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Discussion Starter #1
I think I'm trapped and will have to do this, so I really need guidance.

My wife has a friend who is getting married in August, to the leader of a large and successful biker group. I gather that wedding attire is going to run (far) more to leather and tattoos than suits and ties. The bride is booking a blues band for the reception, but none of the candidate bands feature a saxophone; she is keen on the sound of the sax and knows that I play. She is really keen for me to join the band for a couple of songs. The groom is evidently going to be joining them on harmonica for a tune or two, as well.

Now I can see all sorts of problems with this, and I've repeatedly pointed them out, but my wife says her friend doesn't care about any of that, and really wants me playing at her wedding. This has been going back and forth for a couple of months now and it seems like there is no way I can graciously refuse at this point. So I have about 3 months to get my house sufficiently in order that I can do this without embarrassing myself - and, probably more importantly, without the bride feeling embarrassed for me. It would be nice to think I might be able to get to the stage where this could actually be fun rather than stressful.

Here are the main problems:
1. The biggie: I'm not much more than a beginner, really. Only started a bit over 3 years ago. Playing at maybe grade 4-5 standard. On the plus side my tone is OK for my level of experience (on alto and tenor, anyway).
2. My stage experience consists entirely of playing second alto in a large community concert band (one of 3 second altos so I can hide when I can't keep up).
3. The band will be professional musicians. Can't see them being too impressed with someone at my level getting up and joining them.
4. It's vanishingly unlikely I'll have any opportunity to rehearse with them.


So - doubtless there are other things I need to think about but here are some questions, and some of my initial thoughts about what I can do to prepare. Other comments unrelated to these would be very welcome!

1. I need to decide alto v tenor. I'm thinking tenor - although I can play a bit faster on alto, I can growl fairly well on tenor which probably fits with a blues sound. Thoughts?

2. Having said that, my overall sound on tenor (when not growling) is fairly clear/bright. Maybe this could be an excuse to get a somewhat gutsier mouthpiece? Currently main tenor mouthpiece is a Meyer 5, which I'm reasonably happy with, but I was thinking of talking to one of the mouthpiece guys about getting something a bit better suited to this exercise (a Phil-tone piece perhaps?) Or am I stupid to be thinking of mucking around with my setup with such a short time frame in which to get ready?

3. I'm going to grit my teeth, man up and get myself along to a couple of the local blues jams so that at least I'll have some sort of experience playing in a vaguely comparable setting.

4. Do I need to worry about a microphone? I don't have one, and don't know if I'd be able to integrate anything I bought for the purpose with the band's equipment.

5. Obviously I need to talk to the band in advance, if at all possible. Hopefully they will be OK with the idea (or at least not frankly hostile) and with any luck they will have suggestions about what I can play. But maybe I should be making suggestions? Are there blues standards that any band is likely to know and which have simple saxophone parts? Or should I be concentrating on just learning the blues structure and working on just playing in a couple of common blues scales (which ones?) without worrying too much about learning specific tunes? Actually this applies to 3. as well - I have no idea what I'd be playing at a blues jam.

Obviously I'm going to be getting my teacher working on this as well - I think he'll find it quite entertaining - but I need all the help I can get. Thanks in advance...
 

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If you are going to only sit in on a few tunes (let's say three), then you've got it made. Really, the only thing you need to work on is your major scales and blues scales in whatever keys the band is going to be playing in, and then practice improvising in those keys.

What I would do is to call the leader and explain the situation to him. Tell him you'd like to sit in on maybe a couple of slow blues tunes, and then maybe one medium tempo one. Tell him you'd like to solo during the solo sections. Ask him what keys they'll be in, and then work on the scales in those keys.

As far as what sax to use, I would choose tenor simply because it's got more of an earthy sound--your instinct is right. But here's the thing--most guitar bands like to play in either A or E concert, which means on tenor you'd be playing in either B (five sharps) or F# (six sharps). On alto it would be F# (six sharps) or C# (seven sharps). So it's very important to know what keys they prefer, especially if you're not used to playing in those keys.

But you can always just tell them, Hey, I want to jam on an F blues, and then on a Bb blues. Ask if they already have tunes in those keys. That would make your work easier.

And when you talk to them, ask about the mic situation. Chances are they will have one that one of the vocalists will be using that you can use during your solos.
 

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G'day Ed. Play the tenor.

There are two ways bands hosting sit in players handle it. The first way is aggressive where they expect you to fit in with whatever they're playing. The second is friendly where they ask you what you'd like to do. The former scenario is not as scary in a blues band as it is in a bebop combo because most tunes are basically the same structure with unchallenging chord changes - usually I, IV and V so the blues scale of the key you're playing in will fit. As said, the key might be the hard bit. I've been playing for 40+ years but I HATE those upstream keys like concert E. But if you practice with Band-In-A-Box you should be able to cut it after a few hours of growling out the blues scale.

But if they lean toward the friendly side (and if they're pros they're more likely to do this) then just ask them to do a few tunes in concert F or C (your G and D). Finally, learn some killer riffs. They can be simple like Rudy Pompilli's tenor riff in Rock Around The Clock or Chuck Berry's vocal riff in Johnny Be Good ("go go... go Johnny go, go, go"), or the Hucklebuck or Cal'donia, or Shake Rattle 'n' Roll. The blues scale and some riffs should see you through the whole night let alone 3 tunes.

Use a vocal mic - there's usually one you can grab and the set up for vocals really suits the tenor.

As for a mouthpiece, I have a Berg Larsen metal 100/0 piece that I use on these kinds of gigs and I'm more than happy to pop it in a postbag and post it up to Sydney for you to borrow and evaluate. Even though I rarely use it these days it's not for sale, but it'll show you what a mouthpiece can do to your sound. PM me if you're interested.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
If you are going to only sit in on a few tunes (let's say three), then you've got it made. Really, the only thing you need to work on is your major scales and blues scales in whatever keys the band is going to be playing in, and then practice improvising in those keys.

What I would do is to call the leader and explain the situation to him. Tell him you'd like to sit in on maybe a couple of slow blues tunes, and then maybe one medium tempo one. Tell him you'd like to solo during the solo sections. Ask him what keys they'll be in, and then work on the scales in those keys.

As far as what sax to use, I would choose tenor simply because it's got more of an earthy sound--your instinct is right. But here's the thing--most guitar bands like to play in either A or E concert, which means on tenor you'd be playing in either B (five sharps) or F# (six sharps). On alto it would be F# (six sharps) or C# (seven sharps). So it's very important to know what keys they prefer, especially if you're not used to playing in those keys.

But you can always just tell them, Hey, I want to jam on an F blues, and then on a Bb blues. Ask if they already have tunes in those keys. That would make your work easier.

And when you talk to them, ask about the mic situation. Chances are they will have one that one of the vocalists will be using that you can use during your solos.
Thanks heaps for this - for the reassuring tone as well as the specific advice!

Thanks HT and FremontSax too. Sadly I'm VI-less but will be very careful with my YTS62. And with not knocking over other peoples' gear - I don't think the venue will have a very large stage so that may be a pretty important consideration.
 

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Use the tenor, most likely the tunes will be in concert A,E and maybe C. If you don't know the form well enough write yourself out a cheat sheet in all the keys they use. Play lots of 3rds and b7's resolving into the root. Throw in a few b5's growled nasty like and they will love you. Also, buy steve neff's blues lessons. Some bands don't play all dominant chords over the I and just use majors, this has tripped me up before.

What you are being asked to do is achievable for sure, I'm willing to bet you will have a blast. Just don't touch any of the biker moles, that won't end well.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
replied to the first few without seeing Pat + Saxpunter's advice - thanks heaps to both of you. I will especially heed saxpunter's last! (although it would be a close run thing who I'd be more afraid of if I didn't heed it - the biker in question, or my wife).

That's very nice of you re borrowing the mouthpiece Pat, I'll definitely send a PM about that.

Just off out to a comedy show at the Enmore followed by a Turkish restaurant. Comedy $18/head. Dinner maybe $50/head. Having a teenage babysitter within biscuit toss of your front door ... priceless.
cheers,
Edwin
 

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Dont sweat it. You have a good horn and MP set up. When I get into situations like this, I tell the band that I want to play in a certain key and if they are good enough, they will have a couple of standards that they will start up. If they want to play a cover, practice up on Bakers Street, or Moondance with your alto, and you will kill the crowd.

Dont sweat it if they say they want to play in E. It really is easier than you think. I have been playing with blues bands for years and you need to get to know some funky keys in order to jam with the guitars. Yes you have to transpose to F#, but that means you only have to play F# Blues, F#, A, B, C, C#, E, F#. If you want to do runs, just play an A major scale starting on F#. It will give you a minor feel and if you end on a C# reallyy growly, slowly move down to the F#, you will kill the solo. Dont try to get all Jazzy, treat it as a jam, have fun with it and keep it simple. Blues is alot of fun to play and can be quite addicting. You are playing what I call the 4th dimention in blues. Sax rules.....
 

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to the leader of a large and successful biker group.
G'day Edwin.
Wouldn't be the 'Outlaws' by any stretch?
Anyway, I'd be going with contact with the band and nominating a particular key.
Stick with the tenor.
Also recommend Steve Neff's blues lessons...particularly the short 1 bar blues licks lesson.
cheers, Mark.
 

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I would think it is utterly reasonable for you to ask to play a bit of sax on the wedding. After all, it's a request.
When you actually get to playing, play as little notes as possible. You can play a great solo just using four notes. Think like a blues shouter. 'I woke up this morning...!' etc. These are really the best solos!
The main thing is, I guess, to really go for it when you're up there. Play with panache, display all the confidence you think you'll lack. You gotta preach!
Finally, one chorus is enough. Don't play too long.
 

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I agree with the previous posts. Play the tenor and keep it simple. Once, in my teen years, I played a biker party and they were some of the nicest and most supportive guys I ever met. Very polite, one guy sat in on bass guitar for a blues tune and sang. He was actually very good.
It was a great experience and I believe you will have one as well.

Contrast that with a Shriners' party I played that same year. (No offense to any Shriners on SOTW. Just stating what happened, it was a pretty alcohol charged experience.) I feared for my equipment and the waitresses just feared in general.
 

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I agree with the previous posts. Play the tenor and keep it simple. Once, in my teen years, I played a biker party and they were some of the nicest and most supportive guys I ever met. Very polite, one guy sat in on bass guitar for a blues tune and sang. He was actually very good.
It was a great experience and I believe you will have one as well.

Contrast that with a Shriners' party I played that same year. (No offense to any Shriners on SOTW. Just stating what happened, it was a pretty alcohol charged experience.) I feared for my equipment and the waitresses just feared in general.
Shriners can drink (I'm a rare Shriner that doesn't drink!), and some (even the old ones) can get rowdy! They are the partyers among the Free Masons. The Shriners I know though are even too old for that, so when I play for them, there usually isn't anything to fear :) .
 

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If you are going to only sit in on a few tunes (let's say three), then you've got it made. Really, the only thing you need to work on is your major scales and blues scales in whatever keys the band is going to be playing in, and then practice improvising in those keys.

What I would do is to call the leader and explain the situation to him. Tell him you'd like to sit in on maybe a couple of slow blues tunes, and then maybe one medium tempo one. Tell him you'd like to solo during the solo sections. Ask him what keys they'll be in, and then work on the scales in those keys.

As far as what sax to use, I would choose tenor simply because it's got more of an earthy sound--your instinct is right. But here's the thing--most guitar bands like to play in either A or E concert, which means on tenor you'd be playing in either B (five sharps) or F# (six sharps). On alto it would be F# (six sharps) or C# (seven sharps). So it's very important to know what keys they prefer, especially if you're not used to playing in those keys.

But you can always just tell them, Hey, I want to jam on an F blues, and then on a Bb blues. Ask if they already have tunes in those keys. That would make your work easier.

And when you talk to them, ask about the mic situation. Chances are they will have one that one of the vocalists will be using that you can use during your solos.
I agree entirely.....

other than that...just start thinkin' of how you would solo over "Born to be Wild"....
 

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Don't call the band leader to say you want to sit in. Say that the bride has asked you to sit in. That makes a big difference in how you are perceived. Be honest and tell them you are not a pro player but still want to sound as good as possible. Second, figure out what your best blues-y keys are. This will probably be something like D or G on the sax. (If you let the band pick the key, it will probably end up being E or A which will be F# and B on your tenor; not so easy.) When you speak with the band leader tell him the keys you would feel comfortable playing in. Lastly, do the blues jams you mentioned and get some of the play-along CDs that teach the blues. You will be fine!
 

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Discussion Starter #18
This is great, thanks very much to everyone for the advice and support. I've had a look at the Tim Price lesson DanPerez linked to and it looks like gold, will definitely check out the Steve Neff lesson too (been meaning to try out his stuff anyway, so this will be a good starting point).

I can see this is going to turn into a big boost to my progress. Nothing like a deadline to focus the mind.
 

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There's an old Berg metal on its way (tomorrow). In the meantime, just to show you can have fun with the blues, here's Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band's "Can Blue Men Sing The Whites"

 

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I can see this is going to turn into a big boost to my progress. Nothing like a deadline to focus the mind.
Or the possibility of getting the crap beaten out of you if you mess u-------

oh, wait...keep it positive, positive...
 
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