Pages 78 – 80

Pages 78 through 81 include exercises 34 through 37. Beginning with exercise 34, the length and quality of the “Fifty Exercises from low Bb to F Above the Staff” changes. The studies have become longer, more sophisticated and technically involved. Paul de Ville continues to work his way higher including more arpeggio studies. Instead on one technical problem per study, the exercises are a little more etude like, being longer and covering several different technical problems. De Ville often combines duple and triple rhythmic patterns in the same study.
While there are no specific Evette and Schaeffer System exercises in this set of studies there are more studies for the various Bb fingerings and the chromatic F# as well.
In exercise 34 De Ville suggests using the 1 & 1 Bb fingering (line 3) however I believe that the bis Bb is more effective. In line 8 the key to connecting the Ebs to Abs is a light finger touch over the break (avoid key slapping) and a balanced embouchure. This advice applies to all of the arpeggio patterns that appear in these exercises.
Study 36 is very meaty and deserves a lot of time devoted to it. The arpeggio studies are always good because they require the coordination of multiple fingers and break crossing. The triplet study on line 8 requires a even, balanced embouchure pressure. Never let your audience know that you had to cross the break. I would recommend the bis Bb for the Bb minor pattern on line 10.
Exercise 37 also presents some great problems. In the patterns that focus on the chromatic Gb, the ring finger will tend to lift too slowly while the middle finger will lift too high and tend to move in sympathy with the ring finger. Use the opportunity of this study to develop more independent movement in these fingers.

Your observations and comments are welcome.
Neal Ramsay

Published in: on May 25, 2010 at 4:01 pm  Leave a Comment  

Pages 75-77

These pages contain exercises 29 through 33 of the “Fifty Exercises from low Bb to F Above the Staff”. Paul de Ville continues his studies of the four Bb fingerings and their appropriate applications. As with all of these studies, he focuses on one small technical problem at a time. They begin in half notes and gradually speed up through eight notes, and sixteenths. Some of these studies include triplets and sextuplets and exercise 32 and 33 uses thirty-second notes as well.
Exercise 30 is designed to be workout for some of the alternate fingerings available only on an Evette and Schaeffer System saxophone. The Evette Schaeffer saxophone could play Eb by way of a right handed bis key, so that the saxophonist could play fingerings going to and from Eb without having to slide the right hand pinky between the low C and Eb keys. While these exercises are clumsy on a conventional saxophone, they are worth doing as the professional saxophonist will see many of the fingering patterns again.
Exercise 31 is more of the Bb workout. De Ville could have suggested more alternate fingerings as in line three, where the Bb side key can be left down for all of the sixteenth notes. At the top of page 77, fourth measure, the side key C can be used in the triplets and sextuplets.
Finally in exercise 32 we cross the break. The first portion of 33 is really a C to D trill exercise, but De Ville neglects to indicate the trill fingering.
The same is true in exercise 33, which is a C# to D trill study but with no mention of the trill fingering.

As always, your observations and comments are welcome.
Neal Ramsay

Published in: on May 12, 2010 at 2:14 pm  Leave a Comment  

Pages 71 – 74

These pages contain exercises 20 through 29 of the “Fifty Exercises from low Bb to F Above the Staff”. Gradually these exercise work up the range of the saxophone, beginning on second space F# through third space C. These are more small, focused snippets that attempt to solve one technical awkwardness at a time. Paul de Ville frequently suggests fingerings found on the Evette and Schaeffer System. Fortunately, many of these have become standard fingerings on all saxophones. Exercises 20, 21, and 22 uses the articulated G#. Exercise No. 22 is also an excellent workout for improving the independent movement of the ring and pinky fingers.
Exercises 24 through 29 are very important as they present the four different fingerings for Bb. (side key, one and one, one and two, and bis) I find it common to meet students that only know one Bb fingering (usually the one and one) and try to use it for everything, with poor results. Exercises 24 through 28 systematically introduces each fingering, followed by exercises for its appropriate use. I find that the least used and most misunderstood fingering is the bis Bb. Bis is Latin for twice or two referring to the fact that one finger is used to play two keys simultaneously. To properly use the bis key the left hand index finger presses both the B key and the small key (bis) that is located between B and A. This is a powerful fingering that makes many arpeggio type passages easier to play.
Exercise 29 incorporates side key C and has more work on improving pinky and ring finger coordination.
As always, your observations and comments are welcome.
Neal Ramsay

Published in: on May 10, 2010 at 1:44 pm  Leave a Comment  

Pages 69 & 70

The “Fifty Exercises from low Bb to F Above the Staff” continues on these pages with exercises 11 through 17. These studies, often ignored by saxophonists and teachers, should not be skipped as they are very effective in developing coordination and control. Paul de Ville is gradually working up the range of the saxophone . These seven studies are still in the low register with no notes higher than 2nd line G.
De Ville continues the same rhythmic formula from the previous 10 studies. His pattern starts with half notes, then to eights, and finally sixteenths. Triplets and sextuplets are used as well.
Studies 11 – 17 are challenging because of some of the coordination problems introduced. Many of these studies emphasize the synchronizing of the pinky fingers, which must be precise when landing the low Bb, B and C#.
Another problem introduced is that presented by the empathic movement of the middle finger. The middle finger has the tendency to lift when the ring finger moves and the causes notes not to speak or be uneven. Many players attempt to compensate by gripping harder , which only creates a new set of problems. Use these studies to develop a light touch. Go slowly and with patience you can develop independent movement between the fingers.
Paul de Ville suggests alternate fingerings which are useful. He refers to the standard chromatic F# fingering as part of the Evette and Schaeffer system. The chromatic F# is one of our standard fingerings that came to us from the Evette and Schaeffer system.
As always, your observations and comments are welcome.
Neal Ramsay

Published in: on April 22, 2010 at 3:25 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Pages 67 & 68

“Fifty Exercises from low Bb to F Above the Staff” originally written by A. Mayeur (a clarinetist) and revised by Paul de Ville for saxophone. This blog evaluates the first 10 of these studies, pages 67 & 68 .
Paul de Ville begins at the bottom of the saxophone and takes us all the way to the high F. The high F, at the time of the first edition, was considered the highest note on the saxophone as the high F# key did not exist yet, and there was very little study of the altissimo register.
A student working through these will develop a solid technical base, as these fifty exercises includes many of the more awkward fingering combinations on the saxophone.
As in the proceeding “Sixty Exercises of Mechanism” these studies are short, intense (one to two measures) focused technique builders. De Ville includes a technique not used previously in The Universal Method. That is, starting slow and increasing the speed as the fingerings are learned. This technique is actually written into the study with each exercise beginning in half notes, then proceeding to quarters, eighths and sixteenth notes.
I highly recommend playing all of the half notes and quarters (not just skipping to the sixteenths) because the long notes will improve tone as well as improve technique study.
Young players should include these studies because as the emphasis on the low register is a great way to develop embouchure control.
Before beginning the 50 studies make sure that your saxophone is in good adjustment and use only the minimum amount of finger pressure needed to close the keys.
As always, your observations and comments are welcome.
Neal Ramsay

Published in: on April 19, 2010 at 9:34 am  Leave a Comment  
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Pages 64 through 66

My fall concert tour is complete and the Universal method blogs are back.
The “Sixty Exercises of Mechanism” that began on page 63 continue through page 66.
The exercises progress in difficulty but maintain the format of being short, intense snippets of technique developers. They vary from one to five measures in length and present coordination and flexibility problems. Beginning with exercise 25, de Ville introduces studies in triplets with exercises 33 – 60 being sixteenth note studies. The tonality remains in C major with occasional accidentals. In the last two pages de Ville includes some exercises in A and B major and A minor, all achieved with the use of accidentals instead of changing key signatures.
These four pages are, I believe, some the best technique builders available. They should be approached one or two at a time and played with slow, precise repetitions, building speed over time. For the aspiring virtuosos, exercises 25, 26, 27, 28 30, 31, 33 37, 52, 55 and 58, could be transposed for additional benefit.
The “Sixty Exercises of Mechanism” can be approached by younger students but will challenge the seasoned professional as well and continue to benefit a saxophonist throughout a career. They are useful to the jazz saxophonist as many of these exercises can be adapted to chord changes.
Your comments, regarding these studies, are welcome.
Neal Ramsay

Published in: on December 4, 2009 at 4:46 pm  Comments (1)  

Page 63

The “Sixty Exercises of Mechanism” begin on page 63. These are great little technique and coordination builders written in 2 to 4 bar studies. In fact, these have been so successful and popular that Hemie Voxman lifted a bunch of these studies for the “Exercises in Fingerings” section for his “Advanced Method for Saxophone”.
Page 63 includes exercises one through fifteen. They should be treated like the Confucius aphorisms. With Confucius you don’t just read through pages and expect to get the point. You take one or two of his sayings and spend some time thinking about them before you move on. The same is true for the “Exercises of Mechanism”. To get the full benefit, take on just a few at a time, begin with slow repetitions and stay with them until they are easy.
Paul de Ville suggests a similar approach; “play each eight to ten times”. He also suggests that you make a crescendo followed by a decrescendo. In addition I would recommend that, after the slurred version is mastered, apply different articulations. For the hardcore saxophonist some of the studies could be transposed, for example nos. 5, 8 and 9.
Paul de Ville does a great job in targeting some of the problem areas of technique and writing effective studies
Please send your comments regarding your used of these studies or any other ideas regarding the Universal Method.
Thank you,
Neal Ramsay

Published in: on October 20, 2009 at 8:44 am  Leave a Comment  

Pages 58-62

For the first time in the Universal Method, Paul de Ville introduces keys other than C major. “Major and Minor Scales in all Keys” presents all of the major scales followed by their relative melodic minor scales. Harmonic and natural minor scales don’t appear in this set of studies, nor is there an explanation of the various minor scales and their spelling.
All the scales are written as half notes with the half steps indicated. Playing them slowly makes a good tone and control exercise. De Ville instructs the student to start them slowly and “repeat them over and over until an easy mastery over them is secured.” There is one sentence that has stuck in my mind from the first time that I read it and is still great advice. “No pupil should rest satisfied as long as he finds any interval of a scale a stumbling block to its perfectly smooth execution.
All the scales are written tonic to tonic and are two octaves long when it fits the range of the saxophone.
The last page of this section is “Major and Minor Chords in the Keys most used.” These are half note arpeggio studies in nine major keys with their relative minor keys.
These are a fine as a scales reference and an effective tone study for anyone.
As always, your comments are welcome.
Thank you,

Published in: on October 14, 2009 at 11:55 am  Comments (2)  

Pages 55 – 57

The “Preparatory Exercises on the High Notes”, that begins on page 55, are easy to over look as inconsequential and perhaps even filler. There are half note, with a few quarter notes thrown in, long tone studies. But, don’t be fooled by their apparent simplicity. If played with attention to detail these are effective tone exercises for the upper register. These are the first studies, in the Universal Method, to introduce the palm key notes D, E and F. (He makes us wait for D#.)
They are interval studies that starts with slurring up and down by thirds. He continues with fourths, fifths, sixths, sevenths, and finally octaves. The upper range increases until we are playing high F. The last two exercises are scale studies, in C, that take you from third space C to high F.
I think that Paul de Ville should have included some instructions for practicing these pages. It is important to have students play the high notes without an increase in jaw pressure. Also, there should be no break in the tone while slurring these intervals.
These are should repeated be on a regular schedule, as they are developmental. One time through does not insure a great upper register, but repeating over time will. To really make these effective, a chromatic tuner could be use to check upper register pitch.
Page 57 is “Chromatic Scale of the Saxophone”. Paul de Ville takes the opportunity to make another pitch for the Evette and Schaeffer System. The chromatic scale is written out as quarter notes showing how the Evette and Schaeffer System will simplify your life and referring to fingerings that are not listed on the fingering chart. He suggests that you use the 1 & 1 Bb in the chromatic scale. (To each his own.)
As always, your comments are welcome.
Thank you,
Neal Ramsay

Published in: on October 7, 2009 at 12:30 pm  Comments (2)  

Pages 52 – 54

The “Eighteen Exercises in Articulation” uses an eight measure, eight note study in the key of C major. This study is in the range of one octave and provides a nice workout in the middle of the saxophone and over the break. It is presented eighteen times, each with a different articulation pattern. Paul de Ville uses various slurred note groupings and combinations of slurred and staccato notes.
Students frequently skip these types of etudes as they don’t realize their benefit. Just because you have mastered an exercise in an all slurred form, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you can play it effectively with variations in articulations. Also, articulation has a tremendous impact on the interpretation and phrasing of a line of music. Altering the articulation can change the entire meaning of a melody so it is important to be fluent in these various patterns.
If anything, the Universal Method doesn’t go far enough in the study of articulation. In the “Grand Daily Exercises for Flute” by Taffanel and Gaubert, eight or more articulation patterns are suggested for each etude. I believe that de Ville should have offered some instruction in regards to playing these studies. He uses various combinations of slurred and staccato notes, but never explains how staccato means separate (not short) and how the staccato note must be “set up”. Also, which notes are more important, as determined by the articulation, and how they should be emphasized.
The hard core saxophonist will probably want to transpose these into a few different keys.
As always, your comments are welcome.
Thank you,
bass sax n tuba

Published in: on October 6, 2009 at 6:46 am  Comments (1)