Just starting to get on friendly terms with my EWI (it’s a 4000s for you gearheads) and I just wanted to share some of my thoughts on practicing this instrument.
When I got it I had too little time to really dig into it, but past weeks I’ve been having and taking the time needed to get into this. Partly because I’ve been traveling without any other horn, and partly because I’ve broken my wrist and it is way easier to play ewi than an 50s Buescher tenor with a broken wrist. But most of all, I’ve always loved synthesizers (my dad’s being a great keyboard and synth player and lover) and I found the right motivation and inspiration from instagram and his birthday coming up.
1. Setting up the EWI
Once you’ve got your instrument you’ll probably want to play around with it and get some feeling for the instrument, I’ve got stuck in this stage for almost a year but maybe you’re quicker?
After that you should download the Vyzex editor (if you’re on Mac) and make sure you’re instrument runs on the latest software update. Mine was a demo instrument before I got it and doing this resolved a bunch of malfunctioning. There is a manual and although it is boring and time consuming it is a very good idea going through ALL of it and make sure your fingering ect. is what you want it to be. As a sax player I chose sax fingerings, but oboe, flute, and others are available too! But I frequently go through the manual again to fine tune the instrument to work as good as possible for me.
This is probably the most important step!
2. Choosing a sound
Although the EWI has a lot of built in sounds, I found most of them dull and boring so I’m sticking to one of the presets for practicing with earphones but connect it to a desktop synth with lots of patches in it to get a fatter sound. I find that using both of the sounds together is the way to go for me. But as my dad remarked it is important to find your synth sound and when listening to great synth players like Zawinul, Zawinul or maybe Zawinul you realize that he has a very distinctive synth sound that he uses all the time. Although there is variations, it has the same expression from the musicians standpoint. So I spent some time finding a sound I am happy with.
Also, as a saxophone player that suddenly is using AMPS at gigs to be heard at all, it is wise to start practicing and rehearsing with amps and find out that there is a jungle of amps and sounds out there. It is a strange notion not necessarily having your sound close to you as with a saxophone. And don’t do the mistake of placing your amp at the floor and turn up the volume until you hear good enough. Angle the amp towards your ears or put it on a chair so that you get most of the sound. Or else you’re gonna start a volume war with your band mates.
You’ll hopefully see which one to go for in the picture below.
3. Practicing the ewi
It is basically just like practicing any instrument, and in particular the saxophone. I’ve been doing my regular scale exercises, my flute fingering exercises and mostly, playing slow transcriptions that I did in the past just to refresh my technique for the EWI. One of my favorites is the one below, I’ve been searching for the origin with no success, but I belive it beeing a flute exercise.
The hardest part have been the thumb, it is still hard, my broken wrist makes it harder to move my thumb, but as all EWI players know going between octaves can be a real hassle. But from Björn Arkö which is a big inspiration for EWI I learned that you should initiate the switch before it actually happens by starting to move the thumb, kind of like playing piano. This seems to work fine although there is still lots of work to do. As always when dealing with music, thankfully 😉
Feel free to ask anything or leave a comment if you feel like I can help with your EWI.