writing sax parts

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Howard K, Aug 18, 2003.

  1. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    OK, so I want to write out two simple sax parts, one alto (Eb) and one tenor (Bb) for a Bb blues.
    However, I'm writing it for beginners (including me), so both would definitley find it easier to read from charts in written C Major.

    I'm planning for the tenor to play melody and the alto to play a simple 5th harmony, so that over the tonic the tenor will play within Bb Mixolydian while the alto plays within F dorian... this way the tenor only has to flat one note (the 7th, A) and the alto dosnt have to flat any over the tonic... I think I got that bit right so far?!
    I plan on keeping the parts dead simple so they can just play from the aforementioned scales... not sure if it'll work yet mind?!

    What would be the standard way to notate this?!

    Should it be written entirely in C Major and the player would have to know which notes to flat over which chords, or should I write it in C Major and show the 7th flatted for the tenor as an accidental.. or should it really be notated in the correct key?

    I'm thinking the easiest way would be to notate in C Major with accidebntals for the flatted 7th for the tenor? From the very light jam we had on Sunday that seemed like the best way to get the point accross, butI really dunno?

    The alto player is an absolute beginner, like just getting to grips with, non flat & sharp notes.. the other has limited and (I think) confused theory, but has been playing for a while. So I want to make it as simple as possible just so we can all play something together.

    ta very much like

    PS. Go and listen to my mp3s! Unless I promiosed you a CD - it wont be long?! :rolleyes:
  2. moley


    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    You got me confused, Howard :D

    Ok, so you've got a blues in Bb, and you want to write out two sax parts - one alto and one tenor, correct?

    Well that means that the alto part will be in G, and the tenor part will be in C.

    What I don't get is this bit:

    Tenor and alto are in different keys, they can't both be in C Major... With a concert Bb blues, the tenor will be in C, but the alto will be in G.

    On sax, C and G are both easy keys to play in. Why not just write the alto part in G (i.e. 1 sharp), and the tenor part in C, and then use accidentals for flat 7ths, flat 5ths, and flat 3rds and the like?
  3. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    Yep, confusing isn't it :rolleyes:

    Right, this is my logic:

    If the tenor plays C major from the staff - he plays Bb Major.
    If the alto plays C Major from the staff - she plays Eb Major.
    The only difference between those two scales is Ab in the Eb Major, A being the 7th of Bb Major.
    Now if the tenor flats the 7th he is playing Bb mixloydian - spot on for a Bb blues.
    So the alto player is playing a 5th harmony of the tenor (F dorian)

    That makes sense, doesn't it?! ...damn there isn't a panic smilie...

    The point is that the alto player is so new she is just about reading from the staff, but isnt yet at the staeg where she can read and play ni any key - so she's reading music as if it were all C Major - and Eb is coming out "the wide end" ;)

    The tenor player has been playing a few years, but from stuff he says his theory is more confused than mine!

    So if I go writing alto parts in G she'll have trouble with the one sharp... then will have to play a flat 7th as well for the blues scale. Whereas the tenor player (who is vaguley more advanced) will have the easier ride in C Major with a flatted 7th to give Bb blues.

    I mean I could write out the parts in whatever key I like given a little time - G and C would be easiest for ME, but I'm not sure they'd be able to read it?!

    The way I figured it, I could write both parts out in C Major on the staff, with one added flat for the tenor part and get them both playing from the same scale a 5th apart, in Bb.

    I am write in saying that.. I think?!

    I think what I'm trying to do is get people playing something vaguely intersting together before they're ready to.

    I think I'm going to write a one chord jam in Eb/Cminor instead of a blues - that way the alto can play in C Major and the tenor will still only have to flat his 7th.

    Man this is a head fk!!!
  4. ConU


    Mar 5, 2003
    La Belle Province
    Teach them the parts by ear,i.e:sing/play it to them.
  5. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    Naah, that's far too simple! :D
  6. ConU


    Mar 5, 2003
    La Belle Province
    Simple is,is simple does.;)
    The blues ain't on the page my friend.
  7. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    On which basis it isn't in my, or probably 99% of the people who play the blues, vocabulary either.

    Q, is that comment supposed to be patronising?!

    I'm not trying to get them to play great blues, I'm trying to help them to play anything!
  8. ConU


    Mar 5, 2003
    La Belle Province
    If you and they are having that much of a problem with the page,and from your original post you definitely are,put it aside for further private study.
    Making them find the lines on their horns,is far more beneficial to getting them to play anything(and you'll find more enjoyable)
    It's part of the tradition,it's musical,it's educational and it's fun.

    A. no,but I come across that way sometimes,British on me dad's side ya know.:cool:
  9. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    I think you're getting confused with sarcasm ;)

    OK, so the theory behind what I'm saying is right - I understand how to compose something (simple!) for the two horns, the issue is that I've little experience with notating stuff other than writing down my own ideas and reading simple stuff, in bass clef.

    ...and yes my origional question is indeed confused, but then I've never done this before so I should expect it is!

    The players are not having any problem with it because this is my idea... I was merely trying to predict any possible difficulties in reading the music I write down - I wanted to make it as simple as possible for them.
    I thought I'd come up with something - because I better understand the theory behind what they're doing etc, so we could all play together.

    Also, if I 'sing it to them' they'll only need to write down the notes anyway (in C Major where possible) - the fingerings if you will, so I figured I'd write it down for them!

    I mean if I write it all out, I'll probably need to sing it to them when we put it all together anyhow!

    So, is this something you have experience of personally?
    Have you ever done this? Do you play a horn of some description? Or do you notate for instruments other than bass?

    Do you know the standard way to write horn parts for instruments in different keys?

    Can you help me here?!

    I'm determined to get something down for next time we meet, even if it's the most simple thing in the world - just so we can play together .. damn there isnt a determined smilie either... :D
  10. ConU


    Mar 5, 2003
    La Belle Province
    The standard(professional)way to write for horns is to transpose it to their key.You can write parts in concert,but it does look somewhat amateurish,and you may get a dirty look depĂȘnding on what you're paying the bone player;)The overwhelming majority of pro's I've come across can transpose on the spot though.
    I've done 5part sectional writing for saxophones,I've notated for drums,piano,guitar,bone and trumpet.
    This is an area where most definitely you need to deal with the page.I recommend:

    The Art of Small Combo Jazz Playing Composing and Arranging by Horace Silver.(Hal Leonard Pub.)
    Jazz Arranging and Composing:A linear Approach by Bill Dobbins(Advance Music)
    The Complete Arranger by Sammy Nestico(comes with text and cd)
    Modern Arranging technique by Gordon Delamont
    Jazz Harmony by Andy Jaffe(Advance music)

    and listening...Count Basie Big Band!!listen to the sax sections there!!!!!That's a complete study in itself.Sammy Nestico did alot of those arrangements.

    Study counterpoint,it's invaluable to writing,clear fluid lines.

    Hope this helps mate

  11. moley


    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    Well I play sax, so maybe I can help...

    Basically, for alto, write everything a major 6th higher than you want it to sound. If you want a middle C, write the A above middle C. With tenor, write everything a 9th higher than you want it to sound. If you want middle C, write the D a 9th higher - i.e. the D on the second to top line on the staff.

    And, adjust the key signatures accordingly. So if your tune is in C, for an alto you gotta write it a 6th higher, and use the A major key signature (3 sharps).

    But, if you don't wanna use key sigs because you don't think the players can handle them, then that's up to you.

    It's probably not likely, but you oughtta check you're not writing anything that's out of the range of the sax. The sax has a range of 2 octaves and a minor 6th, from Bb (written as the Bb below the staff) to Gb.

    In concert pitch, that means the alto goes from Db below middle C to the A a 13th above middle C. The tenor goes from the Ab a 10th below middle C to the E a 10th above middle C.
  12. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    OK thanks. I might start on a more generic book to be honest, something that doesnt specifically relate to jazz.

    I think you're right in saying that it'd be easier to 'sing it' to them... but I did want to write it for myself really - an experiment/exercise of sorts

    You have answered my question. But I know that they'll not be able to read in the correct key for their respective instruments, that was what I was trying to get around somehow I guess!

    Thanks for you help :)
  13. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    cheers moley, that helps actually.

    I'm gonna have a go at it and see what happens.

    Undoubtedly, I'll be back, as they say..

    I'm not 100% comlpetely off the mark here am I?

    You do understand where I'm coming from with this don't you?!!

  14. It is possible to have No key signature. There are no sharps or flats at the beginning of the tune, but the song is not necessarily in CMaj/Am.
    You notate every accidental.

    This is used for more bizarre pieces of music, but you can use it here maybe.
  15. moley


    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    Well yes, the alto player is a beginner, and she doesn't really know about key signatures, so you're gonna leave out the key signature and write any black notes as accidentals?
  16. ConU


    Mar 5, 2003
    La Belle Province
    Actually it's very likely,and a very typical beginner's mistake.I know,I made it often:D And even if it's within the range,playing much up or around the the ceiling of the range can sound screechy.
    Thus rather than simply giving the formula for transposing and saying have at it,I suggest some prior,basic,technical study and listening,and in the meantime,get the two saxes just to play your line in octaves,by ear.
    Cart before the horse here I think.
    As a footnote,I would guess if both players are that unfamiliar with key sigs or reading,it a'int gonna matter how you put it on paper.They will not be able to get it off the page,in any shape or form to make it playable inside of an hour or so.
    Do it by ear.IMO(and write it out for yourself)
  17. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    Thanks ConU - that's much more helpful :) Just what the doctor ordered!

    I must admit hadn't thought about writing within the range.
    I'll check out some more of the sax parts from the Mingus book I have at home, that should give me some indication of range by listening to the tracks and reading the score.
    Songs like fables have these repeating phrases, over the 'chorus' for example that I can get a handle on relativley easily. Might try and notate some JB stuff too - I mean the standard sax parts - the bits that arent maceo's solos, tend to be little 'stabs' here and there, maybe that'd be a good place to start as well? Any other suggestions of good simple stuff to start on would be appreciated :)

    This does make sense. This is the approach I will take I think.

    Incedentally I wasnt thinking it would be something that would be easy for them or me - and I weas expecting it to take hours, but it would give these beginners the feeling of playing something together - regardless of how crap it was :D and I really was thinking of stupidly simple parts you know, three notes here, two there sort of thing - really simple variations on a really simple phrase!

    Thanks again. I'll be back...
  18. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002

    a. Melodic material that is added above or below an existing melody.

    b. The technique of combining two or more melodic lines in such a way that they establish a harmonic relationship while retaining their linear individuality.

    c. A composition or piece that incorporates or consists of contrapuntal writing.

    Righteo then! :)