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The Strange Art of Using a Tenor Sax as a Bass Instrument

2131 Views 1 Reply 2 Participants Last post by  ratracer
My son is a master at this. And here's how it came to be.

Before I took over, our church orchestra played music out of orchestra books made to go along with our hymnals. The problem was that we never had enough of the right instruments to competently play the entire score.

When I took over, I scrapped the orchestra books and began doing the arranging myself to take advantage of the instruments I had. Quickly I developed a Dixieland style of playing based mostly on traditional gospel and old Black spiritual hymns. And one interesting thing is that once the original bass lines for many of these is transposed for a Bb treble cleft instrument, the predominant notes are almost always in the range of D1 to Bb1.

Since I had no real bass instruments, I taught my son to play these bass parts as though he was a bass church singer by "booming" out the notes. He was simulating playing an octave below where he was actually playing. And when paired up with a tuba (4-valve Euphonium) playing bass cleft, it sounds really good and strong. I had a bari sax for while for him to use, but that's been on a very long term rebuild. So he's pretty well stuck with doing this on tenor.

Since he's at college now, he hasn't been able to make it to orchestra practice much and my euphonium player just doesn't play very strongly alone. So I've grabbed my trusty tenor and have been filling in as "bass" tenor while I lead the orchestra during practice. I figured out very quickly that loudly voicing the tenor this way on bell-key notes without honking is pretty difficult and take a load of wind. So my son is actually very very good at this.
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