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)  

Pages 47-51

Today’s blog continues with the “Twenty Progressive Exercises”. As I mentioned previously, these are examples of exercises that have made the “Universal Method for Saxophone” a great and timeless book. They are short kernels of technique builders with most them being a few lines long. They are designed to concentrate on specific problems without fatiguing the student. For example, Exercises No. 7 and 8 are great flexibility builders with an emphasis on improving technique over the break. Numbers 9, 15, 18 and 20 are chord studies on the tonic, subdominant and dominant. They provide a melodically interesting way to play through the chord tones without being strict arpeggio studies.
All of these studies develop finger independence and evenness in finger technique. Paul de Ville uses rhythmic variety and includes several triplet studies. As in the first two pages of the section, all the studies are in the key of C. Most of them are within the technical reach of first year players, if attempted at a conservative tempo.
As discussed before, the advanced saxophonist can benefit from these exercises by playing them at faster tempos, changing the keys and making variations in the articulations.
Please continue to add your comments.
Neal Ramsay
sax cube

Published in: on October 5, 2009 at 5:59 am  Leave a Comment  

Pages 45 and 46

The “Twenty Progressive Exercises” are more examples of studies that make the “Universal Method for Saxophone” a great book and still relevant today. These were written by Paul de Ville and are effective technique builders. (After beating up on Paul in previous blogs it’s nice to be able to say something good.) Today I will focus on pages 45 and 46. All the exercises are in the key of C and are written in eighth, quarter, and half notes. They don’t appear intimidating on the page, so young players can be encouraged to tackle them.
They are well conceived. They have melodic interest and use enough repetition to improve technique. They can also be a challenge for the advanced saxophonist who could play them in cut time, as a speed and coordination drill. The serious students will want to extend these further by playing them in different keys. It isn’t necessary to transpose them; instead you can impose different key signatures and play the notes as they appear on the staff. One more suggestion is to alter the articulation. After the slurring versions is mastered, work through different articulation patterns. When treated this way they can be effective studies for years.
Please comment on your use of these exercises.
Neal Ramsay

Published in: on October 2, 2009 at 9:27 am  Comments (2)  

Pages 39-44

This set of exercises is called “Progressive Exercises on Time”. The word “Progressive” is used throughout this book. In fact, the Universal Method for Saxophone is a product of the Progressive Era, as evidenced by Paul de Ville’s attitudes. The progressive thinkers were pseudo intellectual elitists that believed that anything new had to be better than anything old. I believe that’s why de Ville would include solo music by his contemporary Gillet (?), but no selections by J. S. Bach and why he centered this method on the clumsy and now obsolete, Evette-Schaeffer fingering system.
While the previous “Exercises in Slurring” were well organized, the “Progressive Exercises on Time” lack focus. Are they studies on meter or rhythm? They seem to be some of both. De Ville writes a little theme, and then follows it with some variations in different meters and rhythms. Some of the rhythmic variations are fairly difficult, so they ‘progress” quickly from easy to complex. The last part of this section is called “Exercises in Rests”. These are nice studies designed to help the player maintain a sense of meter through various combinations of rests. In general, a student would improve their sight reading skills by leaning this section. I have two more small complaints. One is Paul de Ville’s placement of breath marks. He got most of them right, but some are used in the most unmusical ways. Also, he never presents a clear method of counting music and sub dividing the beat. Presenting a logical counting system would give the student a method that would allow them to figure out any rhythm.
I would like to see this section redesigned. First, teach a counting method that sub divides the beat. Second, focus on common rhythmic patterns and how they are used in the most frequently used meters. Odd and mixed meters could be covered in a later section of the method.
I look forward to your comments.
Neal Ramsay

Published in: on October 1, 2009 at 8:37 am  Leave a Comment