Sax? Guitar? Guitar? Sax?

Last night we had our last rehearsal for 2008 for Deception. It was a chance to kick back, run through some tunes we haven’t played in a while, and refresh our memories about intros, changes, and endings for songs that we’ve been neglecting for months.

Both Art (the guitar player) & I were trying out new gear, so our sound was markedly different than what our fans would be used to hearing. We’re introducing some new things, as well as new songs, for ’09, and this was a chance for us to experiment a bit.

Since I’ve opted to not use effects and distortion pedals in the electric Blues band, all my effects come through a combination of one or more of the following: my throat, embouchure, overtones, altissimo, and multiphonics. Over the years, I have developed a repertoire of effects that continues to grow the more I work with Art.

Last night my multiphonic-distortion effects sounded so much like the guitar, I was unsure were my sound ended, and where the guitar sound began. I wasn’t the only one unsure of what I was hearing. Art, Steve, & Gary were all equally confused. When we ended Buried Alive In The Blues, it sounded like we had 2 electric guitars playing, not a sax & guitar.

The horn I took to last night’s rehearsal was my 10M. I haven’t had a chance play it for weeks, not since I had it to the last rehearsal at the end of November. At the time, I really struggled with it, and couldn’t get it to play consistently in the left palm keys, nor front E3, F3, and forget F#3 and higher. D4 and up was a breeze, but up to there, the horn wasn’t going to have any part of playing altissimo notes.

I was sure I was going to have to change my set up, but I’ve been too tired, and not feeling well enough, to be able to spend the energy it takes to fiddle-f#!* around with mouthpiece/reed combinations and try to find something that works. Last night I decided to just wing it, and try my standard Dukoff S7, with a fairly new & hard Fibracell, since the horn doesn’t like soft reeds.

For some reason, certainly not because I’ve been practicing, the 10M had no problem playing all things it was giving me grief with before. Even the false A, which didn’t sound much different from the conventional A last time I played the sax, suddenly worked last night. Weird. Gremlins. Apparently these guys are not limited to living in computers. They live quite happily in saxophones too.

As I mentioned in my post of November 26th, the advantage with the 10M is that its sound is crisp and clean, and can cut through more than either my Martin or Selmer can. It is also much more “distortion friendly” than either of my other tenors, and right now the less energy I need to expend on something, the better.

Last night’s success with the 10M gives me optimism, but also makes me wonder: What’s goin’ on? Luckily I have more reeds than many music stores. I’ll have to sit down & actually try my different Dukoffs, and my other mouthpieces, as well as different reed combos. I’ve got the time. If only this neuro-related fatigue would leave me alone for a few days, I would have the energy to finally get my 10M show-ready.    

…this is just my blog. My “real” website is If you’re looking for sax info, you should check it out too.There’s lots there!

© 2008 – 2009, Helen. All rights reserved.


Helen Kahlke is a professional horn player and sax teacher who lives in Abbotsford, British Columbia. She plays soprano, alto, C melody, tenor, baritone, and bass saxophones.

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