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If been wondering...How Would you arrange a song for a Sax Quartet?

If been trying to arrange some jazz standards for a Sax Quartet. Any help?
 

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Tisem, that's just really way too general a question. What do you know? What is the starting point?

For example, do you know all your chords? Do you know how to voice for saxes? Do you know the transpositions? Do you know where the muddy and clear registers of each instrument is?

If you could tell us how advanced, or not, you are it would be a great help.
 

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gary said:
Tisem, that's just really way too general a question. What do you know? What is the starting point?

For example, do you know all your chords? Do you know how to voice for saxes? Do you know the transpositions? Do you know where the muddy and clear registers of each instrument is?

If you could tell us how advanced, or not, you are it would be a great help.
Well...Just consider me a beginner who knows his chords. :D
 

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Tisem said:
Well...Just consider me a beginner who knows his chords. :D

Tisem, arranging jazz tunes to work well with four saxes is one of the harder types of quartet writing, IMO.

1. Walking bass

It's difficult to create the sense of constant forward motion without using a walking bass line. To inflict this type of part on a bari player constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.

2. rhythmic comping

Having one voice play a solo line (either improvised or notated) while the other voices comp in the manner of a solo pianist can work well. Listen to solo jazz piano performers to hear how they pull this off.

3. stop time

similar to #2, but with larger spaces between chords

4. four part sectional writing

Sometimes effective, but this can often leave holes in the chart. Using the bari as an independent voice to connect or punctuate can make this work

Keep your jazz arrangements brief, and don't expect to fill things up with improvised solos at first.

Spend a bit of time at the piano, working on voicings and rhythmic figures. If you don't play some arrangers piano, Start!

Get Bill Holcombe's book, Creative Arranging at the Piano. It'll help you get the hang of how to use these and many more devices, though you'll be sick to death of Old Folks At Home by the time you get through the book.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thanks Merlin.

That's some good advice right there.

I've written songs before, uisually my bari player with walking bass lines. I do this to the tuba as well, but he doesn't seem to mind.

Piano, yeah, that's where I usually go first when arranging a piece.

I got some more questions though:

When having a SATB arrangement, who usually should play the melody?

I've been thinking of a song where each sax get pieces of the melody here and there. Will this make the song unstable?

I also don't want to torture my bari player. I like songs more where the bari has most of a unique part that isn't just walking bass.
 

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When having a SATB arrangement, who usually should play the melody?
Wouldn't the Soprano/Alto get the melody?
I think personally (Don't know if this would work) if you gave a bit of the bass line to the each part.
If you have a hard working Bari player, who can play I personally say thow him a Bone, and give the Bass line to the Tenor. While the Bari plays a Solo. You would still have that walking Bass line keeping the song flowing, and it would keep the song interesting.

Just My 2 Cents.

(Never tried this above suggestion could be interesting though)
 

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The melody should move around during the course of the chart - otherwise the arrangement will be boring.

How often this happens depends on the character of the music.

And remember, the soprano may be the highest voice, but that doesn't mean it can't play under the alto or tenor.
 

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My situation is much like Tisem's, but I have been thinking of having a go at Somewhere from West Side Story; I think there is one arrangment for sale, but only with a number of others which makes it pricey.

I have done a little arranging for concert band, based on piano scores rather than, say, fake books, and these have worked out reasonably well.

Merlin's points reflect my thoughts on all counts. My approach would be to go for his no. 4, though.

Just one question arising: how readily could one use a SATB vocal score as the basis of a sax SATB? ... unless someone can point me to an existing arrangement, that is.
 

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Pinnman said:
Just one question arising: how readily could one use a SATB vocal score as the basis of a sax SATB? ... unless someone can point me to an existing arrangement, that is.
Just make sure of the range of the voices, and your transposition. It should be pretty easy from there.
 

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Thank you both. I will report back ... but it may take some time!
 

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Pinnman said:
Just one question arising: how readily could one use a SATB vocal score as the basis of a sax SATB? ... unless someone can point me to an existing arrangement, that is.

As Carl said... "very readily!"

I have transposed several choir charts in the past (years back) for SATB sax quartet and it rarely sounded bad. Of course there is no substitute for listening to the final product by four guys playing (I mean, it may sound different than the final product if you record the parts individually or use a music writing prog with play back capacity like Finale) because as you know funky harmonics come out when saxes are playing together sometimes (happens to singers, too, cf the Mamas & Papas who were astonished to hear a "5th voice" at times in their arrangements).

Since this question is about jazz.... try to get Negro Spirituals arranged for SATB choir and it should work out fine. Just rewrite occasionally to add a 7th or a 9th because it often sounds very "classical", ie pure triads.
Or if you are working on new tunes, check out the harmonies of the negro spirituals, it should give you more ideas for the bari than a "walking" bass (it's nice to hold long notes sometimes you know).

Good luck!
 
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