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Switching instruments?

adimi24adimi24 41 replies23 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 64 Junior Member
edited January 2011 in Music Major
I just kind of got hit with the thought of switching my instrument from alto sax to piano. I used to play piano when i was younger but stopped and now that i became serious about my sax ive been playing a little piano. I love how I can play a complete piece on piano, I love chords and the harmony, I also feel like piano is somewhat easier, at least for me. I just started listening to Debussy and others and it's so beautiful. You're supposed to play the instrument you love right?

I want to major in music education with a jazz emphasis, I am a junior in highschool, I just became very seirous about music recently so I'm already behind on my sax (very worried about not getting in anwhere). Switching to piano would put me even further behind, would have to learning some new things, getting used to bass clef again, etc. I know in college everyone learns piano and i know many musicians who play piano and a second instrument. Should I just play mainly sax and a little piano, how possible is switching? Another thing would be switching in my jazz band and what not, I'd have to wait till next year to play in a group at all and I'd already be a senior and I wouldn't have much experience before college auditions. Sorry I asked so much, i do this every time..
edited January 2011
11 replies
Post edited by adimi24 on
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Replies to: Switching instruments?

  • violindadviolindad 922 replies11 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 933 Member
    Given that you are worried about getting into music on saxophone which is your major instrument, and you are already a junior, a switch to piano would probably make you more worried!

    Piano is very competitive and most students that have reasonable chances of admission to a music program as a pianist have worked on their piano continuously since they started the instrument between the ages of 5 and 8. Saxophone players usually start their instrument about 4 to 6 years later than most pianists and most saxophone music majors really only get serious about their instrument at some point in high school. Your chances of admission on sax are generally better than on piano.

    That was the negative side.

    Now for the positive. The standard of performance for admission to music ed is usually lower than for music performance. In jazz, your ear and ability to improvise is important--if you have already developed a good ear and can improvise intelligently and naturally on saxophone, then you will find a good deal of transfer to jazz piano. However, if you do not play by ear and cannot spontaneously improvise on saxophone, then you face a very steep uphill road on piano.

    Certainly working on both sax and piano is possible and the time invested in piano will be very beneficial if you pursue music ed even with sax as your major instrument: college music theory courses will be much easier if you have mastered piano; score reading skills for conducting courses and for actual conducting come more easily to those that are accustomed to reading more than one staff and more than one clef; depending on what you end up teaching, piano skills can be invaluable to a teacher in demonstrating and accompanying.

    How much are you practicing per day individually on saxophone? If you are doing 2 hours a day or less, that should leave you with plenty of time for piano practice (many serious piano and string students manage to fit in 4 hours or more on top of demanding academics and other interests).

    If you have an incredibly strong love for piano, then you may want to consider a gap year or two in order to bring your skills up to the level they need to be.

    Have you listened extensively to the incredible saxophone repertoire? You love Debussy piano, and a huge amount of the great sax repertoire is also French. Piano music is ubiquitous, but you may have to hunt a bit further to find good recordings of great sax music.
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  • adimi24adimi24 41 replies23 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 64 Junior Member
    I was thinking about a gap year anyone for sax, if i don't get in anywhere next year. The only gap year program I know of is the one at Interlochen.

    And about repetoire, I know very little about saxophone, all I've really been listening to is Glazonuv Concerto which is what i'm working on, and I mainly listen to jazz.
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  • violindadviolindad 922 replies11 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 933 Member
    While Interlochen is very good, it is expensive, so if money is a consideration, you may want to consider the more typical gap year.

    I believe that most people doing gap years prior to entering music, do not enroll in a formal program like Interlochen, but rather take lessons from an excellent teacher that has a proven track record of getting students into the best schools (and in your case, possibly lessons from teachers in both piano and sax). They practice a significant number of hours (usually at least 3 per day on their major instrument, but often 5 or more). As well, they sometimes study music theory to either get credit or at least ease the transition into first year music.

    Ask your sax teacher for suggestions for recordings to listen to; your teacher will probably have a good idea as to what sort of music turns you on.
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  • adimi24adimi24 41 replies23 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 64 Junior Member
    I read about just taking a gap year without a program is bad because you won't be playing in any ensembles, and also I'd be very bored at home with no friends :(

    My sax teacher says to not take piano lessons because i need the time for sax, what do you think of htis?

    Should I just give up on the switching idea
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  • BassDadBassDad 5330 replies51 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 5,381 Senior Member
    Taking a gap year without a program does not have to mean not playing in ensembles. If you cannot find one that will accept you, then you could always think about starting your own. For jazz, it could be just two or three other musicians and, instead of paying for the privilege of being in the ensemble, you might be able to earn some money to pay for your lessons. Boredom should not be an issue if you are practicing, rehearsing and performing as much as you should be in a gap year.

    Having no idea of how well you play piano or sax, it is impossible to say whether your teacher is giving you good advice. Many teachers are concerned that their students will not put in enough practice on their primary instrument if they start working on a secondary instrument. You have to decide for yourself if this may be true in your case. Piano skills at a reasonable level are quite valuable for pretty much any musician, and certainly for those looking to go into music education. On the other hand, if you do get into a good music school, you will almost certainly have 2-4 semesters of piano lessons there.

    I agree with violindad. Piano is extremely competitive. Unless you have been putting in many hours of practice for many years, it will be an uphill battle. Depending on where you are now, even two intense gap years may not get you to the required level. My advice would be to continue with the sax and work on piano if and when you have the time.
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  • adimi24adimi24 41 replies23 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 64 Junior Member
    Ok i guess im sticking with sax. I was just doing some reseasrch about interlochen for maybe senior year and a gap year, and its $46,000!!!! That's more than my parents will spend on college.. Bassdad - I would feel very unsure about that, I'm still considering every option obviously but do you konw of any programs besides Interlochen?
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  • BassDadBassDad 5330 replies51 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 5,381 Senior Member
    I do not know of any organized gap year programs. Pretty much everyone I know who has had one organized it themselves with help from their teacher. Some have played with youth symphonies, some have put together their own groups and some have done without regular ensemble playing. Some have worked part-time jobs to pay for lessons and save for college. All have studied with very good teachers and devoted a lot of time to practice.
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  • adimi24adimi24 41 replies23 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 64 Junior Member
    Yea i think I need a new or a second teacher and also I just ofund the Manhattan school of music precollege program on saturdays, I'm going to look into that.
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  • BassDadBassDad 5330 replies51 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 5,381 Senior Member
    If you mean a second teacher for piano, that would be OK. If you are talking about taking lessons from two sax teachers at the same time, that can cause problems. In that situation, you have to be sure that both teachers know about the other one and that they communicate on a regular basis about what you are doing for each of them. It can work in cases where, for example, one is working with you on classical technique and the other on improvising for jazz, but you have to be careful of being overworked and of using technique with one that is detrimental to the other.
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  • kmccrindlekmccrindle 1637 replies13 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 1,650 Senior Member
    ^Just for the record, $46,000 isn't actually more than your folks may have to spend on college, especially if you apply to out-of-state music conservatories.
    That said, it is not a wise expenditure for a gap year if finances for college are an issue. You may want to keep costs in mind when you are deciding where to apply to, and if you have a good community college with a good music program where you live, that might be a very economical and fruitful style of "gap" year or years, because you could at least transfer OTHER credits (many of your music credits are not likely to transfer, but that's okay if your approach is a "gap year" right?)
    Eg. Our local community college here have a very strong music program. Check out yours!
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  • woodwindswoodwinds 584 replies17 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 601 Member
    If your goal in college is to be a music ed major, it seems to make sense to play MORE than instrument. You can take lessons on each instrument you play, all for less than the cost of one of those programs you wrote about.

    My daughter, a 9th grader, takes lessons on sax and oboe. She was also taking bassoon lessons but has decided to make bassoon a secondary instrument. On sax, she takes lessons from two teachers: a jazz sax/clarinet player, and also from a classical sax player. They are both comfortable with the arrangement.

    My daughter is in a public school, and we try to keep other costs down, so that she can take all these lessons.
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