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)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Great blog today. I’ve always said the Universal method needed details with photos of posture, hand position and breathing.

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