Monday, October 29, 2012

Sax Stew for the Soul

Okay, so I've been a little quiet lately, and I'm sure you're wanting some updates, so I thought I'd be happy to oblige.  That whole "careful what you wish for" thing, except it won't void your warranty (pretty sure, at least, but don't quote me on that, 'kay?)  Please know I've been keeping busy planning my revenge on the dust bunnies.  Wait.  No.  Actually, the dust bunnies have been behaving lately, so none of that.

Anyhoo.  How's the weather in your neck of the woods?  If you're in the Northeast, hope you manage to stay in one piece.  If you're anywhere else, you're missing the hurricane parties.

I realized yesterday something amazing.  One of the biggest problems I've had with Lucy is she hits puberty on some notes, and I have been having one helluva time trying to figure out why she also sticks on high notes when my fingering drops an octave between notes.  Turns out that my embouchure hadn't been changing properly enough to change the air pressure going through the mouthpiece and reed, so as far as Lucy knew I was still an octave higher.

Now the embouchure rolls smooth, and transitions so intuitively that I really don't think about it anymore.  It sounds crazy, I know, but trust me.  One day the other week it just clicked, and now I don't even have that problem unless my posture's wrong or I use my stomach instead of my diaphragm.

I have decided to pursue the self-published album through CD Baby, not just singles, and this one is for children's ditties called "Playground Jazz".  It should have about 10 tracks, including one of my own making, and it's sax solo.  I'm sure it would go well if someone wanted to mix it with other instruments, which would be fine after they bought the album, but I've heard my playing from a media program and it sounds pretty decent.  But then again that was back in July, so being a few months' more practice, I can't begin to imagine.

Today's practice went really well.  In fact, it went so well that my yard was covered in squirrels and morning doves (and I think there might have been a cardinal or two), just pecking away at the seeds in the grass and grooving and having an awesome time.  It's a good sign when you're not only surrounded by animals that are happy, but last month I had a hummingbird fly up to me about two feet from my sax while I was playing, just checking out this strange noisy thing and hovering for a couple seconds before flying off.

For some reason, Linkin Park is having a little trouble, but I remembered every part of "Sara" except the Coda.  That's not bad, considering I haven't played "Sara" in about two weeks.  Plus, the other advantage to a sax is you can practice the fingering without having to use your breath... just stand like you normally do, have the mouthpiece in your mouth, and just practice like you normally would but without playing.  Great for muscle memory.

So that's where I'm at in things, I hope to have more good stuff tomorrow.  Thanks again to everyone who gave my last post a look-see, and if you didn't yet please do.  Hell, recommend this blog to other musicians, especially the ones who are kids looking for encouragement from others who have been there or are close to figuring things out.  Whatever you decide to do, you support the arts, so thank you!

Okay, gotta get some dinner, but it's always great to see you.  Take care and please be safe, there's a lot of nutty stuff going on in the world and we still need you here at the helm.


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Feelin' Groovy Jammin' Sax with the Neighbors

I want to thank you all for giving my blog a reading and being there for me and encouraging me to continue working on the sax, Lucy and I really appreciate it a lot.  If you could recommend this blog to others, that would be great too, because there's probably a lot of people, especially young people and teens, who could use a little encouragement from someone who's tried to figure things out.

I also want to share a really cool thing with you that's been happening a few times, and hopefully it'll make you grin too.  Might even get you to support the local bands too at Open Mics, because every Rolling Stone was originally a Tipping Pebble.

My neighborhood's pretty quiet, and the neighbors tend to keep to themselves.  But there are times when they come out and do stuff, like walk around, drive around, or visit each other.  We don't do that very often around here because we're all so diverse but still so regular, y'know?

So far in the past couple months of practicing with Lucy on the front porch outside the house (my folks that I'm helping with things live in a modified single-wide, which is essentially a furnished metal tunnel that has excellent acoustic-carrying capabilities, and since Dad watches TV a lot -- mostly sports -- and since the sax is loud, well, I have to play outside.  However, I can't really complain because the porch has a roof overhang which comes in handy), quite a few neighbors have passed by or stopped by and offered a "that's awesome!"

In fact, last week a guy who just roams the neighborhood was passing by as I was finishing up playing one song and preparing to play another, said, "Don't stop on my account, that's good stuff!"  And today I think I had just finished playing "Heart" and a car that was driving around the corner rolled down her window, gave me a thumbs-up and yelled, "good job!"

Sometimes, it's the little things that keep us artists -- be it musical, pictorial, or literary -- going day after day, even if there's not much chance right then for fame and fortune.  A mere acknowledgement of effort can be all it takes between going big or packing it up.  If you happen to know someone, a friend or a neighbor or even a stranger at a city event, who is doing their thing, why not give them a listen, groove with them, hell even talk to them between songs or sets.  We're not going to bite your head off and if anything, it'll help us finish the set with a bang.

Just thinking.  Hope your week goes with praise.  Support the arts, because you listen to the radio, go to the theater/theatre, or enjoy a good novel.


Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Universe Sang Me a Song...

...and I danced to it.

Ever have one of those days, you know, where you think you were on the right track, then you find another track you're just as good at running, and then you find validation -- but not necessarily through yourself -- that you may actually be on the right track?

It happened to me today.  I think it was Thursday when I researched some online music marketing company details (CD Baby... +Matt Gibson, you might want to check them out) due to a few solid reasons.

Well, there's the thing that even though I've been practicing off and on since the start of August on my own, with some occasional advice from my mentor Steve Bradbery (who is a sax pro and also a fierce piano man worthy of Billy Joel's noting), I've come to figure out a lot of things I simply didn't have enough lesson time with my teacher Martie to cover.  (Usually by the time I warmed up and got somewhere near going over something, it was time to wrap up and go home.)

Things like my embouchure (my mouth formation on the mouthpiece) and how it affects my tonal qualities.  I've come to understand just how much the way I press or release on the reed changes how notes sound, the depth of my note capacity, and even how Lucy either stays on-tune or "hits puberty" and squeaks, or how Lucy can drop an octave without a problem.

Things like my chromatic scales and how far I can go up and down, plus the #'s and b's.

Things like playing different keys and intervals.

Things like how to determine if a song's notes are vocals or instrumental (yes, there actually IS a difference, but technically you could play the same song either way, depending on if it HAD vocals, by changing the key).

And most importantly... things like listening to a song on the radio, a CD, or even in my head (even one I came up with), and being able to turn around and play it from my head with a little practice.  Case in point: I can play "My Heart Will Go On" and "When The Saints Go Marching In" from memory, but I learned by sheet music; "America The Beautiful" I pretty much figured out on my own after the first 4 measures; "Ants Go Marching" and now Linkin Park's "Burn It To The Ground" are completely my own figuring out from memory of hearing them.

On top of all that, I do have one or two songs in my head of my own design, just need to sit down and hammer them out.  And now that I have the confidence of knowing I can pretty much take a song in my head (or memory) and play it, I know I can do this.  So I've got an account on CD Baby, and planning to get some tunes out in the next couple weeks.  Granted, they'll be singles, and granted, they'll be sax solos, but hey, who knows?  Plus the vendor list for CD Baby is like a mile long, so I know I will have a good chance of succeeding.

As for the validation that I am on the right track, my stepmom Marylin's Etsy shop got its first sale today.  She's not that techie like I am, so I help her figure out the websites.  At any rate, Marylin's thrilled and I think she's got a good future ahead of her on that... especially since she's been on there for about 2 months and I've been there since July without a sale.  But that's fine, because sometimes the best surprises are, in fact, surprises.

So don't think you know what you're gonna do.  Because you're just gonna get nudged.  And if I can help my stepmom walk through a door I showed her and land on her feet running, well, my stepmom's encouraging me to walk through the music door and I have a feeling I will land on my feet running too.

Hope your weekend is safe.  Hey, Eastern Seaboard, please be careful btw.  That storm is bad juju.  Take it from a guy who went through Andrew and Wilma.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

o/~ You Are Always On My Mind.... o/~

What's new with you?  Starfox here, got a bit on my mind but please know you're always there, I really like how everyone's been hitting my blog, even if it's been a couple days.  Makes me warm and fuzzy, kinda like Kenny G but straight.  Had a good day, too.  Plus I have some thoughts too I'd like to share, if Google will let me.

Been doing pretty well on "Sara", to where I can play the individual sections pretty solid.  Just working on the tapping airflow and keeping enough endurance to play it.  But it's pretty much down, so I can move to something a little different... the Pet Shop Boys' cover of Willie Nelson's "Always On My Mind", which is fairly simple (it's a bit easier than "Sara", which would count in my book as an "80's Love Ballad") and is kinda fun to play.  Right now I'm about 90% comfy with the first stanza and about 75% on the chorus.  But considering today was the first time I played it, I can't really complain...

..."Ants Go Marching" is a silly kids' ditty, I know, but if you want to get better at playing rhythmic intervals at greater than 1 or 2 steps, I'm finding it a great mental exercise.  There's another ditty, one that I came up with, it's stupid, it's silly, I swear it sounds like "Ren and Stimpy" meets "Disney" with a dash of bad crack, but despite how inane it is it actually serves two purposes: interval jumping and shifting keys in mid-song.  You could literally transit up and down the entire 12 keys, one key per stanza, and it would work.  So far I'm at Key of C and G....

...I need to find my book on online music publishing, because I've been thinking about jamming beats and selling them on a few sites, maybe even get a small album cut.  Yeah, I know, I should market to the big houses, but the problem is lack of control on my end if I go with them, plus yeah, I'll get millions to make the albums, but what Simon Cowell DOESN'T tell you is, you don't get another dime until your album sales cover that contract's up-front payment.  So yeah, I could, but not really warm on that idea...

...and last, Google seems to think my name, "Starfox Dreamsinger", isn't a real name and that I made it up to piss off their servers.  Well, Google and Blog World, it's my stage name, and I also use it on MySpace.  Besides, I'm friends with +Tony Stark, and I seriously doubt he's really Tony Stark and flies around in a metal suit (but Tony, if you are, feel free to correct me over beers!  You're buying!)  My music isn't going to be under my personal name (for personal and security reasons, kinda like why Madonna only goes by one name), it's going to be under my stage moniker.  Don't like it, tough.

I do understand the reasons behind it, but I've seen so many name violations on G+ that it's just stupid.  So Google, please do me a favor and wash your attitude down with a tall cold glass of suck it.  Focus on making another buggy version of Chrome or invent warp drive or something a bit more productive than being hypocritical.  Goddess knows you've got the cash.

Okay I'm done for now, but thank you again.  Was having a rough time earlier but I feel your love and support.  Have a great night and see you soon.


Sunday, October 21, 2012

One Hot Saxy Moment

So if you think you are not good enough, why not just play on your porch and see who throws kudos and who lobs rotten veggies at you so you can tell?  That's kinda the thing that happened to me a little earlier during my first practice session today.

There's this guy, he walks around the neighborhood every now and then, might be a little hard on his luck.  Well, anyway, he was walking by my house while I was working on connecting the chorus and Coda of "Sara" and trying to get my breath back (had been playing "Sara" and "Heart" most of the session, plus just got back to seriously playing last week after a week of the blues).  The guy grins and goes, "Hey, don't stop on my account, that sounded awesome!" and gave me a huge thumbs-up.

He's like the second neighbor who's given me positive feedback in as many months, but only because the neighbors around here tend to keep to themselves unless they need something.  But it still felt good.

Plus, I've been figuring out songs in my head, called "playing by ear", mostly just stuff that already exists.  Learned "America The Beautiful" that way, still working on the tweaking for consistency.  But today was amazing, because I wanted to play a cool-down ditty that helped me break the habit I sometimes get -- playing notes consecutively instead of jumping -- and "The Ants Go Marching" popped into my head.  It was hilariously funny, and I got the rough version of it down in three keys (starting at G, then A, then B) before I had to stop for breath.

Yeah, I know, there's a G# and an A# in there, so technically it wasn't a clean jump, and there's one or two notes that require a half-step into a #/b, but the fact that I pretty much nailed about 95% within 10 minutes is incredible.  Plus it's a funny song too.

I honestly think that Lucy (my alto sax) is my ticket out of Florida.  I don't know much about what sax playing consists of, but I'm learning a lot even in the past 10 weeks since my last lesson, and I'm taking another session of classes in January.  Really hope I can get the hang of more stuff before then.  But I would love to write and play music, maybe do a few gigs.  Even if I have to travel to do it.  Sounds like fun.

Gotta go for now.  Have a good evening!

Fox (

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Intro to the Key of Fox

Well, this is my first major blog for music (MySpace doesn't quite count for me), so I guess a welcome to everyone is in order, right?  My name is Starfox Dreamsinger, and I'm trying to get good on playing sax.  Technically I started back in May 2010, but I spent about 2 years not playing (due to lack of money and time to devote to it, Life happens a lot), and came back to it a few months ago.

I play on a Palatino E(b) (E-flat) alto sax named Lucy, and although I want to get something newer and maybe prettier, you never really can let go of your first time, right?  Maybe when the time comes and I have about $1200 to burn, but that's a long time from now.  Lucy was a special deal, in that the store I actually bought it from matched a price $200 lower from another mom-and-pop store, so all in all it's good.  Hope to have a pic of it soon.

People ask me, "Fox, what genre do you play?"  It's kinda tough to pinpoint anything, because I can do kids' stuff, I can do patriotic stuff (you should hear me throw down "America The Beautiful" -- I figured out how to play it by ear!), and I can do 80's and 90's pop/AC.  Not a whole lot of it, at least not yet, because I've been seriously practicing for about 5 months (regularly, maybe a little over 3), but what I've been able to pull off is nice.

What would I LIKE to play?  Classic rock, alternapop, AC, smooth jazz.  Thing is, I've been learning to play the vocals tracks for songs instead of playing with a band, and it's an interesting party.  I mean, when you're playing vocals on an instrument, you're in control, you're leading the army, you're not willing to sit back and take orders.

In some ways, it's liberating.  I've spent most of my life led by others, what others want or can take from me.  Can't say it's been a lot of fun, but it does give me the chance, when people ask me why I play the sax instead of something simpler like a guitar, to tell others that I play sax because it's a great stress-reliever.  Think about it -- after a rough day, I can scream all I want and not get in trouble!

Right now, I'm kinda working on building a working knowledge of several songs so I can take +Nick Moore's suggestion of that Hangout thingy and maybe play on it.  Might help me gain the confidence I need to really push the limits.  Okay, it's not a coffeehouse or a bar, but it's a start, yes?

Gotta go for now, doing some house repairs, but I'll be Bach again soon.  hehe