Some could argue the Xaphoon to be much like a Ukulele, in that its size deems it flawed by design. Yet there are many Ukulele players who are obviously not dissuaded by this, indeed myself occasionally included.
No, the Xaphoon is not flawed. It is however, very difficult to master. Oh, this is not to say the average novice will be unable to enjoy it, no, this is to say that the average professional Xaphoonist would have spent ten years perfecting it.
The difference between a Xaphoon and a Pocket Sax…? Bamboo die hards aside… depends how good you are.
First things first. I know what you are seeking. The sound of a Sax in your pocket. Yet you fear it to only raspberry, much like a Kazoo. This is a common misconception, seeded by poor examples of play, by amateurs trying too hard, as if to make a baby iron a suit.
Babies don’t iron suits.
Likewise Saxophonists don’t play Recorders. Thus you will find the only virtuoso PS players are those of whom the PS is their main and perhaps only instrument. These people, indeed of few and far between, are those who will have spent a lifetime connecting with and understanding it.
So with that, let us discuss some PS knowledge.
There are different kinds of Saxophone. We have Soprano, Alto, Tenor and Baritone. These are the primary four from which branch their relatives.
The Pocket Sax is not a relative. Thus we will call it a new 5th kind, the smallest and the sweetest.
Now, a Soprano Sax does not sound anything like an Alto Sax and a Tenor Sax does not sound anything like a Baritone Sax.
Similarly, a Pocket Sax does not sound like any of the above. It is as different to its closest neighbour the Soprano, as the Soprano is to its closest neighbour the Alto. Yet all five of these are called Saxophones. Thus what one needs to understand before trying to master this beautiful instrument, is that The Pocket Sax has its own voice, its own personality and its own philosophy.
There are many factors which influence a Saxophonist’s performance. Amongst others, such as recital:
- Reed type
- Jaw strength
- Finger flex
All of these things, without question, effect the phenomena that is Saxophone.
In regards to The Pocket Sax, one’s embouchure plays a tremendously greater part than perhaps any other reed instrument. This is because volume, tone and intonation on the PS are an inseparably woven and extremely fragile canvas.
In other words, your ability to play in tune and with gracious tone is constantly being put to the test.
As such, the type of Reed you choose will also have an effect on these abilities and thence significantly the resulting performance. For each Reed likewise has its own tone and voice. There are not only different strengths, 1-5, but there are different manufacturers and materials.
Casual players who only perform for entertainment will most definitely be playing with a weaker Reed of strength 2 or below.
The difference in sound and tone quality between a strength 2 and a strength 3 Reed is utterly phenomenal. Learning to play with a 3 Reed, even from a 2.5, is almost like learning to play the PS from scratch. It is a completely new and challenging world.
For this reason the Xaphoon.Com website itself advises just experimenting with a 2.5 Reed to become accustomed to the phenomena.
Whilst learning you will indeed progress from a 1 towards a 2.5, mastering exceptional phrases and profoundly expressive tones. Yet it is important to remember that this progression is not the end result. For even when you reach a 2.5 Reed you are still aware of a very subtle weakness in the tone.
It wants to breathe fire.
Brian Wittman himself demonstrates his invention using a 2.5, yet this is only because the 2.5 allows you ease of fluidity about the scale… important for getting things right!
Yet whilst rarely heard of, for as are pure Pocket Saxophonists, the roaring fire of a blues virtuoso can only be mastered with a 3+ Reed.
It takes a lot of practice. Furthermore a 3+ strength Reed requires a lot of breath and absolute dedication. If you have not climbed the wall and leaped over into the 3+ garden, then probably, The Pocket Sax was not meant for you.
Yet if you truly have the dedication, then reach for the skies and learn to fly on wings of armour.
For only thence will The Pocket Sax truly punch like a Dragon.
Relax and have patience, not just with the Xaphoon, but with yourself.
Understand its size is not a flaw, but a blessing.
Try not to get frustrated, you will only transfer that to your instrument, so let the tension go.
Hold it gently, as if it were a rolled up manuscript, precious and masterful, let its own voice speak what’s contained in its heart.
Stand up or at least sit up straight. You must allow your diaphragm to expand.
Breathe in from your stomach as if it is your stomach you are filling up.
Try not to play fast, or too powerfully, too soon, for firstly it will overwork your senses and secondly it is not the way of Xaphoon.
Whilst it is of course perfectly possible and enjoyable, do not expect fast running floral patterns of magnificent expertise, for in truth, Saxophonists can only play these due to the metal keys engineered onto their instruments.
The Pocket Sax does not have any keys… it is as like a primitive flute, yet warped into a modern age. Thus the styles of play born of this instrument are unique unto each player.
Mellow and groove with it. Serenade it, bring it to a ballad and then, let it dance.
You must arrive at a mutually appetising playing style, personal to both you and your Xaphoon.
Listen to the great jazz masters, in time you will realise their most memorable performances weren’t actually pumped up noisy fireworks, but gently expressive works of carefully phrased art.
Find peace in your piece.
Imagine the voice of an Oboe drifting through the rainforest, as the birds fly above your head and the frogs below croak their peace, this is your mission. And as time turns full circle, the river that carried us rages on… give my regards to Gabrielle… and the children… we need to flow upstream now ol’ boy.
But wait they exclaimed… is that really possible?
Give it some welly.