Blog Categories

Blog Archives

Super Single Reeds ’16

Report on events

Emma di Marco treated a small, but keen group of saxophonists and teachers to an informative and well-planned out lecture on the saxophone basics.  We started with a brainstorming session on what we thought were the most important aspects that are fundamental to playing the saxophone, including what each of our top 3 elements would be.  Embouchure, air and tone were the most popular answers.  Emma then led us through her top 9 fundamentals of developing good saxophone technique: Long tones, Dynamics, Vibrato, Intonation, Articulation, Overtones,  Scales, Alternate fingerings and Intervals.  Emma worked through each element, and gave us exercises to use on a daily basis to develop our skills in each area.  It was an interactive session with each of the students trying the exercises and receiving feedback to help them develop these techniques further.  Emma also talked through ideas for teaching each of the techniques, and pitfalls to avoid when teaching them.  It was a very engaging workshop and the time flew past. We could have easily spent much longer on each element if it hadn’t been for time constraints.  Emma is an excellent presenter, drawing on her own experiences as a teacher and a player, and provided us with an informative and very educational session.

Brian Catchlove led a very interesting and helpful workshop, sharing his handy hints and tips on urgent repairs to our instruments when something suddenly breaks “on the job”. We all watched with fascination as Brian laid out a myriad collection of tools and equipment on the table before us. First, Brian shared with us all the contents of his portable toolkit, and encouraged us all to set ourselves up with something similar. It was an intriguing show and tell session, as Brian showed us each item in his toolkit and explained its use.  After the session, we all had a good idea of how to do most emergency repairs ourselves until we can get our instrument to a repairer.  As well as discussing a variety of emergency repair techniques for corks, pads, springs and keys, Brian talked us through care and maintenance of our instruments to help prevent needless repairs and to extend the life of our instruments. It was a great reminder to us all of the need to be diligent in looking after our clarinets.  This was an extremely practical and valuable workshop, and I think we will all be scouring our local hardwares and variety stores for all the essentials for our own toolkits.

We were very fortunate to have James Nightingale at the Super Single Reeds Weekend, to share his tips and techniques for one of those most feared aspects of playing the saxophone, the altissimo register.  James started us off with blowing on our mouthpieces, and working on achieving a Concert A when blowing on just the mouthpieces, indicating that our air speed, throat shape, embouchure and jaw pressure are all working correctly together.  This is the fundamental basis for being able to achieve a secure altissimo register. James then led us through a series of practice techniques to improve our sound, articulation and intonation, as well as the altissimo register.  It was an interactive workshop, and James was able to very quickly pinpoint issues with each student’s technique, and give them tips to help achieve more secure harmonics and altissimo notes. We were also given detailed handouts with lots of advice and help with producing altissimo notes, and a very handy and concise glossary of altissimo fingerings which we tried in the workshop, with varying success.  The workshop was extremely helpful, and equipped us all with a range of techniques to help us to not only successfully negotiate the altissimo range, but also to further develop our sounds and intonation.

– Report by Julie Elvery


The Super Single Reeds ’16 event was held at the Queensland Conservatorium on 5 and 6 November. Over the course of the weekend, clarinet and saxophone teachers and students were treated to a series of illuminating educational sessions. For saxophonists, sessions explored fundamental practice and playing techniques as well as various topics specific to jazz or classical saxophone performance.

On Saturday afternoon, Melbourne-based jazz artist Anton Delecca gave an inspiring solo performance supported by jazz students from the Queensland Conservatorium. He then engaged with the audience in an intensive Q&A about his daily practice routines and solo transcription methods. He also discussed fundamental jazz articulations, scales and modes that he believes every jazz musician should know and use. Delecca repeatedly emphasised the importance of listening – listening to renowned jazz sax players (Young, Rollins, Coltrane, Parker, Henderson among many others), understanding their background and underlying musical influences and then taking the time to analyse and learn their solos by ear. Whether intentional or not, listening certainly became the underlying theme and clear message gained from Delecca’s session.

On the Sunday morning, Sydney-based classical saxophonist James Nightingale ran a workshop entitled ‘Squeaking with a purpose! Altissimo’. In this well-structured session, Nightingale covered all of the fundamentals of developing an altissimo register, such as voicing and vowel shapes, mouthpiece-only flexibility exercises and harmonic series exercises. He also provided a comprehensive handout which included a useful ‘starter set’ of altissimo fingerings as well as a list of useful texts for further reading. Participants who had arrived thinking that the altissimo register was beyond their reach left with a strong sense of hope and a long-term step-by-step plan of how to go about learning and mastering this extended playing technique.

– Report by Melissa Baldwin