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Rock Improvisation on an Alto Sax

Lewis.S

Member
Messages
117
Hi guys,

I've been faced with the change of playing a rock song on my alto sax! I've been asked by a few friends to do a sax solo in Muse's cover of feeling good. Here's a video of the band I'd be playing with: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aye4yrEcteY
And the song we are playing is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CmwRQqJsegw

I'm improvising on an E minor pentatonic/blues scale, and I find that I sound to jazzy, and their manager has asked me to 'rough it up a bit' and growl -Something I can't do :confused: and many runs, any help/ experiences would be much appreciated,

Lewis :)
 

Clivey

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,061
Muse are an extremely good band but in this instance they are playing a cover version so you are at an advantage as your band and Muse are both doing a version of the original.

If I was you I`d start by listening to as many different versions of the tune as I could. If you can play guitar or keys, then actually learn the song as a basic version as quickly as you can. You should have a feel for it by then.

Re growling/roughing it up. you have a female vocal so when you come in with your solo it might help if you come in on a altissimo/High long note that will help to cut through.Remember all you have to to to rough up the tone is to sing a note as you Play. Start learning that now. You don`t even need the Sax just the mouthpiece.

last Tip. try to listen to "Will you" off the Hazel O Conner Album "Breaking glass".

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=InQxghlWMWM

This is a definative Alto Solo for Brit Style Pop Rock. Good luck
 
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rhysonsax

Well-Known Member
Subscriber
Messages
4,586
The drummer sounds good and you should have lots of fun.

Are you going to be playing a short solo in between sung parts or the whole song ?

If you've got a long time to solo, then start nice and simple and soft - you could stay pretty close to the melody line to begin with and don't get too carried away with lots of notes, screaming high up the range or growling (once you get the hang of that). Jazzy to begin with could be OK (it was a jazz song originally wasn't it ?), and it will have much more impact on the audience once you do start getting a bit rougher and more exciting.

There are lots of karaoke versions of the song around, so you could get one of them (make sure it's in the same key the band will be playing in) and get lots of practice in, finding out what works and what isn't so effective. And the song is on a CD playalong in the Guest Spot series for alto sax, so that should give you a decent backing track (but check the key signature).

Most people can get the hang of growling after a bit of work. Just try notes in the mid range of the instrument to begin with and hum or sing into the instrument while you blow - any pitch of singing should be fine.

Don't be afraid of playing notes that aren't in your E blues scale. You could stay close to that scale to begin with and then throw in a few more unusual note choices further into your solo. Don't worry if you play what sounds like a 'wrong note' - there's no such thing !

And think about the line of your solo - are you going to start low down in the range and work your way up to the top for most impact ? Maybe you could come back down the range after the peak, and could also come down in volume as well. Even in rock songs, dynamics can be effective (try telling that to a gutarist).

Be prepared to try some repetition - so find a phrase that you like and then play it back the same and then the same again, or nearly the same, with just some small variation. Maybe you could even use a phrase that suggests the melody line.

And another idea that often goes down a treat with the audience is to go for a squealing long note that you hold over a few bars. It can wreck your reed, but try resting your teeth on the reed (rather than lips) and the high squeal should be painful - in a good way.

Good luck and let us know how you get on.

Rhys
 

nlancaster

Member
Messages
36
I find playing two of the same notes in a row will help so like c e g c (up oct) b g a a g e g g etc.. sounds less jazzy. Also use a lot of 1 beat notes mixed with quavers rather than just quavers. Staccatos for rock are heavier and shorter than jazz, and are used a little more frequently.
Listening to gordon goodwins phat band playing a few good men, and taking some of the ideas out of the sax solo on that (not lick, but ideas) helped me heaps with rock solos. Trust me, I couldnt play rock unless it was written until about 3 months ago.
Sing to the solo section with the rhythms and melody you want to play in your solo.
Last but not least, the best thing to do is to feel the music. Feel the way it's moving and let you're fingers to the walking and talking. If you can feel it, you can play it.
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
Messages
21,947
Good luck Lewis. Great advice above. I'm sure you'll do well. There's a fairly recent thread somewhere on growling, which includes some input by John Laughter.... I'll try and find it later if someone doesn't beat me to it. There's also a tutorial on Pete's taming the saxophone site.
 

John Laughter

Member
Messages
388
Thanks kevgermany.

Lewis.S, if you will send an email to me JSAXL@aol.com I will reply with a 15 page article on sound effects which may be of some help. In addition to Pete's excellent site here is some info about the "growl";

I have used the “hum” technique to produce the growl since 1956. Both the growl and the “flutter tongue” were very popular techniques used by sax players in Rock & Roll and R&B music which was hitting the airwaves in the late 50s. Those of us who joined the local school band and liked the new music were asking the band director what this new “gritty or raspy” sound was that we were hearing on the Top 40 hits featuring Lee Allen and Grady Gaines on tenor and Earl Bostic on alto. This effect was used before the 50s and is still very popular in many forms of music. The 1985 hit "Rockin' at Midnight" by The Honeydrippers features Keith Evans using a lot of this technique in his tenor solo.

There are other ways to achieve the growl effect from what I have read on the NET over the years but I have only used the method of humming while playing a note to get the growl tone.

I suggest that the best way to learn this technique is to start with the mouthpiece attached to the neck. If you use the entire horn it can be a problem at first due to the coordination involved. Play a note on the neck then start “humming” a note that is higher or lower than the pitch that is coming out of the neck. Some players hum in a falsetto range to get above the note that is produced by the neckpiece. Some players will sing/hum a lower note. For example, when I play a G above the staff on tenor I find that I usually hum the pitch that is close to D below the G. If you hum the same pitch that is coming out of the neckpiece or sax the effect will be cancelled.

At first you may feel that it is taking a lot of air to play and hum at the same time on the neckpiece. This is natural because you will probably open your throat and exhale too much air as a result of your efforts to hum and exhale at the same time. Easier said than done at first! In time you will learn to control the amount of hum and the coordination will become natural. Now put the horn together and see what happens.

Many of us use the growl in the middle and high range, especially from high A above the staff to high F#. I have found that the most effective area for the growl is starting on 2nd space A of the staff and upward. Once you go below 2nd line G it becomes somewhat garbled.

I have read articles that suggest that you hum a 3rd above the note being produced on the horn. However, while on stage during a rockin’ performance I can’t hear the note that I am humming due to the stage volume. I have never thought about the “3rd above” concept so I can’t comment on it however if it works for you that is all that matters. I hum in a range that is usually below the notes being played which works for me.

As you practice this effect ask for more advice from other local sax players and review articles on the internet. This is valuable because there is always more than one way to approach any effect.

Several examples. Cut and paste on YouTube;

LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL—SHIRLEY AND LEE—LEE ALLEN—TENOR

SLIPPIN’ AND SLIDIN’—LITTLE RICHARD—LEE ALLEN—TENOR

KEEP A KNOCKIN’—LITTLE RICHARD—GRADY GAINES—TENOR

SUPER FREAK—RICK JAMES—DANIEL LE’MELLE—TENOR

UNCHAIN MY HEART—JOE COCKER—CLARENCE CLEMONS—TENOR

THE HEAT IS ON—GLEN FREY—DAVID WOODFORD—TENOR

ROCKIN’ AT MIDNIGHT—HONEYDRIPPERS—KEITH EVANS—TENOR

HARDEN MY HEART—QUARTERFLASH—RINDY ROSS—ALTO

FREEWAY OF LOVE—ARETHA FRANKLIN—CLARENCE CLEMONS—TENOR

Other links for the growl;

http://www.petethomas.co.uk/saxophone-growl.html

http://www.bobrk.com/saxfaq/2.7.html

http://www.halleonard.com/item_deta...r=search&type=product&keywords=john+laughter+

http://www.saxophone.us/sax/saxophone_growl.html

http://www.saxophone-players.com/howtoplaythesaxophone-growling.html
 

John Laughter

Member
Messages
388
BigMartin, I will be glad to post it if it is okay with Pete because I do not know how much space 15 pages will take up on this site or if it will cause a storage problem.
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
Messages
21,947
BigMartin, I will be glad to post it if it is okay with Pete because I do not know how much space 15 pages will take up on this site or if it will cause a storage problem.

John, that's a fabulous offer. Thanks!

I'll leave it to Pete, but if he says no, I've some web space we could use and I'll just post a link here.
 

Lewis.S

Member
Messages
117
Muse are an extremely good band but in this instance they are playing a cover version so you are at an advantage as your band and Muse are both doing a version of the original.

If I was you I`d start by listening to as many different versions of the tune as I could. If you can play guitar or keys, then actually learn the song as a basic version as quickly as you can. You should have a feel for it by then.

Re growling/roughing it up. you have a female vocal so when you come in with your solo it might help if you come in on a altissimo/High long note that will help to cut through.Remember all you have to to to rough up the tone is to sing a note as you Play. Start learning that now. You don`t even need the Sax just the mouthpiece.

last Tip. try to listen to "Will you" off the Hazel O Conner Album "Breaking glass".

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=InQxghlWMWM

This is a definative Alto Solo for Brit Style Pop Rock. Good luck

Thanks Clivey! This is pretty useful! I listened to that last song too, it's given me a few ideas :thumb:
Thanks again, Lewis
 

Lewis.S

Member
Messages
117
And another idea that often goes down a treat with the audience is to go for a squealing long note that you hold over a few bars. It can wreck your reed, but try resting your teeth on the reed (rather than lips) and the high squeal should be painful - in a good way.

Good luck and let us know how you get on.

Rhys

Thanks so much for the advice! It's all very helpful, but my favourite part by far had to be the teeth on the reed! It worked so well, and was so easy to do! I even transferred the effect over to the clarinet too, of course, I'm going to get a lot of opportunities to use it, considering the amount of clarinet players there are in rock music! ;}

Thanks a lot,
Lewis
 
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