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Advice on joining a band

Mack

Senior Member
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518
I am meeting some people who are starting a band who may want a sax player. Their style will be drawn from jazz, blues, ska, punk and balkan - narrow range of influences then!

I have been playing for about 3 years and am OK - mainly jazz/blues improv, and I join in the jam session at the local jazz club occasionally. However I have not had the discipline of playing within the confines of a song played by a rock band before - help! It should be simple but it seems to me that a sax player in this situation has to tread a fine line. Constant jazz soloing would be awful - but only occasional "low note emphasis" would be not pulling your weight! Not that many bands have a full time sax player - possibly for this reason. How do you justify being in the band without everyone getting bored of sax?

I suppose what I am asking is - what role should the sax player have in a band, and what should I be practicing to make myself useful? Tried playing along with some CDs and sounded awful - like an unwelcome drunk extra musician.
 

ArtyLady

Well-Known Member
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1,030
Hi, I play with a couple of different rock/pop covers bands and the first thing I do is look for any songs with sax, have a good listen and then work out what is being played. Something like Baker St is straightforward as it has a saxophone part but unless they are a tribute band you don't have to play note for note - just ensure it's recognisable - same with Brown Sugar and Lets stick together etc.

Generally with blues based rock I just follow the same rules as I do with Blues, which is play infills after vocal phrases avoiding playing over the vocalist (unless is just a bit of subtle harmonising here and there), and then just solo pretty much in blues scale/minor or major Pentatonic etc - whatever works. I tend to avoid solos that are too jazzy unless I'm playing Steely Dan or Zappa (I should be so lucky!!) in which case you can really go to town! :welldone

In an out an out grungy rock song I'll harmonise along and just emulate a guitar solo for the solo! if you can get some call and response going with the lead guitarist that always goes down well too. I do tend to sit out certain numbers eg Alright Now and Whole Lotta Love as it just don't feel right putting sax over them :shocked: Reggae and ska are pretty simple to do just harmonise along in a reggae/ska rhythm.

Regarding sax players role in a band and people getting bored - I seem to be getting more and more work with bands - the audience always comment how much they like hearing a sax and what a change it makes rather than just guitars - they love it! Enjoy! :thumb:
 
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Wade Cornell

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Most Pop type bands don't want or need a jazz sax soloist, but will put up with the occasional solo (one in five songs?). They want a fat backing sound. You can compliment, do lead-ins, turnarounds, basic backing, but will have a very short tenure if stepping on the lead singer, or lead guitarist. They (generally) have enormous egos with no room for anyone else. If you give them tasty fills they might suggest you take a solo (occasionally).

Listen to tracks out of 1960s R&R that used lots of sax behind the main instruments, and tracks from contemporary Jamaican and African bands who (sometimes) use sax in the mix.

Get the essence of the chords, rhythm, and melody and play VERY SPARINGLY. Be tasty without washing over anyone or anything else by finding those spaces that need filling or accenting.
 

Mack

Senior Member
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518
OK - bearing in mind that as soon as I picked up the sax I started listening to/playing nothing but Jazz (having had a background as a drummer and listening to Metallica, moderating to rocksteady and ska with age) I don't even know what a turnaround is - and what 60's R&B you recommend? Specifics! Possible audition next Friday and panic setting in! I thought jazz was the great musical discipline (and I still think it is) but my God if you don't get it right in R&B/rock/pop/whatever straightaway, in the 4 bars allotted to you, it really shows!
 

Wade Cornell

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A turnaround is a short phrase usually at the end of section (as in ABA form has three sections) that leads you into the next section or back to the beginning. Drummers, Bass players, and backing instruments often play these rather than the lead singer or instrumentalist. It smoothes out key changes or more often anticipates what's about to come. If you were a drummer I'm sure you played these (but didn't know the name for it?).

Examples of sax back up in the sixties are pretty easy to find. African "high Life" uses saxes, but this may not relate as directly as Ska/Regge that you mentioned. Here's a Bob Marley cut that has a sax that does backing (sparse) fills like I was referring to in the previous post.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W0Ic2DYvB5Y
I've never heard a punk band that had saxes (although maybe there are some?).
Balkan Music is a world of its own and actually has a very distinctive sax and/or clarinet/taragato sound/style. It's often played at breakneck speed and uses a lot of 7/4 rhythms. Here's a cool clip but the typical Balkan bit is only the first minute:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=QsLtqcnz8Hk#!
Here's another with a sax solo:
http://www.myspace.com/music/player?sid=15993207&ac=now

Go explore and find the sorts of influences you'd like to emulate.
 

jeremyjuicewah

Well-Known Member
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1,890
I think this is an interesting thread. I found it hard to fit into what the band wanted and in the end decided it was so boring I left. Next time I am going to play what I like when I like, being reasonably considerate of the other band members, and stuff it if they dont like it. Its no fun jigging about with 7 kilos of brass hanging off your neck, trying to enjoy yourself while waiting for the inevitable, predictable blinking solo.
Good luck
Mike
 

Fraser Jarvis

Well-Known Member
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1,910
OK - Possible audition next Friday and panic setting in!
OK, First thing to do is not to panic, this will ruin it for you and spoil your enjoyment, then you wont want to go back!
If the band already have a set list you really need to get them to send some tracks over via e-mail for you to practice (best to use drop box for this), then are you the only brass player? in which case you will need to work out your parts, or parts that sound good to you, things like replying to a statement made by the singer, soloing, or just a bit of skanking here and there.
On the other hand if you are joining to compliment an already established brass section, things can be much easier, again get the tracks from them and copy the brass lines...as simple as that really.
The one thing that got me with being the only brass player are the periods of inactivity and just being the only one, well just doing nothing while the rest of the guys are playing like mad, just keep moving about and you should be fine!
 

Taz

Busking Oracle
Messages
3,661
The biggest thing you have to achieve is the ability to listen. Really get to hear what every other musician is doing and then "add" to the overall sound.

As has been said already harmonies and subtle infills are great and when it comes to solo time get some screaming note bending going on! There's nothing wrong with a one note solo either, as long as you can hold it for an impressive amount of time.

As for what tunes, try taking the guitar solo in Sweet child of mine (if the guitarist will let you or as Art Lady suggested do it question and answer style)

Weren't the Boomtown Rats supposedly a punk band? Nowt wrong with them .There's some fantastic sax in "Rat trap"

When you start looking around the blues artists, you can't go far wrong if you look at the guitar solos in bands like Firewood Mac, Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughn and don't forget the sax gods that are Big J Macneely (sp) Clarence Commons and some of the early Rock 'n' Rollers too like Lee Alan.

The important part when playing with any band is to look convincing. Look like you know what your doing and look like your having fun.

Most punters walk into a gig, see a sax player and love what your doing before they've even heard you.

Have fun!
 

Nick Wyver

noisy
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5,949
I've never heard a punk band that had saxes (although maybe there are some?).
X-Ray Spex.

I play in a couple of bands where I'm the only horn player so I can pretty much do what I like. If the stuff is blues based the fills, riffs and solos approach keeps me occupied. Ska is obvious. The ones I have most trouble with are the Brit poppy songs. It's not helped by the fact that I can't stand them (esp. anything by P. Weller) but I struggle to find anything sensible to play. Sometimes there's a second guitar part that I can copy but tbh in most cases I'd rather go to the bar.
 

ArtyLady

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,030
As has been mentioned there can be times of not playing and for this reason I've actually turned down being in horn sections. As predominantly a jazzer (who never gets to actually play an jazz apart from at home :() I like to be a free spirit and busk along doing my own thing - that way I can have a rest when I want ;} It seems to work quite well and no one has ever complained :w00t:

I think the key is as Taz says, try to really listen to the band and slot in as naturally as possible. Also I've learned you're best off keeping solos really simple - blues or pentatonic scales, add excitement with a couple of screaming high notes. If playing funk you can use your jazzier lines but also just as effective is sticking on a couple of notes making sure you go for it with a strong rhythmic feel. Have a listen to some Maceo Parker he often does this.

I play in one band which has 3 guitarists and I still end up getting the second guitar part in the classic Hotel California solo - they want it done on the sax! (I usually manage to stuff it up though - too much pressure ;} ) I also play the lead up part to the solo - works really well and fits under the fingers really easily too. :thumb:
 

dooce

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,418
A few tarnished nuggets of wisdom from my experience;

With ska, less is more and a single note nailed on the beat every fourth bar is far more effective than a flashy run played every other bar.

It can be very tempting to play a vocal harmony line, especially in choruses, but don't - you will just blur our the lead singer.

However if you have a solo singer and no bv's, you can substitute for the bv's in choruses - e.g. Chain of Fools where I have played an echo of the vocals in lieu of the girlie chorus.

If you are faced with a track with no sax in the original, listen to the backings of original songs - you will often hear a synth or chorus droning away in the background to fill out the sound. Try emulating that, but use a lot of dynamics to reflect what's happening in the song - good long note practice as well.

Most importantly, if you can't think of anything to play, then don't. Invest in a tambourine or a pair of claves, or learn to sing bv's to get you through to the next song without looking like spare part on stage. It'll also make you look like the only multi-instrumentalist on stage with any luck :)
 
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trimmy

One day i will...
Messages
10,272
The ones I have most trouble with are the Brit poppy songs. It's not helped by the fact that I can't stand them (esp. anything by P. Weller) but I struggle to find anything sensible to play.
Just for you Nick.... ;}

I did actually like the Style Council :blush:

He used a complete orchestra for this song... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1B88VUROxFg

You have no excuse for not using Weller songs now !!! lol
 
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thomsax

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,797
Lot's of good advices.

Try to get a songlist. If it's possible try to get som advices from a saxplayer that is playing in a simularband. A pro or semi-pro. Andrew Clark's masterclasses (Saxophone Journal) are great for the aspirant Rocksaxplayer: "Five Common Styles In Rock(sax)"(ballad, blues, soul,funk reggae) "Tips and Techniques For Two Horns (Andrew Clark & Sax Gordon)+"When The Other Horn Doesen't Show Up"(Clark), "Advanced Concepts In Rock Saxophone" vol 1, "Advanced Concepts For Rock Saxophone" vol 2.

Thomas
 

Mack

Senior Member
Messages
518
I could count the Style Council songs I like on the fingers of one hand - if you cut off two of my fingers. I think the same guy who did the solo on "Have you ever..." also did this one on "You're the best thing.." I think his name is Billy Chapman. Solo at 1:40 if you don't want to endure the whole song! I like his tone. Don't know what else he has done - anyone? New thread required maybe.

 
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Merryfisher

Member
Messages
265
Most Pop type bands don't want or need a jazz sax soloist, but will put up with the occasional solo (one in five songs?). They want a fat backing sound. You can compliment, do lead-ins, turnarounds, basic backing, but will have a very short tenure if stepping on the lead singer, or lead guitarist. They (generally) have enormous egos with no room for anyone else. If you give them tasty fills they might suggest you take a solo (occasionally).
Get the sheet music out - the little black dots invariably confuse the hell out of most guitarist, especially those with oversized egos, and you'll be amazed at how quickly they fall silent!
 
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