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Shinn Rediscovers His Sax Appeal

So I was just sitting in front of my PC one afternoon, when I got a call from out of the blue. I love caller ID, it allows me to ignore calls I don’t expect, most of which are calls from names or numbers I don’t recognize. For those, I figure if they really want to get in touch, they can leave a message. But this one had a name I recognized and I was happy to pick up.


It was Vince Lars, my old sax teacher.


Vince was looking to revitalize his teaching career which had been decimated by (what else) Covid. A short testimonial was all he was looking for, and I was more than happy to oblige. I found him to be an excellent teacher and under his guidance, I got to where I was ready to participate in a fairly large community band which played at protests and other such events of bad attitude. This venture was derailed by (what else) Covid.


But in addition to his getting me ready for that gig and teaching me saxophone basics, he was a good friend through the process. We’d laugh about being of about the same vintage (I’ve got a few years on him, but we’re the same generation) and at times our conversations could drift off-topic. But we’d come back and the sessions would be very productive. And if he didn’t have a student coming in right after me, he would be very generous with his hour.


You can probably see where this is going, so I’ll just tell you, I impulsively decided to pick up sax again. I had barely touched it since Covid, and we set an aggressive once a week plan while I worked on my lost knowledge of fingerings and tonality. Late afternoon Wednesdays worked for both of us, and so it was decided.


The first lesson was good for getting reacquainted. He no longer has the use of the music store where we used to have the lessons, so we now meet at his house which turns out to be about the same distance. We set up in his living room and we dug right in. We quickly found why I was unable to hit the lowest notes and a couple of alternate fingerings to make life easier. As the following week progressed, I found myself enjoying practice sessions and was surprised how quickly much of the material was coming back. My embouchure (the way one positions one’s mouth around the mouthpiece) is still weak and only practice will bring it back to where I can play for an hour or more comfortably. It’s kinda like if I don’t play guitar for awhile, my fingers are sore until I build up the callouses again.


So I’m back playing sax again. Sadly, I have no venue, and without one, I probably won’t last more than a few months. I could easily check into whether that community band has resurfaced with the waning of Covid. I may be up to speed in just a few weeks and able to join them this summer. Granted, for me “up to speed” isn’t very fast, but the music they play isn’t especially difficult. I still have the music from the last time I was getting ready for the project.

Shin the Musician

Last update: May 7, 2023

The John Shinnick Web Site

An old friend re-emerges.

But whether I decide on the band or to simply learn for the sake of learning (what a concept!) getting back into sax is fun. I always liked dabbling, and it seems like every time I try something different musically, I get a little better as an overall musician. As soon as I’m reasonably close to where I was before, I’m going to have Vince show me about modes. Modes are alternative scales. Major and minor (a.k.a. Ionian and Aeolian) are two, and there are five others I’m aware of. I resisted learning them last time, but now I’m more receptive. I also have other theoretical questions that I’m sure Vince can explain.


This may be a passing fancy. Like I say, if it lasts through the summer and into the fall, I’ll consider it a successful activity. Any longer and we can assume I passed where I was before, and I’ll likely be looking for more places to play.


Can you say “hubris”?

The recording, lyrics, and back story to "My Brain Is Too Small", a song I wrote and recorded in 1990.

The video, lyrics, and back story of the song I wrote and performed for my retirement party in 2006.

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