The Sax Project – Take 25

In taking up the sax again after 25 years, two physical challenges have appeared that I didn’t have to deal with in the past – lack of power and stamina.

As a 145-lb teenager, I had no problem with the tenor or baritone over their full range. Now some 40+ pounds heavier, I have difficulty projecting with the alto and soprano. [Check the relative sizes of the sax family here.] Absolute volume is not that important – technology can help there. What really matters is dynamic range. There’s also a tendency to slack off as I’m playing a phrase, that is, not delivering enough force for clean tones over┬áthe entire phrase. Now the mental tendency to slack off was probably there in youth, it’s just that the necessary power came naturally without thinking about it. Now I have to think about projecting and sustaining tone all the time. This is true even when singing.

I’ve also discovered that playing continually for an amount of time results in muscular fatigue, especially in the embouchure. At first it happened after 25 minutes of continual playing. Now I can go about 45 minutes. The lips turn rubbery after awhile and tone control suffers. Again this is something that didn’t happened before.

To address the latter problem, I’ve had to increase practice from 4 to 5 days a week, as I’ve noticed regression in strength when I miss days. Of course, those are scheduled practice days. Actual days tend to be one less, so planning 5 days has meant 4 per week instead of 3. The business often interrupts the practice schedule; haven’t been able to find a way around that. As for the former problem, the only proven solution I can think of is exercise.

On the good side, The Sax Project has driven me to lose weight and get in shape, something even the specter of approaching 50 did not do.

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