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Jamming with a Saxophone

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Ace123, Feb 12, 2006.

  1. Ace123


    Sep 25, 2002
    Rochester, NY
    Hey everyone
    Usually when I jam it's with a guitarist, or just a drummer, or even a keyboardist. I've never jammed with a sax player before so i was wondering what I should do? He has a background in jazz, plays funk, and used to be in a blues band. (All things I too play). When i jam with a guitarist, he or I will usually start off a riff or an idea and keep it going. But i'm not sure what to do with the sax player.
    I know I need to give him room to solo, but does he build a melody too or is that my job as well?

    Am i supposed to just start walking a progression? Am I supposed to wait for him to start a melody or what?

    Thanks a lot, any input would be appreciated.
  2. Techmonkey


    Sep 4, 2004
    Wales, UK
    I'm by no means a pro, a good, or even an adult bass player (15). But my best mate happens to have a diploma in alto sax with the ABRSM - that's well over grade 8. We constantly have jams, and we both like everything from funk to pop. (Naturally ska is our favourite genres though)

    He's way better technically than I am, so usually I just lay down a groove in a key that he likes (I usually ask him before we play) Because we mainly jam with his tenor rather than alto usually we play in (my) key of C.

    He likes me to play in the same key for a good while when we first start a groove so that he knows what I'm trying to achieve, and then when I feel like it I stick in changes that I think he'll be able to pick up on, and we just go on like that.
  3. My band has a lead alto sax player, and I think that you shouldn't really have to worry about what to do. As long as you guys arn't muddying up the jam, if he's good he'll know right where he should be in terms of under or over playing.
  4. Jazzin'

    Jazzin' ...Bluesin' and Funkin'

    My band also has a lead alto player. Just let him do what he does. Back him up.
  5. Sonorous


    Oct 1, 2003
    Denton, TX
    Play what sounds good.
  6. Vorago

    Vorago (((o)))

    Jul 17, 2003
    Antwerp, Belgium
    Ask in what key he wants to play, and make sure you're both familiar with the fact that your C isn't the same as his C ;)
  7. d8g3jdh

    d8g3jdh Guest

    Aug 9, 2005
    i had a bit of experience with sax, and in a sax+bass relationship i would say you should support. Definetely.
  8. Ace123


    Sep 25, 2002
    Rochester, NY
    Thanks for the suggestions so far. We're going to jam soon and hopefully start something with a guitar player he knows. If you have any more tips, they'd be appreciated!
  9. seanm

    seanm I'd kill for a Nobel Peace Prize! Supporting Member

    Feb 19, 2004
    Ottawa, Canada
    I'm surprised at all the alto saxes you guys play with. Very :cool:

    Don't worry about the key. In my experience, when a sax player says a key, it is concert pitch. Since bass is a concert pitch instrument, you don't have to transpose.

    The sax as a solo instrument is much like the guitar, except they will have pauses to breath. Saxes, much like vocalists, tend to play in "phrases". This is a natural outcome of needing to breath. Yes there are all sorts of breathing tricks, but this ability to phrase rather than just wank on for hours is what I feel seperates good soloists from, well, wankers. And I include good guitar soloists here too.

    I would start with a steady continuous groove until you both get comfortable and sync up. It can sound wrong if the sax pauses for a breath and you stop too unless it makes sense to have a full stop. It is actually harder to describe then to do since all good music breaks the rules in some way ;)

    And most of all, have fun :bassist:
  10. I played in a band with a horn section.

    It's really no different except you wont be playing in unison to a guitar line. Your bass line should be a little more independent sounding than just playing the root notes in a guitar progression. This is where you can use some of those scales and arpeggios you learned. If you come up with a chord progression try some scale notes to approach the next chord. Passing tones as well. If he has a good ear he will be able to follow you better if he can tell what the next chord is going to be.

    If you are into the blues you can jam on that for a while. Stick with the 12 bar patters. Shuffle, swing, try to mix it up a bit. you might want to make sure you are hip in the key of B-flat. B-flat to a tenor sax is like playing in E to us. Also look up a Jazz-blues progression. It's not all that much different but does have an alternate turnaround.

    Good luck, I know I would rather play with a sax than listen to a guitar wanking all night long. :D
  11. jrduer


    Jun 27, 2005
    Georgetown, TX
    Strangle him, run over his sax with your car, and go find a good piano player.:D

    But seriously: the sax players I've had the (mis)fortune to play with have all had some improvisational skills, and one had even had lessons, and knew some theory. If you can agree on a key, so much the better: ditto for agreeing on a chord progression.

    After that, you're on your own!

  12. ZanVooden


    Nov 27, 2005
    Peoria, IL
    Well, i am both a sax player and a bass player and i've done both in a Jazz bands, Blues band and rock bands.
    Being a sax player, you usaually listen back to the bass. If you any type of cord prgression, you pretty much just listen for the cord change. a good player will follow the different cords in each measure, and you use that to help with phrasing and all that.
    As a bassist it seem (when i play) its easiest to agree on a progression follow that, and keep a riff or bass line going throughout. obviously that can get a little boring so sometimes you can have the sax player simply play the same type of riff or line you played and you can dig in a little and take your time to shine.

    really its shouldnt be too difficult, mainly just agree on a key and cord progression you should be set.


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