Something Dave Sanborn Said

I spend more than 75% of my time on stage improvising. And when I don’t do that, I play the horn lines that I have written. Because of this, something that David Sanborn said really resonated with me:

Its all about finding the right note at the right place and knowing when to leave well enough alone. And that’s a lifelong quest.

I think this is beautifully illustrated in this version of The Dream, performed at a jazz festival in 1995. Here Sanborn takes his famous ballad, and uses space and a variety of fill notes in his solo, to create a version that is quite different to the original recorded release. He is clearly experimenting with trying to find “the right note at the right place and knowing when to leave well enough alone.” The outcome is quite beautiful.

…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!

© 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.


  1. Ligature type, placement, and tightening seems to matter a lot more with cane than it does with synthetics. I got an Olegature (mostly because it’s pretty) to replace the stock Otto Link tenor ligature, because the stock Link ligatures are notoriously prone to having the reed slide side to side. The Olegature completely fixes this problem whether I use cane or synthetic, so it is a win in any case. Still, I try it with cane reeds and get a noticeably better response than the stock lig, while with Fibracells the effect is there but very very slight — to the point where it might be the placebo effect in action. Considering what I paid ($30), I’m not complaining since it solves the problem I bought it to solve.

    I think cane reeds, which never stay perfectly flat for very long, are naturally more sensitive to the pressure attaching them to the mouthpiece. Synthetics SHOULD be flat and don’t have a lot of “give” in this department, and as long as they’re held securely, a ligature is a ligature. At least that’s my theory.

  2. Hi there allentwnguy. Welcome to my site!

    Good eyes you’ve got. I hadn’t noticed that until you pointed it out.

    So his ligature screws are both fixed the first time a close up happens around 1:30 into the video, and then around 1:38 the one closest to the tip of the mouthpiece starts to spin. Then at 3:29 it is no longer spinning, and at 4:20 he appears to tighten the screws again.

    My guess is that he was having some equipment issues that day. If he had purposely kept one of his lig screws loose, it would have been spinning throughout the entire performance. But that’s just an educated guess.

    I know the directions that came with my Rovner ligs explain how to get different sounds depending on how you cock them… Either forward for a brighter sound, or backward for a darker sound…

    I would think the same applies to conventional 2 screw ligatures. If you have only the furthest screw holding the reed, more of the reed will vibrate, and the sound will be darker. Given that his sound is on the bright side, this would be problematic.

    Even more problematic would be that with only 1 of the screws holding his reed, and it being the one furthest away from the tip of the mouthpiece, the reed would not be securely held in place.

    Talk about stress! Trying to get through a performance of that nature while keeping your reed in place during an equipment malfunction. Yikes! 😯

  3. Interesting that he is using only one of ligature rings. Notice one thumb screw is just spinning loose.

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