Teacher: “OK, let’s get Intermediate Studies for Developing Artists on the Saxophone by Shelley Jagow up on the stand.”
Student: “The blue one with the sax on the cover?”
Affirmative Teacher: “That’s the one. You picked three tunes for today, correct?”
Sweet Student: “Yes. Can we start with Morris Dance?”
Shocked Teacher: “Absolutely not! Look at the tempo.”
Perplexed Student: “It says 104.”
Teacher with a Confidential Air: “Yeah, but 104 for the half note. This little ditty is in cut time. That’s not just fast. It’s fast-fast.”
Incredulous Student: “So?”
Teacher Shakes Head: “So. So how are your fingers going to handle all that technique? You need to warm them up.”
Quick Student: “Oh. Remember that section at the back—Key Muscle Memory—I could find one of those exercises in the right key.”
Smiling Teacher: “Mmmm, yes.”
Student Studies Page Fourteen: “Morris Dance is in A+, no accidentals.”
Purposeful Student Flips Back to Page Forty: “I’ll try the A+ exercise to awaken my technical powers.”
Impressed Teacher: “Awaken your technical powers—now that’s a phrase. What metronome tempo will you use?”
Thinking Student: “I’ll start at 72, then try 88, and hopefully I’ll finish at 104. That way, I can get into the pulse.”
Pleased Teacher: “Good strategy. And happily, the fastest notes in Morris Dance—the eighth notes—will be exactly the same speed as the sixteenth notes in the Key Muscle Memory exercise which is in 2/4.”
Practising folk songs—is there any better way to develop a sense of melody? Sometimes, instrumental methods are overly focused on rhythm, offering page after page of numbered exercises. Good for counting. But melodies? Expression? Cultural associations? Malheureusement, c’est un désert. Intermediate Studies for Developing Artists on the Saxophone is a lush rain forest, aptly titled. Shelley’s eye is on developing Artists. And let’s face it: That’s what students want! They are hungry for the sumptuous line, the exquisite turn of phrase. This method features beautiful melodies with detailed articulation and dynamic markings and includes composer names, dates and the odd factoid. “Morris Dance” (pg. 14) “Irish Jig” (pg. 20) and “Callaghan’s Reel” (pg. 22) give students a chance to challenge their technical skills with the lively and energetic dances of long ago. And they are fast! As is Clara Schumann’s delightfully quirky Scherzo (pg. 35) featuring sforzandos on beat three. Only another saxophonist understands just how fast we can play. Shelley has chosen speeds that will push the intermediate student further and faster.
And the melodies! There are some Really. Great. Melodies. Practise your lullaby skills with the gentle Welsh air, All Through the Night (pg. 5). Or wallow in loss with the bittersweet I’ll Love My Love (pg. 11). The Intermezzo from Gustav Holst’s First Suite in Eb, (pg. 23) loved by all band enthusiasts, is instantly appealing. Nuanced and delicate, Maurice Ravel’s Pavane pour une Infante Défunte (pg. 29) is an exquisite way to work on dynamic control.
Friendly Teacher: “Well kiddo, what’s your second pick?”
Happy Student: “Sixteen in D.”
Teacher Frowns: “Weird title.”
Student So-Smart: “Actually it makes TOTAL sense—there are sixteen measures and it’s written in the key of D+.”
Humiliated Teacher: “Oh yeah. Oh man. My bad. I guess it’s self-explanatory.”
Student smiles and shakes head.
Teacher smiles too—but on the inside.
Teacher Moves On: “Play away; I’ll listen.”
Student performs Sixteen in D.
Impressed Teacher: “Not bad. Not bad at all. Good swinging.”
Satisfied Student: “Thanks—see here in the Discover More box it says, “In swing, the second eighth note of each beat is played like the last third of a triplet, and slightly accented.” That made sense to me. And I like the funny words underneath the notes.”
Excited Teacher: “Oh, the scat syllables—Doo Bah Doo Dit!”
Student Sings: “Doo Dah— Doo Dah—“
Teacher Sings: “Doo Bah Doo Dit.”
Together: “Doo Bah Doo Dit!”
Overexcited Teacher: “Doo Dah—Wah Wah—Schwip-it-ty Schwamp-it-ty Dib-ble-Doo-Wap-it-ty Ca-ca-ca-ca-ca-ca-coph-on-ny—”
Composed Student Interrupts: “I got it, thanks.”
Agreeable Teacher: “Alright then, let’s hear Sixteen in D one more time, and this time I’ll be listening for the rests.”
LOVE the inclusion of some easy jazz tunes in this method. Best of all, Shelley teaches you how to swing with a precise definition, scat syllables and articulations. The Discover More boxes below the music offer helpful definitions and some cultural context. These provide good jumping-off points for more discussion.
Teacher Asks: “And your third choice?”
Dreamy Student: “The Debussy Rapsodie.”
Weak-Kneed Teacher: “That has got to be the most achingly beautiful melody ever composed for the saxophone. And it’s OUR melody—Debussy wrote it exclusively for the saxophone.”
Student plays while Teacher gestures dramatically to highlight the dynamic changes.
Elevated Teacher: “I’m in tears!”
Student Laughs: “Yeah—sorry—that high D was seriously sharp.”
Teacher Laughs: “That’s not what I meant! But you could try adding finger 5 to lower the pitch a bit.”
This is the best part of this method. It contains excerpts of REAL SAXOPHONE REPERTOIRE! We get the full Old Castle solo (pg. 28) excerpts from the Debussy Rapsodie, (pg. 32) the first of the Schumann Three Romances, (pg. 34) and—WOW—the Exposition to the Glazounov Concerto (pg. 38). Genius idea.
Artistic advancement is—refreshingly—at the fore, and demonstrated most potently through the excellent repertoire selections. Folk songs, marches, classical themes, jazz tunes, saxophone-specific repertoire; the variety is fabulous.
There are virtually no mistakes or typos in this method book. The text has been carefully edited with a clean and easy-to-read layout.
More technical exercises might have been helpful. Key Muscle Memory exercises in the minor keys are missing, and although difficult without a universally accepted system, some discussion of fingering choices would aid the intermediate level student.
This book makes a charming companion to the Royal Conservatory of Music’s two volumes of études, Saxophone Levels Preparatory – 4 Etudes and Saxophone Levels 5 – 8 Etudes. Shelley’s method begins around level two and ends around level six. But there are welcome standout selections. In the RCM system, Schumann’s Three Romances is a repertoire selection for the level 7 exam. The Old Castle solo is an orchestral excerpt for Level 8. And the full Glazounov Concerto can be played for Level 10. This is another major strength—as a professional saxophonist, Shelley’s eye-to-the-future is ever present. She knows what repertoire is coming up for the serious saxophonist and serves up several amuse-bouches to tickle the ears of the future artist.
Highly recommended, Intermediate Studies for Developing Artists on the Saxophone by Shelly Jagow is available here.