Tomkins Pavan for 4 Instruments


Full of frets in North Shropshire
Tomkins is one of those late Elizabethan / Jacobean composers rarely heard outside of early music world. Other contemporaries being Jenkins and Gibbons (who is perhaps better known)


I don't need another mouthpiece; but . . .
I'd like to know more about how you did this and how the four saxophones evoked the timbres of early music instruments
The recording was fiddly. I had a click track and midi sounds for each of the parts. I started randomly with the tenor part, because I felt like playing tenor; then I added alto. Then I had to re-record some of the tenor sections because my timing and intonation were so bad and it was painfully obvious when I played back the tenor and alto parts together. Then I had to re-record a few notes of the alto part because the tenor part mostly ends on G. This note is sharp on my tenor, so I had to lip up the other instruments to try to get the final notes of each section more-or-less in tune. This is the sort of thing that is semi-automatic when playing with other people, but not so obvious when recording one instrument at a time.

After that things went quicker, I recorded the soprano part while listening to the recorded tenor and alto parts, and then finally baritone. There was no plan behind the order of making the recordings. But I think it makes sense to record soprano after the other parts because it's easier to play a soprano in tune with a wayward tenor than the other way round. I'm useless at recording myself and I made loads of mistakes, but I checked each section before going on to the next, and re-recorded and edited as necessary. The rhythms in this sort of music can be harder than they look, and the parts interlock.

One problem I found was that the piece is rather relentless if played in strict time with a click track - there's nowhere to breathe at the end of one section before starting the next. So I added a whole bar rest between each of the sections and then edited most of it out at the end. This allowed me to get a breath during recording, and it allowed me to insert a slight pause between sections in the final recording. Any live performance would have this, but it's harder to do with a click-track.

I chose bright-ish non-classical mouthpieces to try to get a brassy sort of sound, including jazz mouthpieces on soprano and alto and Vandoren mouthpieces on tenor and bari that I don't normally play. They just felt right. Normally I would use classical mouthpieces in a quartet in order to try to blend.
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