- Horn Acquired! and Practice Log: 1–3 February 2024 (Thursday–Saturday)
Last Wednesday, I made a trip to Seoul to purchase a second-hand baritone sax. I should pause to mention that buying a bari sax in Korea is a hell of an undertaking. Nobody plays the damned things here: second-hand tenors and altos are common, and even sopranos are pretty easy to find, but almost nobody seems to have any interest in the big horns. Of the four I found for sale over the last few months, one was exorbitantly overpriced (a guy was asking 35 million Korean won—let’s call that about $30,000—for an early Selmer Mark VI low-A bari; there was a terrible-looking Yamaha YBS-61 which it turned out was no longer for sale; there was a beautiful-looking old Conn (but I didn’t feel like wrestling with old-fashioned ergos, and didn’t want a low-Bb horn); and finally, there was the horn I ended up getting.
It’s a (currently somewhat leaky) Antigua BS3220, which I think—after I get it tuned up, and get the neck recorked for my mouthpiece, a Theo Wanne Durga 3 I picked up secondhand—will be a lot of fun to play. I made the trip up to Seoul for the first time since the start of the COVID pandemic, and met the previous owner at Sadang Station. He led me outside to a small set of benches and I tried out the sax, liking what I saw despite the leakiness. It’s not the perfect horn, of course, and part of me will always wonder whether I should have instead saved up for a YBS-475—the new replacement model for the YBS-52—but all told, I think it’ll be fine once it gets a tune-up… and once I get a gig bag for it, because the coffin case is just ridiculously big and heavy, and I don’t like how the horn is jostled when it rolls on those wheels on uneven surfaces. (And let’s face it, most outdoor surfaces in Korea are uneven.)
Aside from longing for a more manageable case, I realized that my neck harness is too short for it, that the low end is leakier than I thought, that the cork on the neck is a little small for my mouthpiece, and that the guy who sold it to me not only didn’t include his sling and a mouthpiece, but also didn’t include any cleaning swabs for the horn. (Maybe it needs a good cleaning to help fix the response, too?) Bari saxes are, however, expensive to get started with even beyond the horn, and I don’t want to waste money on slings or harnesses I’ll hate. Honestly, I’m looking into an ErgoSax Bari/Bass Support, and the company has a distributor in Korea, though they seem only to have the supports for brass. They might be able to bring it in for me, though, or I can order it. IT looks like it might be the best option for me, especially if I can find a sling that is long enough to complement it.
Here’s a pic of the horn assembled:
You can see that massive coffin case off to the side. It’s taller than my son, and laid sideways it just barely fits into the trunk of my car!
I’m planning on taking the bari to a local music shop that does basic sax maintenance this Monday, assuming only some minor adjustments are necessary. If anything more drastic is needed, I guess I’ll have to make another trip to Seoul and see a more serious sax tech. I think I’ll also have to find some softer reeds: the Theo Wanne is a seriously open piece and I think the reeds I got are a bit hard for it.
Beneath the cut, my practice log for the last few days, something that I’m considering blogging regularly, for accountability and my own convenience. (Maybe when I feel more confident I’ll follow in the footsteps of some people online who do these practice logs as Youtube videos, but for now I have a lot of niggly details I want to track, which a video wouldn’t help with.)
When I brought the bari home, my wife decided it was time to get my practice room situation sorted out. I have some saxophone practice mutes, but I don’t love them, and even though I use them I miss hearing myself properly. But there is no practice mute for a baritone sax, and I can’t play it at home. Without talking to me about it, my wife followed up on three leads, and again, only one of them made sense: the piano teacher in our apartment complex refused to let out her studio in the evening; the drum teacher offered free use of the practice rooms in his studio on condition of taking four drum lessons a week. (Seriously. I have time for maybe one a week, or one every two weeks.) However, there’s a new viola/violin studio in the building where my son’s LEGO/board game club meets where the rates are reasonable, the owner’s nice, and the practice rooms are adequate. My wife talked me into signing on for three months with the third place, so I’m now regularly going, in order to get my money’s worth and also because it’s nice to be playing regularly again.
I thought, to help me track things, I’d keep a running record of my practice here, on a weekly basis. I doubt these posts will interest anyone else, and I may port them over to a mini-blog on this site, or to their own (hidden) category or something. We’ll see. At the very least, I’m leaving the rest of this post below a cut, to spare those who have no interest.
For now, here’s a log of the practicing I did:
This was a short session, after I dropped in to check out the place and sign up. I brought my soprano, which is leaky and needs some tuning-up. I’m also trying to get used to my Theo Wanne Gaia 3 mouthpiece.
- Long Tones: chromatic ascending minor 2nds, up to altissimo high G
- Scales/Modes: Dorian modes, all 12 keys, in 5ths (ascending/descending)
- Tunes: “Lonnie’s Lament” (a little bit in the style of Fabiano do Nascimento & Sam Gendel); “St. Thomas”; “Misty”
On Friday, I brought the bari sax, mostly to really sit down with it and put it through its paces. It was a rough go.
- Long Tones: chromatic ascending and descending minor 2nds, up to altissimo high G
- Scales/Modes: Major scales, all 12 keys, in 4ths (ascending/descending)
- Tunes: “Misty,” “The Autumn Leaves” (no sheet music), “In a Sentimental Mood”
After this, I decided I’d had enough and headed for home.
I did two practice sessions on Saturday, both on tenor sax: one late at night (technically early Saturday morning), and one Saturday evening.
- Long Tones: ascending 5ths, up to altissimo high G
- Scales/Modes: Mixolydian modes, all 12 keys, in 4ths (ascending/descending)
- Tunes: “Lonnie’s Lament” (in the style of Sam Gendel); “Lush Life”, “Misty,” “Epistrophy”
- Long Tones: ascending chromatic minor 2nds up to altissimo high G
- Scales/Modes: Mixolydian modes, all 12 keys, in 6ths (ascending/descending) and in chromatic runs across 6ths
- Tunes: “Misty”, “Doxy” (no sheet music)
I would have played more in the second practice session, since my son was over at a friend’s place watching a movie, but my lip was shot from all the sudden recommencement of practicing and playing loud for longer periods. Ah well!
This coming week, practicing will be a bit harder: my wife’s traveling so I’m solo dad for a few days, but I should still get a few sessions in, I think.
Goals for the Coming Week
My immediate practice goals at the moment are:
- More fluency with extreme sharp/flat scales in 5ths and 6ths; better palm key fluency with same.
- Work on regaining stronger breath control and relaxation while playing.
- Experiment with voicing more, and take more mouthpiece.
- Get through “Lonnie’s Lament” and “Misty” with no sheet music.
- Pick a solo to transcribe next week. Maybe that Sam Gendel improvisation(s) on the video I linked above? They’re gorgeous and challenging to pull off, I think, but maybe not so hard to figure out… at least with an app to help me slow the track.
Long Term Goals
- Re-attain altissimo register fluency.
- Regain better breath control.
- Learn more tunes by heart.
- I’ve made a goal list of tunes to learn and shedding on one or two per week. Not that a week’s enough, but I can prohably stagger it so I’m hitting a reasonable comfort level after two weeks, so each week I’m adding a tune to my list.
- Get more comfortable with less-comfortable keys.
- Play comfortably on all four horns, and begin to practice quickly switching between them.
- Speed: improvising at fast tempos still eludes me, to my frustration, and I’d like to fix that.
Tunes Learned List
I’m working on Lonnie’s Lament, mostly, this week. Here’s my goal list of tunes for the year.