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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've only been playing sax for 9 months. I'm a late starter on sax being early 40s, but I did take several years of piano lessons when I was a kid (about 8-15). So I
read music, and I've obviously used a lot of chords in piano playing. I've been very patient about practicing scales and learning music theory. I have several books recommended on this site and have ordered several more, like the Levine, Coker and Aebersold books, so I'm no slouch about learning as advised by more advanced players. And yes, I do have a teacher. Here's my question: since on the sax we don't play chords per se (we don't play several notes in unison as you would on say piano or guitar), how do chords and chord progression actually relate to sax playing? Like blues or Jazz progressions? I understand that chords are based on notes of the scale, and I'm working on learning all of the scales I can. But how do we actually play chords on the sax?

Thanks for your patience!
 

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NU2SAX said:
Here's my question: since on the sax we don't play chords per se (we don't play several notes in unison as you would on say piano or guitar), how do chords and chord progression actually relate to sax playing? Like blues or Jazz progressions?
Unison, I think, is the wrong word. It implies to me several people playing
or singing the same note. Anyway that is just pedantics.

Regarding chords on sax...

The saxophone is no different than any other instrument regarding
improvising, chords and chord progressions.

Some people actually do play chords on sax. This is where more than
one note is sounded together. However it is not that common, and is
somewhat limited. It can be a very nice effect however. There are
various ways to do this, but I don't think that is what your question
is about.

To play a chord on sax you need to arpeggiate it. In other words, play
the notes of the chord sequentially. Now this is going to sound pretty
boring in an improvised solo situation. But it's good practise to enable
you to get familiar with the sax in all keys, and to understand the underlying
harmonic structure of a tune that you are learning.

Really to answer your question, the purpose of the chords is just to
provide the harmonic background to the music, from which you will
launch your own improvised melodic line.

You can stick with the chords, or play substitutions, or forget about
them altogether. It's up to you and what sounds right to you.
The chords are there to guide you harmonically.

I think if you already play piano, you understand this anyway, and
will have that experience to assist your sax playing.
 

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I'm a noobie to these forums but I'm going to take a shot at this.

There are all sorts of ways of playing with in a chord.
Arpeggios and scales were mentioned.
Major, minor and blues scales come in handy most of the time.
You can also work your way through the various modes too.

As far as actually playing a chord on the sax the answer is: sort of.

You can hum while you play.

This introduces an interesting chord like effect if you can hum at a fifth or third of what you are fingering.

I generally use the hum to add a growling effect to my sound but have never worked on actually worked on humming in harmony with what I'm playing.

Something to think about.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Ok, this all definitely helps! Except now I'll be wondering about how to play sound several notes at once. Sigh. But back to the basics...

Thanks folks!!!!!!!!!!!
 

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Think of it in teams of keyboards.

A Piano is multiphonic while an old synthesizer is monophonic.
On the old synths, you could only play one note for each tone generator you had.

The sax is the same. It only has one tone generator - the reed.

Another way of looking at it is like this:
Take your 88 key piano and remove 87 of the keys.
Now remove all the strings except for one of the strings that is for the key you didn't remove.
Now take a tuning tool on the one string that is left and use the tool to adjust to the pitch you want to play when you press that one key.

This is sort of the idea behind a wind instrument.

They are like one pipe of a pipe organ that can be tuned.

In order to play chords, you would need an additional instrument for each voice in the chord.

Are we on the same train of thought or am I misunderstanding your question?
 

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don't worry about multiphonics for a while.

as far as playing chords on the sax goes... chords are the harmonic foundation of a tune, and as a jazz musician, one of the ultimate goals is to be able to hear and understand the chords being played and to know how the notes you play will relate to them. getting comfortable with each chord, knowing it's sound, and the sound of each of it's notes. as a primarily monophonic instrument, the saxophone is at a bit of a disadvantage in this regard. playing arpeggios is very important because it's the closest we can get to actually playing chords (multiphonics is extremely limited and more of an effect). playing the piano should help you. you can do excersises where you sustain a chord on the piano, and then play arpeggios, scales, and improvisations over it on the sax, to get comfortable with how each note sounds with the chord.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Wow!

BOBBYC, yes that helps to understand a lot actually. All of your responses are helpful, and actually give me some extra information which is nice to have. I'm just delving into chords/progressions/changes, and some of the books I've used haven't explained how this relates to sax playing, so you all have really shed a lot of light on this for me. I just received the books I ordered, based on the high recommendations of SOTWers. But it's great to know that when I'm confused about something there are people out there to ask about it - and free lessons by Tim too!

I love this forum!
 

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I've only been playing sax for 9 months. I'm a late starter on sax being early 40s, but I did take several years of piano lessons when I was a kid (about 8-15). So I
read music, and I've obviously used a lot of chords in piano playing. I've been very patient about practicing scales and learning music theory. I have several books recommended on this site and have ordered several more, like the Levine, Coker and Aebersold books, so I'm no slouch about learning as advised by more advanced players. And yes, I do have a teacher. Here's my question: since on the sax we don't play chords per se (we don't play several notes in unison as you would on say piano or guitar), how do chords and chord progression actually relate to sax playing? Like blues or Jazz progressions? I understand that chords are based on notes of the scale, and I'm working on learning all of the scales I can. But how do we actually play chords on the sax?

Thanks for your patience!

You can play something similar to chords if you buy a vocal effect pedal that has a harmony function. The one I have you can select up to 8 voices (edit each voice with its own freq range) to play or sing through mic at the same time. You can then do 2 5 1 chord progression hit the root note on your sax with harmony function turned on 4 voices (lets say) and then hit the loop function if it has one. Then you can solo over your loop not needing a guitar or piano player next to you ;)
 

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You might want to check out this free course on Coursera given by Gary Burton of Berklee - https://class.coursera.org/improvisation-003/class/index

The course has already ended, but all of the videos and other course materials are still up. It give s a good overview of 'chord scale' theory, which is one (of many) approaches to improvisation.

The course is about constructing melody lines for improvisation, so it may help you put chords into context with playing sax.
 

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I've only been playing sax for 9 months. I'm a late starter on sax being early 40s, but I did take several years of piano lessons when I was a kid (about 8-15). So I
read music, and I've obviously used a lot of chords in piano playing. I've been very patient about practicing scales and learning music theory. I have several books recommended on this site and have ordered several more, like the Levine, Coker and Aebersold books, so I'm no slouch about learning as advised by more advanced players. And yes, I do have a teacher. Here's my question: since on the sax we don't play chords per se (we don't play several notes in unison as you would on say piano or guitar), how do chords and chord progression actually relate to sax playing? Like blues or Jazz progressions? I understand that chords are based on notes of the scale, and I'm working on learning all of the scales I can. But how do we actually play chords on the sax?

Thanks for your patience!
Usually there are other chordal instruments playing under the Sax but the Sax can be part of a chord usually with other Sax players and Trumpets etc and the Sax can of course be used to play arpeggios and scales and outline or imply the harmony of the chords.

If there is a Soprano and Alto and Tenor and Baritone Sax lineup, then it can play chords and also cover a pretty large range.

Sax Multiphonics are when multiple notes can happen but they are pretty limited and wouldn't normally be used to accompany a soloist.
 

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Play an arpeggio/broken chord of the chord. My sax instructor has me play the notes of the chord as well as playing the melody itself. Great way to learn improv and sight reading.
 

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Think of it like the notes in a walking bass line whilst the guitar chuggs out chords - they are the same set of notes but the bass playes them one at a time whilst the guitar plays them all in one go. So they sound good togther and don't jar soundwise. Both need to know the notes of the chords but how they play them differs.
 

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As you already practice scales, try playing the basic chords from the scale. By this I mean, with C major scale for example, practice the respective four note arpeggiated chords that are to be found from the scale.

In this case first would come C major seventh (c-e-g-b) arpeggio, then D minor seventh (d-f-a-c), then E minor seventh (e-g-a-d) and so on starting from every note of the scale. There are multiple ways to variate this exercise - your imagination is the only limit.
 

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Did anyone else notice that the original post was from 2007?
 

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I'm a guitar/banjo player, and yes you do play chords on the sax. I think of chords on the saqx almost the same way I do on four stringed banjo. I PM'ed you with some videos I made.
 

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Dear Sax heads,

my sax tutor asked me to construct major seventh chords (#4) and Sevenths chords with #5,after having studied all I and V grades of the all major scales.
Is there any index of such cases? I mean e.g. Cmaj7#4 and C7#5...
 

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Dear Sax heads,

my sax tutor asked me to construct major seventh chords (#4) and Sevenths chords with #5,after having studied all I and V grades of the all major scales.
Is there any index of such cases? I mean e.g. Cmaj7#4 and C7#5...
Yes. Cmaj7#4 = C, E, F#,G, B. Then C#maj7#4 = all notes raised by one semi-tone, and so on until you get back to the first one again (an octave higher).
C7#5 = C, E, G#, Bb. Then C#7#5 = all notes raised by one semi-tone, and so on until you get back to the first one again (an octave higher). Cheers...
 
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