…fortunately it didn’t because that’s a shit title.
Anyway, as I was saying, I almost bought a saxophone. I was wandering along Denmark Street, minding my own business, reeling from the shock of the prices that UK guitarists have to put up with (mentally cross-checking these with prices I know in Singapore, many of which are equally as obscene) when I came to Rhodes Music – once one of the bastions of my guitar shopping experience in London, and now no more. It has recently become www.Sax.co.uk – a dedicated saxophone store.
The troublesome thing about saxophones is that they are very, very shiny. I love shiny new things; I am irresistibly drawn to them – as is my wallet. Upon seeing so many shiny new things in the window a slow thought crossed my mind: “I want to own one of those shiny new things.” Before I knew it, I was in the store in a zombie-like state muttering ‘shyyy-neeeee’ to the sales assistant.
Worse, inside the shiny things store was a rack of Curved Soprano saxophones. Think of a fully working, normal sized (alto) saxophone (instead of a straight Soprano). Then think of one about half the size of it. Regular readers of this blog will know that I have somewhat of a fetish for smaller instruments such as my Lapstick and my KH-JR, so upon seeing this very shiny, very new, very compact (shall we say bijou) sax, the money was virtually scalding my leg through the lining of my pocket.
The fact that I have never touched a sax and had no idea how to play one had nothing to do with things.
…they do say though, that of the wind instruments, the sax is quite easy to begin to learn (though obv a lifetime to master) and the Nice Man soon had me playing a C major scale. He mentioned that a soprano sax is not necessarily the best one to start on since the blowing and embouchure (mouth shape) can get tiresome quicker than a regular alto, but I ignored him, arrogantly thinking I knew best (I just wanted the small-sized one). I found that my thumbs were getting tired more quickly though from holding the thing and applying opposing pressure to the keys. Still, it wasn’t long till I was able to play ‘Frere Jacques’ and I must say I was enjoying it until the Nice Man decided to kick me out of the store since they were closing at 6 (damn England…). Not being able to make the decision to drop 600 Pounds Sterling in the 5 minutes I had before they locked the door, I went off to fantasize about owning the small new shiny thing for the next week or so while I was in France. It was this timing that probably saved me from my impulses ultimately.
My excuse to myself was that owning and learning a saxophone would give me a new view of music (God, I would never buy something simply because it was shiny would I?). The User Interface is obviously completely different. I would not be able to rely on my guitar muscle memory and indeed in my one hour tryout pseudo lesson I was forced to think more about the notes I was playing (C D E F etc.) rather than finger patterns which I think would be useful in itself. This would, I rationalized, help inform my approach to guitar playing more.
One drawback with the sax though, is that there is no way to play the thing quietly; it only has one volume setting, and that’s quite loud. Too loud for my condo and the neighbors; they should be thankful that they won’t be hearing me struggling to transition octaves on the thing.
Upon returning from France, I went back to the store to try it again. I was still fairly passionate about the idea (mainly the shininess) and was convinced that I was going to buy one if I could get a basic grip of all twelve chromatic notes – enough to be self-sufficient till I got a teacher. What transpired though, was that the Nice Man who’d showed me the ropes was having his day off that day and the store was quite busy. I’m sure the assistant who helped me instead was probably quite nice too, but he was run off his feet helping people and dumped me in a practice room and said ‘let me know how it goes’ rather than getting to sit through with me and provide any beginner guidance. I stuffed up the reed insertion, was making some horrid squeaky noises and eventually put myself off the idea within 10 minutes. Goes to show how a good salesperson could have helped me end this account with a transaction having occurred, 500 quid in their favor.
On hindsight though, it’s a good thing I didn’t buy it. Horrible squeaky neighbor irritation aside, I don’t think I would have had the time to get any good on the thing, being a proud devotee of the guitar (and the guitar only) I realized (and knew all along), and it would have spent most of its time shining away proudly in the dark, inside its case. I don’t have another lifetime to spend giving the instrument the attention it would have required to have made the purchase worthwhile, which is a shame, but there you go.
Actually two transactions based on all of this did take place though – firstly, it’s store policy that you have to pay for the sax reed that you use; fair enough – it’s been in my gob. I dropped 2 quid on that. I also ended up buying a $20 recorder at Macaris. Advantages: cheap to acquire, similar fingering/approach to a saxophone, much quieter, portable, spending desire satisfied.
Disadvantages: not shiny.
The sax I almost bought: