All profit supporting special needs music education and Help Musicians
Tutorials

theoretical question

Koen88

Sax Drinker / Beer player
Messages
426
Hi everybody,

In my coverband, the keyboard guy has made most of the arranging. ( I wasn`t a member then..) and now I see a lot of non practical or illogical tings for alto saxophone (and trombone..).

one of the songs we play has 6 sharps (in Eb = 3 in C) so that makes it E-maj. I believe. But 6 sharps is one way to insure wrong notes in fast passages, and the trombonist has 2 sharps then and trombonists HATE sharps!.

I'm missing some theory here, somehow you can write those 6 (or 3 sharps) in an other key with flats.

i know this is possible but I cant remember how or how many flats etc.

Hope you can help!!
 

rhysonsax

Well-Known Member
Messages
4,365
I also play sax in a covers band and have had to get used to playing in the keys with many sharps. Now I find them generally easier than the flat keys.

Guitarists love to play (and write) songs in keys that are 'easy' on the guitar, such as Concert E major (4 sharps) and Concert A major (3 sharps). For alto sax that means playing in F# major (6 sharps) and C# major (7 sharps) respectively. C# major can be rewritten as Db major (5 flats).

At first I found this very difficult indeed, especially trying to read from sheet music. But the more I have done it, the easier it has got. You start to recognise the same phrases and the notes in the scales that are often used (e.g. major and minor pentatonics, blues scales).

In answer to your question, you wouldn't want to rewrite music in keys with flats. 3 sharps (A major) would have 9 flats, although 6 sharps (F# major) can be written with 6 flats (Gb major).

Rhys
 

Koen88

Sax Drinker / Beer player
Messages
426
I also play sax in a covers band and have had to get used to playing in the keys with many sharps. Now I find them generally easier than the flat keys.

Guitarists love to play (and write) songs in keys that are 'easy' on the guitar, such as Concert E major (4 sharps) and Concert A major (3 sharps). For alto sax that means playing in F# major (6 sharps) and C# major (7 sharps) respectively. C# major can be rewritten as Db major (5 flats).

At first I found this very difficult indeed, especially trying to read from sheet music. But the more I have done it, the easier it has got. You start to recognise the same phrases and the notes in the scales that are often used (e.g. major and minor pentatonics, blues scales).

In answer to your question, you wouldn't want to rewrite music in keys with flats. 3 sharps (A major) would have 9 flats, although 6 sharps (F# major) can be written with 6 flats (Gb major).

Rhys
ok then I'll just have to practice that side bes key. but 9 flats is a tad much dont you think?
 

Tenor Viol

Full of frets in North Shropshire
Subscriber
Messages
5,943
I think what you're getting at is that some keys have enharmonic equivalents, so the key of A# for example is enharmonically the equivalent of Bb (which is rather easier to read!).

If at concert pitch, you are dealing with 3 sharps, then concert key is either A major or F# minor, for an Eb transposing instrument we need to add 3#s to the key signature. So 6#s gives us either F# major, which has an enharmonic equivalent called Gb major or D# minor which has an enharmonic equivalent of Eb minor (both have 6 flats).

Hopefully I go that right:confused:
 

jbtsax

Well-Known Member
Subscriber
Messages
8,000
I find the keys of F# (major) 6#'s and C# (major) to be especially easy to read. In the key of F# everything is sharp except B, and in the key of C# everything is sharp. You just think in terms of what isn't sharp instead of what is. It helps if you have the scales and arpeggios in each key under your fingers. I like to use the "fork" f# when playing in both these keys. I too grew up playing alto in guitar bands and find the sharp keys very easy. I even like the sound of these keys.

There is no hope for the trombone player I'm afraid unless he pulls his tuning slide out far enough to put the instrument in the key of A, takes away 5 sharps and reads up a step. :):):)
 

Tenor Viol

Full of frets in North Shropshire
Subscriber
Messages
5,943
I find the keys of F# (major) 6#'s and C# (major) to be especially easy to read. In the key of F# everything is sharp except B, and in the key of C# everything is sharp. You just think in terms of what isn't sharp instead of what is. It helps if you have the scales and arpeggios in each key under your fingers. I like to use the "fork" f# when playing in both these keys. I too grew up playing alto in guitar bands and find the sharp keys very easy. I even like the sound of these keys.

There is no hope for the trombone player I'm afraid unless he pulls his tuning slide out far enough to put the instrument in the key of A, takes away 5 sharps and reads up a step. :):):)
Ouch!
 

Koen88

Sax Drinker / Beer player
Messages
426
I find the keys of F# (major) 6#'s and C# (major) to be especially easy to read. In the key of F# everything is sharp except B, and in the key of C# everything is sharp. You just think in terms of what isn't sharp instead of what is. It helps if you have the scales and arpeggios in each key under your fingers. I like to use the "fork" f# when playing in both these keys. I too grew up playing alto in guitar bands and find the sharp keys very easy. I even like the sound of these keys.

There is no hope for the trombone player I'm afraid unless he pulls his tuning slide out far enough to put the instrument in the key of A, takes away 5 sharps and reads up a step. :):):)
hmm I havent looked at it that way, but the only thing whats giving me problems is the A#, I cant get it fast enough sometimes.. I'm not having any problems with reading the sharps, but the side Bb(A#) key or "normal" key isn`t arent the most practical keys.
 

Sweet Dreamer

Senior Member
Messages
505
I'm missing some theory here, somehow you can write those 6 (or 3 sharps) in an other key with flats.

i know this is possible but I cant remember how or how many flats etc.

Hope you can help!!
What you are talking about are "enharmonic" keys. These are keys that sound the same but can be written in two different ways on paper (i.e. as a sharp key or a flat key).

However, although this will change the appearance of the sheet music on paper, it won't change the actual notes that you need to play on the instrument.

For example instead of playing an A# you'll have to play a Bb. But on the instrument that's exactly the same note and fingering. It just has two different names.

So transposing the music into an enharmonic key on paper isn't going to change how you play it on the instrument at all.

It's only going to change the way it appears on the sheet music paper.

So transposing into an enharmonic key isn't going to help unless you simply prefer reading flats instead of sharps. But it will be precisely the same fingering on the instrument.
 

Koen88

Sax Drinker / Beer player
Messages
426
What you are talking about are "enharmonic" keys. These are keys that sound the same but can be written in two different ways on paper (i.e. as a sharp key or a flat key).

However, although this will change the appearance of the sheet music on paper, it won't change the actual notes that you need to play on the instrument.

For example instead of playing an A# you'll have to play a Bb. But on the instrument that's exactly the same note and fingering. It just has two different names.

So transposing the music into an enharmonic key on paper isn't going to change how you play it on the instrument at all.

It's only going to change the way it appears on the sheet music paper.

So transposing into an enharmonic key isn't going to help unless you simply prefer reading flats instead of sharps. But it will be precisely the same fingering on the instrument.
true but say this gave the result of 3 flats that`s much easier to read than 6 sharps.. But I think I'm getting it now, if I want to write it differently an F# will be played as an Gb this means that I need at least 6 flats at the key, or appear as an accidental. Not so practical indeed.

But this will be interesting for the trombone player. C instrumentalists have the tendancy to have a strong prefer to flats.
 

Sweet Dreamer

Senior Member
Messages
505
true but say this gave the result of 3 flats that`s much easier to read than 6 sharps.. But I think I'm getting it now, if I want to write it differently an F# will be played as an Gb this means that I need at least 6 flats at the key, or appear as an accidental. Not so practical indeed.

But this will be interesting for the trombone player. C instrumentalists have the tendancy to have a strong prefer to flats.
Here's what you're looking at in terms of written score:



You could rewrite the Alto Sax from C# major into Db Major. Then you'd only be working with 5 flats instead of 7 sharps. But it would also move all your notes up by a space or line (i.e. you'd be going up from C# to Db). It doesn't change in terms of actual sounds but it moves all the notes up on the staff.

The trombone player wouldn't gain much, the trombone goes from 6 sharps to 6 flats, and again moves up a line from F# to Gb.

(I hope I did all this right. If I screwed up someone will hopefully point out my errors)

~~~~

In any case, you best bet is to forget about trying to "read" the sharps or flats from the key signature. Just practice the scale that you're playing and think of the sharps as the normal way to play those particular notes. Then you only need to read any accidentals or naturals. That's the whole idea behind the key signature system.

It removes all those sharps from the music. You just play them automatically because you've supposedly practiced the C# scale and are thinking in terms of that landscape on your instruments.

Forget about the sheet music for a while and just practice playing the C# scale until you feel "at home" with it as a normal scale. Then don't think in terms of sharps at all. When you see a C-note on the staff you just automatically play it sharp because you're thinking in terms of the C# scale on your instrument. This should be true of every note in the scale. You're no longer thinking in terms of sharps or flats, you're just playing the scale.

You just need to practice the C# scale until you "feel it" as the scale you are playing in. When you can do that without even thinking at all, then you're home free. ;}

The key signature become unimportant at that time, and you just play the scale naturally. The only thing you need to worry about then are any accidentals or naturals in the actual music.
 

jbtsax

Well-Known Member
Subscriber
Messages
8,000
hmm I havent looked at it that way, but the only thing whats giving me problems is the A#, I cant get it fast enough sometimes.. I'm not having any problems with reading the sharps, but the side Bb(A#) key or "normal" key isn`t arent the most practical keys.
I understand what you are saying. Both keys you referred to commonly have G# going to A#. This would be easier if you could just use the Bis key for A#, but because that note is often followed by a B or B# (C) that makes the side Bb the more logical choice.

I would recommend practicing G# to A# back and forth as a trill using the side A# (Bb) starting slowly and gradually gaining speed. When that is comfortable, add a third note to the sequence such as:

||: G#-A#-B-A# :|| and ||: G#-A#-C-A# :|| Exercises such as these will help build the finger dexterity to navigate in those pesky sharp keys. There are really no fingerings on the saxophone that are especially difficult. They are just "unfamiliar".
 

Sweet Dreamer

Senior Member
Messages
505
There are really no fingerings on the saxophone that are especially difficult. They are just "unfamiliar".
I don't know if I'd go that far. I have trouble running some of the left-hand pinky stuff smoothly. I can play all of the notes using the left-hand pinky like Bb, B, C#, etc. No problem concerning individual notes played slowly, but moving back and forth between those low notes smoothly can be quite difficult (if not impossible), at least without years of practice. The most difficult "note change" I've encountered thus far has been going from C# to B, and vice versa really smoothly. You could put your little finger in the hospital trying to improvise quickly in that area. That has to be the worse terrain on the entire instrument. Unless there's something worse in the extreme high registers that I haven't discovered yet.

I discovered this nasty movement when practicing the B major and B minor scales. Both of which require moving between B and C# in both directions up and down the scale. Going down is the worse for me. Going from B to C# is helped by the simple fact that the little finger is being pulled over the rollers, but going from C# to B can be a real nightmare. I mean to try to do that quickly and smoothly. You'd almost need to cheat on the melody to accommodate that movement I would think. Just purposefully working in phrasing that will give you just enough time to make note change.

There could be worse areas, but that's the most difficult area for me thus far.
 

jbtsax

Well-Known Member
Subscriber
Messages
8,000
What make and model of saxophone are you playing? There are some adjustments that can be made to the L.H. table that make "rolling" back and forth between the B and C# less cumbersome. It has to do with the relative heights and angles of the touchpieces.

Of course if you have an "Apogee" system like my vintage Buffet soprano pictured below, you have the option of alternating between the L.H. pinky and the middle finger of the right hand (kind of like the clarinet).

 

Sweet Dreamer

Senior Member
Messages
505
What make and model of saxophone are you playing?
I'm playing a make-believe toy saxophone made in China. I keep forgetting that.

It's actually not bad for the price. But there are no adjustments on it save for whatever levers can be bent. Everything lines up pretty well on it. The first thing that comes to my mind is that if the springs that hold the valves opened or closed were a little lighter it could be easier to run. It seems to take quite a bit of pressure on these keys to run these valves. That could potentially be due to it being a cheap horn.

Here's a picture of the keys in question on my alto. You can see that these keys are a bit "Squarish". It seems to me that they could have been designed with a more "Rounded" feel to them.





In the following picture you can also see just how flat they are. Again, it seems to me that if they had some curvature to them it might be better:





In the following view, you can also see how they sit high away from the tube of the horn. It seems to me that they could have been moved a bit closer to the tube, or titled back that way a bit more than they are.





Finally, in the Top View A below I use a red line to show the current flat angel of these keys. That angle might be better titled back a bit more toward the musician. Or maybe even the whole assembly could have been curved a bit as in Top view B. I'm just guessing that this would be an improvement, but it seems to me that something could have been done a little better with these particular keys.





I just wonder if this is due to it being a cheap "Made in China" sax, or is this the standard design for even expensive saxes?
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
Messages
21,947
You need the clearance between the keys and the tube to get the angles right and to give you space to get a spring hook on the springs. You can bend the springs to give less tension, but be careful, as they can break. On keys that are held closed by the springs, slackening off the springs can lead to leaks if the pads aren't well seated. If you're careful you can bend the LH palm keys to get the curve you want.

On older horn designs, there are/were no adjusting screws, it was all done by adjusting the thicknesses of the corks, and in some cases felts.

Get Stephen Howard's Haynes saxophone manual before starting to tweak....
 

Sweet Dreamer

Senior Member
Messages
505
Thanks for the tips Kev.

Actually this hasn't been a serious issue for me yet since I have a quite limited repertoire which doesn't require fancy fingering between C# and B in this area. I really only noticed this when practicing scales, and doing some of the "landscape exercises" from that Improvise for Real course.

In the IFR course he suggests playing your entire instrument up and down chromatically playing attention to any trouble spots and spending time there to become familiar with that "terrain". So that was what really brought my attention to this particular "trouble spot" on the sax.

For my limited hobbyist purposes I can pretty much just avoid this problem area. None the less, the thought came to my mind when jbtsax suggested that there are no problem areas, just "unfamiliar fingering". I would consider this particular area to be a "problem area" on my sax. More than just unfamiliar fingering. I think I could practice in that area forever and it would still remain problematic.

My choice is to just try to steer clear of it in terms of expecting to ever be able to do any fancy fingering in that area. That'll work for me as a hobbyist musician. ;}
 

zannad

Member
Messages
410
ooooh...I see, another discussion born from the "wonders" of transposition?! :shocked:

Koen88 - you are still young, ever thought of ditching transposition for good? (ever questioned it at all?) - de-transpose your sax and start thinking in C like your guitar player and all will fit together :thumb: (lateral thinkers united).

Now I'll scram before some nostalgics start accusing me of corrupting minors >:)
 

Koen88

Sax Drinker / Beer player
Messages
426
ooooh...I see, another discussion born from the "wonders" of transposition?! :shocked:

Koen88 - you are still young, ever thought of ditching transposition for good? (ever questioned it at all?) - de-transpose your sax and start thinking in C like your guitar player and all will fit together :thumb: (lateral thinkers united).

Now I'll scram before some nostalgics start accusing me of corrupting minors >:)
thought about it, and bought a c-mel ;-) But I'm an engineering student so learning something like that besides my study, Bands, voluntary work is near to impossible without negatively affecting my current situation.

I am planning to take op some more theory and maybe piano or guitar when i'm have my diploma to help me understand chords en learn to think more in c-pitch. but that`s a few years from now (1.5) first my bachelor.
 

zannad

Member
Messages
410
thought about it, and bought a c-mel ;-) But I'm an engineering student so learning something like that besides my study, Bands, voluntary work is near to impossible without negatively affecting my current situation.


I am planning to take op some more theory and maybe piano or guitar when i'm have my diploma to help me understand chords en learn to think more in c-pitch. but that`s a few years from now (1.5) first my bachelor.
LOL...you don't need a C-Mel - play a note on you Alto (or Tenor) ask your guitar player to name that note and adopt that instead of the transposed one (then buy scores written in C not transposed in Eb or Bb) - transposition is a bad framework inside your mind (like a parasite)...get rid of that and kick away with outdated conventions for good...your scientific background is well suited for make such a bold move.
Check a thread I've started a while ago:

http://cafesaxophone.com/showthread.php?5469-transposition-please-do-justify-it-(once-and-for-all)

be prepared to being attacked by too many conventionalist musos out there - their reasonings are pretty naff and their logic a bit irrational and can't be justified but they'll try to demolish your attempts cos' they aren't brave enough...:thumb:
 
Last edited by a moderator:
Saxholder Pro
Help!Mailing List
Top Bottom