Pages 32-38

Paul de Ville continues his “Exercises is Slurring” which make great tone development studies for saxophonists at any level. They systematically move through the upper and lower registers of the saxophone and remind me of some of the Marcel Moyse tone studies for flute.
Exercises 42-61 are more of the “Exercises is Slurring” which cover all the diatonic intervals of the scale. They are half note and quarter note etudes, easy enough for a young player to develop some basic coordination and, if played faster, are a good workout for the experienced saxophonist. The exercises in “Thirds” (No. 46 and 47) are particularly good. If played as sixteenth notes instead of quarters, they present a couple of nice finger twisters. This set of studies requires that the saxophonist make leaps of a 5th, 6ths, 7ths and octave. Anyone who can accomplish this, at whatever tempo, has developed good embouchure control and finger coordination.
I studied the exercises with Vincent J. Abato. (Abato was a great cross over saxophonist having played lead alto with Glenn Miller and premiered the Creston Concerto with the New York Philharmonic.) Abato had me do many repetitions of these pages, being careful that I never slapped the keys and had a smooth connection between notes.
All of these pages are written in the key of C. They hard core saxophonist will want to transpose the “Exercises is Slurring”. Abato would have me insert different key signatures.
Please comment on these studies and share any creative ways that you have used them.
Neal Ramsay
sax trio

Published in: on September 30, 2009 at 2:04 pm  Comments (2)  

Pages 30 and 31

Paul de Ville continues his set of exercises called “Shading” which, in contemporary terms, would be called “Dynamics”. These are tied whole note studies. The goal is to attack at piano with a crescendo to forte followed by a diminuendo back to piano. They are excellent studies and if played consistently will develop great embouchure control. My only criticism is that they appear much too soon in the book. Even players with several years of experience will find it very difficult to attack a low C at piano. Exercise No.29 is mechanical and focused on improving the B to C fingering.
The next section “Exercises on Time” is a set of seven studies designed to teach counting. These cover Common Time, 2/4, 3/4, and 6/8 meters. Paul de Ville introduces this section by saying, “The Student will now observe the values of the notes.” So are we to assume that counting wasn’t required in the first 29 exercises? De Ville has included counts written under some of the notes. His system does not include a method of beat subdivisions. As a beginner I could not begin to understand rhythm until I was taught a clear system that divided beats in halves and quarters. (1,2,3,4. 1, &, 2, &, 3, & 4, &, 1,e, &, a,2,e,&,a,3,e,&,a,4,e,&,a).
In my opinion, the first 50 studies of this method should be written like a beginning band method. The exercises should include long notes with rests to develop embouchure strength, familiar melodies and the basics of meters and counting. Advanced players could skip this section, but the beginners would be given enough foundation to approach the more difficult studies.
“Exercises in Slurring” begins on page 31. These are the type of exercises that have made this a great method. They are relatively easy, but if repeated often and with increasing speed, will develop solid technique.
Comments, as always, are welcome.
Neal Ramsay
fingering chart negative

Published in: on September 28, 2009 at 6:52 am  Comments (3)  

Thanks for checking in. The next blog will appear Monday, September 28.
Please fell free to review post posts and leave your comments.
Neal Ramsay

Published in: on September 26, 2009 at 12:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

Pages 28-29

Pages 28 – 29
Pages 28 and 29 contain exercises 15 through 26 of Paul de Ville’s “Preparatory Studies”. The exercise are, in themselves, fine. As I play through them I am reminded that no matter how much experience someone has, they can always learn and improve by playing basic exercise and concentrating on the fundamentals. Trying to play every note with a precise, clean attack, clear tone and perfectly in tune can create enough of a challenge to make these whole note exercises a interesting.
These first 26 studies are almost all whole notes with no rests; some double whole notes. Only exercise No. 25 contains half notes. If seen from the perspective of a beginning student, I think these studies would be difficult and discouraging. As the beginner has no embouchure strength, the first studies should be a mix of playing and resting so their mouths can recover between notes. There are no melodies in these pages. After someone has learned three notes, there are some melodies they can play. Nothing is more satisfying and motivating to a beginner that being able to play recognizable tunes.
The exercises advance in difficulty too fast. Exercise No. 9 includes a low C. Again, makes me think that Paul de Ville was a clarinetist. Low C on clarinet is easily obtained by a player on the first day, but it may take a saxophonist several weeks before they have enough control to get down to low C, without honking. Exercise No. 23 leaps around by ninths and No. 26 are 8 beat crescendos. All great stuff but too challenging in the early days of playing.
I would enjoy hearing from beginner band teachers on this subject.
Neal Ramsay
sax 4

Published in: on September 25, 2009 at 8:09 am  Comments (4)  

Pages 26 and 27

Finally, today we actually get to the first musical exercises of the Universal Method for Saxophone, but not without slugging our way through one more piece of Paul de Ville’s writing.
Page 26 titled, “Improvements added to the Evette and Schaeffer System of Saxophones”, explains the new patented keys of the Evett-Schaeffer system and how they will improve your life as a saxophonist.
As saxophonists, we can thank the Evette and Schaeffer system for the addition for the front, alternate high E-F key. That key made its debut on the saxophone as patented part of the Evette-Schaffer system, and it is the only key to survive to this day.
There is no right hand Bb bis key in this system, but there is an Eb bis key, for the left hand. Paul de Ville explains it this way; “Evette and Schaeffer claim they have thoroughly succeeded by obtaining the emission of the Eb through the hole of the E natural.” That sentence sounds as if de Ville never even played the Evette-Schaeffer system, but is just repeating the information in their advertisement. The best part of page 26 is that we have the opportunity to read more of Paul de Ville’s great instructional writing style such as “It is easy to account for the fact that: since these notes are made indifferently with both hands, thence all the most difficult passages become very easy to be made out.” This guy needs an editor and proof reader!
Page 27 “Preparatory Exercises” are the first playing exercises for the student. They are fine but with a couple of historical oddities. On exercise No.8 you are told to keep key VII open for D, E, F, and G. In exercise No. 13 you are told to close key VII and open key XII for A and above. Keys VII and XII do not appear on the fingering chart and a beginning student will be frustrated in trying to figure out these instructions. These fingerings are a throw back to the 1899 Evette & Schaeffer fingering chart and Carl Fischer never bothered to correct it. These early horns had a pair of octave keys instead of one. Key VII was used for D-G, Key XII for A and everything higher. You had to slide your thumb between the two keys as a bassoonist would. Modern saxophones have the one octave key that automatically switches between D and A.
Sidebar- Does anyone know anything about Paul de Ville? Was he French and was someone translating his work? Was he a saxophonist? Plesae leave comments if know anything about this guy.
Neal Ramsay

Published in: on September 24, 2009 at 7:32 am  Comments (1)  

Pages 16-25

We have still not begun any exercises for the saxophone. The section, “Rudiments of Music”, covers the basic names of notes and rhythms and advances to performing mordents in just nine pages.
In his introduction Paul de Ville says “Before the student can commence to play any instrument it is necessary that he should be acquainted with the rudiments of musical Notation. THIS STATEMENT IS A BIG LIE!!!! Not being acquainted with “the rudiments of musical Notation” hasn’t inhibited Charlie Daniel’s ability to play the fiddle. Ray Charles wasn’t much of a sight reader, and I wonder if the Suzuki approach should be chucked away in light of de Ville’s statement.
But, having a clear explanation of notation and a reference and is very useful. Most of de Ville’s information is accurate but with a few holes. For example he explains dotted notes by using ties but he never explains what a tie is.
I have never actually read the text to this section until today. It doesn’t fit contemporary styles of writing instructional material but is more in the style of a Charles Dickens’ novel. He writes, “A scale may be formed on any note, but in order to produce semitones it may be required to employ certain characters, which raise degrees, of any note in the scale” I think he trying to say that a # raises a note by a half step.
This is a good one, ”When C is taken as 1, the scale or key is said to be in its natural position. As 1 is the basis of the scale, the foundation on which it rests, so the letter which is taken for this sound is called the Key-note.” I think he means C is tonic in the key of C.
Or “It has been stated that the tonal difference between two notes on adjacent degrees of the staff is not always the same, likewise intervals of a third, fourth etc. vary as to tonal content.” I have no idea what he is talking about.
All his texts are difficult and probably impossible for the beginner to understand. The section on scales is limited to major, minor and chromatic. The section on meters doesn’t include odd or mixed meters and I disagree with his interruption of the gruppetto.
As always I enjoy your comments.
Neal Ramsay

Published in: on September 23, 2009 at 9:41 am  Leave a Comment  

Pages 13-15

Page thirteen is entitled “List of the Principal Words used in Modern Music”. This is primarily a list of expressive terms and is important as a reference. It is generally well done but with a few oddities. He calls a fermata a pause. The word fermata doesn’t appear on the list. Harmony is defined as “In general, a combination of tones or chords, producing music.” This definition needs improving. And, Vibrato is “A wavering tone-effect which should be sparingly, used.” Paul de Ville’s prejudice showing up again in this definition.
This list is over 100 years ago and any revision should be updated to include more recent terms like: whole tone, pentatonic, modes, hemiola, blues, jazz, turn around, multiphonic, altissimo, avant garde, minimalism, quarter tone, polyrhythm, mixed meter, swing style to name a few.
Pages 14 and 15 are a thrown back to the 19th century. The title for this section is “How to Make Your Own Reeds”. It must have been easier to make reeds than find a retailer who sold them at the turn of the last century, Page 14 are instructions and page 15 are illustrative drawings of the process described on page 14. (I think that it is interesting to note that Paul de Ville used a clarinet mouthpiece for his illustrations rather than a saxophone mouthpiece) The instructions are a little vague, but if you decipher them, they work. I actually got tube cane split it, gouged it and made it into a playable reed. For the amount of time it took to make one reed, I could have earned enough money to buy several boxes of reeds.
More useful, would be instruction and diagrams on adjusting, breaking in and fine tuning the commercial reeds that are available.
Please share your thoughts on contemporary musical terms and your discoveries in reed care and adjustments.
Neal Ramsay

Published in: on September 22, 2009 at 6:43 am  Comments (1)  

Pages 7- 12

These introductory pages, are not exercises, but deserve attention because lend perspective to Paul de Ville’s point of view. In his forward, he makes it a point to mention that the saxophone is his favorite instrument. I haven’t been able to confirm this, but I have heard on several occasions that de Ville was primarily a clarinetist. It seems ironic that the most popular and celebrated saxophone method was written by a clarinetist. It is a fact that he drew heavily on two 19th century clarinet methods (Klose and A. Mayeur).
Page 8 is blank and page 9 is the index.
Pages 10 through 12 are written for the beginner as a basic instruction and sort of an owner’s manual for the saxophone. It addresses thirteen topics. In my opinion Paul de Ville “phoned this in.” This in vital information to the student and he included very little detail.
In his history of the saxophone he says that it “was invented about the year 1845.” We know Adolph Sax had working prototypes in 1840 and perhaps as early as 1838. The saxophone appeared in the Brussels Exhibition in 1841 and the patent was granted in 1846. Also, the saxophone mechanism “has been improved to such an extent that the most difficult passages can be executed with ease and little practice.” I think I’ve just been insulted. Too bad that Charlie Parker didn’t read this. Then he wouldn’t have spent 12 to 15 hours a day practicing.
In the section called “Position of the Body” de Ville writes “Keep your head and body erect with the weight of the body resting on the right leg, while the left foot should be a little advanced.” This approach is a certain way to add tension to your playing. In the section “Manner of Holding the Saxophone” he doesn’t tell you how to hold the saxophone. He tells you to use a neck strap but doesn’t tell you how to adjust it to the correct length. There is no detail concerning the position of your hands or even which fingers are positioned over which keys.
The embouchure description is very general and is probably too vague for a beginner to know what to do. In the section “To Produce the Tone” he describes pushing the reed against the mouthpiece and drawing the tongue back “sharply”. His tonguing technique would produce the Valsalva maneuver (i.e. the forcible exhalation against a closed airway). A very, very bad way to start a note.
Breathing, the most important topic for this owner’s manual, is completely ignored.
The rest of the information regarding tuning, instrument care, how and what to practice are ok, or at least not damaging. Except for this incredible statement. “Avoid vibrato style of playing. See that your tone is absolutely clear and pure.” You don’t think that Paul was a clarinetist?
He ends this portion of the method by telling you that you should learn to transpose.
I would enjoy hearing your comments.
Neal Ramsay

Published in: on September 21, 2009 at 4:46 am  Comments (1)  

Pages 1-6 The Fingering Chart

The concept for the Universal Method for Saxophone was a method that could take a student from beginner to professional level, so a good fingering chart is a top priority. Paul de Ville even includes a “rudiments of music” section where he teaches all the basics (names of lines and spaces, key signature, time signature, rhythm, terms).
I have never bothered to look at the fingering chart that accompanies the Universal Method as I knew the fingerings when I purchased it. But, having studied it for the first time, I consider it the worst fingering chart I have ever seen. It is the newest part of the Universal Method and was prepared by Siguard Rascher with a 1941 copyright. (I guess that by 1941 they had finally given up on the Evette and Schaeffer System) It is a large, 2 fold sheet that is separate from the rest of the book so that the student could refer to it as they study exercises on another page. The reference saxophone for this chart is based on photographs of a 1930’s Buescher alto saxophone. The photos where converted to black and white line art where the shadows are now 100% black smudges. It is impossible to see much detail or figure out many of the keys.
I am absolutely certain that the people at Carl Fischer never handed this chart to a beginning student and asked them to figure out the fingerings, without the help of a teacher. Had they done so, they never would have published it. A very clear, generic line drawing of the saxophone is need as the reference.
The back of the chart is interesting. It compares the relative ranges of the piano, violin and Bb clarinet with the ranges of the soprano, alto, C melody, tenor, baritone, and bass saxophones. It also has a column called “The Saxophone in the Orchestra”. It is written from the perspective that you, as a saxophonist, will be sitting in with a symphonic orchestra. It takes each member of the saxophone family and tells you what orchestral parts it could cover and how to work out the transpositions. The rages and transposition material is all good information, even if you don’t plan to sit in with your local orchestra.
Please share any ideas regarding this and other fingering charts.
Neal Ramsay

Published in: on September 18, 2009 at 6:24 am  Comments (2)  


The World’s First Edition of the Universal Method for Saxophone by Paul de Ville was published in 1908, and it is a product of the 19th century. Stravinsky wouldn’t compose “The Rite of Spring” for four years. It would be decades before Creston’s “Sonata”, Ibert’s “Concertino” or Glazounov’s “Concerto” would come along. Rudy Wiedoeft had not begun to popularize the saxophone. New Orleans Dixieland was trying to give birth to jazz. The saxophone was in its infancy.
The Universal Method, often called the “Bible” among saxophonists, has no information on the altissimo register, vibrato, multiple tonguing, and scales beyond major and minor. It devotes pages to exercises for the “new” Evette and Schaeffer System, which has been obsolete for 90 years. The musical samples are very narrow in style and include a lot of 19th century opera
But, even with these limitations it is still a great method. Anyone who has mastered it is a formidable player. Some teachers have a system for using the Universal Method. I have worked with a few teachers that extracted parts of the Method. But I have never studied all of it.
I once heard this interview with Doc Severinsen
Question – “Doc, what methods did you study?”
Doc- “The Arban.”
Question – “And after the Arban?”
Doc – “I played the Arban again, faster.”
Question – “And after that?”
Doc- “I played the Arban a third time even faster. I still play the Arban”
I intend to take the Doc Severinsen approach and play our “Bible” cover to cover and blog my evaluations. It is 320 pages long and considered to be a year long process to study it entirely.
I invite you to share your comments, suggestions, and techniques regarding your use of the Universal Method.
Thanks – Neal Ramsay

Published in: on September 17, 2009 at 6:24 am  Leave a Comment