct and demanding when he needed to be (which was most the time with me).

I remember having a lesson with Phil that was not going well. I started to try to blame my reed, instead of just admitting I was not prepared and/or was not getting the concept right then.

Phil jumped on the reed thing. He grabbed my arm and said, “To hell with the reed! I can play on anything!” I must have been pissing him off for a while because he kept on it. Phil said, “The reed don’t mean crap! I can play on anything. LOOK!”

He broke his reed and started playing on it. He broke it more and more and was getting it to work pretty dang good.

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Now granted, he did sound better to me before he started yelling at me, breaking his reed and blowing all hard to show off. The amazing thing was that he sounding really good on this wasted reed at all.

I did not really get it that day. I think I was just freaking on how strong this old guy was and how pissed he was at me at that lesson. Years Later – I realized I was doing the same thing with kids I teach. I shut down the excuses and blame game right away because it defeats the growth process.

I realized I play reeds way too long because I can.

Phil was right. It is all about the air; support and blow and that thing will vibrate. Phil would not let me be a woose and blame a reed or anything else. Sax has a bunch of leaks; stop being a baby and blow – make it play.

Phil killed the neurotic tendencies that accompany sax players and blaming the gear, he taught me to shut up and blow, it’s a wind instrument, support and blow, you can play on anything.

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I see the same reeds for months and get the sax into the shop like never. It’s not that I don’t care and I do love it when the stuff is working great but I know can play anything if I just shut up and blow. Support and play with a quality air stream and you can vibrate a 2X4.

Thanks Phil for taking away another lame sax player excuse and teaching me to Blow and just Shut Up!

(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.

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UPDATE :: JULY 30, 2005

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