Sax on the Web Forum banner

1 - 20 of 47 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
7 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
Hey my name is Hayden, i'm in high school and i just recently moved up to the 1st jazz band. I'm on track to be lead alto next year, but my tone is still leaning towards the classical sound; it's clear and focused and doesn't really sound appropriate leading a jazz group. I was wondering if anyone had any tips on how to develop it quicker?
I want to end up with something kind of like the lead alto in this song we're playing right now, but maybe with a little more edge: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C2ix3ktrwNo

My setup is:
YAS-62
Selmer Concept Mouthpiece
Vandoren Red java 3 Reed

If anyone could recommend any books, gear, or people to listen to it would be much appreciated.
 

·
SOTW Member
Joined
·
3,394 Posts
Welcome Hayden, I started in High School too. WELCOME to your new home..plenty of suggestions on the way. Cheers,

Cash
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member
Joined
·
2,228 Posts
Meyers are great for jazz band. Vandorens V16 as well. Try a bunch. The Vandorens on average play more consistently with ease, because of better manufacturing. If you live close to a music store that carries these spend an afternoon checking out the mouthpieces.
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Coffee Guru
Joined
·
38,888 Posts
Hello and welcome, don’t ever believe that sounds starts in a box.

Sounds starts in your head, then you work with the equipment to achieve that sound and THEN you may find the things which make your sound easier to emit.

Equipment is only a facilitator.

Look at Sonny Rollins. Despite having at least 3 major brands of different saxophones and bucket loads of mouthpieces, the man played by and large always as himself all the time.

That’s because HE is the sound, not the equipment. If you blow in the mouthpiece and horn without consciously making the sound that you want, you won’t get much of a sound at all.

I quote this video by Don Menza (look him up he is one of the greats that many don’t know) he hints something about sound that everyone who wants to achieve his own, needs to try. Good luck!



Just in case you wonder who Don Menza is


 

·
Registered
Joined
·
312 Posts
My teacher uses a Selmer Soloist mouthpiece on his YAS-62 for classical quartet and for lead alto in big band, so it is possible to use a "classical" setup for jazz band.
Your YAS-62 saxophone is capable of making the sound you want, so no problem there.
But you may find that a different mouthpiece or reed feels more comfortable for jazz band. It's a very personal thing.
Some reeds are buzzier than others, so you could try, for example, Vandoren Green Java. It won't make a huge difference, but alto reeds are relatively inexpensive to try if you can buy them as singles.
Or you could try a different mouthpiece to see if that helps. Possibly with a bit wider tip opening. The best way to find out is to try some in a shop.
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2013-
Joined
·
5,431 Posts
I would start the process by listening to jazz as much as you can between now and starting your new assignment as lead.

Count Basie's big band was active for a long time and the lead alto sound over those years is worth studying.

Thad Jones Mel Lewis big band sounds up to date with contemporary arrangements even after 50 years. I would listen at them HARD.

Jerry Dodgion would be the guy I would google, and hunt down his work as an example of what would work.
(I saw him with Jones/Lewis outfit in Munich when I was in high school, and he came over on breaks to sit at our table and encourage us. He was a great guy, besides being a great player. Our band director was offered a trumpet chair, but liked his current gigs too much to bust those and travel.)
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2014
Joined
·
5,160 Posts
Certainly experimenting with equipment is helpful. You might also want to find one alto player you really like and listen to this player over and over and OVER some more. Even without trying you'll start to develop a mental concept of his or her tone and then as if magic you will start to sound like the person you're listening to. For some players finding sound takes a lifetime and ultimately is has little to do with equipment. Good Luck
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2013-
Joined
·
5,431 Posts
As far as gear goes, there is a LOT that has been said about that. If I were you, I would learn to play the blues on my current mpc and work on dirtying up the tone, getting all the nasty with control that you can. (Snarly, growly, cutting effects) While these are unlikely to ever become an end in themselves in your pathway, you can use your imagination, applying these, to grab the dramatic effects required for particular sections in the music and for your own solos. If you find that you have to put too much effort into it to get your current mouthpiece to produce the various effects, then maybe another mpc might help. I would try different reeds first, tho. Also, remember that you are going to have to play LOUD and to LEAD.

(The best first chairs I have had always remembered that the section literally looked to them for leadership, and often gave visual cues, in effect directing with their bodies, especially during rehearsals of new pieces.)

Here is some stuff about gear from the FAQ section of this forum.

Mouthpiece Suggestions to replace current alto mouthpiece:

Mouthpiece Suggestions :https://forum.saxontheweb.net/showthread.php?t=107059
Rock Mouthpiece: https://forum.saxontheweb.net/showthread.php?t=109770
For the Blues: https://forum.saxontheweb.net/showthread.php?t=105212
From Jazz to Classical: https://forum.saxontheweb.net/showthread.php?t=109152
For Classical: https://forum.saxontheweb.net/showthread.php?t=103247
Long rollover baffle: https://forum.saxontheweb.net/showthread.php?t=101398
For lead alto playing: https://forum.saxontheweb.net/showthread.php?t=100708
Versatile Jazz piece: https://forum.saxontheweb.net/showthread.php?t=100573
Loudest: https://forum.saxontheweb.net/showthread.php?t=51192
Hard Rubber or Metal for Jazz: https://forum.saxontheweb.net/showthread.php?t=76806
Bright sound: https://forum.saxontheweb.net/showthread.php?t=712
For Easy Altissimo: https://forum.saxontheweb.net/showthread.php?t=14994
Edgy and Mellow: https://forum.saxontheweb.net/showthread.php?t=5394
Rich and Complex sounding under $150: https://forum.saxontheweb.net/showthread.php?t=115446
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2014
Joined
·
5,160 Posts
As far as gear goes, there is a LOT that has been said about that. If I were you, I would learn to play the blues on my current mpc and work on dirtying up the tone, getting all the nasty with control that you can. (Snarly, growly, cutting effects) While these are unlikely to ever become an end in themselves in your pathway, you can use your imagination, applying these, to grab the dramatic effects required for particular sections in the music and for your own solos.

Here is some stuff about gear from the FAQ section of this forum.

Mouthpiece Suggestions to replace current alto mouthpiece:

Mouthpiece Suggestions :https://forum.saxontheweb.net/showthread.php?t=107059
Rock Mouthpiece: https://forum.saxontheweb.net/showthread.php?t=109770
For the Blues: https://forum.saxontheweb.net/showthread.php?t=105212
From Jazz to Classical: https://forum.saxontheweb.net/showthread.php?t=109152
For Classical: https://forum.saxontheweb.net/showthread.php?t=103247
Long rollover baffle: https://forum.saxontheweb.net/showthread.php?t=101398
For lead alto playing: https://forum.saxontheweb.net/showthread.php?t=100708
Versatile Jazz piece: https://forum.saxontheweb.net/showthread.php?t=100573
Loudest: https://forum.saxontheweb.net/showthread.php?t=51192
Hard Rubber or Metal for Jazz: https://forum.saxontheweb.net/showthread.php?t=76806
Bright sound: https://forum.saxontheweb.net/showthread.php?t=712
For Easy Altissimo: https://forum.saxontheweb.net/showthread.php?t=14994
Edgy and Mellow: https://forum.saxontheweb.net/showthread.php?t=5394
Rich and Complex sounding under $150: https://forum.saxontheweb.net/showthread.php?t=115446
Wow! - Now this is a complete post. Thanks for sharing.
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2013-
Joined
·
5,431 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
144 Posts
I think milandro's advice is spot on. I too went through a number of MP's over the years and finally settled on my first MP and decided the sound comes from me.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
5,496 Posts
Hey my name is Hayden, i'm in high school and i just recently moved up to the 1st jazz band. I'm on track to be lead alto next year, but my tone is still leaning towards the classical sound; it's clear and focused and doesn't really sound appropriate leading a jazz group. I was wondering if anyone had any tips on how to develop it quicker?
I want to end up with something kind of like the lead alto in this song we're playing right now, but maybe with a little more edge: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C2ix3ktrwNo

My setup is:
YAS-62
Selmer Concept Mouthpiece
Vandoren Red java 3 Reed

If anyone could recommend any books, gear, or people to listen to it would be much appreciated.
For lead alto in a high school jazz band, I have some recommendations.

1) I think your existing equipment ought to be fine. At this stage, developing tone, air stream management, and a lead alto concept are way more important than chasing "tone in a box" as someone else put it.

2) Concept. Personally I recommend extensive listening to the Basie band with Marshall Royal on lead, and the Ellington band. The other suggestions I have seen so far are either more advanced beyond the basic "what the heck should I be doing as a lead player" or aren't even really related to the role of lead alto in a big band (Louis Jordan? Really? I love Louis Jordan with an undying affection, but his recordings are not where I would send a novice seeking a model for lead alto in a big band, certainly not in preference to Marshall Royal or Johnny Hodges!) The lead alto needs to "float" above the section blend. You don't have to play super loud, nor have an unattractive grass-cutter sound, to be clearly heard. Basically the big band sax section (when playing sectional passages) can be thought of as "suspended" between the two pillars of the lead alto and the baritone. Those two voices should be clearly heard and the others are a smooth blend. This is different than what you have been doing in concert band where you get yelled at if you stick out and fail to blend adequately.

The other half of concept is "leading". You need to be the one that sets phrasing, articulations, etc. for the section. Basically, in band tutti sections you take your lead from the lead trumpet, and the sax section takes its lead from you. (Thus, you need to be heard, not just a member of the blend.) If saxes are not playing the same passage as the trumpets, then you are the sole lead. You must play each note and phrase with confidence. It is FAR FAR FAR more important to get the rhythm right than the notes (again, concert band stuff doesn't HAVE any rhythm, not to a jazz player). And if you play it rhythmically inaccurate, but you do so with confidence and assertiveness and you still always hit the "one" where it needs to be, that is better than a wimpy uncertain posture that's theoretically accurate to the dots on the page.

The third half of "concept" is what we might be able to call "conventional jazz violations of music notation". These are things like swung vs. straight eighths (hint: the relative values of the first and second notes in swung eighths are not constant, not from tune to tune, often not even from minute to minute within a given chart); duration of notes tied across the barline; the meanings of the various kinds of accents; etc., etc., etc. Even in concert band repertoire, the dots on the page are not the music, they're a code that allows you to play the music. In jazz charts it's even more so. You need to listen, listen, listen. Many music teachers have some kind of complex about allowing students to hear a piece before they play it. Even in classical music, this is dead wrong in my opinion, but in jazz it is deadly. How the heck are you supposed to know how these things are supposed to sound that can't be written down, unless you know how they're supposed to sound?

I strongly urge you to seek out recordings of as many of the charts in your book as possible. You need to find professional recordings, not other high school bands playing the same chart. Even if it's not the exact arrangement, you will do way better to listen to the Basie, Herman, Jones/Lewis, Miller, etc., etc., etc. band playing it than the Eastern Westminster Junior High School Band Christmas concert of 2015.

For someone just starting out to play lead alto in a big band, I would completely fill your ears with the Basie band and the Ellington band, till you are sick of the very words "basie" or "ellington". There are hundreds of others, but if you want to jumpstart your lead alto concept, I think these two bands make every tune a symposium on leading the saxophone section.

3) Tone. I recommend serious tone building exercises (I have written extensively in this forum about this, you can search for those; other people have written their exercises also and they are also excellent), and in my opinion you should spend as much time as possible doing these outdoors where there are no hard surfaces to bounce the sound back at you. This will do more than anything to build a big round projecting sound that is not annoying.
 

·
The most prolific Distinguished SOTW poster, Forum
Joined
·
27,650 Posts
BTAIM, the one thing to take away from all of this is listening and copying. Listen voraciously to standard big bands (and some non-standard - I would listen to Phil Woods' lead playing on the Oliver Nelson records). Pick one player you want to emulate and study his/her playing. Jazz is an Aural Art.

Like noted above, it's not just tone, but articulations, as well. They go hand in hand. See transcriptions for that, or do some yourself. The Amazing SlowDowner is very helpful for this.

Equipment is O.K. except, for me, I would try for a Meyer-type mouthpiece like a Meyer, Ponzol Hard Rubber or Vandoren.

Have fun. Listen. Copy.
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2013-
Joined
·
5,431 Posts
...

2) Concept. Personally I recommend extensive listening to the Basie band with Marshall Royal on lead, and the Ellington band. The other suggestions I have seen so far are either more advanced beyond the basic "what the heck should I be doing as a lead player" or aren't even really related to the role of lead alto in a big band (Louis Jordan? Really? I love Louis Jordan with an undying affection, but his recordings are not where I would send a novice seeking a model for lead alto in a big band, certainly not in preference to Marshall Royal or Johnny Hodges!)

...
I am sorry that I did not make myself more clear in my prior posts. My first recommendation was to listen to the Count Basie band.

I did not intend to send anyone to Louis Jordan for blending in. Indeed, for fear that I might be misunderstood I added the warning to use legit chops for blending in as part of the post about Jordan. I intended to urge those seeking to develop an ear for the blues and a memorable solo tone and style to Jordan for those things.

Really.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,612 Posts
Certainly experimenting with equipment is helpful. You might also want to find one alto player you really like and listen to this player over and over and OVER some more. Even without trying you'll start to develop a mental concept of his or her tone and then as if magic you will start to sound like the person you're listening to. For some players finding sound takes a lifetime and ultimately is has little to do with equipment. Good Luck
This. I would also learn a few of that players solos and play along with the record/cd/file/whatevermedia. Trying to sound exactly like that player will be a good starting point to developing the tone concept that you have in your head.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,884 Posts
For lead alto in a high school jazz band, I have some recommendations.

1) I think your existing equipment ought to be fine. At this stage, developing tone, air stream management, and a lead alto concept are way more important than chasing "tone in a box" as someone else put it.

2) Concept. Personally I recommend extensive listening to the Basie band with Marshall Royal on lead, and the Ellington band. The other suggestions I have seen so far are either more advanced beyond the basic "what the heck should I be doing as a lead player" or aren't even really related to the role of lead alto in a big band (Louis Jordan? Really? I love Louis Jordan with an undying affection, but his recordings are not where I would send a novice seeking a model for lead alto in a big band, certainly not in preference to Marshall Royal or Johnny Hodges!) The lead alto needs to "float" above the section blend. You don't have to play super loud, nor have an unattractive grass-cutter sound, to be clearly heard. Basically the big band sax section (when playing sectional passages) can be thought of as "suspended" between the two pillars of the lead alto and the baritone. Those two voices should be clearly heard and the others are a smooth blend. This is different than what you have been doing in concert band where you get yelled at if you stick out and fail to blend adequately.

The other half of concept is "leading". You need to be the one that sets phrasing, articulations, etc. for the section. Basically, in band tutti sections you take your lead from the lead trumpet, and the sax section takes its lead from you. (Thus, you need to be heard, not just a member of the blend.) If saxes are not playing the same passage as the trumpets, then you are the sole lead. You must play each note and phrase with confidence. It is FAR FAR FAR more important to get the rhythm right than the notes (again, concert band stuff doesn't HAVE any rhythm, not to a jazz player). And if you play it rhythmically inaccurate, but you do so with confidence and assertiveness and you still always hit the "one" where it needs to be, that is better than a wimpy uncertain posture that's theoretically accurate to the dots on the page.

The third half of "concept" is what we might be able to call "conventional jazz violations of music notation". These are things like swung vs. straight eighths (hint: the relative values of the first and second notes in swung eighths are not constant, not from tune to tune, often not even from minute to minute within a given chart); duration of notes tied across the barline; the meanings of the various kinds of accents; etc., etc., etc. Even in concert band repertoire, the dots on the page are not the music, they're a code that allows you to play the music. In jazz charts it's even more so. You need to listen, listen, listen. Many music teachers have some kind of complex about allowing students to hear a piece before they play it. Even in classical music, this is dead wrong in my opinion, but in jazz it is deadly. How the heck are you supposed to know how these things are supposed to sound that can't be written down, unless you know how they're supposed to sound?

I strongly urge you to seek out recordings of as many of the charts in your book as possible. You need to find professional recordings, not other high school bands playing the same chart. Even if it's not the exact arrangement, you will do way better to listen to the Basie, Herman, Jones/Lewis, Miller, etc., etc., etc. band playing it than the Eastern Westminster Junior High School Band Christmas concert of 2015.

For someone just starting out to play lead alto in a big band, I would completely fill your ears with the Basie band and the Ellington band, till you are sick of the very words "basie" or "ellington". There are hundreds of others, but if you want to jumpstart your lead alto concept, I think these two bands make every tune a symposium on leading the saxophone section.

3) Tone. I recommend serious tone building exercises (I have written extensively in this forum about this, you can search for those; other people have written their exercises also and they are also excellent), and in my opinion you should spend as much time as possible doing these outdoors where there are no hard surfaces to bounce the sound back at you. This will do more than anything to build a big round projecting sound that is not annoying.
The above wording makes it sound that it is bad that teachers have had a complex about playing recordings for their students but the context makes it sound that you advocate it. In which case I agree! One point in which I may disagree: a Selmer Concept is extremely close, like a Selmer B or thereabouts, so I don't know if it will work well in a big band. Probably scoops and bends will be difficult on it but I haven't played one. Meyer 5-6, Vandoren V16 A5M/A6M might be better and good first steps. These are minor quibbles, there is lots of GREAT advice in this post! I might suggest listening more to Basie than Ellington in term of big band sound and roles, and toss in some of the more modern big bands too for exposure to more latin, rock and funk rhythms and styles, depending on the charts you are given.

Also, practice long tones p to ffffffff as big band playing often requires lots of volume from the sax section and especially the lead alto. 5 saxes have it tough to balance 8-10 brass but that's the gig. Hopefully your band director will be an ally.
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2013-
Joined
·
5,431 Posts
I would buy a stock Ebolin 4 since they are so cheap and give it a whirl. But that is with the virtue of hindsight.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
525 Posts
The recommendations posted here are pretty spot on. I also recommend a Meyer, if that's not bright enough try HR Link or even Lakey. Beyond that there are dozens of possibilities.

The example chart you've provided is a contemporary slow funk (Bob Mintzer's "Slo Funk" linked below, you can call it contemporary but it was first recorded over 30 years ago). It's absolutely critical that you listen to Marshall Royal (Basie), Johnny Hodges (Ellington), to give yourself an historic framework of what playing lead alto is all about. But you'll then find that, unless specifically called for, that's not what you want to sound like today. But you need that foundation. Listen to Kenton from the 50's. But also listen to bop and post bop players like Charlie Parker, Sonny Stitt, Cannonball. Listen to Marienthal playing with GRC All Stars (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DnwDdfJlAeM). And listen to Bob Mintzer's big band repertoire, in my opinion, arguably the best big band playing today.

The best way to get the sound you want and need into your head is to listen. A lot. The lead alto player in these links to Bob Mintzer Big Band songs is Lawrence Feldman. He is a master. Dig how he doesn't try to outblow the section or band, he doesn't need to because of the band's sensitivity, and his sound. This band's blend and balance is superb and is about the finest example of contemporary big band you will find. Worth looking into also are military big bands in DC, like Airmen of Note, Navy Commodores, and Army Blues.

Slo Funk
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c3iSxi9Nqig

Original People
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EwOVahUPbGI&start_radio=1&list=RDEwOVahUPbGI

New Rochelle
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t97Nlo1R_t4

Latin Dance
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CFTehkhPZH4

Mr. Feldman expounds on sound and styles at length in this link. He starts talking about alto at 20:00. Take 15 minutes or so and try to absorb all he talks about and demonstrates, invaluable stuff.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m4349s9QFv4
 
1 - 20 of 47 Posts
Top