West African Music Study and the Patience to Teach and Learn

At rehearsal with master musicians Abou Sylla, Ibrahim Aminou (talking drum), and Alseny Sylla (djembe) practicing Sörsörne for the 9th Annual Children in Nature Workshop at the George Washington Carver Museum in Austin, TX. Filmed by Deborah Peyton.

I’ve been playing and learning from Abou Sylla for over five years now and I’m always impressed with the patience taken to distill West African music for Western students. Lots of West African music is approximated in European notation as being in 6/8 which divides beats into multiples of three. On the other hand, the common 4/4  time signature that divides beats into multiples of two encompasses most mainstream American music. So due to lack of exposure to rhythmically complex music, Western ears are slower to pick up the complexities of 6/8 rhythm. I’ve had many lessons taking hours to learn a passage that would come second nature to those who grew up hearing these “polyrhythms” all their lives.

Clean Your Reeds and Mouthpiece Regularly Unless you Want to Turn Your Mouth into a Petri Dish

Remember to keep it clean, Saxy one. Soak your mouthpiece and reeds in hydrogen peroxide every now and then to get rid of excess bacteria and fungi. You don’t want those germs and mold setting up shop in your mouth and lungs causing some kind of random disease, do you? Besides, your kissing partner will enjoy not having sharing your horn germs after your blow all those solos.

How, you say? I thought you’d never ask. Simply fill a small cup with hydrogen peroxide and submerge your reed or rubber mouthpiece. Soak reeds for five to fifteen minutes and mouthpieces for around two hours. No Peroxide in the house? Thats OK because vinegar works equally well. Fair warning – the acid might give your hard rubber mouthpiece a greenish hue and your reeds a not so pleasant taste. Be sure to thoroughly rinse with water after all that soaking!

Got a metal mouthpiece? No problem! Just rinse with a little soap and warm water. Peroxide and vinegar work here too, but you might want to do a test to make sure neither chemical tarnishes your mouthpiece finish. However, if you are a fan of rusty patinas, go for it.


Tender is an short film created by Katrina Simpson that takes an introspective look at contemporary romance in online dating culture.


Director: Katrina Simpson
Actors: Jana Shaw, Owen Towles
Musicians: Kiko Villamizar (vocalist), Harold McMillan (electric bass guitar), Raymond Johnson (tenor saxophone), Felipe Borerro (trumpet), Allysa Grace (piano)
Composition: My Funny Valentine, Richard Rogers and Lorenz Hart

Thought Monitor 9.3 – Now With InstaStream

The new version of ThoughtMonitor is finally here. Say hello to version 9.3 complete with song recognition and auto playlists. Now you can support the artists you love with ThoughtPlay. Queue up a song with just a thought and ThoughtPlay will stream it directly to your cerebellum. Enjoy your favorite music the way it was meant to be heard. 

Continue reading Thought Monitor 9.3 – Now With InstaStream